According to Drugs.com
- Drug Classes
- Central Nervous System Agents
- Anxiolytics, Sedatives, And Hypnotics
Medically reviewed by C. Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Feb 5, 2019.
What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines (also called “benzos”) are a class of agents that work in the central nervous system and are used for a variety of medical conditions.
They act on specific receptors in the brain, called gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABA-A) receptors. Benzodiazepines attach to these receptors and make the nerves in the brain less sensitive to stimulation, which has a calming effect.
What are benzodiazepines used for?
Benzodiazepines may be used to treat:
- alcohol withdrawal
- as a muscle relaxant
- panic disorder
Benzos include: Xanax, Klonopin, clonazepam, ativan, lorazepam, valium, diazepam, chlordiazepoxide, etc.
There is no specific timeline dictating exactly how long withdrawal from a benzo, or benzodiazepine, medication will last.
While each individual may experience withdrawal differently, certain estimations can be made. Benzodiazepine withdrawal duration and intensity depend on several factors, including:
- Length of time taking benzodiazepines
- Dosage amount
- Type of drug used/abused
- Method used to take or abuse benzodiazepines
- Underlying medical or mental health issues
- Abuse of other drugs or alcohol concurrently
Benzodiazepines are Schedule IV controlled substances per the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). They are sedatives and tranquilizers prescribed to treat symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, panic, seizure disorders, and muscle tensions or spasms. Common benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Restoril (temazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Valium (diazepam). Alprazolam, the generic name for Xanax, was the 13th most prescribed medication in the country in 2012, according to a survey done by IMS Health.
Benzo withdrawal timeline.
These medications are regularly taken recreationally, or abused for nonmedical purposes, in addition to being taken as legitimate prescriptions.
Onset of Benzos Withdrawal
Benzodiazepines are not intended to be taken long-term, as prolonged use or abuse can cause the brain to become both physically and psychologically dependent on them. Withdrawal symptoms, ranging from a return of uncomfortable psychological symptoms to physical manifestations such as nausea and diarrhea, may occur when the drugs are removed from the bloodstream. Family history of drug dependency or previous issues with substance abuse and/or dependency may increase the likelihood of developing a dependency on a benzodiazepine and may potentially add to the withdrawal timeline duration as well.
Each benzodiazepine medication has a specific half-life that influences the length of time it takes for the drug to leave the bloodstream. If an individual is dependent on a benzo, once the drug is purged from the body, withdrawal may begin. For shorter-acting benzos like Xanax, withdrawal may start within 10-12 hours of stopping the drug. With a longer-acting benzodiazepine such as Valium, it may take a few days for symptoms to appear. Withdrawal side effects are not generally lethal, although they are best managed with professional medical attention and supervision.
Individuals taking benzos for several months or more and in high doses are likely to experience more withdrawal symptoms that last longer than those taking smaller doses for a shorter length of time. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that patients taking doses of 4 mg/day or higher of Xanax for longer than three months were more likely to become dependent on the drug and therefore more likely to experience more uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms than those taking smaller doses for less time.
Some short-acting benzodiazepines, like Xanax, are thought to be more potent than some of the longer-acting ones, such as Valium, as well. While withdrawal will be similar for both, users of short-acting benzos may experience withdrawal symptoms sooner and with more intensity, as benzos with longer half-lives will stay in the body longer, therefore slowing the onset of withdrawal. Benzodiazepines are all designed as central nervous system depressants; however, they each may work slightly differently at targeting certain symptoms. For example, Restoril, Dalmane (flurazepam), and Halcion (triazolam) are considered primarily hypnotic benzodiazepines prescribed for insomnia, while Xanax, Ativan, Librium (chlordiazepoxide), and Valium are classified as anxiolytics used to treat anxiety symptoms. Klonopin is considered primarily an anticonvulsant. Different metabolites of these medications make them slightly different, which may also affect how quickly they leave the bloodstream. Withdrawal from different benzodiazepines is generally thought to bring the same general symptoms; however, it is possible that an individual withdrawing from a hypnotic may have more disrupted sleep patterns while withdrawal from an anxiolytic may include higher levels of anxiety.
The method of ingestion is also related to the onset of withdrawal. For instance, snorting or injecting benzos sends the drugs straight into the bloodstream to take almost instant effect. Ingesting a pill requires that it be digested through the digestive tract, which creates a less intense high and slower onset of withdrawal symptoms.
At Mitchell Medical, we treat Benzodiazepine Addiction with our at-home detox and medical tailored programs designed to get you sober from benzos in two weeks. The withdrawal from benzos, like alcohol, can be life threatening. Do not try to wean off or get sober without professional help. We get our patients off of benzos using a tailored approach to each individual patient at a much faster rate than other practitioners and rehab and detox centers. Call our offices today to start your journey to sobriety.