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A Physiological Explanation of Benzo Abuse and Withdrawal

Whenever the patient has been using the benzodiazepine drugs for a long period, in adverse quantity and thus they develop tolerance to it. Withdrawal symptoms are bound to be experience when the patient abruptly stops usage or drastically reduce the dosage.

Benzodiazepine drugs have considerable influence on virtually all the aspect of the brain and the body functions, whether directly and indirectly. This can be explained by the fact that GABA comes in at second place as the most common neurotransmitter in the human’s central nervous system. Also it is the most abundant of the inhibitory neurotransmitters – this can be attested that a range of between one-quarter to one-their synapses actually uses GABA.

Hence when a patient becomes addicted to benzodiazepines, s/he reduces the levels of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine/noradrenaline, and acetylcholine. Leading to poor memory, irritable moods, poor coordination and muscle tone, abnormal heart rate and endocrine gland secretions, abnormal emotional responses and irregular blood pressure control mechanism since their neurotransmitters normal functioning has been interfered with by the benzodiazepines intake.

When the patient is a chronic benzo drug user, and thus developed tolerance. When the benzo drug usage is stopped, the neurotransmitter systems will work on overdrive since there is absence of the inhibitory GABA action. This leads to severe withdrawal symptoms, which will persist up to the point the nervous system reverses the adaptation or the physical dependence which had already formed in the central nervous system.

These withdrawal symptoms usually are manifested in mirror image of what the drug used to induce in the body. For example:

  • The patient who took it for antianxiety effect will now exhibit anxiety and panic.
  • Those who took it as a muscle-relaxant will now experience cramps and muscular spasms.
  • Anticonvulsant effect of the drug will now be replaces by seizures.
  • Those who took it as a sedative or to suppress SWS and REM stages of sleep will now start experiencing nightmares, insomnia and hypnogogic hallucinations.

The withdrawal process

Many patients find themselves using benzo drug for a long period of time even when the initial intended time period has expired. This is mainly due to fight off the withdrawal symptoms, though it is highly recommended for long time users to begin a withdrawal program with the help of a doctor.

Withdrawal symptoms can be experienced even when the withdrawal process is slowly done overtime. It is best for the doctor to recommend a customized withdrawal process for individual patient. Different patients take different time to safely withdraw from the drug use: some takes several months while some take years. This mainly depends on the dosage taken, health, lifestyle, length of use and the environmental and social stress factors.

There are drugs recommended to help during the withdrawal process, such as the Diazepam: which has a long elimination half-life and it is available in significantly love potent doses. Other non-benzodiazepine Z drugs cannot be used as benzodiazepines replacement. These are drugs like zolpidem, zopiclone and zaleplon. This is because they have the same influence as the benzodiazepines drugs and would only serve to water-down any progress made or make the situation more adverse.