Benzodiazepines are nothing to mess around with. Benzos are highly addictive drugs and many people find themselves dependent on them even when used according to their doctor’s orders. If you’re planning to quit benzos, understanding the benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline can make things easier.
What Is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?
Withdrawal occurs when you stop taking a drug that your body is dependent upon.
In the case of benzos, withdrawal occurs largely because of imbalances in the GABA system. GABA is an important brain chemical, or neurotransmitter.
Normally, GABA helps to relax the nervous system. It prevents other excitatory (stimulating) neurotransmitters from overworking our body. Drugs like benzos release more GABA into the brain which is why they are so relaxing.
However, if your body becomes dependent on benzos, it stops producing GABA on its own. This means that when you stop taking them your body doesn’t have access to enough GABA. Thus, the stimulating neurotransmitters like adrenaline go into overdrive.
Symptoms of benzo withdrawal make more sense when you understand this factor. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty thinking
- Vision problems
- Memory problems
- Visual distortions and hallucinations
- Brain fog
It’s important to note that withdrawal from benzos can be life-threatening. If you’re highly dependent on benzos, seek treatment at a medical facility. If you have a seizure without medical supervision, you may fall into a coma and die.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline
The withdrawal timeline depends on many factors, including:
- How long you’ve used benzos
- The dose you’re taking
- The specific benzo you’re using
- Any other drugs you might be taking
The biggest thing to consider is the half-life of your benzo. This is the amount of time it takes for the drug to be metabolized. Drugs with a longer half-life will have a longer period between your last dose and the onset of withdrawal.
However, you can generally expect the timeline to follow a similar pattern as follows.
- Early withdrawal starts shortly after taking your last dose. Depending on the half-life, this could be anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. Short-acting drugs like lorazepam (Ativan) will cause withdrawal sooner than a long-acting drug like clonazepam (Klonipin).
- Acute withdrawal is the main phase of the withdrawal. Most people enter acute withdrawal within 24-72 hours after their last dose. Symptoms last between 5-28 days.
- Protracted withdrawal is a drawn-out phase of withdrawal. Not everyone experiences protracted withdrawal. However, those who do report that symptoms can last for a year or longer. Symptoms of protracted withdrawal include insomnia, anxiety, poor concentration, depression, and lack of libido.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal is no joke. In many cases it’s recommended to seek treatment with the help of medical professionals. Without medical aid, you may have a seizure that could prove to be fatal.
The same is true with any form of GABAergic withdrawal. You should be extra cautious if you’re using benzodiazepines to help you through alcohol withdrawal.
If you’re concerned about seeking treatment for benzodiazepine use, check out our guide on benzo addiction treatment. This will provide you with the information you need.