What Occurs During Benzo Withdrawal Treatment

Benzodiazepine And How They Work

Benzodiazepine, or “benzo”, is a psychoactive drug and falls under the category of tranquilizers. They are sold under many different brand names, some of the most popular ones being Valium and Xanax

More specifically, they are nervous system depressants, meaning they help people “calm down”, “slow down”, or “relax”. It is used as a sedative for the body, and as a depressant for the nerves in the central nervous system.

Benzos are used to treat multiple conditions, like anxiety, panic disorders, insomnia, seizures, muscle spasms, and even alcohol withdrawal. Most of these disorders are caused by excessive nervous activity in the brain. In more technical terms, it stimulates a neurotransmitter, called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA helps nerves “send messages” to one another, and it is responsible for reducing the activity of the nerves.

Addiction to Benzodiazepine

Benzos are a prescription medication, and therefore, can be used safely – but things might take a turn for the worse. Some people might not realize they are prone to addiction. While others might have red flags to look out for, like family history, some might have no idea. Continued use of benzodiazepine, even when prescribed, can cause dependence in as little as 3 to 4 weeks.

While the opioid crisis has been afflicting the country, benzodiazepine has been increasingly causing concern among professionals but getting little to no attention. For benzos, lethal overdoses have increased sevenfold from 1999 to 2015. In fact, in 2015, 23% of people killed by opioids also had trace amounts of benzodiazepine in their bodies.

Not all cases are lethal, but the numbers are still worrisome. In just ten years, from 1998 to 2008, the number of admissions for benzo withdrawal treatment almost tripled. Although it’s been considered a crisis, the number of prescriptions for benzodiazepine has not gone down. From 1996 to 2013,  they increased by 67%, hitting 13.5 million. While other drugs, like opioids, have had a decrease in prescriptions due to the crisis, the same has not happened to benzos.

Risk groups vary, but the age group that is most often linked to the misuse of benzodiazepine are people from ages 18 to 29. It is a popular club drug, being often abused along with other drugs, such as opioids. Even outside of this group, benzodiazepine misuse has been commonly associated with opioid abuse. Gender-wise, while females seem to be more often prescribed benzos, males tend to misuse it more often.

Addiction x Dependence 

When it comes to benzodiazepine, there is a difference between dependency and addiction. Most people that take benzos become dependent, but that doesn’t mean they are addicted. When the brain is exposed to benzodiazepine for weeks, it becomes adapted to its presence. It is considered a dependence because the brain needs it to function normally.

With time, the brain becomes more tolerant of the substance. This means that someone would need a higher dose to get the same effect. Dependency can get to the point where, if a person stops taking benzo suddenly, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. 

The safest way to stop taking benzodiazepine is to lower the dosage gradually, little by little. And this where dependence differs from addiction. A person who is addicted to benzos will not be able to slowly quit the drug. 

Addiction is characterized by a general loss of control in life. Considered a substance use disorder, it can cause chemical and neurological imbalances. Addiction can affect judgment, decision-making, and behavior. This is what can make someone more prone to risky choices to get more drugs.

One of the main reasons why benzos can become addictive is because of dopamine release. The neurotransmitter is responsible for mediating pleasure in the brain. As it is with many drugs, dopamine becomes a strong factor in addiction development. The feeling of pleasure triggered by it might become stronger than the one caused by any other experience.

Symptoms During Benzo Withdrawal Treatment

If a person decides to quit benzodiazepine, they might experience withdrawal symptoms even before benzo withdrawal treatment. The intensity of the symptoms will depend on the level of the addiction, the person’s history with addiction, and/or genetic aspects.

Somewhere between 20% and 50% of people who stop taking benzos to experience some kind of withdrawal symptoms. The most common ones tend to be anxiety, insomnia, and/or behavioral changes, all usually mild. However, these usually only last for a few days, and a person might not require benzo withdrawal treatment for them.

Should the person stop taking benzodiazepine suddenly or need benzo withdrawal treatment for their addiction, symptoms might be more severe. They can experience the following:


  • Mood changes such as irritability, agitation, anxiety, depression, and/or panic attacks
  • Headaches
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • Poor-quality sleep (insomnia, nightmares)
  • Tremors and sweating
  • Lack of appetite
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle aches, pains, and/or spasms
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and/or blurred/double vision
  • Tingling sensations
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, taste, and touch
  • Seizures

These symptoms can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. They are more often manifested on those that take higher doses of benzo. However, any of them can be experienced at any dose, even during benzo withdrawal treatment.

