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Restoril Withdrawal: Side Effects, Recommendations, and Timelines

Restoril is a benzodiazepine that is prescribed for the treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders. It is an effective medication, but for people who are desperate for sleep relief, the temptation to abuse it can be overwhelming. Doing so brings about a number of problems, including an addiction to the Restoril. Attempting to stop consumption after this can cause distressing withdrawal symptoms.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

The danger is that when the Restoril consumption stops – either because the supply runs out or because of concern regarding addiction – the brain cannot simply return to its pre-Restoril state. The entire central nervous system has become so dependent on the benzodiazepine to do the work of calming nervous activity for it, that the sudden deprivation of the Restoril throws multiple systems into chaos. This process is called withdrawal, where the patient undergoes a number of physically and psychologically distressing symptoms because of the drug’s absence.

Restoril withdrawal is not fatal in and of itself; however, if a patient is in poor health, has a co-occurring substance abuse disorder or a mental health illness, or has genetic factors for another medical complication, then the drastic changes brought about by withdrawal can lead to the development of a medical problem that could, if left unchecked, be dangerous to health. 

Specific symptoms of Restoril withdrawal are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Mood swings and agitation
  • Periods of anxiety and depression
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Restoril cravings

While Restoril withdrawal will not cause death, the associated diarrhea and vomiting can deprive patients of vital nutrients and fluids. If these are not replenished, the resultant malnutrition and dehydration can cause organ failure, which can be life-threatening.

Unique to Restoril withdrawal is the issue of memory loss because the drug can cause short-term gaps in memory. This is why doctors are very careful when prescribing temazepam. As a patient withdraws from Restoril, there might be brief periods of mental disorientation and confused memories. This will pass in time, and if the patient is in the company of medical professionals, they can provide assurance and safety until memory returns.

Withdrawal is a necessary experience if a person wants to break their dependence on a benzodiazepine for their sleep needs. As a result, one of the first steps in the recovery process is to carefully wean the need for Restoril. When done with medical supervision, the process is known as medical detoxification, and it is safer and less painful than withdrawing without any help.

Restoril (Temazepam)

To understand how and why Restoril withdrawal happens, it is necessary to look at what Restoril is and how it works. Restoril is the brand name for the generic drug temazepam, which belongs to a category of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are specially formulated to affect the brain in a very precise way: stimulating the brain to release a particular neurotransmitter, known as GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), especially for those who cannot make enough of that neurotransmitter on their own.

The GABA neurotransmitter is released to calm electrical activity in the brain and central nervous system. This is usually done as a response to stress, helping people relax, balance their mood, and prepare them for sleep. For many people, the production and release of the GABA neurotransmitter is a normal function of their brains; many other people, however, have brains that cannot produce enough GABA. This may be due to genetic factors, substance abuse, or any number of other reasons. Whatever the cause, people with this problem do not have the necessary GABA to regulate their moods, control their reactions to stress and anxiety, or enjoy enough sleep.

This is where benzodiazepines come in. The medications target the brain to stimulate GABA production, giving these people a burst of the necessary neurotransmitters to help them with their anxiety and/or sleep. Benzodiazepines effectively slow down the central nervous system, inducing strong sensations of calm, rest, and tranquility. For people who are prone to insomnia or panic and anxiety attacks, this can feel like a blessing.

Different benzodiazepines work at different rates. In Restoril’s case, it is within the range of a short-acting benzodiazepine to an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine. Patients feel its effects within 20 minutes after they take a dose, and the peak effect is felt around 90 minutes later. After this point, the drug is broken down by the liver, and most of it is excreted through the urine. Restoril’s half-life is around nine hours, meaning it takes nine hours for half of the original dose to be fully metabolized.

The Risks of Restoril

young woman with hands over her face addicted to heroin and cocaine

When prescribed and taken properly, a benzodiazepine like Restoril can help a patient fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and reduce the occurrences of waking up during the night. The medication is usually limited to only one or two weeks. If insomnia continues after that period, patients should consult their doctor and not continue taking Restoril.

One reason for this is that Restoril can become habit-forming. People receive such relief from their insomnia symptoms that they might persist with taking the drug for more than the two-week prescription period, or they might increase their doses beyond the prescribed amount. This can provide welcome relief from insomnia, but it also has the result of the patient becoming unhealthily dependent on the GABA-boosting effects of Restoril, to the point where the only time they feel calm, relaxed, and ready for sleep is when they take it.

For others, Restoril consumption is for recreational purposes. They may not have anxiety or insomnia issues, but they enjoy the enhanced calm they feel when they take the medication, or they experience deeper sleep than they normally do. This can be pleasing at first, but it creates a harmful and unnecessary connection between relaxation and sleep and Restoril.

Additionally, the more Restoril is consumed, the increasingly higher amounts the body needs to experience the sedative effects. This is known as drug tolerance, where a person is compelled to take more and more Restoril to feel the same basic effects, all the while forcing the brain to release the GABA neurotransmitter beyond safe levels. This is why a doctor will not write a prescription for Restoril for longer than two weeks.

Withdrawal Timeline

man suffering from percocet side effects sitting in grey hoodie

The first effects of withdrawing from Restoril are typically felt within four days of the last dose. There are multiple phases to Restoril withdrawal, and the timeline for the whole process depends on the length and extent of use, if the patient was using other drugs at the same time, and the patient’s overall physical and mental health condition.

In the early stages of withdrawal, patients will likely experience a return of their insomnia because the lack of Restoril means they have insufficient GABA to calm their central nervous systems. This also has the result of an increase in anxiety levels. To better manage this process, doctors will very gradually reduce the Restoril dose, staggering the doses so the patient has time to get used to the diminishing amounts. They might also prescribe other benzodiazepines for their respective anti-anxiety properties, ensuring the doses are precise enough to not push the patient into becoming dependent on the new medications.

This early phase can last up to four days, after which patients will likely experience the brunt of the withdrawal symptoms. There is sometimes severe anxiety and insomnia for those going without Restoril as well as other psychological symptoms, and it is very inadvisable for people to experience this without medical care and intervention. Without such oversight, it is possible that people might experience seizures, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts. The best way for these to be addressed is with a combination of other medications and therapy.

Recommendations and Recovery

Past this point, further physical and psychological symptoms might linger for a couple weeks, but they will gradually diminish with time and care. To ensure that withdrawal is completely over, patients should remain under observation until their doctors are sure they are ready to begin more long-term care, which will include group and family counseling, peer support, and other programs.

This will inevitably mean that Restoril is no longer an option for treating insomnia, but many other remedies can be used. This might cover lifestyle changes, such as avoiding any chemicals like caffeine that interfere with sleep, establishing a pre-sleep routine, and establishing consistent bedtime and wake-up times. It might mean continuing to work with a therapist, a process that can help people change the thought patterns that lead to sleep problems. In some ways, this can be even more effective than sleep medications because it can address the underlying causes behind the insomnia.

When done right, recovery from Restoril abuse and withdrawal will allow people to enjoy healthy sleep, devoid of anxiety, without the compulsive need for chemical aids.

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