Benzodiazepines are a group of drugs that include alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan). Most often prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders, these medicines take effect fairly quickly, usually within one hour after they are taken. Unfortunately, due to tolerance, many people may abuse benzos and require treatment. To learn more about overcoming benzo abuse, you might want to get a better understanding of this class of drugs, learn about the most effective treatment option for dealing with benzo abuse, and get some insights about what to do after treatment for benzos.
While benzos are most often prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders, they are also prescribed for other conditions, such as muscle spasms, epilepsy, other seizure disorders, phobias, panic disorder, withdrawal from alcohol, and short-term sleep problems.
Unfortunately, benzos have the potential for abuse. While the side effects of benzodiazepine use can include confusion, slurred speech, lack of coordination, dizziness, headache, and nausea, they are not often perceived as being serious or excessively uncomfortable. However, it is not so much the side effects as it is the potential for abuse that people need to be concerned about.
Patients who take a benzodiazepine for more than a few weeks may become dependent on the drug. This occurs most often due to the development of tolerance, meaning the current dosage of the medication no longer produces the desired effect and so the patient increases the dose. In other cases, tolerance may occur when a person stays on the drug for a longer period of time than what is medically required.
If you start experiencing behavior changes such as confusion and agitation, you may want to consider reducing or discontinuing the use of the benzo. However, because benzodiazepines tend to accumulate in the body, withdrawal symptoms may not appear immediately but may include anxiety, tingling, headache, nervousness, irritability, sleep problems, digestive problems, tremors, and even seizures.
Treatment Options for Benzo Abuse
Many people who abuse benzos initially were prescribed the medication for the treatment of an anxiety disorder. When people are struggling with both a mental health issue, such as anxiety and a substance abuse disorder, the most recommended form of treatment is an integrated treatment program for the dual diagnosis.
The relationship between a mental health illness and substance abuse disorder is complex, and the treatment of people with a dual diagnosis is more complicated than the treatment of either condition alone.
An integrated treatment program is effective in dealing with dual diagnosis because the treatment approach is coordinated and addresses the issues simultaneously. For people who abuse benzos, it may be necessary to have a medically managed reduction program. At the same time, they may need counseling to explore the underlying issues that brought about their anxiety disorder.
An inpatient integrated treatment program gives people the opportunity to fully devote their focus and energy in a structured environment to concentrate on receiving the combined services they need to remove the drugs from the body and simultaneously look at the causes of their anxiety.
In addition, integrated treatment programs offer services to families, friends, and others to help them learn how to provide empathic and non-judgmental support to their loved ones.
Through medical supervision coupled with counseling, people who struggle with a dual diagnosis can learn the skills necessary to identify triggers, implement coping strategies, and engage in appropriate aftercare support to live a productive life.
Benzodiazepine Recovery Tips
With a better understanding of benzo abuse and the effective treatment program, you will also want to have a set of strategies that you can rely on on after treatment to help you avoid relapse. A primary aftercare requirement is to seek ongoing support through family, support groups, or other aftercare programs. In addition, the Psychiatric Medication Awareness Group provides additional strategies including the following:
- Acknowledge that you are struggling with physical, mental, and emotional symptoms of withdrawal from benzos and that it is going to take time to heal.
- Be patient with the timing of your treatment and recovery. Getting disappointed, frustrated, or discouraged if you are not progressing as quickly as you had hoped is counter-productive to your recovery.
- Understand that setbacks and relapse are common in most chronic diseases and addiction is no different. The most important thing to do should a relapse occur is to immediately get back into treatment.
- Realize that during recovery you may experience a wide range of emotions and that these emotional changes are typical. However, you should also reach out if your emotional state may impact your recovery.
- Know that there is no magic cure for recovery and that it is crucial to get the treatment you need to give your body and brain the tools to heal.
- Keep in mind that during recovery you need to stay away from stress. Ask your partner, family, and others for reassurance, and go back to the tools you learned early in rehab if you are experiencing really tough symptoms.
- Be sure to eat well, avoid stimulants, get exercise, engage in relaxation strategies, and get plenty of sleep.
- Be kind and accepting to yourself during your recovery, but also remain vigilant of any risks of relapse and act immediately to avoid relapse.