Getting past dependence or addiction to benzodiazepines requires more than a spur-of-the-moment decision or a stated desire to become drug free. It requires benzo detox first, followed by professional drug rehab to ensure the most successful treatment outcome.
How Benzo Addiction Is Treated
Treatment for benzo addiction is best accomplished by going to an accredited drug and alcohol rehab center specializing in benzo addiction treatment. Benzo treatment options include detox, residential or inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment.
The process for benzo detox is best accomplished while under 24-hour medical supervision and a professional drug and alcohol detox and treatment facility. Among the detox issues someone coming off benzo dependence and/or addiction may experience are depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, poor concentration, and other unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
More severe and potentially dangerous benzo withdrawal symptoms can occur if the individual suddenly stops taking benzos. These can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening side effects, including panic attacks and seizures. Many individuals are so reluctant to go through the withdrawal symptoms that they revert back to using benzos just to stop them. During supervised medical benzo detox, however, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can be safely and effectively managed, and medications may be prescribed to help the person cope with the anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and other unpleasant issues accompanying detox.
Inpatient or residential treatment for benzo addiction makes the benzo detox process more manageable, especially in the case of polydrug use, such as addiction to alcohol, opiates and benzodiazepines. Among the advantages of residential treatment over other benzo treatment options are:
- a stable, drug-free environment
- 24-hour medical supervision that includes supervised medication management
- and behavioral therapy that helps with the overall recovery process.
On the other hand, depending on how severe the benzo addiction is, outpatient treatment may be appropriate following inpatient benzo detox. Counseling and access to various therapies should be part of any outpatient treatment program for benzodiazepine addiction.
Why Benzo Addiction Needs Treatment
Benzodiazepines are powerful depressant drugs. Trying to wean off them without medical supervision during benzo withdrawal treatment is not recommended and can be life-threatening. That’s because of potentially serious benzo withdrawal, which untrained individuals are ill-equipped to handle. The most serious withdrawal symptoms can include tremors, hallucinations, psychosis and seizures, especially if someone addicted to benzos tries to abruptly discontinue use. In benzo withdrawal treatment conducted by medical professionals trained to provide the best treatment for benzo addiction, the individual can be safely weaned from the drug.
When benzo addiction is simultaneous with addiction to opiates and/or alcohol, the combination is especially dangerous and requires emergency medical care that includes special benzo detox and treatment options. As depressants, the benzos, alcohol and opiates can result in a person becoming overly sedated. The result may be plummeting or dangerously slow heartbeat and breathing rate that ends in coma or death through benzo overdose. A 2015 study of individuals in North Carolina co-prescribed opiates and benzodiazepines found the overdose death rate 10 times higher than among those taking opiates alone.
Yet, beyond supervised medical detox, treatment for benzo addiction is preferred for more favorable long-term outcomes. It’s not enough to get benzos out of the system, since the craving and changes to brain structure have already been firmly fixed. Effective benzo treatment and benzo detox includes psychiatric counseling, learning ways to cope with cravings and urges, understanding what addiction is, identifying triggers to use, crafting workable coping mechanisms, undergoing evidence-based therapies, and participation in support groups.
Without formal benzodiazepine addiction treatment following benzo detox, relapse is a very real risk. In fact, although one study found that 49 percent of benzo users were successfully able to quit and be abstinent during the two-year study period, 51 percent relapsed following a median abstinence period of 243 days. High-dose benzo users had the highest risk of relapse.
How Long Is Benzo Treatment?
Most people contemplating treatment for benzo addiction want the best benzo treatment that they can receive, and a favorable outcome in the least amount of time. How long benzo addiction treatment lasts, however, is not set in stone. Benzo detox duration depends on several factors. Among them are how long the person has been using benzos, the dose of benzos they’re taking, their current circumstances, and general health.
Therapies Used in Treating Benzodiazepine Addiction
While many therapies are available to treat various types of addiction, and most can be tailored and are useful in treating almost all addictions, some are particularly helpful when they’re used as part of benzo treatment. Behavioral therapies specifically used for treating benzodiazepine addiction include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Contingency management therapy (CMT)
- Couples therapy
- Family therapy
Therapy has several benefits, particularly when it is received in residential treatment. Therapy helps in identifying triggers to use, for example. Indeed, one of the goals of benzo treatment is learning to avoid triggers and finding healthy coping styles to overcome stressors and urges. Therapy also is instrumental in learning to manage emotions and stressful situations without resorting to drugs.
