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How To Get Off Benzos

Despite benzos being frequently prescribed medications, they actually carry many health risks due to their highly addictive quality. Physical dependence can develop quickly, and addiction treatment is necessary to quit the drug safely.

As benzo withdrawal symptoms are among the most intense and dangerous, the withdrawal period can be highly uncomfortable, especially when someone stops using benzos suddenly.

Tapering benzodiazepines as part of medical detox is the safest and most effective way to ensure a long-term recovery. Find out more about how to get off benzos here.

What Are Benzos?

Benzos, or benzodiazepines, are sedative drugs commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and insomnia. They can also be used to control seizures, relax muscles, and help with alcohol withdrawal. Benzos can additionally be used as a medication before surgery in medical settings.

Benzodiazepines work by interacting with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain and body, leading to feelings of relaxation. In addition, the overstimulation that occurs in the brain during a period of anxiety can be counteracted by benzodiazepines.

Typically prescribed by medical professionals, there are a variety of benzodiazepine drugs with different uses. Some of the common benzodiazepines include:

  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Versed (midazolam)

When used within medical guidelines, benzos can be effective and safe in the short term. However, they are not safe to use long-term due to their addictive quality. Unbeknown to many, it is possible to become dependent on benzos within as little as two to four weeks, which is when their adverse side effects usually arise.

What Is Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?

Benzos are incredibly addictive – even people who have been prescribed them by a doctor are at risk of abusing them and becoming dependent. The greater the number of benzos that someone takes, the more severe their tolerance. Unfortunately, developing a tolerance to benzos makes it difficult to feel the intended effects when the drug is consumed.

Suddenly giving up benzos when the body has become dependent on them causes the body’s systems to go into overdrive in a bid to reset the neurotransmitter levels due to a lack of GABA. In turn, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms are experienced.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be hazardous and poses significant health risks, some of which can be life-threatening. This means that a benzodiazepine detox should never be attempted without the support of a licensed medical professional.

Quitting benzodiazepines cold turkey should never be tried as this can be fatal. It is imperative to go through detox by tapering benzodiazepines with professional support rather than stopping taking them suddenly to mitigate the harmful side effects.

What Are Withdrawal Symptoms?

Benzo withdrawal symptoms commonly start within 24 hours of last being used, but they can take longer to begin and can last from a few days to months. The severity of benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms will depend on various factors, such as:

  • Dosage
  • The length of benzodiazepine use
  • Underlying psychiatric symptoms
  • Genes
  • Individual body type

Short-acting benzos, such as Xanax, leave the bloodstream faster than long-acting benzos, such as Valium. This means that Xanax withdrawal symptoms usually start quicker than those of Valium.

Some common benzo withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Tension
  • Shaking
  • Problems concentrating
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Aches and pains
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Hypersensitivity

Rebound Effects

Unfortunately, the symptoms that benzos are often prescribed to treat, such as anxiety and sleep issues, can return once the drug has been discontinued. This is what is known as a rebound effect.

Anxiety and insomnia are both symptoms that arise during benzo withdrawal. For many people, it can be confusing to determine whether these symptoms are withdrawal symptoms or a return of mental health conditions.

What Are Severe Withdrawal Symptoms?

Quitting benzos should only be done under the guidance of a licensed medical professional. During this time, those in treatment receive a personalized treatment plan to ensure that their individual needs are met and closely monitored. Not only does this help make the tapering experience as comfortable as it can be, but it reduces the severity of some withdrawal symptoms.

However, a sudden cessation of taking benzos can be extremely dangerous. For this reason, it is not advised, especially for those who are heavily dependent. This is because the following severe withdrawal symptoms may surface:

  • Hallucinations and delirium
  • Psychosis
  • Grand mal seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts

How To Taper Off Benzos

When a person becomes physically dependent on benzos, they will need to go through a gradual taper with the help of professional medical advice and detox. Tapering off a substance means gradually weaning off the drug by slowly reducing drug intake – this is the best way to prevent the most intense withdrawal symptoms.

Benzo tapers can be categorized into two main strategies:

  • Direct Tapers. A direct taper works by slowly reducing the dosage of benzodiazepines over time.
  • Substitution tapers. Substitution tapers involve switching short-acting benzos, such as Xanax or Ativan, to long-acting benzos, such as Valium.

A benzodiazepine taper plan should be personalized, taking into account each person’s health history, environmental factors, and reasons for taking the drug in the first place. A substance abuse assessment should be conducted for those seeking addiction treatment, and mental health conditions should be closely monitored during the tapering process.

A tapering guide from the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder suggests reducing the dose by 25% to 30% for those who take a higher dose and are chronic users, to begin with. This should then be reduced by a 5% to 10% daily to a weekly dose.

However, the treatment process under medical supervision generally suggests that each person’s benzo use should be reduced by 10% increments weekly, and in some cases, by 25%. Though this may be effective for some, each person will require a different treatment plan, so it is vital only to complete this process under medical guidance.

