Benzo Withdrawal and Depression
Benzo medications are most often prescribed for anxiety disorders, but sometimes for other reasons less frequently, such as insomnia. Because benzodiazepines are psychiatric medication, the chances are good that a prescribed person is already depressed or at risk of depression. This fact alone could be cause for concern about depression as a withdrawal side effect.
How Benzodiazepines Work
Benzodiazepines increase the production of the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a chemical that slows down processing within the brain. The primary effects are a sense of calm and well-being. When the brain has insufficient GABA, this can lead to anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Taking these medicines as prescribed can alleviate these symptoms.
Increases in GABA also seem to alleviate seizures and high blood pressure. The problem is that benzo medications are inherently habit forming. Not only does the sense of calm and well-being sometimes entice people into abusing these medications looking for a high, but regular use even following a prescription can and often does lead to physical dependence.
Risks and Negative Effects of Benzo Medications
Like any prescription drug, especially a controlled substance, benzo medications have potential risks and negative side effects. Anyone who takes these medications, whether prescribed or not, should be aware of these factors as they can be quite serious. The risks of use, even according to prescription include the following:
- Extreme drowsiness or sleepiness
- Concurrent overdose
- Toxicity, especially in elderly populations
- Psychological dependence
- Physical dependence (physical addiction)
- Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome
Side Effects and Concerns
Anyone who chooses to take a benzo, whether prescription or not, must take extreme caution. These are sedatives, which means they slow your brain and body down. They can make you drowsy, confused, and dizzy. They can impair your motor skills, or even lead to depression. That’s right, not only can stopping the medicine cause depression, but using them can actually cause depression too. There are risks in both directions and depression and fatigue are among the least concerning effects believe it or not.
On the more serious side of the spectrum, Benzodiazepines can erode memory. They can cause extreme fatigue, delirium, and agitation. Some more severe physical symptoms include tremors, shortness of breath, and gastrointestinal issues. They can also cause psychological symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. These effects are all limited to the time when you’re actually taking these medications. The more extreme examples are typically only seen with misuse, but the milder effects can occur under normal, prescribed use and are still concerning.
Getting Help with Benzo Withdrawal
There are only three classes of drug which have potentially deadly side effects in physical withdrawal. They are benzos, alcohol and barbiturates. All are sedatives. The risk with all three of these substances comes from serious seizures that may occur within 24-72 hours after the last dose. These seizures aren’t a certainty, but they are difficult to predict. There are certain factors which contribute to the likelihood of dangerous seizures in withdrawal.
The factors are:
- How much of the substance a person takes.
- The frequency of use (several times a day, daily, weekly etc.)
- Length of time the substance has been used (months, years etc.)
- Age of the person taking the substance.
- Relative health of the person taking the substance.
- Any predisposition to seizure or history of seizures (for any reason)
Take it Seriously
Because these withdrawal effects can be so serious, you should always err on the side of safety. It is not safe to quit benzos abruptly using the ‘cold turkey’ method. It’s especially dangerous to attempt detoxing yourself from them (or alcohol or barbiturates) at home without medical supervision. You must never attempt this. Sadly, many people have died and it’s completely unnecessary and totally avoidable. Depression can occur when coming off these medicines, even when it’s done in a controlled environment like a medical detox, which is how this should always be done.
However, one of the great advantages to detoxing with medical assistance is you are under observation. This means any symptoms or effects you have are being carefully monitored by doctors and nurses. That allows them to respond to symptoms in real time. Detox meds can be adjusted to make you more comfortable. This is not limited to physical effects either. Depression or anxiety that arise can be effectively treated too.
Harmony Recovery Group is a trusted family of substance abuse and mental health treatment centers. We utilize the highly acclaimed evidence-based model of care at all of our programs. This means while we treat patients holistically, caring for mind, body and soul, we do so using methods which are scientifically vetted. Simply put, we use the best of what works. Our therapies are chosen based upon peer-reviewed clinical research which measures effectiveness. This means it’s treatment you can trust from people you can trust. Trust is the hallmark of the Harmony Brand.
If you or someone you love is dependent on benzodiazepines or any other substance and you’re ready to make a change or you just have questions, please give us a call at (844) 241-4673 Your recovery is just a phone call away.