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Cold Turkey? How To Help Someone Going Through Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Cold Turkey? How To Help Someone Going Through Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzodiazepine overdose fatalities increased by 830% between 1999 and 2017, according to a recent study by the CDC.

Troubling, isn’t it?

Well, it gets even worse. Almost half of the people taking Benzodiazepine-related prescriptions experience withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes, the effects of withdrawal persist years after the patient is off the meds.

That’s how bad it can get for prescribed patients. It’s worse for recovering addicts. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is fatal in cases of severe addiction. 

In such cases, tapering is the way to go. The addict is weaned off the benzos by gradually reducing the amount and potency of drug intake.

Helping someone battle Benzo-related addiction, therefore, requires both tact and know-how. Now for some good news: this article will show you how to help a benzo addict.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms: What to Expect

The symptoms can range anywhere from mild to violent. It all depends on the potency of the drug and the extent of abuse. Let’s have a quick look at three different stages Benzodiazepine withdrawal:

  1. Early phase: Symptoms are mild and kick in about 24 hours after the last dose.
  2. Acute phase: Benzo withdrawal symptoms peak at about 2 weeks after the last dose. In the case of addiction, this phase tends to get violent.
  3. Protracted phase: Benzos affect brain chemistry, which in turn influences temperament and behavior. That being the case, we’ll have to look at the protracted phase in greater detail.

Each phase gets progressively worse, which means that withdrawal will worsen before it gets better. Therefore, the patient must learn how to bring fun into everyday life – even amidst the anguish.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal: Understanding the Protracted Phase

Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the performance of a chemical in the brain, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). In the case of long-term abuse and addiction, the brain grows dependent on the benzos and can’t regulate GABA on its own. All GABA-dependent activities are, therefore, impaired when the body is off the Benzodiazepines.

GABA regulates sleep, emotion, and sex drive. The protracted phase is characterized by symptoms affecting these three areas. Below are five of the most common symptoms: 

  • Insomnia
  • Impaired concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Reduced sex drive

Depression is especially bad for a recovering addict because it increases the risk of relapse. That said, it is imperative that the patient learns how to combat depression. Your loved one will still need your help years after stopping the abuse.

You read that right.

The protracted phase lasts for years among recovering addicts. The sad thing is that this list of symptoms is hardly exhaustive. Learn more about Benzo withdrawal

Xanax Addiction: Let’s Put a Face to Benzodiazepines

Congratulations! You’ve learned a ton about Benzos, but can you name one Benzodiazepine-based drug? Most people can’t. 


Because there is no medication called Benzodiazepine. That said, Benzodiazepine-based meds are household names: Xanax, Valium, Halcion, Klonopin, and Dormonoct- to name but a few.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approves of 15 Benzodiazepines. Of the 15, Xanax is the most prescribed. However, don’t be fooled by its ready availability. 

Withdrawal from Xanax can be fatal in the case of addiction. 

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms: How Long Until They Kick In?

Xanax belongs to a group of Benzodiazepines called shorter-acting Benzos. This type of Benzos have the most severe withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal also takes a shorter time to kick in, compared to Longer-acting Benzos like Valium. 

How bad is Xanax withdrawal?

The early phase of withdrawal manifests about 24 hours after taking Benzos, remember? Well, not in the case of Xanax. The early set of symptoms kick in about 6-8 hours after use. 

Xanax severely affects GABA. For a recovering addict to function optimally without the drug, a daily routine will have to be adopted. Educate the patient on the importance of a daily routine for his or her permanent recovery. 

Quick Recap

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be fatal. As such, you must never attempt a cold turkey on addicts, especially if they were heavy users.

The tips outlined will help any recovering benzo addict. Withdrawal is hell. Be patient and understanding with the patient.

Do you know anyone who has battled addiction?

Share your story.

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