Benzodiazepines, or ‘benzos’ are a common class of psychoactive drug which depress the body’s central nervous system. Benzos vary in use, active times and addictive qualities. Learn more about the effects of Benzodiazepines and what to expect from the detox process.
There are more than 50 different drugs in the Benzodiazepine class, the most commonly used and abused of which are; Alprazolam, Lorazepam, Diazepam.
Medically, benzos are prescribed for the following issues:
- Induction of sleep
- Relieve anxiety
- Treatment of muscle spasms
- Prevention of seizures
How Long Do Benzodiazepines Stay in the System?
How long benzos stay in the system depends upon the specific drug taken, dosage, etc.
- Some benzos are very short acting, and have a half-life of less than 5 hours.
- Then there are intermediate ones, which have a half-life of anywhere between 5 to 24 hours.
- Finally, there are long acting benzos which have a half-life exceeding 24 hours.
Benzos are part of routine drug testing procedures. Most standard drug screens usually are unable to distinguish between different benzos. A number of them share common pathways of metabolism which makes it difficult for tests to detect such low levels in the system.
Benzos can be detected at the following rates:
- Up to 30 days in urine
- 4-6 weeks after last dose in urine
- 12 hours to 2 days after last dose
Research conducted over the last few decades, has shown that long term users of benzos could develop a dependence on the drug, and experience withdrawal symptoms. Since there are so many drugs in this class, the dependence factor differs, but usually appears after approximately 6 weeks of taking regular doses. Upon quitting or reducing the dose, can lead to the appearance of uncomfortable or even serious symptoms.
The withdrawal symptoms of stopping benzo use can be physically and emotionally painful. Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Panic attacks
Benzos are mainly prescribed to treat generalized anxiety disorder and insomnia, and many users who stop taking the medication, experience increased anxiety or restlessness. This is known as the rebound effect, which typically lasts 2 to 3 days.
Some people develop an addiction to benzos which affect the brain and body. Benzos may be more addictive than other drugs but it also depends on why a person is using benzos to begin with. Addiction can take over a person’s life, wreaking havoc on finances, personal relationships and employment opportunities. It is not easy to admit the need for help but it is a necessary first step to recovery. Once a person is ready to face the need for help with addiction, the better off the individual becomes. It is possible to receive treatment for benzo addiction with the right support of family, friends, loved ones and professionals who are experienced in treatment of addictions.
It is not advisable to quit benzos cold turkey. A medically supervised detox is safe and helps the individual who is quitting benzos stay healthy while getting sober. It also reduces the risk of relapse into addiction. A detox can last for several months, however, it takes most users an average of 10 weeks using the tapering method to fully detox.
A medical detox generally involves tapering, i.e. reducing the use of the drug, or replacing it with a less potent benzo. The type of benzos that might be used for detox might be Valium or Klonopin. These drugs are used for detox because they are long acting, less potent and can keep withdrawal symptoms at bay during tapering.
How does detoxing from benzos affect long term recovery, especially for chronic users?
There are two main questions here:
- Does cognitive function improve after detox?
- Are long term users still impaired, as compared to other users?
A study compiling data from 13 independent studies showed that impaired cognitive abilities did persist 6 months after detox. However, some specific cognitive skills require a longer recovery period, and the studies only lasted 6 months, so there is hope that former users will see cognitive improvement in the long term.
If you have started benzo detox or are thinking about it, you don’t have to do it alone, help is available. Call The Villa Treatment Center to find out how our programs and services can support the journey to recovery from detox to aftercare.