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What Helps With Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be intense and difficult to endure. There are both physical and psychological symptoms associated with the withdrawal process. However, it is possible to move on from benzodiazepine withdrawal and live a healthy life. One way to handle benzodiazepine withdrawal is to taper off of the drug. Ironically, other medications can be used to help individuals with benzodiazepine withdrawal, as well. Other treatment methods, such as group counseling and therapy, are more beneficial to the psychological side effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal. Such treatments are especially helpful in the maintenance of a user’s abstinence from benzodiazepines.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are drugs commonly used to treat sleep and anxiety disorders. The reason why these drugs are used for these purposes is because they are central nervous system depressants (commonly called tranquilizers and sedatives) and slow brain activity. Benzodiazepines are also called “downers” or “tranks.” Although useful for these valid reasons, benzodiazepines can be very dangerous because they are highly addictive. Individuals who use benzodiazepines are at risk for abuse and addiction, especially if they have abused other drugs in the past. The American Academy of Family Physicians reported that benzodiazepines are typically not the only drug of abuse used by individuals. Many benzodiazepine users pair the drug with other stimulants, particularly opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers.

The danger of the addiction comes to life when an individual experiences physical dependency on the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms without frequent use. Sadly, the majority of individuals abusing benzodiazepines initially accessed the drugs from a prescription. Each year, doctors write a higher number of prescriptions, leading to increased abuse of prescription medications. Even for users who do not intend to become addicted, it is incredibly easy to become addicted to these drugs. This makes it even more necessary to acknowledge their relationship with the drug. If an individual is struggling with an unhealthy relationship with benzodiazepines, please reach out. At Boardwalk Recovery Center, we have enough experience, hope, and strength to help users overcome any obstacles associated with benzodiazepines.

Today, more than fifteen types of benzodiazepine medications are available, including flunitrazepam, sold under the brand name Rohypnol, which has come to be called the “date-rape drug.” According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR), this drug has been used in many sexual assault cases. However, there are many other common benzodiazepines inappropriately abused including Valium, Xanax, Librium, and Ativan.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms occur on a spectrum. In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration reports that the severity of an individual’s withdrawal depends on their personal drug abuse. Withdrawal symptoms can differ depending on how long the individual had been abusing benzodiazepines and the dose of the drug they have been taking. Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Intense anxiety
  • Dysphoria
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Increased heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Seizures
  • Tremors

Short and Long Term Effects of Benzos

Conclusive data from CESAR explains that the short-term side effects for benzodiazepines vary greatly according to the type of drug, dose, and the person taking it, but common side effects of benzodiazepine use include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired thinking
  • Memory trouble
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Stuttering
  • Tremors
  • Vertigo
  • Vision changes
  • Vomiting

In addition, when using high doses of benzodiazepines, users may also experience mood swings, hostility, irregular behavior, delayed reactions, and euphoria.

The long-term side effects of benzodiazepines go beyond withdrawal. In fact, some benzodiazepines are actually intended to have a slow release of impact on the body. Some users take multiple doses or high dosages at once, and these individuals may not feel the effects right away. However, the chemicals of the drug begin to build up in the fatty tissues of the body, and can then result in over-sedation, which may be characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Impaired judgment
  • Memory troubles
  • Distressed thoughts
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Weak muscles
  • Other abnormal effects

Medication Assisted Treatment

Of course, handling withdrawal symptoms is easier with help and assistance from another person. In the US, the majority of successful treatment for benzodiazepine withdrawal comes via medically-assisted treatment. Considering the difficult mental and physical burden benzodiazepine withdrawal puts on the human body, having professional and medical support makes the difference by promoting a less painful withdrawal and a more successful recovery.

Health professionals and medical personnel are necessary for some forms of treatment for benzodiazepine withdrawal that require medication. Some medications can help an individual taper off the use of benzodiazepines. Tapering off benzodiazepines means users gradually decrease their doses of the drug until withdrawal is manageable. Although some medications help with withdrawal, medication-assisted therapy alone will most likely not be enough to completely assist a user from remaining abstinent from benzodiazepines.

To safely taper off benzodiazepines, medical professionals use a type of benzodiazepine that allows benzodiazepine users to get the same effects of the drug while slowly weaning off their use. Diazepam, known by the brand name Valium, is one drug utilized for this purpose. Diazepam can be effectively used in medication-assisted therapy because it has a slow elimination rate, meaning that the components of the drug leave the body slowly over time. Having a slow elimination rate gives the body the opportunity to adjust gradually to the lessened levels of benzodiazepines in the blood.

Another benefit of diazepam is that it comes in small doses, which not all benzodiazepines do. With tinier doses, it is possible to decrease the dosage over time, eventually giving half doses when the client is ready.

There are other medications available for the treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal tapering, such as Klonopin. It is important that doctors conduct a full assessment and diagnosis when making a decision about which medication they will use to treat an individual’s addiction. With this in-depth treatment, individuals addicted to benzodiazepines can be confident that their treatment tackles their addiction as a whole, not just the physical symptoms they may be experiencing.

Treatment For Benzo Withdrawal

Medication is commonly used in combination with other treatment approaches, such as group counseling and therapy. Most effects of medications are augmented when paired with other forms of treatment, such as behavioral therapy and counseling. More comprehensive approaches to treatment typically work best when healing from addiction. Many case studies demonstrate that having adequate psychosocial support is also necessary during benzodiazepine withdrawal. At Boardwalk Recovery Center, we understand the importance of educating family members about benzodiazepine withdrawal and how they can help their loved ones through this difficult season in their life. We believe that social support can be just as helpful as medication.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can make users feel as though they will never get better. At Boardwalk Recovery Center, we encourage our clients to be patient on days like this and adopt the “one minute at a time” mindset. Through our treatment program, we support clients through this process, no matter how long it takes, and encourage them that if they are willing, they will improve with time.

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