When a person is struggling with benzodiazepine abuse and addiction, knowing how to get off benzos and actually being able to do so successfully are two very different things. Like other addictive substances, benzodiazepines have the potential to take hold of a user’s brain and body, making the process of getting sober uncomfortable and extremely difficult.
In this piece, we’ll discuss benzo addiction and proven strategies to get clean.
How Common Is Benzo Addiction?
A 2018 study found that 12.6% of American adults had used benzodiazepines over the year prior (psychiatry.org), both legally and illegally — over 26 million people total. Of that number, 17% were estimated to misuse (abuse) these prescription drugs, meaning around 4.5 million American adults had abused benzos that year.
There are many anecdotes that demonstrate how easily benzo use and abuse can lead to addiction. There’s the teenager who realizes he can skim some Xanax from a parent without being noticed. There’s the busy professional borrowing a friend’s Klonopin (clonazepam) to alleviate work stress and anxiety. There are people who move from using these drugs as directed to abusing them as they build a tolerance and as a result, continue taking more and more to get the same effects.
It doesn’t matter how benzodiazepine addiction takes hold, though. It matters that people are able to recognize it and take steps to quit using benzos safely.
Benefits of Getting Off Benzos
The benefits you’ll experience when you quit using benzodiazepines are substantial. You’ll have more time and money. You’ll be able to live outside of the cloud that the medication causes. You’ll be able to start repairing relationships damaged by addiction. Most of all, you’ll be able to take back control over your life.
But quitting almost anything that provides positive feedback in the brain is easier said than done. Dependence means that your body and mind feel like they can’t function without the input of a substance. As soon as you remove this substance from your system, the resulting period of benzo withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable.
Tips to Quit Using Benzos
Recovery from any substance use disorder is never easy. Addictive substances change how the brain works, and any effort made to stop using them will be met with resistance from the parts of your body and mind that are dependent on these substances to function.
This is why quitting benzos isn’t the same as, say, cutting down on screen time or deciding to read more. With this in mind, here are a few strategies that can help you quit using benzodiazepines successfully.
1. Get Rid of Your Prescription or Supply
The first tip is an obvious one. Part of quitting drugs is making sure you can limit the temptation. Withdrawal usually comes with powerful cravings, and willpower alone may not be enough to carry you through.
Benzodiazepines are unique because, in many cases, they’re prescribed to the people who become dependent on them. Benzo prescriptions are found in medicine cabinets across the country, and while having these medications in your home may seem normal, it’s not conducive to long-term abstinence.
2. Talk to a Professional
Quitting benzodiazepines takes more than just not using the drugs for a while. Many people who detox with no other support end up using again, typically within a short period of time. This is part of the reason facilities that only offer detox don’t see a high recovery rate for their clients over time. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “detoxification alone does not address the psychological, social and behavioral problems associated with addiction and therefore does not typically produce lasting behavioral changes necessary for recovery.”
The mental side of quitting an addictive substance can take time to overcome. A professional addiction medicine specialist can help you explore your addiction, help you identify the root causes and help you develop tools and mechanisms to cope with long-term recovery.
3. Avoid Situations You Associate with Benzo Use
Successful recovery involves an understanding of something called “trigger avoidance.” Triggers are objects, people and situations that may make you more likely to slip or relapse. Thus, trigger avoidance strategies are aimed at helping you either resist the effects of these triggers or make sure you can limit exposure to them as much as possible.
Some common trigger avoidance strategies include:
- Finding a new job
- Changing your social circles or hangout spots
- Moving to a new city
- Changing your holiday plans
- Seeing a trauma counselor or other psychological specialist
4. Find a More Constructive Outlet for Stress and Anxiety
Many people who start using benzos do so because they suffer from anxiety. Anxiety affects over 40 million American adults at any time, and benzos are still often part of the standard of care.
If you’ve quit using benzos because of the risk addiction poses to your health, you don’t want to go back on them and restart the cycle. The problem, though, is that if you became addicted to these drugs after having been prescribed them to treat anxiety, you may feel that anxiety more strongly when you stop taking benzos.
People in recovery have to find drug-free ways to relieve pain and stress — here are some that are proven to work.
5. Don’t Try to Quit Benzos Alone
If you’re looking to learn how to quit benzos, this is the most important thing we can tell you on the topic: Trying to quit using benzodiazepines cold turkey can be dangerous.
Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, intense nausea, fevers and powerful cravings in the best cases. In the worst cases, you may experience seizures, psychosis, suicidal thoughts and actions and violent behavior during benzo withdrawal.
Even if you don’t experience the severe — and potentially fatal — end of the list of benzo withdrawal symptoms, quitting without help is highly unlikely to be successful. It takes more than just ridding your body of a substance. Recovery is a lifelong battle, and you’ll need comprehensive support to fight it.
Benzo Detox at FHE Health
Having access to detox in a place that treats it as the first step to recovery can be beneficial to your chances of successfully coming off benzodiazepines or any other type of addictive substance. At FHE Health, not only do we provide safe, supervised medical detox, but we offer support at every level of care along the full continuum.
To learn more about how you or a loved one could benefit from treatment for benzo addiction, contact FHE Health today.