Need help finding a Detox Center?


benzodiazepine abuse facts

Withdrawal symptoms  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Detox |  Back to top

Benzodiazepine detox is an important first step for anyone suffering from an addiction to drugs like Xanax, Valium, Ativan, or Klonopin. Since benzodiazepine withdrawal is a potentially dangerous process, medically-supervised detox is the best way to ensure a safe and comfortable detox.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal is an intense and sometimes life-threatening process in which people should never attempt to go through alone. People who abuse these medications will become physically dependent and experience symptoms that are similar to those of alcohol withdrawal. Attempting to detox alone puts individuals at a higher risk of experiencing adverse side effects or potentially fatal symptoms. 

People who attend a medical detox facility have access to clinical and medical staff who ensure the safety and comfort of all patients. Benzodiazepine detox, in particular, usually consists of a taper. Rather than making people quit cold-turkey, they slowly take smaller and smaller doses until they are no longer dependent on the substance.

Whether you’re looking for help for yourself or are curious about how to help a loved one, here is what you need to know about benzodiazepine withdrawal and detox.

symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Detox |  Back to top

Benzodiazepines are prescription medications used to treat panic attacks, epilepsy, anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, and more. However, they are typically not meant for long-term use, as even medicinal use of these drugs can lead to physical dependency.

Despite wide medicinal use, benzos are frequently abused. When abused, these drugs rewire the brain and affect the reward system. After long-term abuse of drugs like Xanax or Valium, the body will no longer function normally without access to them in the system. As a result, users who become dependent on benzodiazepines experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using.[1]

Symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Hand tremors
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Hyperventilation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Aches and pains
  • Panic attacks
  • Racing pulse
  • Depression
  • Hypersensitivity to light and touch
  • Abnormal sensations, such as skin-crawling
  • Memory problems
  • Visual disturbances
  • Hallucinations or delirium
  • Grand mal seizures

Furthermore, quitting benzodiazepines cold-turkey may lead to “rebound symptoms,” such as those that the medications are used to treat in the first place. On the other hand, underlying psychiatric symptoms may come to the surface, such as panic attacks, severe anxiety, intrusive thoughts depression, or OCD tendencies.

In order to ensure the safety and comfort of people during the withdrawal process, benzodiazepine detox is a crucial first step towards recovery.

benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal symptoms  |  Detox |  Back to top

The severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms depend on a variety of factors, such as how much a person is using, how long they have been using for, and their current physical and mental health. However, the onset of benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms also varies depending on which type of drug the person is taking.

Short-acting benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan) have short half-lives and leave the system fairly quickly. As a result, people who are addicted to these types of drugs may begin experiencing withdrawal between 8 and 12 hours after their last dose. Symptoms tend to peak around the second day and begin improving after day 4 or 5. In rare cases, individuals will experience withdrawal symptoms for several weeks.

Long-acting benzodiazepines, on the other hand, like clonazepam (Klonopin) have longer half-lives, so they stay in the system longer. People who are addicted to long-acting benzos may not experience withdrawal symptoms until 24-28 hours after taking their last dose. Then, symptoms will peak around day 3 or 4, and subside after one week.

Unfortunately, between 10-25% of long-term benzodiazepine users suffer from protracted withdrawal – a long-term withdrawal syndrome that may last for several months.[2] During protracted withdrawal, symptoms are milder than acute withdrawal and may come and go for weeks at a time. Protracted withdrawal rarely persists for more than a year.

symptoms of benzodiazepine detox

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal symptoms  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Back to top

Benzodiazepine detox may occur on an inpatient or outpatient basis. That being said, patients with underlying psychiatric disorders, a history of polydrug use, or those who are chronic users, should attend a residential drug detox facility so they have access to more intensive care. Regardless of the type of detox program a person chooses, benzo detox typically consists of three phases: evaluation, stabilization, and treatment planning.


The first step of detox is intake, also known as evaluation. This is when patients meet with a team of medical and clinical professionals to collect a comprehensive medical history of the patient to determine an appropriate treatment plan. Patients may be asked questions about their medical history, drug and alcohol use, current symptoms, and more. Once a course of treatment is agreed upon, it is time to start detoxing.


Stabilization is the process in which the patient is monitored while the drugs leave their system. In the case of benzodiazepine withdrawal, the safest way to detox is with a taper. Tapering means a doctor will work closely with the patient to administer them smaller and smaller doses over the course of several weeks. Typically, diazepam, a long-acting benzo, is used in benzo tapers.

Although there is no set taper and patients should follow their doctor’s instructions, a tapering schedule may last anywhere from two to three weeks. In addition to a medical taper, some patients may begin participating in therapies or activities to help with their cravings and anxiety, such as meditation, behavioral therapy, mindfulness, or exercise. With the help of medically-assisted detox, patients can keep their discomfort and cravings at a minimal level, which reduces the chances of relapse.

Treatment Planning

Detox alone is not a solution to benzodiazepine addiction, which is why the final stage of detox is treatment planning. Most people choose inpatient rehab after completing detox which offers a supportive and sober environment for people to recover. On the other hand, people with mild addictions may choose outpatient treatment, instead. Whatever the case may be, it is important for patients to work with their substance abuse counselor to determine an ongoing care plan that meets their needs.

Find a Benzodiazepine Detox Near You Today

Quitting benzos isn’t easy, especially if you’re trying to do it alone. The good news is that you don’t have to. Professional benzodiazepine detox centers near you can set you up with a tapering schedule that will keep your symptoms at bay. Then, addiction professionals can work with you to develop an individual treatment plan that targets your specific needs.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact a dedicated addiction treatment provider today to locate a detox center near you.