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Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 17, 2019

The benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline shows different severities of symptoms likely lasting over the course of weeks. Professional treatment may help a person cope with this often difficult process.

What Is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?

Benzodiazepine withdrawal is the period of sickness that occurs when a person dependent to benzodiazepines stops using them.

Benzodiazepine dependence means a person’s body has become used to having the drug in the system, and when they stop using the drug, their body will experience withdrawal.

Dependence is likely to occur when the drug is misused, taken more than directed, for long periods of time, or for non medical purposes.

Benzodiazepines are powerful sedatives that cause feelings of calm, sedation, and relaxation. While they’re generally prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, and can be effective, abusing benzodiazepine will likely lead to dependence, and then withdrawal.

Withdrawal occurs during the detoxification process, or the natural process by which the body rids itself of harmful toxins. It’s during this period of detoxification, or detox, where a person will experience patterns of symptoms in the benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline.

Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological, and may be extremely uncomfortable for a person to deal with.

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Symptoms Of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

During the withdrawal period, a person is likely to be sick, edgy, and tense.

Possible symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal may include:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • headache
  • insomnia (trouble sleeping or staying asleep)
  • irritability
  • muscle pain/aches
  • nausea
  • panic attacks
  • periods of severe stress
  • poor concentration and memory
  • restlessness
  • seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • shaking
  • sweating

The severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms depend on which benzodiazepine the person took, how often they took it, and how much they took.

Different types of benzodiazepines may affect when symptoms kick in and how they last. The benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline begins with the initial onset of symptoms.

When Do Symptoms Start?

When symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal start depend on whether the drug is short-acting or long-acting. The following includes some name brand examples of both short-acting and long-acting benzodiazepines:

Short-acting

Long-acting

The difference between short-acting and long-acting benzodiazepines is how long it takes for the effects of the drug to set in and how long the effects last.

Whether the benzodiazepine the person is dependent to is short-acting or long-acting also affects the time it takes for withdrawal symptoms to set in.

  • For short-acting benzodiazepines, withdrawal symptoms generally occur 1-2 days after last use, or sometimes as soon as 6-8 hours.
  • Long-acting benzodiazepines may cause withdrawal symptoms to occur much later. Withdrawal symptoms may set in between 2-7 days after last use.

There is no exact time when symptoms can start, as it depends on the person, their level abuse, and the particular drug of abuse.

However, research shows there may be a standard benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline, or consistent patterns of symptoms.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline

A benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline may not be relevant for all persons suffering from benzodiazepine dependence. Every person may have a different experience of withdrawal symptoms, how severe they are, and how long they last.

The benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline can be broken down into four periods or patterns: onset, rebound, peak withdrawal, and final period of withdrawal.

Onset Period: The period where withdrawal symptoms begin. Symptoms may onset in as quick as 6-8 hours after last use, or as long as a week later. In this initial period of withdrawal, a person is likely to experience depression, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.

Rebound Period: This next period occurs 1-4 days after last use (sometimes longer for long-acting benzodiazepines). Characterized by a severe recurrence of anxiety and difficulty sleeping, the rebound stage intensifies the effects of the onset period. For some with severe addiction to benzodiazepines, this may be the first pattern, or period, of withdrawal.

Peak Period: The next period is when the most painful and uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal occur. While the specific symptoms will likely vary from person to person, they will be the most intense during this period, and generally last between 10-14 days. Physicians suggest a person be monitored during this period every 3-4 hours to ensure health complications do not arise.

Final Period: The final period in the benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline marks a return to the initial anxiety and depression that first set in. Withdrawal symptoms may continue for weeks, or even months, or until proper treatment is fully initiated.

Withdrawal symptoms are likely to be painful, uncomfortable, and difficult for a person to manage on their own.

Seeking professional treatment is likely the best option for people to deal with benzodiazepine withdrawal.

Treatment For Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

When symptoms become too intense for people during the onset period of the benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline, a medically supervised detoxification may help ease the pain and discomfort of withdrawal.

A medically supervised detoxification, or detox, involves the use of medications in a hospital or inpatient treatment center to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal.

Another effective treatment method for benzodiazepine withdrawal is a process known as tapering.

Tapering also occurs in a medical setting or inpatient treatment center, and is the process of gradually decreasing the dose of the benzodiazepine (or similar drug) over time until symptoms of withdrawal no longer persist.

For severe dependence, effective tapering may takes weeks, or even months, to adequately avoid symptoms of withdrawal.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be uncomfortable, and checking into an inpatient treatment center may be the best course of action to help deal with both withdrawal and addiction.

Inpatient treatment centers likely provide a safe and peaceful environment to manage withdrawal symptoms, as well as potentially provide medications to assist with addiction and dependence.

Going through withdrawal and detox is only the first step in recovery. Inpatient treatment centers will likely offer the next crucial step, behavioral therapy.

Behavioral therapy is an instrumental part of addiction recovery and healing, and aims to change a person’s thinking and attitudes towards drugs, as well as give a person the skills needed to remain sober after treatment.

Call now and speak with a professional to help guide you or your loved one through treatment during the benzodiazepine withdrawal process.

For More Information Related to “Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From RehabCenter.net:

US National Library of Medicine - Management Of Benzodiazepine Misuse And Dependence

US National Library of Medicine - The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome

NCBI - Withdrawal Management - Withdrawal Management for Benzodiazepine Dependence

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