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Benzos for Alcohol Withdrawal: Treatment and Side-Effects

Graphics shows the use of Benzos to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that plagues the lives of millions of individuals around the world. Alcohol dependence can develop into an alcohol use disorder in which a person consumes excessive alcohol. If an individual tries to quit drinking, they are at risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. 

Due to alcohol withdrawal syndrome, a person will experience mild to severe symptoms. Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that doctors prescribe to treat alcohol withdrawal. At Haven Detox South Florida, we offer alcoholism treatment and benzodiazepines for the detox procedure. Our effective strategy and medications have helped patients to recover fully. Although benzos are effective, it is vital to take precautions before consuming them.

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome and Treatment

Long-term use of alcohol impacts brain activity to the point where it develops an alcohol dependence. Since alcohol is an addictive drug and a central nervous system depressant, it disrupts neurons connection in the brain. That results in impaired speech and judgment.

A person who consumes excessive alcohol regularly is at high risk of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines heavy drinking for women as consuming more than eight drinks weekly; for men, more than 15 drinks make them heavy drinkers.

When a person with alcohol dependence stops drinking, the lack of alcohol in their body results in severe withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal syndrome is the major hindrance to overcoming addiction. The most common symptom of AWS are:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Shivering
  • Heavy sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia

Delirium tremors are the most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Seek the help of a medical professional if you notice any of the below-mentioned symptoms to avoid a life-threatening circumstance.

Signs of delirium tremens are:

  • Seizures
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Visual and auditory hallucination
  • Fever
  • Agitation
  • Muscle spasm

Benzodiazepines to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Quitting alcohol without guidance can result in relapse. At the rehab center, they provide a facility for alcohol detox. Alcohol detox abstains a patient from drinking, and these treatments allow the body of an addict to heal with time. Alcohol detox is a painful and dangerous process that requires medical supervision.

 At the treatment facility, medical professionals provide benzodiazepine to alleviate the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Benzos impersonate the effects of alcohol on the central nervous system. Alcohol and benzodiazepine have an anti-anxiety effect, and replacing alcohol with benzos will prevent some of the withdrawal symptoms. 

Benzos have long-term effects and are the first-choice medication used in alcohol detox. Its action on patients’ bodies is entirely predictable, which is why medical professionals trust this drug during detox. When doctors recommend its use, they also lower the dosage of this medication to avoid dependence on benzos. Since benzodiazepine effects are similar to alcohol on our body, it can result in addiction. Side effects of benzodiazepine addiction are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attack
  • Tremors

Benzodiazepines: Mechanism of Action

There are different types of benzos that help treat alcoholism and alcohol use disorder. This drug helps patients during their recovery process and is administered in an inpatient rehab facility since there is a threat of benzodiazepine addiction or overdose.

Another reason for prescribing this drug in an inpatient facility is that a patient’s life is at stake during the first few weeks of detox. They are supervised by medical professionals when staying at the facility, and medication is given to them on time.

Benzo’s mechanism of action is attaching to the neurotransmitters in the brain that were affected by prolonged alcohol use. This drug also binds to a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The poor activity of GABA receptors in the brain due to alcohol results in anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.

Certain medications like antidepressants and benzodiazepines can help enhance the activity of GABA. Due to alcohol use, a person experiences symptoms of anxiety that include irritability, fatigue, and lack of concentration. Benzos help to alleviate anxiety symptoms and provide a feeling of calmness; thus, it has tranquilizing effects on the body. 

Aside from treating symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, benzodiazepine is also usually prescribed to cure insomnia, muscle spasms, anxiety disorder, and involuntary movement disorder.

Prescription of Benzodiazepine in Alcohol Rehab

There are a variety of ways to monitor and administer the dosage of benzodiazepines. Each strategy has its pros, benefits, side effects, and stages of withdrawal syndrome. A medical expert can help you to determine the treatment options, and which dose of benzodiazepine is appropriate for you.

Benzos are prescribed in inpatient as well as outpatient settings. Doctors closely monitor the patient before deciding the treatment plan they will employ. The most common benzodiazepine strategies used are:

Fixed Tapering Dose Regimen 

Fixed tapering dose regimens are selected doses of a benzo, and the patient should use at most the recommended amount. Since the quantity dose is fixed, this strategy is suitable for people with mild symptoms. This procedure is not suited for people with extreme withdrawal symptoms.

Symptom Triggered Regimen

STR is commonly used in an inpatient treatment facility where patients are under medical supervision. The healthcare providers monitor their vitals and ask them about the level of pain they are experiencing. That allows them to assign the dose according to the severity of the symptoms. If a patient has mild symptoms, then they will consume lower quantities. In case of unbearable symptoms, doctors will prescribe high doses.

Loading Dose Regimen

Loading dose regimen involves long-acting benzos use. These medications have long-lasting effects on the body and stay in the system for several days. LDR is used in inpatient rehab so that doctors can monitor the patient and the withdrawal symptoms they are experiencing.

