What is it like to withdrawal from benzodiazepines? If you or someone you know is planning to quit Xanax or another type of benzodiazepine, understanding the benzo withdrawal symptom timeline can help. Here’s an in-depth guide to help you through the process.
Benzos like Xanax, are one of the most common drugs prescribed for anxiety, seizures, insomnia, and other conditions that would benefit from the relaxation of the central nervous system. It’s also one of the most famously addictive classes of drugs.
Detoxing from a benzodiazepine like Xanax comes with one of the more serious withdrawal processes.
Depending on the type of drug, length of use, and other health factors, the withdrawal timeline can vary. But many patients who quit will still feel withdrawal symptoms for years.
Benzo withdrawal symptoms may be worse if the person quits cold turkey, especially if unsupervised by a medical professional. It’s usually recommended that patients taper off the dosage and attend therapy in order to manage symptoms.
It’s frustrating to hear that there are no easy answers and that your situation is unique. It’s hard to predict what your withdrawal experience will actually be like. But read this guide in order to get a start on being informed of the possibilities.
Why Does Benzo Withdrawal Cause Symptoms?
Benzodiazepines or “Benzos” are considered depressants. They have a calming effect on the nervous system. This is helpful to reduce anxiety and insomnia.
However, this calming effect involves lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Taken over time, the body will get used to these functions being artificially reduced via the prescribed medications and as a result, GABA receptors will become damaged.
If the medication is taken away, blood pressure and heart rate will shoot up, leaving the body unable to regulate itself on it’s own.
High blood pressure and heart rate can lead to a lot of side symptoms, from psychological to the physical. The most extreme include seizures, which can lead to coma or death.
Withdrawal is the process of the body’s natural chemicals getting used to the absence of the helper drug and relearning to regulate natural body functions.
Some people believe that only those with addictive personalities can become dependent and experience withdrawal symptoms. This is false. The damage of GABA receptors is something that can happen to anyone who takes these drugs.
What are the Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms?
Benzo withdrawals hit on both a physical and psychological level, as much as the two are related.
Physical symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Aches and muscle tension in the jaw, back, and other areas of the body
- Loss of muscle control, including spasms, tremors, and numbness
- Insomnia and restlessness
- Difficulties with vision, including sensitivity to light and blurriness
- Alternations in sense of smell and appetite
- Fever and sweating
- Weight loss
Psychological symptoms include:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Suicidal ideations
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Feelings of unreality and dysphoria
- Poor cognitive functions, including memory loss
- Confusion and paranoia
- Mood swings
As you can see, this can be a really difficult process. Choosing a tapering method of quitting benzos can reduce the intensity of these symptoms and make withdrawal a more graceful process.
What is the Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline?
Length of withdrawal can depend on:
- How long the medications were being taken
- The dosage that the medication was taken at
- What the medication was taken for
- Any mental health issues or family history of mental health issues
- Any predisposition to addiction issues or drug abuse
- Stress levels
- Emotional stability
- Access to medical and psychiatric attention
Withdrawal from short-acting benzos will start within the day. For patients who were taking long-acting benzos, withdrawal symptoms can take up to a week to begin. The withdrawal will also last longer. The below timeline refers to generalities and averages.
The First Few Days
The first symptoms will generally appear in a couple days. These will start out as pretty mild. The patient may find it harder to fall asleep and demonstrate obvious mood swings. Nausea, headaches and the other previously listed symptoms may start to take effect.
Seven to Fourteen Days
The phrase, “it gets worse before it gets better” applies well to the benzo withdrawal symptoms timeline. Symptoms will peak at seven to fourteen days. The milder symptoms will intensify. It’s at this point the patient will begin to experience the worst of the loss of muscle control.
That means these days are the most dangerous. This is when seizures and other extreme symptoms can happen for the most physically dependent patients.
This time may be lengthened if the patient is dealing with multiple addictions. Some of the symptoms of benzo withdrawal overlap with withdrawal from alcohol or other types of medications. Some of them will not overlap, meaning the patient may have to deal with other kinds of symptoms.
Body tremors, hallucinations, and the other most extreme symptoms that appear at this time are more likely if the patient has chosen to quit cold turkey.
After a month, symptoms of withdrawal are still common but fading. The patient may be feeling the psychological effects of this addiction for some time, especially anxiety.
The worst is usually over at this point in the benzo withdrawal symptoms timeline. However, the patient should not be discouraged if they have some days that feel like setbacks in the intensity of symptoms.
It’s common to experience fluctuations in symptoms as they continue to fade.
It’s also common for the patients with more severe benzodiazepines addictions to still be experiencing symptoms at this time, especially for those who took long-acting benzos. Some patients may even experience symptoms for years. Those with dual diagnosis might have the hardest time getting back on their feet.
Muse is Here For You
Benzo withdrawal is difficult. It’s got a bad reputation and for good reason. We provide additional information on a variety of substances’ withdrawal symptoms to help you navigate the detox process. If you’re seeking out help for an addiction to benzos, know that you are brave.
There are tons of misconceptions out there, held by both laymen and medical professionals. That’s why it’s important to do plenty of research and seek out an experienced specialist during this difficult time. We hope that this guide to the benzo withdrawal symptoms timeline is a useful start.
Addiction specialists at Muse can help analyze your situation, determine if you qualify for a dual diagnosis, and help get you into a recovery program that’s right for you. Contact us and we will fight your addiction together.