Withdrawal

In withdrawal, symptoms occur which the patient has not previously experienced. They come on a day or two after stopping alprazolam or loraze-pam, after a week or so on stopping diazepam or chlordiazepoxide. The symptoms rise to a crescendo and then usually subside over two to four weeks. In an unfortunate few, the symptoms seem to persist for months on end—sometimes called the post-withdrawal syndrome. The existence of this condition is disputed by some doctors, who ascribe the symptoms to return of the original anxiety for which the drug was given.

Patients commonly experience bodily symptoms of anxiety such as tremor, palpitations, dry mouth, or hot and cold feelings. Insomnia is usually marked. Some complain of unpleasant feelings of being out of touch with reality or with their own bodies. Severe headaches and muscle aches and pains can occur, sleep is greatly disturbed, appetite is lost as is several pounds of weight. Disturbances of perception are characteristic of benzodiazepine withdrawal and include intolerance to loud noises or bright lights, numbness or pins and needles, unsteadiness, a feeling of being in motion (as on a ship at sea), and a sensing of strange smells and tastes. Some people become quite depressed; rarely, some experience epileptic fits or a paranoid psychosis (with feelings of persecution and loss of contact with reality).

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