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Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment Options: Everything You Need to Know

Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs that primarily act as central nervous system depressants. They are commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and other conditions. Examples of benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and lorazepam (Ativan). They work by increasing the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which leads to a reduction in the activity of certain brain regions and produces a calming effect. Long-term use of benzodiazepines can lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms, so they are typically prescribed for short-term use. Keep reading to learn about benzodiazepine addiction treatment options.

Why Benzodiazepines Are Addictive

Benzodiazepines can be addictive because they can create a feeling of euphoria or a sense of well-being when taken in high doses or for an extended period of time. Additionally, when the body becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug, it may require more of the drug to achieve the same effect, leading to an increased tolerance.

Prolonged use can also lead to physical dependence, which means that the body becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug and can experience withdrawal symptoms if the drug is suddenly stopped. This can make it difficult to stop taking the drug, even if a person wants to.

Other factors that may increase the risk of addiction include:

Genetics

Some people may have a genetic predisposition to addiction.

Mental Health Disorders

People with certain mental health conditions may be more likely to become addicted to benzodiazepines.

Concurrent Substance Abuse

People who abuse other substances, such as alcohol or opioids, may be more likely to become addicted to benzodiazepines.

Age

Older adults may be more susceptible to the addictive effects of benzodiazepines due to changes in their metabolism.

Benzodiazepines should be used only under the guidance of a healthcare professional, and should be tapered off gradually under medical supervision to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment Options for Benzodiazepine Addiction

Treatment for benzodiazepine addiction typically involves a combination of medication, therapy, and support groups. The specific treatment plan will depend on the individual’s needs and circumstances.

Detox

Benzodiazepine detox is the process of safely stopping the use of benzodiazepines under the supervision of a healthcare professional. The goal of detox is to minimize withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications.

Benzodiazepines have a slow elimination half-life, which means that they can stay in the body for a long time after the last dose. Therefore, the detox process can take several weeks or even months, and it should be done gradually to minimize withdrawal symptoms and prevent seizures or other complications. The detox should be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional who can monitor the patient’s progress and adjust the dosage of benzodiazepines as needed.

The specific detox plan will depend on the individual’s needs and circumstances, including the type and dosage of benzodiazepines they were taking, and how long they have been taking them. Some people may require a longer or shorter detox period than others.

During detox, individuals may experience a range of withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, insomnia, tremors, seizures, and hallucinations. These symptoms can be treated with medications, such as anti-anxiety medications, anti-seizure medications, and antipsychotics.

Medication

There are several medications that may be used to help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings during benzodiazepine detox and addiction treatment.

Antidepressants: Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), may be prescribed to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression that can occur during withdrawal.

Anti-anxiety Medications: Benzodiazepine receptor agonists (BRAs) such as buspirone, which is an anxiolytic, may be used as an alternative to benzodiazepines for the treatment of anxiety.

Anticonvulsant Medications: These medications can help to prevent seizures that may occur during withdrawal from benzodiazepines.

Anti-psychotics: These medications may be used to help with hallucinations, delusions or other symptoms of psychosis.

It’s important to note that these medications should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional and should be tapered off gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms. They should not be used as a long-term solution, but rather as a tool to help manage withdrawal symptoms and ease the transition to a medication-free state. In addition to medication, therapy and support groups can play an important role in helping individuals to overcome benzodiazepine addiction, by addressing the underlying causes of addiction and helping individuals to develop new coping mechanisms and strategies to avoid relapse.

Behavioral Interventions

Therapy can be an important part of treatment for benzodiazepine overdose. There are several types of therapy that may be used to help individuals overcome addiction and develop new coping mechanisms to avoid relapse.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

This type of therapy focuses on identifying and changing negative patterns of thought and behavior that may be contributing to addiction. CBT can help individuals to understand the underlying causes of their addiction and develop new coping mechanisms to deal with stress and triggers for drug use.

Motivational interviewing (MI)

This type of therapy is designed to help individuals who are ambivalent about change to become more motivated to make a change. Motivational Interviewing focuses on helping the individual to explore and resolve any ambivalence about stopping their drug use.

