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Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Benzodiazepines are primarily used for lessening anxiety, and promoting sleep. The most recent advisories both in the US and abroad recommend short term use only, no longer than a number of weeks.
Benzodiazepines are the most common category of prescription medications that Alternative to Meds Center addresses since an unsupported benzodiazepine withdrawal process could be considered close to impossible. (1)
However, these are powerful drugs and can alter the neurochemistry even after short term use, and especially when used long term may end up causing more side effects than they were targeted to address.

Never abruptly stop taking benzodiazepine drugs, as to do so may lengthen the withdrawal symptoms considerably. The Alternative to Meds Center specializes in relieving benzodiazepine discontinuation syndrome and the protracted symptoms of withdrawal which individuals who taper at home may unfortunately face.

At the center, we focus on correcting the causes of anxiety or insomnia so that an individual can be free of these symptoms, and also free of benzodiazepine side effects, and free from benzodiazepine withdrawals.

Is It Possible You Are Poisoned?
We have found that in many cases of chronic anxiety, the individual has in fact accumulated neurotoxins and heavy metals in the body, which can overstimulate the CNS. In fact, this overstimulation could well have been the reason for a prescription of benzodiazepine medication in the first place.

Clearly, a person who experiences constant anxiety may suffer from a burden of neurotoxicity, such as Mercury, aspartame, industrial cleaners, or even pesticides. For long term relief, the toxic burden has to be removed.

How Do Pesticides Kill Pests?

Consider how pesticides work. A grasshopper may encounter a toxic insecticide that is designed to kill it. The following summarizes how the process works:

  • The toxin gets absorbed through the grasshopper’s exoskeleton.
  • The toxin moves through the body and enters the nervous system.
  • The poison (pesticide) molecules cause the acetylcholine channels of the grasshopper’s nervous system to lock in the “open” position. These channels cannot now close.
  • Because acetylcholine is a neurochemical with stimulant or excitatory properties, this will cause the grasshopper to jump, twitch, or convulse.
  • The continued influx of the acetylcholine causes catatonia (repetitive motions) to the point of exhaustion and comatose state.
  • The grasshopper eventually dies.

Humans and grasshoppers have some similar neurochemicals. They also share reactions to toxins that have invaded the CNS. If the toxic load in a person is potent enough, the excitatory effects of the toxic material can cause a similarly unbridled overstimulation, which we may recognize as chronic anxiety. Studies have shown the toxic effects on neurons by exposure to metal nanoparticles, for instance. (2)

Individuals who have been exposed to environmental poisoning have developed certain immunological syndromes and neurological conditions as a result.

Accumulation of the toxin acetylcholine in humans also causes neurochemical stimulation. Our nervous systems use acetylcholine for stimulation. We are subject to exposure to other types of toxins as well, which share this excitatory property. Some of these include:

  • Mercury, lead, other heavy metals
  • Aspartame (toxic to myelin sheath, neuron disruptor) (3)
  • MSG (toxic to brain cells) (4)
  • Mycotoxins (micro fungi which can cause disease and death in humans).
  • Chemicals in cleaning products. i.e., Phthalates (endocrine disruptors) (6)
  • Chemicals in personal products
  • Chemicals in processed foods
  • Water treatment residues, i.e., chlorine, fluoride, dioxins, PCB’s, etc.
  • Laundry products, i.e., naphthotriazolystilbenes, EDTA, nonlphenol ethoxylate, etc.
  • And many more.

Toxins can also significantly impact endocrine glands and can cause hormone imbalance, such as adrenal burnout, and elevated cortisol levels. Often, the source of anxiety is the build-up of neurotoxins over the lifetime of the person. This is because these toxins and heavy metals are fat soluble, and they tend to accumulate in fatty tissue over time, and have properties that can overstimulate the central nervous system. (2)

The good news is that these toxic elements can be removed safely, and health can be restored once again. It is possible to investigate and discover and correct the root causes of anxiety. We also provide counselling that can help overcome anxiety and its negative impacts that may have affected a person on so many levels of their life.

