Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms varies greatly
An individual who stops taking Benzodiazepines should taper dosage, so as to avoid adverse benzodiazepine withdrawal effects. This is because benzodiazepines are physically addictive and just as with other substance abuse addictions (with few exceptions), you must withdrawal in order to stop. The severity of the withdrawal differs from person to person and suggested methods of benzodiazepine withdrawal vary greatly. Some people have little or no adverse benzodiazepine withdrawal effects and others have severe effects that can be life-threatening.
When the individual stops or slows down dosage of the benzodiazepine, the brain neurochemistry takes abrupt action to normalize. Withdrawal is the process of this equilibrium and in most cases, the higher the tolerance the more the benzodiazepine withdrawal effects are felt. Withdrawal severity is dependent on the chemicals used. With some chemicals (drugs) it can be as mild as a slight headache, irritability or nothing at all (marijuana) with others (alcohol and benzos) withdrawal effects can include; delirium, psychosis, seizures, coma and death.
Each individual is quite unique and each one has medical conditions that can make for a complicated diagnosis. Subsequently each individual needs to find the proper medical attention that can help reduce or eliminate the complications of benzodiazepine withdrawal. What works for one may not work for another and an addiction specialist that understands benzodiazepine addiction, is the best option for anyone considering dosage reduction or cessation.
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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."
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.
These brain chemicals or hormones make up the very systems that a person must need for survival. These impossibly complex neurochemicals are the reward mechanisms that all of us NEED in order to WANT to eat, have sex, go to work, make friends, have family, defend what is ours and fall in love. In essence these systems are the "human spirit" that drives us all. When an outside chemical (drug) influences these systems, long and hard enough, it also influences the very thing that makes us human and want to remain so.
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.
In other words if the person stops forcing imbalance of neurochemistry the brain is MUCH better off! The brain thinks of the chemical as a long-term poisoning and makes adjustments to compensate, this process is called tolerance. Over time a person can take enormous amounts of the chemical, still be high functioning and still need more. The higher the dosage and the more the chemical is taken the closer the person gets to absolute toxicity. No one can be a chemist of the mind and not expect to have issues if things are being mixed up long enough. The systems are far to complex and well beyond our understanding with todays technology. Long-term benzodiazepine use highjacks the "human spirit" and the sooner that comes back to a person the better.
The extra support comes from new friends when you need it most
Most importantly however, the person will be getting a lot of additional support and new friends. These friends as they will soon discover are like them in many ways. They understand how it feels because they are going through it themselves, AND THEY ARE GOOD PEOPLE.
Group therapy is a big part of addiction and is a shining success of a therapy that works, you simply can't understand addiction unless you lived it yourself. In very short order everyone in the benzodiazepine treatment facility has banded together - an instant brotherhood and sisterhood of sorts. Laughter, along with some crying, makes everyone fast friends and this in turn creates a solid support system in the first 30 days, when it is needed most.