Dangers of Benzo Withdrawal
Withdrawal from severe benzodiazepine dependence can be dangerous—even fatal—without medical supervision.1
This page will go over the potential issues someone may experience when they give up benzodiazepines and how medical detox can help make the withdrawal process safer and more comfortable.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
People who take benzodiazepines regularly for several weeks or more and then abruptly stop or decrease their dose may experience physiological withdrawal symptoms.1,2
The longer benzos have been taken and the higher (or more frequent) the dose increases the likelihood of experiencing severe benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.3 The duration of drug action is also a factor that influences the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms.1,3 Even people who have been taking benzodiazepines as directed by a medical professional can experience withdrawal when they reduce or cease regular use.1,3
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can bring about a wide range of symptoms such as:1,3,4
- Increased heartrate (greater than 100 beats per minute).
- Hand tremor.
- Perceptual disturbances (i.e., hallucinations).
- Delirium characterized by disturbances in consciousness and cognition, with visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations.
Some people also experience anxiety and depression for several weeks or months following acute withdrawal.
Is Withdrawal from Benzos Deadly?
In severe cases, especially when untreated, benzodiazepine withdrawal may be fatal.1,4
Those at risk of experiencing increased severity of withdrawal symptoms include:1,5,7
- The elderly.
- People who misuse alcohol.
- People who take other sedatives or sleep aids.
- People who take opioids or are experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms.
- Individuals with a paternal history of alcohol use disorder.
- Individuals with a history of seizures.
- People with psychiatric disorders or physical health issues.
Withdrawal from benzos can carry serious risks that should be considered when deciding to discontinue or reduce use. A medically supervised detox can mitigate the risk of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms and help to ensure a person is as safe and comfortable as possible.1
Can I Detox from Benzos Cold-Turkey?
Detoxing from benzodiazepines cold turkey—i.e., abruptly stopping them without any medical supervision—can lead to withdrawal symptoms, some of which may be severe and life-threatening.1
Medical detox can mitigate the risk of patients experiencing seizures and other severe symptoms, as well as make the withdrawal process both safer and more comfortable.1 Medical detox can also help prepare someone for entry into more formal inpatient or outpatient drug rehab treatment.1
How to Safely Withdraw from Benzos
Before discontinuing regular use of benzodiazepines, talk to your doctor or a healthcare professional to ensure your safety. Many individuals benefit from inpatient or outpatient detox programs which can help reduce the likelihood of serious adverse or life-threatening reactions.1
Medical detox may include the prescription or administration of medications to reduce the risk and potential severity of withdrawal symptoms.1
Some facilities, like Laguna Treatment Center, also provide behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, and peer support, providing a seamless link to continued treatment in addiction rehab. Detox alone is rarely sufficient to help addicted individuals achieve long-term abstinence. Formal addiction rehab treatment can help address the social, psychological, and other factors that may contribute to someone’s substance use disorder.1,6
Continued addiction treatment after detox may involve:6,7
- Continued medication management or other interventions for protracted withdrawal symptoms that may persist.
- Treatment for co-occurring disorders like posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
- Behavioral therapy to raise motivation and self-esteem, develop coping skills, improve interpersonal relationships, and reduce the risk of future relapses.
How Long Do Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
The timeline for when withdrawal will begin and how long it will last is dependent on various factors, including the regular dose as well as the half-life of the benzodiazepine.1,3
- Shorter-acting benzos (e.g., Xanax, Ativan, Restoril) may begin within hours of stopping use and improve significantly by the 4th or 5th day.
- Longer-acting benzodiazepines, (e.g., Klonopin, Valium, Librium) may not start for 1-2 days or more and may last 3 or 4 weeks.
In some cases, people may experience discontinuation symptoms for weeks or even months after acute withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Some may experience the reemergence of symptoms for which the benzo was originally prescribed (e.g., anxiety or insomnia). These reemerging symptoms sometimes reoccur with greater severity following benzo discontinuation.7
A small proportion of people may experience prolonged withdrawal following discontinuation of long-term benzodiazepine use. Symptoms of prolonged withdrawal are irregular and unpredictable, and generally include waxing and waning symptoms including: often mimic those of anxiety and mood disorders, such as:
- Perceptual disturbances.
- Sensory hypersensitivities.
Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction
As mentioned above, detox and continued treatment may benefit someone with an addiction to benzodiazepines and help them to safely quit using sedatives and to remain in recovery.1,3
Laguna Treatment Hospital can help you or your loved one manage a sedative addiction through several levels of addiction treatment, including medical detox, Orange County inpatient rehab, and aftercare planning. Please call an admissions navigator at to learn more about treatment options or to start addiction treatment at Laguna.
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