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Benzo Detox and Withdrawal: How to Do It Safely

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Benzos (benzodiazepines) are typically prescribed for the short-term treatment of anxiety disorders and panic disorders.

Benzos, like all Schedule IV controlled substances, have the potential for abuse and addiction. Those dependent on this class of medication will experience intensely unpleasant benzo withdrawal symptoms when moderating or discontinuing use. Benzodiazepine detox followed by ongoing inpatient or outpatient treatment is the most effective method of streamlining benzo withdrawals.

Benzo detox and withdrawal is dangerous and potentially life-threatening if stopped abruptly without medical guidance. Effective benzo detox treatment usually involves a gradual reduction in dosage which should reduce the intensity of benzo withdrawal.

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What is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?

Benzos depress the central nervous system by intensifying the activity of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger in the brain. This mechanism of action triggers sedation, drowsiness, and relaxation. 

When you stop taking benzos after sustained use, your body struggles to adapt to reduced GABA activity. Withdrawal from benzos involves the presentation of physical and psychological side effects that can be life-threatening in a non-clinical setting.

Benzodiazepines are not indicated for long-term use due to the risk of physical and psychological dependence.

When detoxing from benzos, withdrawal symptoms range from rebound symptoms of anxiety to physical manifestations like vomiting and diarrhea as your system adjusts to the absence of benzodiazepines.

Although benzo withdrawal syndrome is not generally fatal, a supervised medical detox almost always provides the smoothest pathway to ongoing treatment. Benzo detox and withdrawal is a process that addresses the issue of physical dependence, while ongoing treatment equips you with the tools to tackle the psychological component of addiction to benzodiazepines.

Symptoms of Benzo Withdrawal

Benzo withdrawal signs and symptoms will vary from person to person and depending on the type of benzo. Popular benzodiazepines include:

  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)

For some people, benzo detox involves mild symptoms that subside in a few days. Others experience adverse side effects that persist for months after the last use of benzos.

The most reported side effects of benzo withdrawal include:

  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numb fingers
  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle spasms
  • Insomnia
  • Hyperventilation
  • High body temperature
  • Hypertension
  • Cramp
  • Grand mal seizure

After detoxing from benzodiazepines, it takes some time for the brain to adjust. As you move from detox into ongoing treatment for benzo addiction, you may experience:

  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Delirium
  • Detachment
  • Restlessness
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal ideation

Can Benzo Withdrawal Kill You?

In some cases, benzo withdrawal may result in delirium, seizures, and other severe symptoms that might be life-threatening outside a medical setting. DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) reports that 20% to 30% of those undergoing untreated benzo withdrawal experience a grand mal seizure.

The risk of encountering severe benzo withdrawal symptoms is higher in those who have been using the medication long-term. Withdrawal symptoms will also be much more severe in presentation if benzos are abruptly discontinued without a tapered reduction in dosage. 

Although, death from benzodiazepine withdrawal is rare, it is nevertheless advisable to detox under medical supervision to mitigate severe complications.

How Long Does Benzo Withdrawal Last?

The elimination half-life of benzos varies. Withdrawal symptoms from short-acting benzodiazepines present sooner than those associated with longer-acting benzos.

The first signs of benzo withdrawal begin after 6 to 8 hours with short-acting benzos and after 24 to 48 hours with long-acting benzos. Short-acting benzos are associated with much less intense withdrawal and a more protracted onset of symptoms. 

Short-acting benzos include:

  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Valium (diazepam)

Long-acting benzos include:

  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
  • Dalmane (flurazepam)

Taking high or frequent doses of benzos will increase the severity and duration of withdrawal.

Mild benzos addictions involve withdrawal that lasts for up to 7 days, while more severe addictions may involve a withdrawal process that lasts for 3 months or more with a tapered dosage reduction streamlining the procedure.


The benzo withdrawal timeline is different for each individual. In most cases, a tapered reduction in dosage takes several weeks.

