Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, belong to a class of medications known as sedative-hypnotics. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved benzodiazepines specifically for the treatment of certain ailments including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), insomnia, social anxiety disorder, seizure disorders, and panic disorders. Medical News Today explains that benzodiazepines “alter the activity of the neurons that trigger stress and anxiety reactions.” Benzos are man-made medications that work by affecting one’s neurotransmitters, enhancing the effects of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in one’s brain and sends calming messages to the body. Benzodiazepines increase GABA, which in turn reduces brain activity. Although benzodiazepines are classified by the DEA (the United States Drug Enforcement Administration) as a Schedule IV Controlled Substance, meaning they are “defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence,” benzos can be habit-forming and lead to addiction.
Benzodiazepines work by interacting with the natural functioning of one’s brain and central nervous system. Therefore, to detox from benzos safely and effectively, the duration of the detox process is lengthened. Unlike many other substances, where detox requires an individual to immediately cease substance use, it is generally recommended for an individual who has consistently taken benzos for two weeks or longer to taper off the substance as opposed to stopping abruptly. Every individual is different and will experience a unique combination of withdrawal symptoms, differing severity of symptoms, and a distinct duration of symptoms when detoxing from benzos. The onset of withdrawal symptoms usually beings within twenty-four hours of one’s last use and can last from a few days to several months long, depending on the individual. The tapering-off method enables one’s body to slowly acclimate to the reduced amount of benzos present in his or her system and can lessen the severity of some of the withdrawal symptoms.
Tapering off benzos can be accomplished by slowly reducing one’s dose over time. An individual detoxing from benzodiazepines will work with a medical professional to develop a plan to effectively take him or her off the medication. Depending on one’s situation, this may include lowering the dose over a single week or several weeks. The timeline to wean off benzos will be different for each person as it will be greatly informed by the individual and his or her unique situation. Tapering-off of benzos can, not only be successfully accomplished, but with ample medical supervision, it is often the recommended method for safely removing benzodiazepines from one’s body.
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If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long-lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment-related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-318-3777. You are also welcome to contact anytime us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.