Taking certain anxiety medications, then stopping can cause withdrawal symptoms. A little-known withdrawal symptom of benzodiazepines is “benzo belly.” But, attending a medical detox program can help with benzo withdrawal pain relief. 

How do Benzodiazepines Affect Your Body?

Benzodiazepines or benzos are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. They treat anxiety and pain by slowing down brain activity. They work by increasing the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain. 

Benzos also enhance dopamine levels in the brain. This chemical messenger is involved in pleasure and reward. For this reason, people can become dependent and misuse their medication. After a few weeks of regular use, the brain can stop producing these chemicals naturally. 

Examples of benzos include:

  • Xanax
  • Klonopin
  • Librium
  • Valium
  • Ativan

The Dangers of Prescription Benzodiazepines

Benzos offer great benefits for anxiety and pain. But, they are for short-term use. For example, prolonged use of benzos for anxiety can make your anxiety worse. 

When your body starts expecting the drug to stimulate neurotransmitters, it needs more to get the desired effect. This is called tolerance. But, once you begin to feel withdrawal symptoms without the drug, it has become a dependence. 

Signs of dependence include:

  • Fatigue
  • Paranoia
  • Shakiness
  • Cold sweats
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Increased anxiety
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Increased heart rate

What is “Benzo Belly”?

The term “benzo belly” describes the stomach discomfort from benzo withdrawal. The symptoms of “benzo belly” include diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and appetite changes. 

Benzos treat anxiety and seizure disorders. But, they have a high potential for misuse and addiction. If you develop an addiction to benzos, it means you can’t stop without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. 

However, withdrawal symptoms are very uncomfortable. As a result, most people start using again. This is why attending a medical detox program can help with benzo withdrawal pain relief and maintain recovery.

What Causes “Benzo Belly”?

Benzos affect almost every cell in the body, including the gastrointestinal tract (GI). When you stop using benzos, your body goes crazy, trying to function without the drug. For this reason, you may experience “benzo belly.” 

“Benzo belly” typically begins in the protracted phase of withdrawal. It may last for several weeks after your last dose. Although symptoms get better over time, some people may have symptoms for years. 

How Long Do Benzo Withdrawals Last?

For most drugs, withdrawal symptoms typically last 1 to 2 weeks after the last dose. But, benzos are different. They can have long post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). 

Symptoms of “benzo belly” may include alternating constipation and diarrhea. Eating certain foods can make the symptoms worse. But, your diet can help ease some symptoms of “benzo belly.”

So, how long do benzo withdrawals last? “Benzo belly” typically lasts for several weeks after the last dose. However, sometimes “benzo belly” can last up to a year or more. 

What are the Symptoms of “Benzo Belly”?

Symptoms of “benzo belly” include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Appetite changes
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lower abdominal pain

If you are prescribed benzos, it’s vital to speak to your doctor before stopping. If you are taking benzos without a prescription, you should talk to an addiction center like Discovery Institute for treatment options. 

Is There a Cure for “Benzo Belly”?

In short, no – you just have to be patient and wait for the symptoms to go away. But, a change in your diet can offer relief. Furthermore, some foods can make your symptoms worse. “Benzo belly’ can make you feel like you have a food allergy, but it’s withdrawal symptoms.

Benzo Withdrawal Pain Relief: How Can You Overcome this Pain?

The pain and discomfort from benzo withdrawal cause many people to continue using benzos. The best shot at achieving and maintaining recovery is in an addiction treatment center. Medical detox programs can give you benzo withdrawal pain relief.

The use of medications such as Diazepam and Valium allows the body to adjust to the decrease of benzos. Because these drugs have slow elimination rates, it minimizes your withdrawal symptoms. 

Medication-assisted treatment is used in combination with other therapies such as psychotherapy and behavioral therapies. Some treatment centers offer gender-specific therapies. Some addictions stem from traumatic or life-changing situations. And, gender-specific therapies can help people mentally fight their benzo addiction. 

Holistic Treatment for Benzo Withdrawal Pain Relief

Holistic or alternative therapies can help with benzo withdrawal pain relief. Therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, and mindfulness can build mental strength to power through the discomfort and pain. These therapies will also help you along your recovery journey to maintain recovery.

Another holistic therapy is nutrition therapy. A healthy-eating-lifestyle can do wonders for “benzo belly.” A healthy diet can minimize and even prevent “benzo belly.” 

