Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome
Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome varies person to person
Often times it is very difficult for the person to understand what they are feeling and that they are safe, when everything inside them is saying otherwise. It is very difficult for people not familiar with the process to see or understand. Family and friends can be of little help in consoling the person during these times in withdrawal.
While some long-term users successfully withdraw on their own and with minimal or no medical attention, its just not a good idea. When symptoms occur there are other medications that can be prescribed that can lessen or eliminate symptoms. Being withdrawn correctly is key to lowering the risks of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. While it still varies with each and every person, addiction medical professionals that see it everyday understand best, because they have helped people through it before.
Clonazepam (Klonopin®) is used for social phobia and GAD, lorazepam (Ativan®) is helpful for panic disorder, and alprazolam (Xanax®) is useful for both panic disorder and GAD.
Some people experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking benzodiazepines abruptly instead of tapering off, and anxiety can return once the medication is stopped. These potential problems have led some physicians to shy away from using these drugs or to use them in inadequate doses.
Buspirone (Buspar®), an azapirone, is a newer anti-anxiety medication used to treat GAD. Possible side effects include dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone must be taken consistently for at least 2 weeks to achieve an anti-anxiety effect."
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Specific symptoms for benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome
- Perceptual distortions, sense of movement
- Depersonalization, derealization
- Hallucinations (visual, auditory)
- Distortion of body image
- Tingling, numbness, altered sensation
- Formication (skin ‘crawling’)
- Hypersensitive to light, sound, taste, smell
- Muscle twitches, jerks
- Abnormally loud sounds
- Psychotic symptoms *
- Confusion, delirium *
- Convulsions *
* Usually only on rapid or abrupt withdrawal from high doses of benzodiazepines.
Symptoms common to all anxiety states and benzodiazepine withdrawal
- Anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia
- Blurred or double vision
- Depression, dysphoria
- Dizziness, light headedness
- Excitability, restlessness
- Insomnia, nightmares
- Muscle pain, stiffness
- Poor memory and concentration
- Sweating, night sweats
- Weakness ‘jelly legs’
We have listed the top six in order or abuse:
We have informational sites for each of the top selling benzodiazepines with a in depth look at each medication. If you would like additional benzodiazepine information just click on the link for benzodiazepine addiction drug-specific information.
Some of these symptoms mimic other conditions that are more extreme in nature. These symptoms can be easily interpreted as mental illness unless the attending doctor is familiar with the process and the effects as the relate to drug withdrawal. Often times in the later stages of the addiction process the drug(s) has become an intrinsic part of brain chemistry. This can have the outward appearance of the person being mentally ill. In fact there is illness (a long-term poisoning) and it is being caused by the benzodiazepine and/or other drugs.
In order to produce the desired effects, the chemical (drug) must effect the natural neurochemistry and when that is done for a long time the effects on the system as a whole are jeopardized. Multiple systems can be and quite often are, affected at once and include the; dopamine, serotonin, GABA, opiate, cannaboid, and endorphin systems. Each chemical (drug) is engineered to release it's own version of these naturally occurring hormones in our brains.
GABA is a neurotransmitter distributed throughout the entire brain system and so to effect GABA you must expect to affect other systems. The Benzodiazepine acts on the GABA receptor to hyperpolarize neurons. When a neuron is hyperpolarized, it is inhibited from firing.
An analogy may be applying brakes to a car. Just as greater amounts of gas are required to cause the car to move while stepping on the brakes, greater amounts of stimuli are required to cause a neuron to fire that is hyperpolarized. When neurons fire they release neurotransmitter, and since the chemical (drug) inhibit these neurons, they release less GABA. When a person stops taking benzodiazepines they are effectively releasing the brakes with the accelerator still jammed to the floor. The results of which get played out in the benzodiazepine withdrawal or benzodiazepine detox process. A person either needs to taper dosage or be medicated with another drug to compensate or things get out of control and life-threatening.