Tranquilizers in the benzodiazepine class are frequently prescribed to people with anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attack disorder, alcohol withdrawal, and as a muscle relaxant. While these drugs can provide a tremendous amount of relief from the distressing symptoms associated with these conditions, they can also be physically addictive. Benzodiazepine withdrawal treatment may be necessary for a safe recovery.
There are a number of reliable benzodiazepine addiction treatment options available for anyone who has developed a dependence on this class of drugs. Many people who become addicted to benzodiazepines do so while taking the drug exactly as prescribed by their physician. For others, the addiction is the result of using these drugs without a prescription for recreational purposes or to self-medicate for anxiety.
Either way, feeling shame or guilt about an addiction is counter-productive to getting better. Getting off of benzos can be a lengthy process, but it is possible for anyone using the right treatment approach.
How Benzodiazepines Work
Benzodiazepines include several drugs with different names including:
Some of these drugs have short-acting effects and others have extended effects. All of these drugs work by affecting a neuro-transmitter molecule called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which occurs naturally in the brain. GABA calms the central nervous system, producing a feeling of relaxation and a reduction of anxiety.
Benzodiazepines work by attaching to the GABA neurotransmitter sites and causing them to switch on without natural GABA. However, if these drugs are used for extended periods of time, the natural production of GABA begins to decrease. When the benzodiazepine is stopped, anxiety, sleeplessness, agitation, and panic reactions can occur, because the body is no longer producing natural GABA in sufficient amounts.
Effective Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Treatment
When a person becomes dependent or addicted to a benzodiazepine drug, stopping suddenly can produce severe, and even life-threatening, symptoms. Hallucinations, heart attacks, strokes, and seizures have all been reported as the result of sudden discontinuation of these drugs.
Withdrawing with minimal side-effects is accomplished by slowly tapering the dosage down over an extended period. Tapering off under the supervision of a doctor or addiction specialist is highly recommended, especially for those who have used the drug for a long time or in conjunction with other psycho-active drugs or alcohol.
During withdrawal from benzodiazepine tranquilizes a person may experience,
• Increased anxiety and mood swings,
• A feeling of being unreal, called depersonalization,
• Decreased energy,
• Insomnia and other sleep disturbance,
• Extreme anger,
• Sore muscles and feelings of achiness.
More severe symptoms are also possible. The best benzodiazepine addiction treatment protocols involve a slow and steady reduction of the dosage over many weeks or months.
Withdrawal symptoms may still occur, even with gradual tapering. This is why working with a physician or addiction treatment center is so important. Addiction specialists can assist with psychological counselling, alternative medications, and education about addiction, making the process more manageable and comfortable for the recovering person.
What Helps Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Understanding the process of withdrawal from benzodiazepine drugs is one of the best ways of managing the withdrawal experience. When you know what to expect, it becomes easier to withstand the discomfort and avoid relapse.
Addiction treatment counselors and physicians can recommend a tapering schedule appropriate for the recovering person. Following this schedule closely is an important step in ending the addiction.
Support groups and online forums for those recovering from benzodiazepine addiction are also helpful for many people. Narcotics Anonymous and SMART Recovery are two widely available, free resources for people looking for support from others who are going through the same process in ending an addiction.