There have been few cases reported of psychotic behavior as well. Psychiatric, severe symptoms might include delirium, hallucinations, depersonalization, and disorientation.

But the risks during withdrawal go beyond the side effects or withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepine. If someone abruptly decides to quit benzos, or quit cold turkey, doing so might be dangerous, and even deadly. That is why, even when prescribed, a patient has to gradually lower their dosage. The sudden change in the nervous system can cause seizures, and eventually, death.

That is why, if a person is addicted to benzodiazepine, it is highly recommended that they go through medically-assisted benzo withdrawal treatment. 

What You Need To Know About Benzo Withdrawal Treatment

As it is with any program, benzo withdrawal treatment starts with the detoxing stage. Usually, the patient should do so gradually, but when it comes to addiction, it is very hard for someone to do so on their own. In some cases, a doctor might first switch the benzodiazepine being taken before detox starts. They might prescribe longer-acting benzo in order to lessen symptoms or make them less intense. 

The symptoms experienced and the time it might take to detox will depend on a number of factors. First, there’s the benzodiazepine itself – the shorter-acting ones will trigger symptoms much quicker, for instance. Next, there’s the dosage and the duration of use, which in turn, affect the level of dependence and/or addiction to benzodiazepine. Intense symptoms will most likely require hospitalization and residential treatment.

Not only is it safer to go through inpatient benzo withdrawal treatment, but it can be less painful, too. In this case, doctors can help manage symptoms with other medication that won’t make addiction worse. This will help reduce discomfort and the chance of experiencing serious symptoms, like seizures, that might cause more complications.

Once detox is done, the patient can go through the next stage of benzo withdrawal treatment. They will need to go through a program with medical and psychiatric help for their condition. The type of program they might need to start on will depend on their needs. For some, it is best to continue on an inpatient service setting. This is especially the case if their symptoms were too severe, or if they are a danger to themselves and others.

However, moderate to mild cases could be addressed through an outpatient program. These do not require hospitalization, and the patient only needs to come back to the clinic for assessments, therapy sessions, and medical follow-ups. 

Benzo withdrawal treatment and recovery are not usually linear. Even though there is a constant improvement, there can be a few ups and downs throughout the program, and that is part of the process. Additionally, people who might have used high doses for long periods of time might experience what is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). This can make the patient have recurrent episodes of withdrawal symptoms for months after quitting.

Getting Benzo Withdrawal Treatment

Addiction to benzodiazepine is a serious issue and can be hard to get rid of on your own. But no matter how you got to where you are, we at Sana Lake Recovery Center can help you. Benzo withdrawal treatment can be made easier if you have the right team behind you.

You can go through all of the stages of the process with us. We offer services from detox to residential or outpatient treatment, where you can get the full help you need. Besides the medical and psychiatric parts of the program, we also provide holistic, naturotherapy, and wellness services. We believe in healing, not just the body, and in aligning it with the mind and the soul. Because recovery has to be done from the inside out.

If you or a loved one need help for benzo withdrawal treatment, or any other recovery help, visit our website and contact us today. You can learn about all the options we have, take an assessment, and find out what the next steps are. While getting sober might not be easy, it can be permanent with the right help and mindset. So give us a call, ask everything you need, and make the decision that can turn your life around


Opioid plant

Understanding Medically-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Detox

Back in the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies were working with medical communities and telling them that their patients would not become addicted to prescription painkillers, otherwise known today as opiates or opioids. Therefore, since their extremely addictive tendencies were not as prevalent during this time, the rate at which physicians were prescribing opioids to their patients began to skyrocket, subsequently starting a big trend and continuous cycle of narcotic sales and consumption, leading to the misuse of these prescription and non-prescription drugs. 

Fast forward to the present day, the information spread around back then about opioids would be considered slanderous, as extensive evidence and research have proved that these painkillers are addictive. For adults under the age of 50, opioids account for more than half of all drug overdose deaths, the leading cause of death within the United States. To put this into perspective, the misuse of prescription narcotics affects two million Americans around the world, and on average, 130 people die from opioid-related overdoses every single day. 

Causing major health, social, and economic problems, opioid addiction has been this ongoing widespread epidemic, one that has continued to rapidly increase, and not slow down anytime soon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that due to the misuse of prescription opioids alone, the United States has been in an economic burden, causing a loss of 78.5 billion dollars annually!

