Benzodiazepines are tranquilizers. They’re prescribed to treat seizures, muscle spasms, insomnia and anxiety. Types of benzodiazepines, or benzos include Valium, Ativan, Klonopin and Xanax. As Schedule IV drugs, benzos can only be legally prescribed, and some people who are addicted to them procure prescriptions from a group of doctors or buy them on the street. They are often sold as pills that people swallow, crush, and snort. People who are addicted to Benzos are often addicted to opioids, cocaine and alcohol as well.
Treating Benzodiazepine Addiction
Benzo dependence happens when the person can’t abstain from the drug without experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms include insomnia, nausea without vomiting, weight loss, tremors and muscle pain. Addiction happens when the person not only experiences withdrawal symptoms without the drug but will use the drug compulsively and without regard for negative consequences. With addiction, getting the drug is the most important activity in a person’s life
Fortunately, there are several benzo addiction treatment modalities. Some people do well with outpatient treatment, where they live at home but come to treatment sessions several times a week. Other people need inpatient treatment, where they live full or at least part-time at a rehab center, clinic or even a hospital.
Benzo addiction treatment can involve detox, which is when the drug is purged from the patient’s body. Because withdrawal from benzos is potentially dangerous, people who are addicted undergo detox under medical supervision. This supervision eases the worst parts of withdrawal and helps the patient transition into rehab. The patient may be treated with a different benzodiazepine to help them taper off the drug they’re addicted to.
Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment
Inpatient and outpatient treatment not only seek to remove the drug from the patient’s body but from their mind as well. Therefore, benzo patients are also given mental health treatment and medical detox. Among these treatments are:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, helps the patient deal with current problems that seem overwhelming by making them more manageable. For example, the patient may be encouraged to write down their negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts, refer to these positive thoughts often, and act on them.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
DBT is a kind of talk therapy that helps people deal with overwhelming emotions and the actions that accompany them, such as addiction and self-harm. This therapy teaches patients to regulate their emotions, tolerate mental discomfort and ease conflicts with others, including loved ones.
This one-on-one therapy often delves into the patient’s past to uncover situations and traumas that may have led them to abuse benzos and other drugs. Conducted in a safe and supportive environment, it helps bolster the patient’s self-esteem and encourages positive ideation.
Group, Family and/or Couple Therapy
Besides individual talk therapy, a patient undergoing substance abuse treatment can also have therapy sessions with their peers, members of their family or their significant other.
With trauma therapy, a mental health professional helps the patient heal from traumatic experiences that contributed to their addiction. This therapy helps patients face their fears and anxieties in a safe, nonjudgmental space.
Activity therapy treats patients through recreational pursuits. Beneficial for the body as well as the mind, activities can range from arts and crafts to music making to dance or drama. Some rehab centers found in rural areas may even take their patients hiking or camping as part of their activity therapy.
Relapse prevention is an aspect of cognitive behavioral therapy whose goal is, as its name says, to keep the patient from returning to their drug of addiction. This is a multistage task that often takes years. The stages are:
- Post-acute withdrawal
Patients can also receive aftercare, which can also take years. With aftercare, patients still attend group meetings, including 12-step meetings and mental health counseling occasionally.
As with any substance use disorder, benzodiazepine addiction is hard to overcome but can be overcome. Different types of therapies, the support of professionals, peers, friends and family and a bit of self-acceptance can all help to return a patient to sobriety and good mental and physical health.