Benzodiazepines have their own risk and severe side effects. If a benzodiazepine is misused and not taken according to the prescribed dose, it can cause heart disease and increases the risk of overdose. Long-term benzo use can result in life-threatening chronic illness, and you can end up in the intensive care unit. Patients can develop dependence or addiction to benzodiazepine.

Addiction and dependence are two different medical conditions. It is vital to understand the difference between both terms. A person addicted to this drug consumes more than the prescribed dose. An individual develops a dependence on it when an excessive amount is continued until they cannot function without benzodiazepine.

Benzo addiction can lead to symptoms like tremors, sweating, panic attacks, and irritation. When seeking help to overcome an alcohol addiction, it is essential to learn about the dangers of detox medication and the advantages of using them according to the prescribed dose.

Types of Benzodiazepine for Alcohol Withdrawal

Benzodiazepines’ effects on our body range from a few days to weeks, depending on an individual’s condition. Benzos allow the body to relax and stay calm; this will help an individual to overcome the craving for alcohol or other illicit substances.

Benzodiazepine is given with vitamins that allow the patient to overcome addiction in a short period of time. Vitamins are provided either in the form of tablets or through IV therapy. IV therapy is beneficial for patients with severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

Different types of benzodiazepine that are used during detox treatment are:

  • Diazepam
  • Chlordiazepoxide
  • Oxazepam
  • Lorazepam


Diazepam, also known as Valium, is a benzodiazepine medication, and it is approved by the FDA to treat withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, motor neuron disorders, and muscle spasms. This medication is available in tablet form and injections and has long-lasting effects.

Valium is suitable for patients with severe symptoms they experience during alcohol withdrawal. It is essential to tell a healthcare provider about your medical history before using this medication, and it is not suitable for people who have:

  • Myasthenia gravis (a disorder that causes muscle weakness)
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Sleep apnea (a condition in which a patient is unable to breathe during sleep)
  • Chronic liver damage
  • Narrow-angle glaucoma

If you are using diazepam to treat the undesirable side effects of withdrawal, inform your doctor if you experience suicidal thoughts or sudden mood changes. Avoid its use if you are pregnant or have a chance of becoming –pregnant because this medication can threaten the life of newborns and mothers.


Chlordiazepoxide, also known as Librium, treats acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms and anxiety. It is also used during surgery to alleviate fear and anxiety. Since this drug belongs to benzodiazepines, it acts on the central nervous system to produce a relaxing effect. Chlordiazepoxide enhances the effects of GABA receptors, thus alleviating the feeling of anxiousness and agitation.

Librium makes your journey toward recovery at a treatment facility more manageable. A healthcare provider prescribes its dosage, so inform them if you are allergic to it. Only consume the prescribed dose, as it can result in addiction. Signs of Librium addiction are

  • Misusing drugs and consuming higher doses
  • Mixing it with other illegal substances
  • Irritability
  • Avoiding responsibilities
  • Unable to start your days without Librium
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness


Oxazepam (Serax) is a benzodiazepine group of drugs that is a central nervous depressant. This medicine is prescribed to adult patients to treat tension, distress, and irritability. Before using this medication, inform a doctor about your allergy if an ingredient in this drug is unsuitable.

This medication is unsafe for pregnant women or breastfeeding a newborn. Oxazepam helps the body stay calm and relaxed for withdrawal symptoms. Serax is best for patients who are going through stress, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts during alcohol withdrawal.

Oxazepam also lowers the risk of relapse. This medication should be taken three to four times daily, and avoid increasing or skipping a dose. Inform a doctor if you experience its side effects such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hallucination


Lorazepam is a sedative anxiolytic and is also a benzodiazepine. This medication was introduced by DJ Richards and was available in markets in the United States in 1977. Lorazepam, also known as Ativan, is FDA approved medicine that is known to cure:

  • Seizures
  • Epilepsy
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

When alcohol addict receives the treatment, they are commonly given Ativan, which acts on brain activity to ease symptoms of AWS. Ativan is suitable for patients who are addicted to alcohol intake and desire to overcome addiction. 

Long-term use of alcohol impacts the working of GABA and Ativan acts on GABA to improve brain activity. This medication is a short-acting drug that can work on your body after half an hour of consumption.

Ativan has sedating effects on the patient’s body for eight hours. One of the common side effects of Ativan is sleepiness and dizziness. Do not use this medication before operating heavy machinery or doing other activity that requires attention, like driving a vehicle.

Alternative Medications to Treat AWS

Although benzodiazepine is a healthcare professional’s first choice, in some cases, other medications are prescribed to treat severe withdrawal symptoms. Since benzodiazepine is highly addictive, healthcare providers may consider drugs like anticonvulsants, an anti-seizure medicine. Anticonvulsant medicines are:

  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)
  • Valproic acid (Depakene)

Although anticonvulsant is an anti-seizure medicine, this drug class does not prevent seizures and delirium tremens. Other than anticonvulsants, medications like adrenergic drugs, barbiturates, atenolol, clonidine, and baclofen are also helpful for patients with AWS. But these medications are not as beneficial as benzodiazepines as they fail to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms.

