Yes. When people take benzos for longer than a few months, or when they take high doses of benzos, the brain comes to depend on these drugs. When they are removed, people may experience anxiety, panic, hallucinations, and/or seizures. The safest way to deal with a benzo addiction is to enroll in a medical detox program. These drugs are too dangerous to quit cold turkey.
While generally not considered life-threatening, withdrawal from benzodiazepines is best managed through medical detox, which can offer both physical and mental health support and supervision.
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants ” prescription medications that suppress brain activity related to anxiety, panic and stress. Benzos are also prescribed to treat insomnia, muscle tension, and seizures. About one in 20 Americans between the ages of 18 and 80 were prescribed a benzodiazepine medication in 2008, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported. These medications are also regularly abused, or used for nonmedical purposes. When the body feels stress, the “fight or flight” reaction is activated, raising heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. Benzodiazepines slow all of this activity down, calming the system, and relaxing the body and brain by increasing the interaction of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma amino-butyric acid, or GABA, within the central nervous system. Benzodiazepines also have the added effect of deregulating dopamine production, resulting in more of the “pleasure cells,” which may increase the addictive potential of benzos, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
When benzodiazepines are taken for longer than a few months and/or in high doses, the brain may start to depend on the influence of the drugs.
When they are removed, the brain may experience a rebound as GABA and dopamine levels decrease. This rebound effect often includes a return of symptoms the drugs may have been treating, and when they return, the symptoms may be more severe than the original symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms may include both physical and psychological side effects that may be powerful in nature. Therefore, stopping a benzodiazepine medication suddenly without medical help is not recommended and could be dangerous.
Medical detox in a drug rehabilitation center uses various methods, both pharmacological and psychological, to make sure that each individual is safe and well cared for during benzodiazepine withdrawal.
The last phase, protracted withdrawal, is thought to affect less than 15 percent of those in benzodiazepine withdrawal. Protracted withdrawal may continue for months or even years after stopping a benzodiazepine drug. Symptoms include anxiety, depression, and cognitive and memory difficulties as well as some physical symptoms, such as muscle spasms or feelings of electricity in the limbs. The help of a medical or mental health professional is often needed to manage these symptoms successfully.
It is important that all drugs are accounted for when entering medical detox for benzodiazepine dependency to avoid any potential negative drug interactions.
Benzodiazepines should be tapered down slowly over time during medical detox, and a medical professional should supervise detox to ensure the safest outcome.
Both physical and emotional health can be successfully maintained during medical detox at a specialized drug treatment facility, which can provide medical interventions and monitoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to ensure that benzodiazepine withdrawal is safe and comprehensive. Treating a dual diagnosis with integrated care methods can improve symptoms overall as well. Counseling, support groups, family training and education, and individual therapy all help maintain and sustain long-term recovery.