Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome: a literature review and evaluation

Some people, around 10 percent according to a study published by ABC News, may experience protracted withdrawal syndrome that can extend several months or even years after stopping use of a benzodiazepine. Benzo withdrawals can be severe, and life threatening complications can occur. A healthcare professional should supervise benzo withdrawal to help monitor and manage the symptoms. Research in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology notes that an estimated 10–25% of people who use benzos for extended periods experience withdrawal symptoms that last for 12 months or longer. If the protocol in Table 11 does not adequately control alcohol withdrawal symptoms, provide additional diazepam (up to 120mg in 24 hours).

Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome

If you stop or reduce your dose suddenly, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. The primary difference between these drugs is the length of time they stay active in the body. However, benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence and withdrawal even when they are taken as directed. Dr. Harrison serves as the Chief Medical Officer for Eleanor Health with more than 15 years experience practicing medicine.

Medical detox

Table 3 provides guidance on medications for alleviating common withdrawal symptoms. There is a large body of literature on BZWS, ranging from peer-reviewed publications to personal anecdotes. For the physician, it is particularly important to note that most sources recommend tapering off benzodiazepines to minimize the effects of the withdrawal syndrome. https://ecosoberhouse.com/article/the-importance-of-gratitude-in-recovery/ (BZWS) can result from the chronic prescription and use of benzodiazepines or Z-drugs. It can occur whether or not the patient stops using the drug, although the withdrawal syndrome is usually of a more severe nature when the drug is withdrawn.

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Suicidal thoughts and behavior that may arise during the acute withdrawal stage can be addressed through therapy and support groups. Just like the intensity or severity benzodiazepine withdrawal of symptoms, the duration of withdrawal can vary as well. For some, the withdrawal can take weeks or months—and for some it will last for years or never fully resolve.

Encouraging a Patient to Withdraw

If you experience severe withdrawal symptoms during tapering, tell your doctor so they can adjust your care plan as needed. 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. Some short-acting benzodiazepines, like Xanax, are thought to be more potent than some of the longer-acting ones, such as Valium, as well.

They also know that the incidence of protracted symptoms in those who have abruptly stopped a benzodiazepine is higher, and those who have undergone a slow taper at the patient’s individual pace is almost certainly very much lower. Not everyone who cuts down or stops taking benzodiazepines will experience withdrawal symptoms. Some people experience no withdrawal on discontinuation, even with cold-turkey cessation—although there is no way to know who these people will be ahead of time, so it is not recommended. Others might experience a few weeks or months of uncomfortable, but bearable, symptoms. Unfortunately, there is another group of individuals that may experience severe symptoms, often for months or years on end.

Overall effects on everyday life

Sequential reductions can be made periodically as long as the patient has a pause in the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms between reductions. Avoid formulaic plans which reduce the dosage to zero in a fixed amount of time. Patient compliance rates are increased and patient discomfort is reduced when you factor in the patient’s experience and adjust the taper rate accordingly. Only 24% of patients with alcohol use disorder were ever treated.[14].

They could rate each problem as nonexistent, mild, moderate, severe, quite severe, or enormous. If you take away the blockades gradually, your brain can reduce its chemical traffic to match. But if you remove the drug all at once, your brain doesn’t have enough time to prepare, and you can develop life-threatening symptoms like seizures.


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