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Woman having stomach pains from benzo belly

Benzo Belly: What Causes It?

Benzo belly is a withdrawal symptom many people experience when quitting benzodiazepines, also known as benzos. People who try to quit cold turkey may have some uncomfortable consequences. Still, medical detoxes provide a safe way for them to stop taking the drug in an environment that stimulates their minds and bodies with healthy activities.

Benzodiazepines and Benzo Belly 

Benzodiazepines play an important role in the medical world, though they can be overwhelmingly addictive. More than 12% of Americans use benzos, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Benzo abuse is not the most common prescription drug addiction, but 2% of the 30 million people who take benzos are addicted to them. 

According to a national survey, over 17% of the 30 million Americans who take benzos have abused their prescription at least once before. Misuse of benzos can easily translate into a substance use disorder as the drug can be extremely addictive. 

Benzo Belly: Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzo belly can refer to a variety of withdrawal symptoms from benzos. It is possible for people to experience benzo belly even if they are not misusing the substance. That being said, benzo withdrawal symptoms such as benzo belly can last anywhere from a few weeks to over a year. Possible benzo withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Hand tremors
  • Headache
  • Racing pulse
  • Sweating
  • Hyperventilation
  • Aches and pains
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Abnormal boy sensations
  • Increased physical sensitivity
  • Issues with memory or concentration
  • Visual disturbances
  • Delirium
  • Grand mal seizures
  • Hallucinations

Consistent benzo use can lead to a physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Since benzos change brain chemistry, the brain adapts to its new normal, which can lead to issues when stopping benzo use cold turkey. Symptoms more closely related to benzo belly include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Appetite changes

Research shows that stopping benzo use can trigger mental illness as well. One study reports that rebound anxiety may occur after a person’s last dose of benzodiazepines if they have a psychological dependence. 

What Causes Benzo Belly?  

When a person consumes benzos, it affects their central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is made up of the brain and spinal cord. When people consume these drugs, it impacts how they think since it affects neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters send messages throughout the body to deliver information from one neuron connection or pathway to another. 

One way in which consuming benzos alters thinking patterns is by targeting neurons with certain chemicals like GABA, for instance. Not only does GABA cause sedation when consumed, but it also slows down neurotransmission within those cells. Benzo belly happens partly due to what this drug has done on your body’s central nervous system.

What Is GABA?

GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is one of the types of neurotransmitters within the brain. It is one of the most common types of brain hormones found within the central nervous system. GABA is known as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it slows down the messages that neurons send throughout the brain and body. This results in the body’s systems slowing down and becoming more relaxed. 

Benzos target and bind to GABA receptors. By doing so, they block the receptors, causing GABA to sit in the brain and not move elsewhere. This gives the user a calming effect since the brain has more GABA to work with. 

Benzo Belly: What Causes It?

The central nervous system is complex. When something is off-balance within the body and brain, the CNS tries to maintain balance in different ways. When involving benzos for a long period, the brain becomes conditioned to the receptor blockage, which leads to less GABA production or even less production of the receptors that receive it. 

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines is mostly derived from a lack of GABA within the brain. In this instance, the brain is unbalanced and can’t cope with the chemical imbalance, leading to a violent reaction, such as benzo belly. 

Benzo belly can also occur if someone develops a tolerance to benzos and increases their dosage to feel “normal.” According to NIDA, the brain becomes less sensitive when a chemical imbalance is present, especially the area of the brain that gives a rewarding feeling. As a person’s benzo tolerance increases, they will need more of the substance to receive the rewarding feeling substances as benzos provide. 

The Gut-Brain Connection

According to a Harvard Medical School blog, the brain directly affects the GI tract (gastrointestinal tract). The stomach and intestines are contained within the GI tract, and if the brain sends down troubling signals to the system, it can cause irritation. For example, this gut-brain connection is responsible for when people feel disgusted or nervous, and they become nauseous, and in some cases even vomit. 

When people experience brain chemistry imbalance from a lack of GABA, the brain sends signals to the GI tract. In some cases, the distress can result in benzo belly and other extremely uncomfortable and sometimes fatal withdrawal symptoms. 

