The Dangers Of Detoxing From Benzos On Your Own At Home

benzodiazepine detox

Knowing what Benzodiazepine Addiction Looks Like

Everyday each of us wake up and prepare to take on the experiences of the day. Many people out there have different emotional or biological responses to daily challenges that present as stress, anxiety, or even through compulsive behaviors. For decades, doctors would prescribe medications such as benzodiazepines in order to restore a sense of normalcy to the lives of those that suffer. 

In recent years, however, it has been found that patients, or even those that were not prescribed this type of medication, were abusing or misusing their drugs. These decisions led patients to either run out of their meds before the next order was available or due to refill, and to abruptly go through a benzo detox at home. 

As a patient who has been prescribed medication, it is sometimes hard to fully grasp the power of the drugs that we are taking. That is to say, some people take the drugs even without prescription. Whether to self medicate or to experience temporary euphoria, the reasoning for taking the medication is not important. 

While there are many different types of drugs that people take, benzodiazepines are a class of drug that is used to treat several psychological or sleep disorders. Because so many people struggle with mental illness, or at least claim that they do, benzodiazepines like Xanax are very commonly prescribed. But, before we get too much into the actual dangers of a benzo detox at home, let’s go ahead and discuss a little bit more about these drugs in general.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a group of drugs sold under many different names that  all work similarly in the brain. Being classified in the same category, different strengths and side effects range from distributor to distributor. The drugs are effective for providing quick relief from anxiety. Within an hour or sometimes even less, patients should feel relief and calm results with assistance from the drug. 

Some examples of these brand name drugs are: 

  • Xanax
  • Helex
  • Xanor
  • Trankimazin
  • Alprox
  • Misar
  • Restyl
  • Solanax
  • Tafil
  • Rivotril
  • Klonopin
  • Paxam
  • Lexotanil
  • Ativan
  • Tetrazepam
  • Diazepam
  • Clonazepam
  • Alzapam
  • Lorazepam
  • Nifoxipam

Again, this is not a complete list as there are hundreds more, both FDA approved and non-FDA approved. 

Pharmaceutical companies are well aware of how addictive these drugs are. In fact, their highly addictive properties make them an ideal product to manufacture and make overly available to millions with a doctor’s prescription.

Benzos and Their Addictive Appeal

While benzodiazepines work very well for treatment of some disorders when used as properly prescribed, they do have a short half-life. When a drug has a short half-life, it means that it does not stay active or lingering in your system for a prolonged amount of time.

After taking the drug, and then experiencing a benzo detox, it will be completely out of your body within a few days. Its ability to be quickly flushed out of the body’s system is considered an attractive feature, especially in the eyes of recreational users and drug addicts. 

The primary reason being, is that after going through a benzo detox, it won’t show up on a simple drug test, preventing employers or authorities from catching on to drug usage.

The Down Side of Benzos Having Short Term Effects 

Any medication that has a shorter half-life (along with a few other attributes), the more potentially addictive that drug is. So, as you can expect, benzos are very addictive, and if not taken properly, they are very dangerous. Not only do they sedate users and create an enjoyable buzz, they also are physically harmful to the body, especially the lungs, heart and brain. 

When drugs, of any kind, have a high risk of dependency in both physical and mental terms, you know that it is bad news and should not be taken lightly.

Getting off of Benzodiazepines

Any simple search on the internet will reveal to you just how many people are struggling and wanting to get off of benzodiazepines. The thing is, it takes time and effort to do it, and it can be potentially life threatening. A lot of people go through agonizing pain and frustration in the process with benzo detox at home.

For those who may be unaware, benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium are very hard to get off of. Even if you make sure that you taper off of them, meaning that you lessen your dose over time, you can still experience horrible withdrawal symptoms. That said, anyone who wants to attempt a benzo detox at home, should prepare for many of the following symptoms that may worsen as the process continues.

Some of these benzo withdrawal side effects are: 

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Difficulty with being or remaining still
  • Racing or irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty catching your breath or heavy sensation in the chest
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Hot or cold Sweats
  • Tremors, or shaking in the hands, arms, legs and feet that are involuntary and uncontrollable
  • Hallucinations
  • GI irregularities, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea
  • Stiffness or tension in the upper body and face
  • Memory loss
  • Skin rash or swelling

Unfortunately, the list of dangers associated with a benzo detox, at home or otherwise, goes on and on. Everyone’s body and mind reacts differently to withdraw. Additionally, the extent of dependency, and how accustomed the body has become to the medication will only make matters worse or more difficult to manage alone. 

Knowing the Danger of Benzo Detox at Home Without Assistance

Many specialists make note of the fact that they would much rather face the distress of helping someone get off of heroin, than they would with these drugs. That says something about the danger of attempting your own benzo detox at home. 