Trauma-focused therapy

Many individuals who are struggling with addiction may have a history of trauma. Trauma-focused therapy may include talk therapy, EMDR, and other forms of therapy that help to address the underlying emotional and psychological issues related to trauma.

Family therapy

Family therapy can be beneficial for individuals who are struggling with addiction as it can help to address the impact of addiction on family dynamics and relationships.

Group therapy

Group therapy can provide a sense of community and support for people recovering from benzodiazepine addiction. Group therapy can help individuals to share their experiences, learn from others, and gain insight into the recovery process.

It is essential to ensure that you opt for the therapist that has experience working with addiction and is trained in the appropriate modalities, as therapy can be an important part of the recovery process, helping individuals to understand the underlying causes of their addiction, develop new coping mechanisms and strategies to avoid relapse, and regain control of their lives.

Aftercare

Recovery from benzodiazepine addiction is an ongoing process, and aftercare is an important part of the treatment process. Aftercare may include ongoing therapy, support groups, and medication management to help people maintain their progress and stay on track.

Because the treatment of benzodiazepine addiction is a gradual and delicate process, it should be supervised by a healthcare professional that understands the risks of withdrawal and the possible complications, and it should be tailored to each person.

Signs You Are Addicted to Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepine addiction can be difficult to recognize, as it often develops gradually over time. However, there are certain signs and symptoms that may indicate that a person has become addicted to benzodiazepines. Signs of addiction include:

  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Using more than prescribed
  • Difficulty stopping
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Social isolation
  • Persistent cravings
  • Mental health issues

Commonly Misused Benzodiazepines

Though benzodiazepines are prescription drugs and are used for easing off symptoms of anxiety and depression, they can be very addictive. 

Alprazolam (Xanax)

Alprazolam is a short-acting benzodiazepine that is commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It is also widely abused due to its sedative and euphoric effects.

Diazepam (Valium)

Diazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine that is commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. It is also widely abused for its sedative and muscle-relaxing effects.

Lorazepam (Ativan)

Lorazepam is a short-acting benzodiazepine that is commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. It is also widely abused for its sedative and euphoric effects.

Clonazepam (Klonopin)

Clonazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine that is commonly prescribed to treat seizures, panic disorder, and anxiety. It is also widely abused for its sedative and euphoric effects.

Temazepam (Restoril)

Temazepam is a short-acting benzodiazepine that is commonly prescribed to treat insomnia. It is also widely abused for its sedative effects.

Risks of Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepine addiction can lead to a range of physical and psychological health risks:

  • Overdose
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Dependence
  • Tolerance
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Mental health issues
  • Reduced effectiveness
  • Interaction with other medications

Overdosing on benzodiazepine can result in death. Overdosing on benzodiazepines can be a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Benzodiazepine overdose can occur when an individual takes too much of the drug, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment: Takeaway

Thank you for reading our resource on benzodiazepine addiction treatment options. In conclusion, benzodiazepine addiction is a serious condition that can be difficult to overcome without proper treatment. Treatment for benzodiazepine addiction typically involves a combination of medication, therapy, and support groups, and it should be tailored to the individual’s needs and circumstances. Detox is the first step in the treatment process, which helps to minimize withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications. Medications, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, anticonvulsant and anti-psychotics, can help to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI), can help individuals to understand the underlying causes of their addiction and develop new coping mechanisms to avoid relapse. Support groups and aftercare are also important parts of the treatment process, to help individuals maintain their progress and stay on track in their recovery. With the right treatment, individuals can regain control of their lives and overcome their addiction.

Need help with addiction treatment? Find mental health professionals that treat addictions.

Jordyn Mastrodomenico LPC, LCADC CTP
Author: Jordyn Mastrodomenico LPC, LCADC CTP

Jordyn is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC) and Certified Trauma Professional (CTP). She holds a Master's degree in Mental Health Counseling, from Caldwell University, Jordyn has extensive experience in Outpatient and Intensive Outpatient settings and is skilled at guiding clients through the recovery process in individual and group therapy sessions.

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