What Are Benzodiazepines? 

Benzodiazepines, commonly known as benzos, are a type of psychoactive drug classified as a depressant. Depressants lower brain activity and are used to treat conditions like insomnia, anxiety, and seizures. Benzos are depressants that increase the effect of GABA, which results in sedative, anxiolytic, hypnotic, anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxation properties. 

High doses of benzos can cause dissociation and anterograde amnesia. This makes benzodiazepines useful in intermediary or short-term use. Overall, benzos are viewed as effective and safe for short-term use. Short-term use usually means about two to four weeks. While taking benzos, even for a short period, cognitive impairment and aggression or behavioral disinhibition effects can occur. 

Common benzodiazepines include:

  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)
  • Oxazepam (Serax)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Flurazepam (Dalmane)

Benzos are often used for more than just putting people in a state of relation. Some benzos relax muscles, which makes them effective for treating muscle spasms. In some circumstances, benzos can help people fight symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Though benzos have a relatively high risk of addiction, it may not be the best course of action for individuals with highly addictive traits. 

Benzo Belly Relief

Benzo belly is not a curable issue. Benzo belly varies from person to person and can range from mild to severe. However, benzo belly relief can be found in a number of ways. Since it is a GI issue, there are steps you can take to find relief. Changes in diet and other similar issues having to do with the gut can impact benzo belly relief. 

Those looking for benzo belly relief should avoid greasy foods or other foods known to upset the stomach. Therefore, people suffering from benzo withdrawal symptoms should stick to nutritious and light meals.

Studies show that acidic and spicy foods can make the effects of benzo belly worse. It may help to take probiotics to aid digestion. Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut can be beneficial since some probiotic dairy products can cause an upset stomach. 

Addiction Treatment For Benzodiazepines

Alcohol and drug addiction require professional intervention. At Intrepid Detox Residential, we provide a continuum of care that balances evidence-based traditional programs with holistic treatments catered to each individual. Benzo withdrawal symptoms are extremely dangerous, and it is crucial detox is done in a medically assisted setting. After a successful detox, we offer residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, followed by outpatient and aftercare.

Medical Detox

Medical detox is essential in the treatment process for a variety of reasons. Simply put, detox ensures that each individual in treatment is beginning their road to recovery with a completely sober mind and body. More importantly, medical detox programs provide a safe environment for people to stop using and, in some cases withdrawal, from the substance they are addicted to. 

Depending on the substance, withdrawal symptoms can be severely uncomfortable and even fatal. Benzo withdrawal symptoms are known to be some of the most severe. Therefore, anyone stopping the use of benzos should seek a medical detox program that will provide the necessary medical attention and medication.  

Inpatient Drug Rehab 

Inpatient rehab, also known as residential treatment, is the next step after a successful detox. Most inpatient programs last from 30 to 45 days, or even longer, depending on the severity of the addiction. At Intrepid, we offer a tailored program that is unique to each individual. Our addiction specialists help create a customized treatment plan that fits each person’s needs. 

Inpatient treatment works well for people with moderate to severe addiction since it provides 24/7 support and monitoring. This live-in program is structured and designed to help people live a sober and fulfilling life while learning skills that help prevent relapse

Outpatient Drug Rehab

Outpatient programs do not require people to live at the treatment facility. For some, this can be beneficial since they can keep some home responsibilities when they return home after treatment. For others, the lack of complete structure and monitoring can present a high risk of relapse. 

In addition, outpatient rehab is less expensive than inpatient, but cost should not be a limiting factor when talking about addiction. Many people use outpatient rehab as a transitional level of care after completing inpatient treatment. Although Intrepid doesn’t offer outpatient programs, we do have other calculated levels of care. This puts our clients in the best position to maintain and sustain sobriety and a healthy living style. 

Find Help at Intrepid Detox

Addiction is a battle that should not be fought alone. Benzo addiction is highly dangerous but also treatable. If you or a loved one are struggling with benzo addiction or trying to stop using substances, please call us today. 

Our trained staff can help you work through benzo withdrawal symptoms in the most comfortable and safe way possible. Freedom from addiction is just one call away.