Benzodiazepine Withdrawal: Here’s What to Expect…and Why It’s Safer with Help

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal: What to Expect. Photo of two pill bottles labeled as benzodiazepines.Shape

Benzodiazepine withdrawal isn't easy. But with professional help, it's safer, much more comfortable, and more likely to be successful. Read on.

Navigating the path of recovery from benzodiazepine addiction is a challenging journey. As you take these crucial steps towards a healthier life, understanding what to expect during withdrawal is vital. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be a physically and emotionally taxing process, marked by a range of symptoms that vary in intensity and duration.

In this article, you will learn the withdrawal symptoms and timeline, offering support and clarity as you or your loved one embark on this journey to recovery.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs commonly prescribed to help you relax due to their anti-anxiety, sedative, anticonvulsant, and muscle-relaxant properties. They work by enhancing GABA neurotransmitter activity and reducing neural activity.

These medications are often used to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks, insomnia, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Common benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin). While effective, prolonged use can lead to dependence. Abruptly stopping or rapidly reducing the dosage can cause withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, it is essential to taper off these medications under proper management techniques gradually.

About Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzodiazepine withdrawal occurs when you abruptly stop or decrease your use of benzodiazepines after long-term usage. These substances can cause both physical and psychological dependence over time. Here's what you need to know:

Why Does It Occur?

  • Brain Adaptation: Regular use makes your brain dependent on the medication.

  • Sudden Change: Abrupt cessation disrupts brain chemistry, leading to withdrawal symptoms.

Importance of Support During Withdrawal

  • Emotional and Medical Assistance: Professional guidance ensures safe and effective tapering.

  • Minimizing Discomfort: Gradual reduction under medical supervision reduces the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.

  • Counseling and Therapy: Support for underlying issues and emotional stability during the process.

Proper management and support are essential to navigating benzodiazepine withdrawal safely and effectively, ensuring your well-being and increasing the chances of successful recovery.

Common Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Patients who are suffering from withdrawal from benzodiazepine can be suffering from a range of psychological, emotional, and physical symptoms that may differ in severity and duration depending on the specific benzodiazepine that is being utilized, the duration of use, or individual differences. Here are some commonly identified withdrawal symptoms connected to benzodiazepines.


One of the typical withdrawal symptoms is an increase in anxiety or a heightened state of mind that is caused by the discontinuation of benzodiazepine medication, which can manifest as an anxiety-like feeling or agitation, or a feeling of imminent death.


Difficulties sleeping can be an indicator of withdrawal symptoms. Sleep disturbances can contribute to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue during the daytime hours, negatively affecting overall well-being.

Irritability and Agitation

People going through benzodiazepine withdrawal often report increased irritability and reduced tolerance for stress or frustration, making once manageable and even small inconveniences seem overwhelming during withdrawal.


Feelings of low mood, sadness, and depression may occur during withdrawal due to chemical changes occurring within the brain as it readjusts to functioning without benzodiazepines.

Mood Swings

Removing benzodiazepine may cause abrupt shifts in a person's emotional state and euphoria, followed by sadness or anger.

Physical Discomfort

Physical signs that can cause physical discomfort are tension in the muscles, headaches sweating, tremors, tremors and digestive issues, and various ailments and pains in the body - all of which can result in a suffocating sensation of discomfort and discontent.

Cognitive Disturbances

Removing benzodiazepine could cause anxiety memory, memory, and cognitive problems that hamper everyday tasks. They can also lead to confusion and mental sluggishness, significantly hindering our everyday tasks.

Sensory Hypersensitivity

Some individuals may become increasingly sensitive to light, sound, and touch during withdrawal. Everyday stimuli that were previously manageable may now cause anxiety or increase feelings of irritability and distress.