These residual toxic effects will likely continue to negatively impact neurology until they can be removed.

How Do Benzodiazepines Affect the Body?

Understanding why benzodiazepine withdrawal can be so difficult might be clarified to some degree with a greater understanding of how benzodiazepines affect the body, CNS, neurons, etc.

Benzodiazepine medications affect GABA in the body. GABA (gaba-amino butyric acid) is the body’s primary inhibitory (calming, dampening) neurotransmitter. One of the effects of benzodiazepine drugs is to make nerve synapses in the brain more permeable to GABA. This means that GABA’s dampening effects are strengthened, and therefore more able to slow or inhibit nerve impulses travelling along the CNS.

However, the presence of benzodiazepines causes the body to use up available GABA. When the GABA has been spent, the result is that everything can become over stimulating.

GABA is available for purchase as a natural supplement, but is usually ineffective because of the presence of toxic elements which impair the body’s ability to utilize it. The Alternative to Meds Center has developed methods that can restore neurochemistry by removal of this toxic load. This will better enable the body to utilize such natural substances as GABA, and certain others, while the body begins to normalize its neurochemistry. These and other methods significantly help our clients to comfortably reduce anxiety medication. With proper support, one does not have to decide between continuing medication and suffering continuing symptoms of anxiety.

How Does Benzodiazepine Tolerance and Dependence Develop?

Despite the enormous profits of the pharmaceutical industry, prescribers have been strongly cautioned by regulatory bodies to restrict the dosage levels and the length of time a patient is prescribed these drugs. Also doctors are advised to carefully monitor the patient in person before refills can be given for anti-anxiety drugs.

After as little as two to four weeks, tolerance can begin to develop. Tolerance occurs when the body begins to adapt to the presence of the drug. After establishing a degree of tolerance, stopping or reducing the drug can be expected to produce withdrawal symptoms.

The brain and central nervous system are incredibly complex in their structures and interactions, so much so that only a small percentage of this knowledge has been discovered so far. But we do know that it takes careful tapering to reduce benzodiazepine drugs without harsh withdrawals.

What Are Benzo “Rebound” Symptoms?

When a person begins taking benzodiazepines for insomnia, for example, there will likely be an immediate relief of that symptom for a period of time. However, when the drug is discontinued or reduced, the insomnia can “rebound”, or reappear, often more intensely than was experienced before the prescription began. (5)

This can be quite disturbing for the person who intends to gradually reduce their medication, as it can make withdrawal seem daunting, unpredictable, and intolerable.

In addition to rebound symptoms, on reducing the medication, there can also emerge a set of new symptoms that were not present before starting the prescription, and these are called withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes a person will be suffering from rebound symptoms and withdrawal symptoms concurrently, which can become so extreme as to be nearly impossible to tolerate without medical assistance, as would be available in an inpatient setting.

What is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome?

Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is the medical term that covers the effects of stopping benzo drugs. These physiological symptoms typically present in “waves” or phases, starting with the acute or immediate effects, which can include the rebound symptoms as discussed in the previous section.

The next phase of withdrawals is the full-blown set of withdrawal symptoms, which can last for a number of weeks. These symptoms are listed below.

The next phase is often termed protracted withdrawal, where the symptoms such as anxiety, and others listed below may return and linger until treatment can be utilized to lessen these symptoms. Protracted withdrawal can last for many months or even longer without treatment. (5)

Withdrawals from benzodiazepines are known for their potentially intense, harsh characteristics and can include these:

  • Rebound insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks
  • Akathisia (relentless compulsion to stay in motion, repeating involuntary motions, pacing, marching, rocking, accompanied by intense feelings of restlessness and profound unease.)
  • Depression
  • Extreme sensitivity to stimuli, i.e., lights, sounds, motion, etc.
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Gastric problems, cramping, nausea, vomiting, dry heaves, etc.
  • Derealization (feeling disconnected from reality, surroundings, or concept of self)
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tachycardia
  • Shaking
  • DT’s (delirium tremens hallucinations, onset of confusion, restlessness, sleeping for more than a day, tremors, seizures, etc.)
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Suicidal behaviour
  • Altered perceptions
  • Muscle pain or stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Memory loss
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating profusely
  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of ability to focus or concentrate
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches

How Can Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome be Eased?