It should be noted that a benzo taper does not mean that a person will not experience any withdrawal symptoms, as mild symptoms may still arise.

What Addiction Treatment Is Available for Long-Term Recovery?

Once a person has successfully tapered off benzos and the physical symptoms have subsided, they will need to seek additional treatment for the psychological side effects and underlying mental disorders that may have caused the initial drug abuse.

Additional treatment options include lifestyle changes and psychological support to uncover the root cause of benzo addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, and support groups are all ways to improve mental health and develop coping mechanisms during recovery.

Furthermore, many people benefit from additional treatments, such as:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Exercise


Benzodiazepines should be used with caution and only under the strict guidelines set out by a medical professional to prevent them from being abused. As noted above, benzos are somewhat addictive, and benzo withdrawal can be dangerous if the drug is suddenly discontinued.

A gradual taper through dose reduction in increments each week is recommended to beat the physical dependence safely. Those who are taking short-acting benzos may be required to switch to longer-acting benzo during medical detox. Different medications may be administered to help those in recovery overcome withdrawal symptoms and make the process more manageable.

After medical detox, therapy, counseling, lifestyle changes, and support groups are all beneficial. Drug addiction is frightening, but it can be overcome, and a life free from benzodiazepines is possible.

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To find out more contact our team


Kim L. Buckner


As a Substance Abuse Motivational Speaker, Pastor, Peer Advocate, and Facilitator. Kim helps clients avoid relapse by understanding their triggers. Those people, places and things that can cause craving, as well as internal triggers like feelings, thoughts, or emotions. Kim also clients with identifying and building healthy relationships now that they’re clean and sober.

Kim’s background includes extensive experience as a motivational speaker and work in faith-based organizations helping youth and adults alike. She says she is motivated by giving back to the community, understanding, and not judging who she comes into contact with. Kim’s favorite quote is by Dr. Raymond Johnson: “The respect given to others rebounds to the giver to deny the scared in the Other is to deny it in oneself.”

Caty Burns


Caty graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and minors in Counseling and History. Throughout her undergrad, she worked at the local CASA program, supporting volunteers advocating for children who had experienced abuse and neglect. Caty worked for seven years at a community mental health center (CMHC), partnering with children, adults, and families.

During those seven years, she taught life and coping skills as well as behavior management, provided case management and peer recovery services, and facilitated treatment teams that included the client, family, providers, and community members. I have also worked at an IOP providing group therapy services. She is currently working towards my Master of Social Work.

In her free time, Caty enjoys reading, especially historical fiction, spending time outdoors and having movie nights with her family. Disney World is her happy place, and she dreams of living among the elephants.

Madison Knowles

Mental Health Therapist

My name is Madison Knowles, I am a Mental health therapist at NPAC. I am a single-mother of two and I have a daughter who is globally delayed and has been diagnosed with autism. I have been in this industry since I was 16 years old, as I was fascinated with human behavior. I obtained my masters in applied behavioral analysis and started off working with people with disabilities. I then found my love for counseling when I worked with juveniles who had mental health and substance use issues. I then decided to go back for my mental health therapy license after that and working in a forensic treatment center. I went on to obtain my therapy credentials and since 2017, I have also been working on my PhD in forensic psychology in which I am currently working on my dissertation. I am inspired by change and how resilient people can be. My favorite inspirational quote is “Some will, Some won’t, So what, NEXT!!!” This quote has inspired me to try, try, and try again no matter how hard life gets, someone will give you a chance eventually. As a therapist at NPAC, I have been given the opportunity to work with diverse populations such as in substance use and mental health and I am known for my work with people on the schizophrenic spectrum as well as with other clients with other severe conditions including personality disorders.

Megan Carmona, LMHC

Lead Therapist

Our Lead Therapist, Megan, is a bilingual Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in working with adults who struggle with addiction, anxiety, depression, and trauma. As Lead Therapist, she provides individual, family, and group therapy sessions to our clients.  Megan says “I am very passionate about therapy, especially about supporting my clients in exploring their strengths and identity. My goal is to provide individuals with the tools that can help them achieve independence in coping with their challenges and facilitating personal development.” In her free time, Megan enjoys watching docu-series and playing video games with her family. Her dream is to own acres of land so she can care for vulnerable animals, especially old dogs, cats, and horses. 

Kristen Bensley

Primary Clinician

As Primary Clinician, Kristen works with all aspects of our clinical team, from case management to primary therapy.  She has broad experience working in the mental health field. Prior to joining our team at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic, Kristen was part of the team awarded the Evernorth Behavioral Health Center of Excellence Designation by Cigna. She says her motivation is to help people rediscover who they are and become excited about the future and all the possibilities life offers. Kristen’s favorite quote is: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Ronn Daigle, MSW

Therapist, Utilization Review Clinician

Ronn Daigle services as a Therapist and Utilization Review Clinician at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has been working in the field of substance use disorder treatment since 2011, with experience in all facility-based levels of care. Ronn earned, both an Associate of Arts in Psychology (2013) and Bachelor of Science in Human Services, with an Addiction Studies Concentration (2015) from Indian River State College. 