Benzodiazepine Abuse- Psychological, Physical, and Behavioral Symptoms

Benzodiazepine is a sedative drug known for its soothing effect on patients dealing with alcohol withdrawal. However, it is a highly addictive drug, and that is why doctors supervise the patients who use it to lower the chances of addiction.

Some people may experience memory problems, and they will not be able to retain new memories. People who misuse this drug risk suffering physical and psychological damage. Some of the common side effects of benzodiazepine are:

  • Tiredness
  • Poor vision
  • Dizziness
  • Poor thinking ability
  • Mood changes

People who abuse this drug also find illegal resources or ask their family members to buy benzos. This drug not only harms them physically but also impacts their behavior. They experience mood swings and combine them with other medications to increase the sedative effects. Long-term use of benzodiazepines is

  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Experiencing negative thoughts
  • The feeling of numbness and hopelessness
  • Weight problems
  • Memory problems

Risk Factors for Benzodiazepine Overdose

People who are at risk for benzodiazepine overdose are:

  • Consuming large doses of the medicine
  • Taking benzos more recurrently than prescribed
  • Injecting the drug
  • Combining benzodiazepines with other drugs like antidepressants or other medications that act directly on the central nervous system

Although this drug is quite effective in treating withdrawal signs and symptoms, it is highly addictive. People who consume it develop tolerance, so they combine it with alcohol to enhance its effect. 

A person can develop tolerance within 4 to 6 months of daily benzos intake. There is a misconception that prescribed medications are safe, but they can be pretty dangerous, thus requiring a doctor’s guidance.

Benzos Interaction with Alcohol 

Benzos are a class of drugs that includes various medications like Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin that can lead to tolerance, dependence, addiction, and overdose. Benzos lead to a euphoric feeling which is why it is frequently abused. Benzos, like alcohol, are safe to use in situations like treating anxiety. Its misuse can result in the following:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Slow heart rate
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Low blood pressure

If your family member is showing symptoms of an overdose, call an ambulance as they need medical attention. Doctors use medications like flumazenil to reverse its effect. This medication binds to the GABA receptors in the brain that were affected by excessive benzos in CNS. Flumazenil is effective against Xanax, Valium, or Klonopin.

Although doctors use this medication, it does not immediately heal against overdose but stabilizes the patient. Medical staff also employ other treatments in which the patient’s stomach is pumped to remove benzodiazepine, and doctors make sure that the person is breathing normally. Intravenous fluids are used to stabilize blood sugar and hydration levels to lower the risk of seizures,

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepine?

If you have taken short-acting benzodiazepine, then withdrawal symptoms can begin after several hours. Its symptoms start three weeks after you stop the dose of long-acting benzodiazepine. That happens because long-acting benzodiazepine stays active in your system even after you have stopped taking them.

Symptoms of withdrawal depend upon the quantity and how long you have taken benzos. Short-acting benzos’ effect usually lasts longer. If you safely want to reduce or stop benzos, seek medical advice. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal are:

Body aches
Panic attacks
Metallic taste and swollen tongue
Weight loss

How long after consuming alcohol can you take Ativan?

Ativan is a short-acting drug that is used to treat anxiety and has a relaxing effect on your body. This drug, like other benzodiazepines, acts on the central nervous system resulting in dizziness and respiratory issues. Since alcohol and Ativan act on CNS, they can intensify each other’s side effects and slow down brain activity.

Ativan and other benzodiazepines put individuals at risk for addiction and overdose because of their euphoric effects. Teenagers misuse this drug and combine it with alcohol to enhance its impact. It is difficult to understand the metabolism of alcohol as it depends on various factors.

According to the experts, it takes one hour to metabolize a standard amount of alcohol. But it can take more than that, depending on gender, genetics, body weight, etc. It would be best to wait for one to two days after consuming the last drink of alcohol before taking Ativan.      

How to avoid the withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepine? 

If you want to quit benzos without experiencing withdrawal symptoms, consult a doctor who will help you decrease its dose. Doctors can provide you with an alternative medication to help you overcome addiction.

Withdrawal also depends on the kind of benzodiazepine you are consuming. Short-acting benzos withdrawal is tricky, and the person may undergo withdrawal symptoms. To alleviate the symptoms doctor will provide you with medication to ease drug addiction recovery.

Ease Your Withdrawal Journey at Haven Detox South Florida

Alcohol addiction impacts not only the life of a person abusing alcohol but also their friends and family members. There are effective ways to overcome addiction at Haven Detox, South Florida. Our facility offers alcohol treatment, medical detox, IV therapy, and residential treatment.

Our medical staff also recommend treatment options to their client, so they receive the best care. We guide you if you require professional care to overcome addiction. 

We provide a wide range of care to help you stay sober. To learn more about our services and goals for our clients, contact us at (561) 328-8627.

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