Therefore, to combat the severity of this type of addiction, treatment, here at Sana Lake Recovery Center, we believe in opioid detox, but through Medically-Assisted Therapy (MAT). This treatment method aims to help save people’s lives, make opioid detoxification safer and more manageable, and most importantly, lower the rate of death due to overdose, and end this destructive cyclical epidemic. 

What are Prescription Opioids? 

Known as narcotics or pain killers, opiates are medications often prescribed by physicians, specifically to help treat individuals who are suffering from severe chronic pain, such as headaches and migraines, back pain, and arthritis. As mentioned before, in recent years, prescription opioids have been more widely accepted than in the past. This often is a result of recovering from a big surgery or becoming injured from sports, falls, auto accidents, or other incidents. The most common types of opioids include: 

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin) 
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin) 
  • Heroin (Street drug) 
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Morphine 

Despite the serious risks and side effects associated with these potent drugs, people take them, because they are so desperate to get rid of the severe pain they are in. As you might have guessed, this is dangerous, because opioids have a high success rate in numbing pain. The more the drug is effective in doing its job, the more dependent our body becomes on them. 

How Do Opioids Work?

Opioid receptors are located and found in our nervous system, where they attach themselves within the nerve cells or neurons within our brain. These receptors trigger a chemical reaction, which leads to the body feeling the sensations of pleasure and pain relief. In other words, these opioid receptors interact with certain nerve cells located within the brain and body. 

When taking opioids of any kind, this changes the chemistry of the brain which leads to drug tolerance, which means the dosage that someone is taking regardless if correct or not, ends up increasing every time, so when absorbed into the bloodstream, the body thinks and mimics the same pain-relieving effect every time, because the body is so used to it. When this dependence and inability to cease use interferes with the quality of a person’s life, it is considered to have developed into Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). 

Opioid pain relievers can be safe when prescribed and monitored carefully by a licensed physician. However, since these drugs specifically produce symptoms of euphoria in addition to relieving pain, it is often assumed that it is okay to take more than the actual recommended dosage. But, even when opioids were taken as directed, and then no longer required medically, they still have a high potential for causing addiction in some people. 

What Causes Tolerance, Dependance, and Addiction to Opioids? 

What we do know from research, is that this condition is a result of a combination of environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors, some of which are unknown at this time. 

Identifying the reasons or causes as to why people become addicted to opioids is complicated. This epidemic has been ongoing, and as the death toll continues to rise, the cause of why and how it can be stopped is constantly being figured out. 

As mentioned above, much of what is believed to play a role in opioid addiction is the body’s internal system for regulating pain, reward, and addictive behavior. This is called the endogenous opioid system. It consists of receptors. When a person craves an opioid, the genetic makeup in these receptors, provide the brain with instructions on how the body is influenced. This means how our body should react and respond when a person takes their opioid of choice.

It is important to note, that there is a difference between tolerance, dependence, and addiction when it comes to opioids. Tolerance means when a person is using opioids, they start to experience a reduced response to medication. Therefore the person will require more amounts of opioids to experience the same pain-relieving effect.

The meaning of dependence is similar to tolerance. It means that an individual’s body adjusts to its normal functioning when opioids are taken. Unpleasant symptoms similar to withdrawal occur when no opioids are in one’s system. Lastly, addiction is the most powerful of them all. Also known as opioid use disorder (OUD), addiction occurs when a person develops an overpowering urge or craving for these drugs. An addicted mind is also attributed to a loss of control, making it more difficult to refuse the drug. It can also be hard to function without it, even though using can be extremely harmful. 

It is important to note, that dependence is not the same as addiction, but can, and most likely will lead to it if not careful. Dependence, as mentioned, is when the body becomes used to the medication over time. Addiction means abusing a substance or drug. In this instance, when someone in pain takes a pain pill, or even when they are not in pain, one’s body has unfortunately become so dependent on the opiate, they have a compulsive need to take these narcotics to properly function. In other words, opioids make your brain and body believe the drug is necessary for survival. 

Addiction is the final step after someone has first become dependent and tolerant. This makes it very challenging and difficult to stop taking opioids, and withdrawal symptoms, both physical and psychological begin, such as diarrhea, sweats, muscle cramping, anxiety, etc. 

