Protracted Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndromes

Knoxville, TN (PressExposure) August 11, 2009 -- Other than causing addiction, benzodiazepine withdrawal syndromes are also known to pose several life-threatening effects. This is because benzodiazepine withdrawal is similar to alcohol and barbiturate withdrawal syndromes and, in severe cases, are capable of provoking life threatening symptoms such as seizures, psychosis, suicidal depression, cardiac arrest, and delirium tremens - the last being the most fatal. Although these cases are rare, usually dependent on the amount of benzodiazepine consumed, its side effects can also pose severe discomfort for the addict such as flu like symptoms, severe headaches, muscular spasms or cramps, blurred visions, insomnia, impaired concentrations, and more.

There is, however, a case in which withdrawal syndromes to benzodiazepine becomes protracted. According to several adolescent drug rehab therapists, patients often have persisting withdrawal symptoms for 6 months to year or more.

Protracted Withdrawal to Benzodiazepine

Protracted withdrawal symptoms refers to symptoms persisting for a protracted time, perhaps a year or more. Patients who experience protracted withdrawal from benzodiazepines, which more commonly occurs from over-rapid withdrawal, can be reassured that the evidence shows that symptoms do continue to fade and return to normal over a period of many months or several years. According to adolescent drug rehab therapists, a figure of 10-15% of patients withdrawing from benzodiazepines may experience a protracted withdrawal syndrome. Up to this day, there is no known cure for protracted benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome except time.

Disturbances in mental function can persist for several months or sometimes longer in protracted withdrawal. Psychotic depression persisting for more than a year following benzodiazepine withdrawal has been documented in the medical literature, even if the patient had no prior psychiatric history. Symptoms of protracted mental dysfunctions include major depressive disorder with psychotic features, including persistent depressed mood, poor concentration, decreased appetite, insomnia, anhedonia, anergia and psychomotor retardation. Paranoia has also been an issue.

Flumazenil for protracted withdrawal

Studies have been carried out to find out if there are medications that can be used for protracted withdrawal to benzodiazepine. One candidate is the use of benzodiazepine receptor antagonist, flumazenil. Study subjects had been benzodiazepine-free for between one month and five years, but all reported persisting withdrawal effects to varying degrees. Persistent symptoms included clouded thinking, tiredness, muscular symptoms such as neck tension, depersonalisation, cramps and shaking and the characteristic perceptual symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, namely, pins and needles, burning skin, pain and subjective sensations of bodily distortion.

According to adolescent drug rehab therapists, therapy with 0.2–2 mg of flumazenil intravenously was found to decrease these symptoms in a placebo controlled study. This is of interest as benzodiazepine receptor antagonists are neutral and have no clinical side effects.

About Donna Sparks

Donna Sparks is a Professor and a Consultant Physician. Other than her clinical and local teaching commitments, she also continues to enjoy the privileges of research, writing and lecturing.

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Press Release Submitted On: August 11, 2009 at 4:00 am
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