Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are used in the United States by an estimated 30.5 million adults to treat illnesses such as insomnia, anxiety, and seizures, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). When used for longer than a few weeks, benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence and addiction—making it difficult for people to stop using these drugs without suffering withdrawal symptoms. Many benzodiazepine users need help coming off these drugs to avoid withdrawal-related complications such as seizures.
If you are currently on benzodiazepines and need help discontinuing these drugs, understand that a benzo addiction recovery center can help you experience a safe, low-risk withdrawal. Continue reading to learn how to get the help you need for benzo addiction recovery.
How Addictive Are Benzodiazepines?
The benzodiazepines addiction rate in the U.S. is 0.3%, which equates to roughly 739,000 adults, reports the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The DEA defines benzodiazepines as Schedule IV drugs, which are drugs with a low potential for abuse and a low risk of dependence. According to the DEA, these drugs are less addictive than opioids, which fall under Schedules II and III.
Evidence from the NIDA suggests that benzodiazepines may be just as addictive as opioids and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)—the latter of which is a club drug. They define it as a Schedule I drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Therefore, benzodiazepines may be far more addictive, especially with how people can become dependent on these medications after using them for at least two weeks. Fortunately, a benzo addiction recovery center can help people safely recover from benzo dependence after becoming addicted.
How Are Benzodiazepines Addictive?
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that work by slowing down central nervous system processes including breathing and heart rate. These effects help patients relax, feel calmer, and fall asleep more easily. Like many other addictive drugs, benzodiazepines flood the brain with dopamine to cause euphoria and sensations of pleasure and reward that motivate people to keep using more.
Doctors prescribe benzodiazepines only for a short time, as using these drugs for longer than two to three weeks can often cause dependency. However, many patients are able to stay on them longer with permission from their doctors or obtain multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors to maintain an adequate supply. Those who become dependent on benzos and can no longer get them from their doctors can often buy illicit or counterfeit benzos from dealers on the streets.
Are All Benzodiazepines Addictive?
All benzodiazepines do have the potential for abuse and addiction. However, a study published in the Mental Health Clinician states that benzodiazepines with a shorter half-life—specifically alprazolam and lorazepam—tend to have a greater abuse potential than long-acting benzos. Diazepam can also be a high abuse potential—according to another study by the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
The lowest abuse potential of all benzos are oxazepam, clorazepate, and chlordiazepoxide. However, regardless of which benzodiazepine is being used, anyone who misuses these drugs or who uses them for a long period is at risk of becoming addicted and needing benzodiazepine addiction recovery treatment.
What Are the Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment Guidelines?
Benzodiazepine addiction treatment usually begins with medical benzo detox, which helps people safely withdraw from these drugs to overcome physical dependence.
Treatment guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) state that the safest way to manage withdrawal from benzodiazepines is to use a tapering method. With the tapering method, patients take benzo in gradually decreasing amounts until they are no longer dependent on the drugs or using them. This treatment method reduces the severity of withdrawal symptoms and prevents seizures.
First, the benzodiazepine of abuse is replaced with an equivalent dose of diazepam, which is a long-acting benzo that helps stabilize patients. Patients remain on that dose for between four and seven days. Doctors then gradually reduce your doses every week thereafter, or less often according to how the patient responds to treatment. Benzo withdrawal can last anywhere between two and eight weeks or longer, based on factors such as the severity of the addiction, the patient’s metabolism and diet, and more.
What Is the Best Treatment For a Benzodiazepine Addiction?
The best treatment for benzodiazepine dependence is tapering, as it helps patients gradually overcome dependence while experiencing reduced symptoms. After going through benzo detox, many patients transition into a rehab program to receive behavioral therapy for psychological benzo addiction.
Most drug rehab centers offer a variety of behavioral therapies for addiction, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and family therapy, among others. These therapies help patients change harmful behaviors and attitudes contributing to their addiction, and teach them how to manage triggers that would normally lead to drug use. Rehab programs can take place in a residential or outpatient setting, and last anywhere between 30 and 120 days.
Does Benzo Withdrawal Ever End?
For those recovering from benzo addiction, sometimes it can feel like withdrawal will never end. Though the WHO states that benzo withdrawal usually lasts an average of two to eight weeks, other sources state it may take as long as six to 12 months. Regardless of how long benzo withdrawal lasts, the patients usually see the best outcomes after a successful, gradual tapering.
In a study published in the British Journal of General Practice, researchers examined the effects of tapering in 73 patients dependent on benzodiazepines. Patients achieved withdrawal or reduced their dose by at least 50% after six and 12 months. After 12 months, 45.2% of patients had completely stopped using benzodiazepines.
If you or your loved one continues to experience benzo withdrawal symptoms for longer than a few months, notify your doctor right away or consider seeking professional treatment at an accredited benzo addiction recovery center.
How Long Does Benzo Rebound Anxiety Last?
Benzo rebound anxiety is the return of anxiety after stopping benzos that is greater than the anxiety you had before starting these medications. Rebound anxiety usually begins one to four days after abruptly discontinuing benzos, or after reducing the dose by too high an amount.
Benzo rebound anxiety affects each patient differently than the next and may last for a few days, weeks, or months, depending on factors such as the type of benzo that was being used, the severity of the addiction, and the tapering method used. Your doctor can often give you a more accurate timeframe regarding how long your rebound anxiety may last based on your health and unique situation.
Summer House Detox Center offers benzodiazepine addiction recovery services to people who need help withdrawing from benzodiazepines and other substances. Call us today at 800-719-1090 to learn more about our many customizable addiction treatment programs.