At the Alternative to Meds Center, we utilize methods that can soften the discomfort of benzodiazepine withdrawal using diverse methods that we have found most helpful.

The cleansing of neurotoxins out of the body is a foundation for success, and typically provides relief from insomnia and can lessen anxiety, provide calmness and improved appetite. This can include heavy metal chelation, sauna cleanse, clay packs, and many other techniques for neurotoxin removal. Once stabilized, the gentle taper process can begin at a pace which the person feels they can easily tolerate. Bridge medications may be desirable for some, along with natural supplements for maximum possible neurochemical support.

Along with a clean nutrient-dense diet and supplements, sauna therapy and many other adjunctive therapies are provided including massage therapies, acupuncture, Reiki, mineral baths, ionic foot baths, nebulized glutathione, bentonite clay packs, relaxation therapy, a number of genres of counseling, Life Coaching, art therapy, meditation, Yoga classes, trainer-led exercises, and many other methods to improve and support well-being and recovery. In addition to these protocols, a comprehensive educational component is given to ensure that each client has a thorough understanding of neurochemistry and maintain healthy protocols for sustainable natural mental health.

These methods are designed to provide relief, while focusing on the fundamental goal of restoring healthy neurochemistry holistically. Your neurochemistry can be adjusted naturally through the withdrawal period and afterwards so that you can achieve and also maintain the relief that benzodiazepines did not provide.

Why Does My Doctor Not Know How to Help Me?

Our clients have often gone to their prescribing physician and asked for help, but no help was available beyond switching medications, and sometimes even upping the dosage to “relieve” (mask) symptoms.

It is an unfortunate fact that most physicians and psychiatrists do not receive any training at all on how to help taper a patient off medications. The guesswork method often leads to other complications, all of which can be avoided if proper care is given.

Despite these sorts of complications, we provide the gentlest, safest route back to healthy neurochemistry and relief of symptoms without drugs. Sometimes it is not possible to get to zero within the eight weeks of the program, but the client will leave the program with a plan to follow under medical guidance back home, to continue the taper and achieve full success. A client may opt to stay longer than 8 weeks, and we can provide after care resources if needed to assist the client to reach their goals.

ATMC Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Treatment Guidelines

To summarize, the benzodiazepine taper program will begin with lab testing, to discover what corrective actions we can use to begin to normalize neurochemistry. There may be toxins, there may be deficiencies, and there may be genetic factors that show up that can be eased with proper targeted supplements or other protocols. Hormone or other imbalances, allergies, blood sugar levels, all play a part in designing the program for a successful and comfortable benzo taper.

While the cleansing process is ongoing, and throughout the remainder of the program, the body will be flooded with needed nutrients via supplements and a clean, nutrient-dense diet prepared by our gourmet chef using mostly organic produce, organic meats, and preservative-free and chemical-free raw ingredients.

Therapies continue throughout the program to provide comfort, and the educational components provide deeper understanding about maintaining vibrant and energetic mental health naturally. Housed in our luxurious, warm and friendly center, there are many highly trained and compassionate staff close by to help you in any way possible. Your success is our success.

How To Find Help For Benzodiazepine Withdrawals?

Often, medical doctors who prescribe benzodiazepine or other drugs do not have the expertise or experience to help their patients to withdraw from them. In fact, some physicians may express disbelief or lack of true comprehension of the difficulties that you are facing.

There is hope. There is help.

If you think your situation is hopeless, as is the case with a significant percentage of our clients before they come to us, please reach out to us. At the Alternative to Meds Center, we are here to help you.


This content has been reviewed, and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

Dr Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona.  He holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine.  Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.

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