Furthermore, counseling received during therapy helps with relationship building, and also with functioning at work, home, school, and other environments.
Medical Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction
There are no medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat benzo addiction. Evidence-based medical treatment that is most commonly used involves a gradual medication taper. The taper schedule is carefully constructed according to the individual’s unique benzodiazepine use, dose, and other factors. One medication that may be used in some cases is a longer-acting benzodiazepine, such as clonazepam (Klonopin), as a replacement for a shorter-acting benzo like Xanax. Part of the weaning and tapering, then, eventually involves slowly tapering off the longer-acting benzo.
In addition, since about 50 percent of benzo withdrawal symptoms stem from sleep deprivation, sleep medications may be considered to help combat sleeplessness. And diazepam (Valium) may be used to help manage some of the more troubling benzo withdrawal symptoms.
In the event that post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) occurs, the withdrawal process can be very rough, sometimes lasting for months. This requires medical supervision to ensure a safe and pain-free withdrawal. It is not a quick withdrawal, by any means. PAWS is a serious consequence of benzo addiction and includes symptoms such as sleeplessness, no appetite, weight loss, heightened senses, a feeling of crawling out of the skin, unreasonable fears, circular thoughts, and more. The focus should be on feeling good and getting better through the best treatment for benzo addiction.
Holistic Treatment for Benzodiazepine Use
In addition to using evidence-based therapies and medical treatment for benzo addiction treatment, holistic therapies and treatment modalities are highly recommended to help make the transition from detox and through treatment more comfortable, reduce stress, assist with concentration and focus, and encourage adoption of healthier lifestyle habits.
Massage, meditation, yoga and other holistic treatment methods are among the best practices utilized by the best benzo addiction treatment facilities. Indeed, they’re more likely to be offered at these facilities as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program.
Massage therapy, while not a direct benzo treatment, has low-risk when performed by a trained professional, and has several benefits. The treatment itself is soothing, helps minimize the stress surrounding some of the issues involved in drug use and addiction, reduces pain sensation and intensity, and promotes a mindset more conducive to healing.
Yoga is often recommended as a holistic and complementary benzo treatment option, and for good reason. With its focus on body, soul and mind as a single entity, yoga for addiction treatment helps to establish reconnection with the body and spirit, promotes self-esteem, balance, and reduction of impulsivity, as well as providing a healthy coping mechanism to control negative thoughts and behaviors by being able to control bodily movement through the yoga breathing and poses.
Mindfulness meditation, and meditation in general, helps the individual in benzo treatment and recovery to maintain a sense of calm and peace, while increasing awareness of self, reducing intrusive thoughts and impulses, and improving overall mental functioning. Furthermore, mindfulness meditation helps to alleviate anxiety and depressive thoughts, according to some research, produce improvement in sleep, reduce stress levels, decrease blood pressure, enhance the immune system, and result in a decrease in subjective pain levels.
Lifelong Recovery from Benzodiazepine Addiction
For those who’ve suffered the debilitating effects of anxiety, developed benzo addiction and gone through benzo addiction treatment, research points to hopeful outcomes for full recovery from the anxiety disorder. A study by researchers from the University of Toronto found that 72 percent of individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in recovery were free of the disorder for at least one year. They concluded that it is possible to achieve a full recovery from the anxiety disorder, even if it has persisted for many years. Researchers found that those in recovery from GAD who had at least one strong supporter of their well-being and emotional security in their life were three times more likely to achieve excellent mental health. In addition, those who coped with everyday life difficulties by turning to religious/spiritual beliefs had a 36 percent greater chance of achieving excellent mental health.
Excellent mental health was defined by researchers as:
- Presence of life satisfaction/happiness
- Psychological and social well-being
- No past-year mental illness, including anxiety or depressive disorders, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse
The goal of life-long recovery from benzodiazepine addiction, then, is not only possible— it’s achievable with a commitment to benzo detox and treatment for benzo addiction.