Ronn additionally earned a Master of Social Work degree in 2021 and is a current Registered Clinical Social Work Intern working toward licensure (LCSW). He describes himself as detail oriented, and solution focused.

Ronn says: “There is nothing more fulfilling than working with someone who doesn’t believe in himself or herself, and being there in the moment with them when the belief begins. We work with individuals who come to us at a point and time in their respective lives where they do not believe that change for others is possible; let alone for themselves…throughout the process they eventually come to a point where they realize that change is not only possible, but achievable.”

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI

Assistant Clinical Director

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI is the Assistant Clinical Director at Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic who specializes in the treatment of LGBTQ, addiction, as well as mental health disorders ranging from depression and anxiety, to Bipolar Disorder, trauma, personality disorders, psychotic disorders, and eating disorders. Erika utilizes a number of modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Mindfulness amongst others. Erika has been in practice for close to a decade and has earned her license in Mental Health Counseling, as well as being a Master’s Certified Addiction Professional. Erika has worked with many individuals including couples counseling and family therapy, and is fluent in Spanish.
Throughout my years of practice, one of the things I enjoy helping people find is inner peace. Whether you are in the deepest parts of depression, overrun by your anxiety, controlled by your addiction, or there are certain issues in your life that are negatively impacting your ability to function, and have a happy, healthy life, maybe now is the time to talk about it. I am a big believer in empowerment, working hard in therapy, and utilizing different techniques to help you regain that inner peace that may have been lost along the way. I want to work with you as a team because with two people, absolutely everything is possible. I want to be there as a therapist, to help build you up, support you, but also help you be honest with yourself and accountable. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, my biggest goal for you is going to be simple….for you to no longer need my services. Why? Because if you no longer need my services, it means that you have regained your peace, you have regained your strength, you have regained your confidence. It means that you now have the tools to address any issues that try to derail you, and best of all, you will have the insight to overcome and thrive. So let’s begin this journey together, and get you to the place you want to be, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and in your sobriety.

Aurelio Ayuso, MSW, LCSW, CAP, ICADC

Clinical Director

Aurelio has worked with those that suffer from the disease of addiction in adults and juveniles alike for over 10 years, beginning in the United States Navy where he proudly served for 20 years, working with those that were succumbed by addiction due to trauma and continuing his passion for helping those in need locally in Central Florida.

He specializes in both Addictions and Trauma, he has worked first as a therapist then as the clinical supervisor to both the Juvenile and Adult Drug Court programs in Brevard County. Aurelio has been instrumental in developing substance abuse treatment programs directly tailored to help those that also suffer from complex trauma due to their addiction. He has been recognized by several organizations for his forward thinking and ability to tailor treatment to individuals in the most restrictive environments.

Mr. Ayuso received his Graduate Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker as well as Certified Addictions Professional in the State of Florida, and Internationally Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor. Aurelio specializes in the treatment of Addiction, Trauma, and Abandonment using strength based strategies deeply rooted in Solution Focused, and Mindfulness Therapies. At the Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic he passionately develops holistic curriculums that foster the belief that through addressing the mind, body, and spirit together, the Disease of Addiction can be addressed successfully.

Robert Lehmann, MHSA

Chief Operating Officer

Bob Lehmann is the Chief Operating Officer at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Services Administration with a concentration in Mental Health Administration and over twenty-five years of experience as a senior executive at addiction and mental health treatment facilities.

One of the reasons for his commitment to excellence in addiction treatment was his experience related to family members who suffered from the disease of addiction. Bob has been actively involved in community organizations throughout his career. Recently he was one of the founders of the Florida Addiction Treatment Coalition (FATC) and is its present Vice President. FATC was designed to bring together treatment executives in Florida to advocate on behalf of treatment facilities and the clients they serve adhering to a foundation of integrity and service excellence.

Jose R. Toledo, M.D.

Medical Director

A well-rounded and accomplished individual, Jose R. Toledo, M.D., is the Medical Director of Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a neurologist with 25 years of experience and has been in private practice since 1991 on the Treasure Coast of Florida. He completed his neurology training at the State University of New York and his Fellowship training at the University of Pittsburgh in Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology.

He also completed 24 months of acute inpatient psychiatry at the Western Missouri Mental Health Center, University of Missouri in Kansas City. In 2008, Dr. Toledo participated in and was certified in the continuing medical education activity entitled “Buprenorphine and Office-Based Treatment of Opioid Dependence” from The Medical University of South Carolina during which began his quest to found and head Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a brain specialist with particular competence in addiction medicine and out-patient detoxification treatment and integrates the fields seamlessly. He is certified to prescribe Buprenorphine (Suboxone). He incorporates his background in neurology into the addiction field. Dr. Toledo is member/fellow of The American Medical Association, The Florida Medical Association and The American Society of Addiction Medicine