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The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Timeline

Timeline and intensity of benzodiazepine withdrawal vary between individuals depending on factors like dosage, duration of use, and personal preferences, but generally speaking, there are three stages to this withdrawal process that everyone can observe. Duration and intensity may differ based on the specific medication used, duration of use, and individual differences. Here's an outline of the benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline:

Early Withdrawal Phase

The Early Withdrawal Phase typically occurs within several days after quitting benzodiazepine use. It is marked by withdrawal symptoms as the body and brain adapt to functioning without it. Here's more information about what to expect during this stage and some possible symptoms:

  • Rebound Anxiety: One of the most prominent symptoms of the initial withdrawal phase is the rebound anxiety, or the recurrence or even intensification of anxiety symptoms initially relieved by benzodiazepine usage. Patients may experience feelings of tension, anxiety, or increased tension.

  • Insomnia: Sleep disturbances during early withdrawal phases can often be one of the most distressing aspects. Disrupted sleeping patterns may wreak havoc with daily life and contribute to feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.

  • Irritability and Restlessness: During this phase, individuals may become easily annoyed or restless, making small stressors or frustrations seem larger than they once did. This change may be related to adjustments made in brain chemistry without benzodiazepines as a source of relief.

  • Increased Sensitivity to Stimuli: Individuals may become more reactive to external stimuli during early withdrawal. This heightened sensitivity may manifest through light, sound or touch sensitivities, which lead to discomfort and anxiety.

  • Physical Symptoms: Physical discomfort may also be experienced during the early withdrawal phase, including muscle tension, headaches, tremors, sweating, gastrointestinal distress, and general aches and pains. These physical symptoms may contribute to feelings of unease and restlessness as you withdraw.

Acute Withdrawal Phase

The acute withdrawal phase occurs several weeks after early withdrawal and can last several more. It's an essential stage in the benzodiazepine withdrawal process, as symptoms may intensify during this stage. Here is an outline of this stage and its potential symptoms, as well as strategies for managing them and seeking support:

  • Increased Withdrawal Symptoms: Individuals in the acute withdrawal stage may experience intensified withdrawal symptoms compared to earlier stages. These may include anxiety, insomnia, depression, mood swings, cognitive difficulties, physical discomfort and increased sensitivity to stimuli - symptoms which may prove challenging to manage throughout this phase.

  • Potential Challenges: The acute withdrawal phase presents several hurdles. First, individuals may struggle with managing the increased intensity of withdrawal symptoms that affect daily functioning and overall well-being. Furthermore, psychological and emotional strain may arise as individuals adjust to life without benzodiazepines while dealing with any underlying issues they were masking with medications. Finally, durations can vary. Some may experience prolonged acute withdrawal periods that can be mentally and emotionally draining.

Tips for Managing Symptoms and Seeking Support

  • Implement a Tapering Plan: It is often advised to gradually taper under medical supervision to minimize withdrawal symptoms during the acute phase. Working closely with healthcare professionals can create an individualized tapering plan that fits your unique requirements.

  • Do self-care: Participate in activities that encourage well-being and relaxation by engaging in regular exercises, mindfulness techniques, deep breathing exercises, and eating a balanced diet.

  • Set up a Support System: Find support from trusted friends like family members, friends, and support groups throughout the withdrawal process. They can provide understanding, empathy, and motivation.

  • Communicate With Healthcare Professionals: Stay in contact with all healthcare providers involved with your care on an ongoing basis to receive guidance, monitor progress, alter tapering plans as needed, and address any concerns or questions you may have.

  • Consider Therapy or Counseling: Therapy or counseling may prove invaluable during the acute withdrawal phase to address underlying issues, learn coping techniques, and find healthy ways to manage anxiety or other emotional challenges.

  • Try Stress-Management Strategies: Experiment with various stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, journaling or engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation.

  • Be Kind to Yourself: Recognizing that withdrawal may be challenging can be daunting, with results varying for everyone. Show yourself kindness and show respect for the strength it takes to navigate this process.