Not only can addiction cause life-threatening health problems, but a person who is addicted is at major risk of overdosing. Taking opioids causes the following symptoms: 

  • Shallow breathing
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea

Complications due to opioid use and abuse can lead to unconsciousness and overdose, but unfortunately, as the statistics show, the stories of tragedy happen all too often where it is too late to help some people, and they die due to overdosing, complications from use, often both, especially if mixed with other medications. 

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Some of these methods include: 

  • Medications (methadone, buprenorphine, or naloxone)
  • Behavioral therapies: (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-CBT)
  • Inpatient and outpatient rehab
  • Medication-assisted therapy (MAT)

Before it is too late, it is important to identify the many warning signs that someone needs treatment. These include withdrawals, dependency, inability to function without the drug, denial, etc. Heavy or prolonged use of opioids causes the body to become physically dependent on the drugs, which in turn causes symptoms of withdrawal that are so stressful that it becomes challenging to stop taking them. 

Like other substance use disorders, Opioid Use Disorder is treatable. At Sana Lake Recovery Center, we tailor treatment to each of our patient’s needs both safely and effectively, as we understand that everyone’s situation is unique. Those in treatment, have to learn to control their condition or disease, through a variety of treatment methods and programs to make behavioral changes to be on a journey to a successful recovery. 

The detox process from any drug is awful and difficult, to say the least. Detoxification is the process of removing all of the substance or drug of choice from the entire body. Except during this process, the body is so dependent on these opioids, that the goal is to wean someone off of them completely. However, the reaction to this process is extremely intense. 

When a drug hasn’t been taken for some time, the body craves it, and therefore, starts going through withdrawals as a result. These symptoms include: shaking, nausea/vomiting, sweats/chills, fatigue, etc. When opioids are completely clear from one’s body and bloodstream, treatment can begin. 

Medically-Assisted Therapy is the Most Effective Treatment for Opioid Detox

Treatment for opioid abuse and addiction can help you; change your attitudes and behaviors related to drug use, learn important life skills and coping skills, and stick with a regimen and other forms of treatment, such as medicines. 

Medically supervised opioid withdrawal and detoxification involve the administration of medication to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms that occur when an opioid-dependent patient stops using opioids. The main purpose of the supervised withdrawal is to safely and successfully transition a patient to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder.

What is Medically-Assisted Treatment? (MAT)

During MAT, specialists in opioid treatment use anti-craving medications, most commonly, naltrexone (Vivitrol), buprenorphine (Suboxone), or methadone. Comprehensive therapy and support are crucial in this process. It’s important to help address the situation as a whole, meaning all factors related to opioid dependence, including withdrawal, cravings, and relapse prevention. 

People dealing with this physical dependence on opioids, unfortunately, are known to experience multiple relapses throughout treatment. During this treatment, addiction specialists are aiming to help a patient abstain from opioid use so that their tolerance over time decreases. 

Benefits of Medically-Assisted Treatment

When compared to recovery treatment without medication research has proven MAT does the following: 

  • Increases abstinence from opioids 
  • Reduces the risk of relapse 
  • Increases treatment retention 
  • Improves social functioning

If a person practices abstinence but ends up relapsing after some time has passed, they are also at high risk of overdosing, because their body is not used to absorbing the same dosage or amount of drug. Therefore, by using medically-assisted treatment methods as a means of opioid detox, during one’s recovery, this will reduce one’s risk of overdose, relapse, and most importantly, death. 

There is always a high risk of relapse during treatment for those suffering from addiction. However, during medication-assisted treatment, this is more unlikely, than those receiving no help from specific detox medications. 

To clear up misconceptions, people who are seeking treatment for addiction through a 12-step program may have been told that medically-assisted treatment is just substituting one addictive drug for another. This is extremely false, as the medications used during MAT for opioid addiction are just the opposite. Individuals are given medication to detox, and most importantly, to help stop the cravings, in hopes to end the control factor and dependency on these drugs, and enter into recovery. This evidence-based treatment approach has often been successful at helping people overcome opioid addiction and maintain long-term recovery. 

Sana Lake Will Help You Recover

At Sana Lake Recovery Center located in Dittmer, MO, we believe in medically-assisted treatment is best suited for our patients needing treatment for opioid addiction. Our mission is to help our patients end this dependence and control these pain killers has over their lives, leading them into a healthy lifestyle, consisting of recovery and long-term sobriety.  

Our team is committed to making sure you succeed as you pursue freedom from opioids. Know you are not alone, and help is available! If you are ready to take back control over your life and become sober, contact us today at (636) 707-2097. Click here to learn more about medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction.