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Around 30.5 million people in the United States reported using benzodiazepines in 2016, according to the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.
However, the findings also discovered that out of that 30.5 million, only about 0.2% met the criteria for an anxiety disorder. This means that many people are actively misusing this medication, which puts them at risk of becoming addicted to them.
Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are medications that treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. They are depressants, meaning these pills help calm the nervous system down. With millions of people in America reporting to have high levels of anxiety, benzos are one of the most prescribed medications.
Some of the commonly used benzos include:
Taken as prescribed, benzos have a relaxation effect on the body. They attach to the brain’s Gamma-Amino-Butyric-Aced (GABA) receptors. These receptors are part of a system that helps calm the nervous system.
However, those who misuse the medication by taking more than prescribed may experience some euphoric effects as well. Increasing the dosage for recreation increases your chances of becoming addicted considerably.
Benzos like have a high potential for dependence and addiction. Even if you take them exactly as directed by your physician, you can become dependent upon them.
Once your body has become dependent on benzos, getting off them requires planning. Oftentimes, even medical supervision is required, and your physicians need to know exactly which pills you’re taking: Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, or something else entirely. Some people begin feeling withdrawal symptoms after only taking them for a couple of weeks.
It is dangerous to stop taking benzos cold turkey, as this can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. Gradually decreasing usage under the care of a psychiatrist or addiction expert is the recommended form of stopping benzo abuse altogether.
Whether you’ve been taking benzos for a few weeks or a couple of months, you can experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to come off them. If you’ve been taking benzos for at least six months, you can expect more intense withdrawal symptoms. Especially if you try to come off them too abruptly.
Withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on different factors, including:
The type of benzo you’ve taken also affects how fast you’ll feel withdrawal symptoms. If you’re taking short-acting benzos, like Xanax or Ativan, you may start experiencing withdrawal symptoms as soon as eight hours after the last dosage. If you’re taking longer-acting benzos like Klonopin, you may not start feeling withdrawal symptoms until a day or two after your last dosage.
Keep in mind that if you undergo a gradual dose reduction under the care of your physician, your symptoms will lessen as you progress. You may still experience some withdrawal symptoms, but they will be milder and tend to come in waves.
Depending on how you try to quit using benzos, it can be very dangerous. Abruptly stopping your usage can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms. Some of these include hallucinations, grand mal seizures, or delirium.
It’s best to quit by seeking treatment at a drug rehab and detox center.
Whether you’ve been using benzos for weeks, months, or years, you will benefit greatly from seeking a professional benzodiazepine detox.
A medical detox program at an addiction recovery treatment center is the safest way to treat benzodiazepine addiction. There you will be able to receive individualized, professional care from addiction experts. They will use a gradual taper schedule to help your brain adjust to the decrease of benzos.
In addition, you’ll receive recommendations for follow-up treatment to give you the opportunity to continue growing strong in your recovery.
Talk to an Admissions Coordinator to get started. One of our experts will evaluate your situation, verify your insurance, answer all of your questions, and help you take the first steps.
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The first step toward quitting benzos will be the detox process. Because you’ll be on a taper schedule, you may feel withdrawal symptoms for several weeks until your body adjusts to the decreased dosage.
During this time, you will receive medical and mental health care to treat any physical or mental health issues that you’re struggling with. You may also receive medication to help minimize some withdrawal symptoms.
If increased anxiety has been a problem for you, your physician will discuss with you options for other non-addictive medications or techniques that can help limit your anxiety. Once you complete your detox process, it’s recommended that you continue with addiction treatment at the residential treatment, and then outpatient treatment levels. This will help you learn how to stay off benzos and use alternative ways to treat anxiety.
The time frame varies, but many people are completely free from benzos after a gradual taper of several weeks. A benzo detox has a couple of phases: an acute stage and a post-acute withdrawal syndrome stage (PAWS).
The acute stage may last about a week or so depending on if the benzos you’re taking are short or long-acting. Once you are through with this phase and are in PAWS, you can continue treatment. Some people decide to stay at a short-term residential program in a medically monitored house. The extra emotional and psychological support can be quite beneficial.
PAWS can last months depending on the dosage, frequency taken, type of the drug, and more. In general, the physical withdrawal symptoms subside much faster than some of the psychological ones. Some people continue to crave benzos for many months or even years to try to contend with anxiety.
Additional forms of treatment, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with a counselor can help minimize such psychological symptoms.
Here at SOBA, we provide various levels of care depending on your needs. Our addiction experts work closely with you to assess your particular situation. We will formulate a gradual taper schedule that will help you get through the withdrawal process safely and more comfortably. We will also address any other emotional or mental health concerns you may have.
Give us a call today. We are standing by to address any concerns and answer your questions. We are committed to offering compassionate, evidence-based care that can help you quit benzos for good.
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