The most common question asked is ‘how long does benzo withdrawal last?The interesting things is that many people don’t even know they’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms and that’s when it gets tricky.
There is so little information about psychotropic medication and we still have a lot to learn about them. So let’s start with what we do know:
Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is described as a group of symptoms that appear for a people who have taken a benzodiazepine drug for any given period of time and then discontinued or reduced that medication.
Very little is known about the benzodiazepine class of drugs, yet doctors often hand them out like lollies. While most of the population don’t have any issues when they stop taking a benzo, a section of the population suffers greatly. I have seen first hand the devastation withdrawal from these medications can cause, so I want to raise some awareness about this problem.
Why Are Benzos Prescribed?
Benzos are usually prescribed for sleep or anxiety problems. They enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid which produces a sedative effect. But often they make often make the problem a whole lot worse. Some example of benzodiazepine medications include:
Make no mistake about it; all of these medications are highly addictive and if you go down the road of taking them, it’s not so much a question of ‘if ‘you will become addicted, but when.
How Do You Know If You Are Experiencing Withdrawal?
You can experience withdrawal symptoms from stopping these medications after taking them for as little as 2 weeks. Withdrawal symptoms can occur if:
- You stop the medication suddenly;
- You reduce your dosage of the medication;
- You change your medications;
- You go into tolerance withdrawal
Not only can they cause horrendous side effects, but you can very quickly develop tolerance to the dosage you are on, meaning you have to take even more for it to work.
Symptoms of Benzo Withdrawal
The symptoms are endless and it would take three articles to list them all. However, here is a list of the most common symptoms:
- Hot flushes and other temperature issues;
- Body Aches;
- Suicidal Thoughts;
- Gastrointestinal issues
How Long Do The Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
That’s the million dollar question – and the answer is: it depends. Different people react in different ways. Some people can come off benzos with no symptoms at all. Other more sensitive people experience symptoms that can range from mild to acute.
There is no set time limit as to how long your symptoms will last, but according to Heather Ashton, the average time it takes people to heal is 6 to 18 months. Una Corbett from Battle Against Tranquillizers would probably disagee with this timeframe, and would say more like 2-3 years.
Severity of symptoms seems to be worse for those who quit cold turkey, so if you’re thinking of coming off your medication, a sensible taper is the way to go. If you want to know how to taper benzodiazepines safely, consult the Ashton manual here: Ashton Manual
There are many great resources about benzo tapering and withdrawal on the web that contain comprehensive information written by real people with no connection to the pharmaceutical industry. Bliss Johns is an inspirational lady who went through a horrific withdrawal and now shares her story and advice with others here: recovery-road.org
Benzobuddies is a website that has a great forum full of ordinary people who are supporting each other through the withdrawal process. So if you really want to get an idea about how long benzo withdrawal symptoms last, the best thing to do is talk to people who are actually going through it.