This is simply because benzodiazepines are proven to be on the list of most difficult addictive substances to withdraw from. When it comes to getting off of them, keep in mind that you have to be extremely careful in regards to your health. The only two major drugs that have the ability to actually kill you if stopped cold turkey are alcohol and benzodiazepines. 

Yes, you read that right. If someone stopped taking their benzodiazepine pills suddenly without warning, especially when attempting a benzo detox at home, their body could literally stop working. Too many addicts who think it’s better to discreetly benzo detox at home, don’t realize that they could die from the withdrawal symptoms. 

Keeping that in mind, one can understand the importance of tapering off of the drug with the assistance of a rehab or medical professional nearby.  It is extremely important to consider how one should go about getting off of benzodiazepines in a safe and responsible way.

Prolonging Addiction to Avoid Negative Withdrawal

Most people are put off by the idea of having withdrawal symptoms and decide to continue taking their medication. However, the continued long-term use of benzodiazepines has been linked to more serious health risks. 

While using these types of medications, even if prescribed by a professional, you may still experience or develop over time:

  • Cognitive decline
  • Poor physical coordination
  • Progressive slowing or absence of reflex reactions
  • Feeling constantly drowsy, fatigued, unmotivated or craving sleep
  • Loss or skewed memory
  • Feeling confused
  • Worsened depression
  • Increased anxiety
  • Slurring of speech
  • Respiratory damage or difficulty breathing
  • Feeling nauseous or vomiting
  • Having diarrhea, constipation or abdominal cramps
  • Unwanted or untimely euphoria

Knowing the dangerous side effects should be enough to convince anyone that they need to get off these addictive substances. When you make the decision to take your life back and be free from the hold these drugs have over you, then it’s time to take that leap of faith and get the help that you need. 

By deciding not to, you must accept and commit to these medications, even when you need to take higher and higher doses of it to ensure you are treating your medical condition properly. 

Why Are Benzos Prescribed and Still Abused?

Understandably, along with a professionally monitored individual, there are periods of time where benzos can aid in managing anxiety or sleep disorders. However, in a large number of cases, addicts are acquiring these drugs to self medicate or for recreational purposes. 

By taking these drugs off label and illegally, you are still subject to having to take more and more over time to achieve the same sense of euphoria. This is where it can become increasingly more deadly attempting to benzo detox at home without proper supervision.

Alternatives to Attempting a Benzo Detox at Home

So, the first step that you will actually take to getting off of these addictive pills is talking to your doctor. Doctors are trained and have studied the effects of certain drugs and how they interact in our bodies. 

Basically, what is to be taken from that is the fact that your doctor knows more about your body than you do. Even if you think you know how to get off of benzos, you still need to talk to your doctor. 

From here, your doctor will likely advise you about how you should go about tapering the dose down. You will be given some kind of instruction as to how much of the dose you will cut out each night. Depending on the dose that you are on, you may take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a year to fully get off of your benzodiazepines. 

Either way, you will be off of them quicker than you ever would if you do not start the tapering process. While you are speaking with your doctor, be sure to discuss possible side effects and how you should go about relieving them.

Unfortunately over time, the human body becomes more used to certain drugs and to remain effective the dosage must be increased over time. Doctors and psychologists must walk a fine line to ethically ensure the safety and treatment of their patients. There is controversy between making sure that their patients are both receiving the care that they need for their illness, while ensuring that their physical and mental wellbeing don’t suffer from prolonged exposure to these types of medications. 

It is also important for medical professionals to have steady communication with their patients throughout their treatment. Regardless of the attempt to accomplish that, many people that suffer from illnesses, such as anxiety, will take more than what they are prescribed. This leads to running out of their medication early, and suffering from benzo detox at home without informing anyone of their life-threatening and periodic suffering.   

Benzo Withdrawal is Worse for Some, But it is Still Withdrawal

There are certain factors that indicate how difficult a person’s benzo withdrawal will be. Regardless, because of the addictive nature of these drugs, some sort of withdrawal is almost certain. 

As the body works to remove toxins, additional stress on the body presents in several different ways. How bad a person’s detox will be depends on several different circumstances.

Some of these factors to consider before deciding whether or not to go through benzo detox at home include: 

  • The duration of time a person has been using their medication.
  • The dosage that they have been prescribed.
  • The frequency of times they took their medication throughout a day.
  • Whether or not they were taking the medication as prescribed (more or less than recommended).
  • Which type of benzo you were taking (different benzodiazepines wil have different effects). 
  • If the benzodiazepine was being used at the same time with any other substances (alcohol or drugs). 
  • Whether or not there is dual diagnosis or underlying conditions that contribute (which may become worse during or after this time). 
  • It is also important to take into consideration a person’s physical and mental health history, as there is a potential that withdrawal could have an effect in unrelated system functions. 

Just as each addiction or medical condition varies by individual, so will the necessary means of care during this time. Unfortunately no one can predict how intense withdrawal will be for each person. 