Protracted Withdrawal Phase

The protracted withdrawal phase extends acute withdrawal that may last months or longer. During this time, individuals may experience lingering symptoms that do not go away after discontinuing benzodiazepine use. Below is an explanation of this stage as well as ways individuals can combat protracted withdrawal and improve well-being:

  • Duration and Lingering Symptoms: The protracted withdrawal phase is marked by continued withdrawal symptoms beyond the acute stage. These may vary significantly between individuals but typically include residual anxiety, insomnia, mood disturbances, cognitive difficulties, intermittent periods of discomfort or other lingering effects that last beyond an acute withdrawal episode. Both intensity and duration may differ significantly between individuals.

  • Impact on Daily Life: Lingering withdrawal symptoms during protracted withdrawal stages can harm various aspects of daily life. They may impair cognitive functioning, making it challenging to focus, remember things, or perform tasks requiring mental clarity; persistent anxiety or mood disturbances can have detrimental repercussions for emotional well-being and relationships, while physical symptoms may continue to cause discomfort and hinder activities of daily living.

Coping Strategies and Well-Being:

  • Self-Care: Prioritize practices designed to support overall well-being. Participate in activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and stress relief, such as exercising regularly, engaging in hobbies that provide pleasure or spending time in nature; practising mindfulness may also prove helpful in managing overall well-being.

  • Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Make adjustments to foster overall well-being and manage withdrawal symptoms effectively, including regular nutrition, physical exercise, and sufficient rest. These elements will positively impact overall well-being and could help alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

  • Reach Out: Don't hesitate to reach out when seeking support. Sharing experiences and emotions with those who understand can provide comfort, validation, and encouragement.

  • The Counselor or Therapy: Therapy or counseling can help you deal with the emotional consequences of withdrawal, help develop efficient coping strategies and build abilities to deal with withdrawal-related symptoms.

  • Methods for Mindfulness and Relaxation: Integrating mindfulness techniques and relaxation methods like deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or progressive relaxation techniques into your daily routine to ease anxiety and encourage inner peace.

  • Gradual Lifestyle Changes: Make small but gradual adjustments to your daily routine to address any challenges caused by persistent symptoms. Prioritize self-care, create a balanced schedule, and break tasks down into manageable steps to avoid getting overwhelmed.

  • Patience and Self-Compassion: Acknowledging that protracted withdrawal can be a long, hard journey can help us stay patient as progress may come gradually. Show yourself kindness along the way by practicing self-compassion. Recognize and celebrate small victories along the way.

Seeking Support

Seeking professional assistance and guidance during benzodiazepine withdrawal is of utmost importance. Healthcare professionals have been specially trained to offer support, monitor your progress, and ensure the withdrawal process runs safely and successfully. Here's why seeking assistance is necessary and some tips on where you might find support:

  • Expert Guidance: Medical professionals like doctors, psychiatrists, or addiction specialists possess the expertise to guide you through benzodiazepine withdrawal. They can assess your unique situation, create a tailored tapering plan and track progress while making any necessary changes along the way.

  • Medical Management: Professionals can prescribe appropriate medication to ease withdrawal symptoms, minimize discomfort, and address any underlying physical or mental health conditions contributing to them.

  • Safety and Monitoring: With professional guidance to assist with withdrawal processes, healthcare providers are best placed to monitor vital signs, assess potential risks and intervene as soon as complications arise.

  • Emotional Support: Withdrawal can be emotionally taxing, so healthcare professionals offer emotional support, understanding, and empathy during this trying time. They can assist in navigating its emotional waves and address any co-occurring mental health conditions that arise during withdrawal.

  • Professional Resources and Referrals: Professionals can connect you with additional resources that may assist with your recovery, including support groups, therapy or counseling services, addiction treatment centers, or online communities.

Finding Support in Your Journey

Understanding the symptoms and timeline of benzodiazepine withdrawal is crucial for a successful recovery.

At The Forge Recovery Center, we are dedicated to helping you through every step of this challenging process. Our compassionate and professional team provides the support and guidance needed to manage withdrawal safely and effectively.

If you or your loved one is struggling with benzodiazepine dependence, reach out to us. We are here to help you achieve a healthier, substance-free life.

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Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

July 6, 2024

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