Tips for benzo withdrawal pain relief through diet include:

  • Keep meals small – The symptoms of “benzo belly” aren’t caused by overeating. But, it’s smart not to overwork the GI tract.
  • Keep meals light – Try to avoid eating heavy foods. You should consume smoothies, juices, and liquid foods when possible. 
  • Avoid harsh foods – Some foods and beverages are harsh on your stomach. `So, you should avoid highly acidic food and drinks. 
  • Take probiotics – Probiotics can replenish gut bacteria. They can be taken as a supplement or found in fermented foods and drinks. 

Although these tips won’t treat the source of “benzo belly,” they may alleviate the symptoms.

Other Lifestyle Changes to Relieve “Benzo Belly”

There are other things you can do to ease the symptoms of “benzo belly.” These include daily exercise, spending time in the sun, and getting plenty of sleep. 

Rebound insomnia is a big problem in benzo withdrawal. It may be hard to handle in the beginning. But, getting some early morning sun and exercise can combat the issue. Not only will it help with insomnia, but Vitamin D helps your immune system. While exercise helps rebalance brain chemicals and regulate your GI tract. 

Finding a treatment center with plenty of amenities increases your activity level and outdoor exposure. Important amenities to look for may include:

  • Outdoor sports
  • Swimming pool
  • Fitness centers
  • Gardens
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Meditation

Other Symptoms of Benzo Withdrawal

It can be a dangerous and difficult process to withdrawal from benzos. You may feel anxious for many weeks. Everything around you can also be irritating. Besides insomnia being common, you may have headaches and tremors the first week. 

The severity of your symptoms can vary depending on:

  • Your current dose
  • How long you have been using
  • Poly benzo use
  • If you take any sedatives
  • Other substance use disorders

The onset of withdrawal symptoms depends on the type of benzo you take. But, possible symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Drug cravings
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Hand tremors
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headache
  • Aches and pains
  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Hyperventilating
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Problems concentrating
  • Delirium
  • Grand mal seizures

Phases of Benzo Withdrawal: How Long Do Benzo Withdrawals Last?

Benzos are commonly misused with other drugs and alcohol. This action is known as poly-drug misuse and influences the timeline and severity of withdrawal symptoms. Unlike most other drugs, benzo withdrawal has phases of withdrawal.

The main phases of benzo withdrawal include early withdrawal, acute withdrawal, and protracted withdrawal. In the early withdrawal phase, symptoms typically start within a few hours to a few days of the last dose. In this phase, your anxiety may return along with insomnia. 

The return of pre-medication issues is called the rebound effect. The brain is trying to rebound without medication. However, this can be minimized by tapering the drug during medical detox. 

Acute withdrawal may begin a few days after the last dose. This phase involves the majority of the withdrawal process. During this phase, medication-assisted treatment can be beneficial in benzo withdrawal pain relief.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors can happen in the acute phase. So psychotherapy and support groups are vital in understanding your emotions. On average, the acute withdrawal phase can last between 2 weeks and a few months. 

Lastly, the protracted phase can last for several months or even years after your last dose. You may experience tingling in your arms and legs, prolonged anxiety and insomnia, cognitive defects, and depression. These symptoms can come and go – sometimes you will go months without a sign, and then they come back. 

Medical Detox Eases Benzo Withdrawal Pain Relief

Benzo withdrawal pain relief, including “benzo belly,” is one focus of medical detox. Medical detox is generally an inpatient program – meaning you live in the treatment center. Medical staff and doctors anticipate and treat benzo withdrawal pain relief and offer a safe recovery.

Benzo detox typically involves tapering or gradually reducing your daily dose. This reduction continues until all symptoms are gone. Including “benzo belly.” Stopping benzos, cold-turkey is never recommended due to severe risks, including seizures. 

Co-Occurring Anxiety and Benzo Addiction

Did your benzo use leave you struggling with addiction and your initial struggles of anxiety? If so, dual diagnosis treatment programs can address both struggles. Once you complete detox, therapy helps you understand your addiction and manage your anxiety.

Therapies in treatment may include:

  • Psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Holistic therapies including yoga and meditation
  • Behavioral modification therapy
  • Relapse prevention

Treatment at Discovery Institute

At Discovery Institute, our comprehensive programs address all addiction and mental health struggles. Our medical detox program can help if you are struggling with an addiction to benzos or need benzo withdrawal pain relief. Contact us today to find out how.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

References:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007645/
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1675688/