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Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that have sedative and anti-anxiety characteristics. Benzodiazepines are most commonly prescribed for treatment of anxiety, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. They affect the GABA receptors, and can cause strong physical and psychological dependency. For this reason, benzodiazepines are generally prescribed for short-term use, as to avoid the development of dependence. Benzodiazepines produce sensations of euphoria, sedation, calmness, and general sedation. Although they are often prescribed for various disorders, most abusers do not have a prescription for them. Studies have shown that the majority of benzodiazepine abusers are poly-substance abusers, meaning that they abuse more than one substance at a time.

Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzos, as they are commonly called on the streets, develop tolerance quicker than most other substances. Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms can be present after only a few weeks of abuse. Addiction to benzodiazepines develop because of the rapid adaptation of the brain to work with them in their system. After frequent abuse, the brain function adapts to work with the benzos present. Cessation of benzodiazepine intake causes the brain and body to lose functionality, and leads to severe withdrawal symptoms. Signs of benzodiazepine addiction usually include irregular sleep schedule, depersonalization, and irritability.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Treatment

Possibly the biggest hurdle for a benzo addict to overcome is the detox. Known as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, the process of withdrawing can be painful or fatal.

Common symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression.
  • Panic attacks
  • Shaking
  • Fevers
  • Delirium tremens
  • Catatonia
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis
  • Coma
  • Uncontrollable violence and manic episodes

Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is very similar to alcohol detox, as they both affect the GABA receptors, and like alcohol withdrawal syndrome may be fatal without proper medical attention.

Fortunately, there are medical detox centers available to treat benzodiazepine addicts. Every benzo is different, and doctors can assess your symptoms and your personal frequency of use in order to decide what the safest and least painful detox process will be. For those who did not use as heavily, doctors may recommend an herbal supplement such as valerian. However, chronic abusers are often prescribed a slow acting benzo such as Valium in order to slowly ween them off of the substance. The presence of a slow-acting benzodiazepine can ease withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings without providing the euphoric and sedative effects.

Although a detox may be necessary to treat the withdrawal symptoms, it is not enough to keep the individual from returning to drug abuse. From residential treatment centers to transitional living houses, there are a multitude of options for the addict who wishes to recover from addiction. Long-term treatment is the safest route for those who wish to achieve long term sobriety.




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