However what we do know is that you will experience some of the effects while weaning off these drugs. This reinforces the importance of seeking assistance from a rehabilitation or medical facility during this time, instead of trying to complete your benzo detox at home. 

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Suggested Timeline

Just as the intensity of benzo detox will vary, so will the amount of time it will last. These time frames, however, do not have an effect on the severity of the matter. That said, the factors that contribute are very much the same. There is some good news with this issue though. 

Because so many patients have reached out to rehabs to get the help that they need, instead of doing their benzo detox at home, we have a better idea of how long withdrawal should last. Here is what has been observed thus far: 

Some benzos are classified as “short-acting.” they tend to kick in very quickly and stop producing therapeutic effects much sooner than their alternatives. 

    • During detox, withdrawal symptoms start at around 6 to 8 hours after use.  
    • Symptoms are at their peak nearing the 48 to 78 hour mark. 
    • Withdrawal effects could sometimes ease up by the fourth day. However, more have reported a slight relief in detox related signs closer to the 5 day to 1 week period. 
    • Examples of these short acting benzodiazepines include- Xanax, Alzapam, Clonezapan, Ativan

Alternatively, there are such drugs considered “long-acting” benzodiazepines.

    • These are prescribed in severe cases of sleep disorders, severe anxiety patients, manic or compulsive cases, seizure disorders, or in combination with other medications prior to or during  surgical procedures. 
    • It may take more than a full week to experience symptoms of withdrawal during detox. 
    • Typically, the severity will occur throughout the second or even third weeks time. 
    • It could take a full month or even 5 weeks to experience any relief at all after detox has begun. 
    • Some examples of long-acting benzodiazepines include- Valium, Diazepam, Oxazepam, Librium, Temazepam

Keep in mind, every person reacts to this experience differently. These durations could exceed projected timelines, and tend to go from bad to worse quite quickly. Very commonly, people also have the unpleasantry of suffering additional mental, physical or emotional side effects after the withdrawal is completed. 

Consult with your doctor or rehabilitation care center, as opposed to attempting a benzo detox at home. Because of the unknown response, it is important to get help during this vulnerable and potentially life threatening time. 

Health Hazards That May Occur After Detox and Withdrawal

Even after what seems like the worst is over, these dangerous drugs may have left behind what is known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWS. 

The time period where PAWS, also medically known as protracted benzo withdrawal, could go into effect has no definite answer. Despite that, addicts in recovery often report experiencing some or all of the following after completing detox: 

  • New or worsening anxiety without significant periods of relief
  • Sudden onset of chronic insomnia, occasionally managed with therapy and proper sleep hygiene techniques
  • Aches or pains that have no reasonable explanation
  • Unusual difficulties performing complex tasks that were once achievable
  • Poor focus and concentration
  • Loss of libido or sexual desire
  • New or worsening depression

Because many PAWS have many characteristics of known psychological disorders, it poses a challenge when someone decides to face their benzo detox without help from a rehab. 

Dual diagnosis is oftentimes associated with the use or abuse of benzodiazepines, however can be misdiagnosed or improperly managed without careful observation and care throughout the withdrawal process. 

Support on Your Rehabilitation Journey

Even if you are still thinking about how to go about benzo detox at home, though not recommended and considered dangerous, the journey to rehabilitation will have just begun. Taking the time to learn what triggers you, adapting coping skills, and adjusting to sobriety is still an uphill battle, especially if trying to do it alone. 

Rehabilitation centers guide and support you medically and emotionally throughout this empowering time. With programs such as therapy in individual and group sessions, counseling, medical needs, potential medication for assistance or to treat dual diagnosis or PAWS, as well as group activities to reinforce the skills you need to avoid relapse. 

With detox programs, inpatient, outpatient and even specialized treatment for working professionals rehab will help you get life back on track and teach you how to keep it there. 

The Reality of Benzodiazepine Addiction

In an ideal world, there would be no such thing as addiction, and we would never have to deal with things like this. And while that sounds like a peaceful idea, it is simply not the way things actually are. The unfortunate part about the thousands of people who are addicted to benzodiazepines, considering that most of them were prescribed the medication by a doctor. 

Whether or not it is your belief that doctors should recommend a drug so powerful and destructive, other people see it differently. Benzodiazepines have at times helped many people to overcome bouts of anxiety or depression. They even have the ability to save someone’s life, but as do most good things, it comes with a catch. 

Conquer Addiction, Rise to the Challenge, Choose to Get Help

The most important thing you can do today is to challenge yourself to not relapse or take a higher dose ever again. See it as a personal obstacle that once you overcome, will open you to a new life. All in all, be sure to be careful, and instead of facing a benzo detox all by yourself, reach out to us at Coastal Detox, we know how to help.  

As said before, these drugs can literally kill you, and have taken many lives to this day. Always use expert advice and seek help whenever you need it. To start seeking the guidance of a counselor today, call us today and you can get 24/7 assistance and start your rehabilitation journey right now.

Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.