Can You Die From Benzo Withdrawal: An Examination
When you stop taking benzodiazepines, it is important that you taper off the medication to manage the symptoms of withdrawal that you experience. As you consider seeking recovery, you may wonder if you can die from benzo withdrawal. Here is more information about benzodiazepine withdrawal and what you can expect.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines, also referred to as benzos, are pharmaceutical medications that work as a sedative. Benzos raise the level of the neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. GABA is responsible for transmitting messages between the nerves in your brain. Benzos work by inhibiting this nerve activity.
Psychiatrists and doctors prescribe benzodiazepines for patients with seizures, anxiety, panic disorders, and PMS, among other conditions. Benzodiazepine dependence occurs with long-term use, as benzos are habit-forming. As a result, patients need higher doses over time, as lower doses become less effective.
Some common benzodiazepines are:
- Valium (diazepam)
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Serax (oxazepam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Tranxene (clorazepate)
- Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
- Paxipam (halazepam)
- Doral (quazepam)
- Restoril (temazepam)
Can Benzos Cause Withdrawal?
Withdrawal is what happens physically and mentally after you stop taking a drug or alcohol. This can include unpleasant symptoms, such as:
- Mood changes
- Muscle pain
It is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly reduce the dose that you usually take. Having symptoms of withdrawal are indicative of dependence.
To avoid adverse withdrawal symptoms, it is important to taper off any medication slowly with the help of your medical provider or a treatment center with expertise in detox. Benzodiazepines cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can have an impact on your ability to manage recovery.
The severity of your symptoms of withdrawal from benzos will depend on a number of factors. The amount of time you take them and the dose are important factors that determine the likelihood and the intensity of your withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms
The physiological dependence caused by benzodiazepines can cause withdrawal that is somewhat unique from other substances. You may experience:
- Disturbed sleep
- Panic attacks
- Dry retching
- Weight loss
- Heart palpitations
- Suicidal ideation
- Psychotic reactions
- Muscle twitching
Within the first four days after stopping the consumption of benzos, you could experience insomnia and anxiety. In other cases, formal withdrawal syndrome develops and lasts 10 to 14 days. Sometimes, withdrawal symptoms persist until treated.
Researchers believe that the more severe withdrawal symptoms are more likely if you take more benzodiazepines for longer intervals of time. However, this is not always directly correlated to how an individual’s experience stopping benzos will go.
Can You Die From Benzo Withdrawal?
You can die from benzo withdrawal that is not medically monitored and managed. Since benzo withdrawal symptoms can be very serious, such as seizures and psychotic symptoms, these symptoms can be fatal. For example, if you have a seizure in a bathtub or experience psychosis walking near traffic on a city block, the withdrawal symptoms can cause confusion and significant injury or loss of life.
In addition, for individuals that have a history of suicidal ideation, psychotic symptoms can leave them feeling depressed, hopeless, and self-destructive. For this reason, medical professionals recommend seeking help when stopping or detoxing from benzodiazepines.
Is It Dangerous to Detox From Benzodiazepines Cold Turkey?
It can be dangerous to detox from benzodiazepines cold turkey, without a plan to slowly reduce the amount of the medication that you take. If you take a low dose of benzos and do not have a long history of dependence, it might be possible to go cold turkey. However, this isn’t recommended, as no one can accurately predict what symptoms they may experience during withdrawal.
If you regularly take benzodiazepines and suddenly stop taking the medication, the onset of withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepine dependence can occur at any time within the first two weeks of stopping. You might feel fine the first day, only to experience seizures and panic attacks a few days later.
In terms of the risk of fatality, doctors are often most concerned about seizures. Severe seizures can cause brain damage and possibly death. During detox from benzodiazepines, medical professionals will take steps to prevent seizures. This can include administering medication and intervening to provide additional care or transferring you to the hospital if you experience seizures.
Many people experience the rebound effect during the withdrawal period. This is where the anxiety and insomnia symptoms that psychiatrists prescribed benzodiazepines for would seem to come back with intense feelings of anxiety and restlessness. This in no way means that the detox failed or that you should continue to take benzodiazepines to cope with these symptoms. The symptoms will go away.
What Can I Do About Benzo Withdrawal?
Instead, it is better to detox from benzodiazepines with professional help. The exact method and time required for detox will depend on many factors, including the medication and dosage you take. Yet, most detox programs for benzodiazepines include similar steps:
- Supervision of detox period and withdrawal symptoms by medical professionals
- Monitoring of vital signs
- Using medically-assisted detox as needed
- Offering individual and group therapy sessions
- Psychotherapy, which may include cognitive behavioral therapy
Benzodiazepines have different half lives, which means that the amount of time required for the medication to fully leave your body varies. Alprazolam is a short acting benzodiazepine often metabolized within eight to 12 hours. Clonazepam is long acting and remains in your body for up to two days. The detox from short acting benzos lasts around five days. This process could take one or two weeks for longer acting ones.
Can you die from benzo withdrawal? Yes, it is possible to die from benzodiazepine withdrawal if you experience seizures, psychotic symptoms, or suicidal ideation while not under the care and supervision of medical professionals. It is important that you do not try to stop taking benzos without a plan and proper care. Contact Southeast Addiction to speak with a representative today.