  • Day 1 of benzo detox: The first signs of withdrawal include insomnia and anxiety. Withdrawal symptoms present from 6 to 48 hours after the last use, depending on the type of benzo.
  • Days 1 to 4 of benzo detox: Rebound symptoms of insomnia and anxiety typically peak after the first few days of detox, accompanied by nausea, sweating, and increased heart rate and breathing.
  • Days 7 to 14 of benzo detox: Withdrawal symptoms subside after 7 to 14 days in most cases.
  • Days 15+ of benzo detox: Those who are heavily dependent on benzos may encounter PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome), with sharp withdrawal symptoms intermittently reappearing for months after quitting benzos. A tapered reduction in dosage will minimize the likelihood of PAWS.

What is Benzo Detox?

Benzo detox is the first crucial phase of recovery that involves purging the medication and all toxins from the system.

Detoxification or detox can be dangerous and sometimes life-threatening if not performed properly. It is never advisable to suddenly stop using benzodiazepines using the cold turkey method.

A supervised medical detox program allows for a gradual reduction in dosage and provides continuous clinical and emotional care during the aggravating withdrawal process. A treatment team will monitor for signs of suicidal thoughts or seizures.

How To Safely Detox from Benzos

To safely detox from benzos, consult your prescribing physician with a view to gradually reducing your benzo dosage. Your physician may prescribe a less potent benzodiazepine to ease withdrawal. The optimum strategy will vary depending on the type of benzo and the severity of physical dependence. Substitute benzos may include the longer-acting Klonopin or Valium.

Other medications may also help during an effective benzo detox. These include:

  • Buspirone: Those with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and a history of drug abuse may find that buspirone reduces the intensity of emotional withdrawal symptoms. The drawback is that this medication takes 2 to 3 weeks to take effect.
  • Flumazenil: Primarily used to treat benzo overdose, flumazenil may also relieve some withdrawal symptoms associated with long-acting benzos.

Steps To Take

Detoxing from benzodiazepines can be challenging, and it’s vital to seek the guidance of a medical professional. Here are some general steps to take to safely detox from benzos:

  • Consult with a medical professional: Before you begin the benzo detox process, you should consult a doctor who can evaluate your overall health and recommend a safe and effective detox plan.
  • Gradual tapering of dosage: A tapered reduction in dosage will prevent more severe withdrawal symptoms. The gradual tapering process allows your system to adjust to a reduced dose of benzos while minimizing the intensity of acute withdrawal.
  • Medications: Depending on the severity of your withdrawal symptoms, a doctor may recommend medications to help manage symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Substitute benzo medications are also sometimes effective for facilitating smooth withdrawal.
  • Sober support system: It’s key to have a support system in place during the detox process. This may include family and friends who can provide emotional support, as well as healthcare professionals who can monitor your progress and provide guidance.
  • Positive lifestyle changes: During the detox process, take care of your physical and emotional health by getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in stress-reducing activities like meditation or therapy.
  • Follow-up care: After completing the benzo detox process, engage with ongoing inpatient or outpatient treatment that includes counseling, psychotherapy, ongoing medication management, and aftercare.

Inpatient Benzo Detox at California Detox

At California Detox in Laguna Beach, our benzo detox program offers you the safest and most comfortable approach to recovery from addiction to this prescription medication. After a week or so at our benzo detox center, you will be prepared to segue into ongoing inpatient or outpatient treatment. Choose from these programs:

  • Inpatient programs (residential rehab)
  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs (for co-occurring disorders)
  • Remote rehab programs

Whatever level of treatment intensity best suits your benzo addiction, you will benefit from individualized treatment that may include:

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Psychotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare

Call the friendly team today at 949.694.8305 to arrange a supervised benzo detox followed by treatment at our beachside rehab in Orange County.


Benzo detox and withdrawal is a process that addresses the issue of physical dependence, while ongoing treatment equips you with the tools to tackle the psychological component of addiction to benzodiazepines.
The first signs of benzo withdrawal begin after 6 to 8 hours with short-acting benzos and after 24 to 48 hours with long-acting benzos. Short-acting benzos are associated with much less intense withdrawal and a more protracted onset of symptoms.


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