Benzodiazepine addiction is growing each day within our society. In recent years, the number of emergency room visits and overdose deaths related to benzodiazepine has been on the rise. Unfortunately, researchers have conducted only a few studies regarding this specific problem.
However, those few studies have helped us determine how to treat each case of benzodiazepine abuse. Not all cases need the same treatment and care; each case is unique. It depends on the person abusing the substance and how far they are down the rabbit hole.
Generally, each treatment aims to support the patient throughout their withdrawal phase and cleans the body from the abused drug. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about benzodiazepine and treating its addiction.
Before we talk about benzodiazepines addiction treatment, let’s take the time to understand what benzodiazepines and their effects are.
Benzodiazepines, also known as tranquilizers, are a type of CNS depressant that sedates your central nervous system.
These drugs are useful in cases like anxiety, seizure, stress, and insomnia. They’re also prescribed with antidepressants to treat clinical depression.
The causes of benzodiazepine addiction can be physical, environmental, and genetic. Physical cases stem from the pleasure that the human brain experiences after using any addictive substance.
With repeated use, the brain will become dependent on these drugs and will no longer be able to function properly without them. This is how addiction happens.
Genetics also play a role in benzodiazepine addiction. Studies have proven that the genetic makeup of a person makes up almost 50% of their probability of drug abuse. This means that if a person has a family member who’s addicted to drugs, then they might end up as addicts, too.
Finally, benzodiazepine addiction, like most drug addictions, could be caused by numerous environmental factors and social situations.
It could be caused by peer pressure, experimenting with drugs at a young age, previous trauma, a history of abuse as a child, a low socioeconomic status, unemployment, or even depression.
Unlike most drugs, however, females are more susceptible to benzodiazepine addiction than males. This is because females are more likely to seek mental health treatment and get benzodiazepine prescriptions than males.
Benzodiazepine should only be prescribed by a doctor and used for a short period, or under medical supervision if the patient requires otherwise.
However, when people abuse benzodiazepine for a long period without medical supervision, both their physical and mental well-being will be severely affected.
Physically, benzodiazepine addiction causes drowsiness, fatigue, blurry vision, slurred speech, impacted concentration, vertigo, and sexual dysfunction.
As for mental side effects, benzodiazepine addiction leads to memory loss, anxiety, irritability, depression, mood swings, and, in some cases, aggression.
Not all benzodiazepine addictions are the same. Each case is unique and requires a certain treatment program based on how severe the addiction and the co-occurring mental health diseases are.
An inpatient treatment program is when patients are admitted to a psychiatric unit in a hospital or clinic. Patients usually stay for a month or less, and the treatment program is intense. The goal is to help the patient throughout the withdrawal phase with minimal side effects.
This program is best suited for patients who can’t take care of themselves, have suicidal thoughts, pose a danger to themselves or others, or experience psychotic episodes. In other words, it’s best for patients who can’t be left on their own and need constant supervision.
Unlike the inpatient treatment program, the residential treatment program is where patients stay in a residential home-like setting, rather than a hospital or a clinic.
They stay for a longer duration, which could add up to a year, depending on the needs of every patient, but the average stay is about 90 days. Another difference between inpatient and residential treatment programs is their price.
Residential programs cost more because the treatment is spread over a longer period, and the patient’s residency requires more services than a regular hospital stay to provide them with care and comfort.
This treatment program is best suited for patients with long-standing, severe addictions. The patients need the extra time for behavioral therapy to empower them and teach them how to deal with stressful times. That way, they’ll be able to prevent relapse in the future.
An outpatient treatment program means that the patient can be treated from the comfort of their home. This program is much cheaper since patients won’t pay for a residential or hospital stay. However, outpatients must attend counseling sessions, either individually or in a group.
Similar to the inpatient treatment program, patients will receive behavioral counseling, treatment for mental disorders co-occurring with addiction, long-term continued care to prevent relapse, and, of course, substance use monitoring.
This standard outpatient treatment program is ideal for patients with mild addiction symptoms and a solid support system at home. Otherwise, if they fail to attend the scheduled sessions and take care of themselves, the patient will need to be admitted.
Partial hospitalization programs, also known as day treatment programs, are another type of outpatient program. This program offers 20 hours or more of intensive therapy per week to patients who need daily monitoring.
Patients are offered medical and mental health support based on the needs of each case. This makes the partial hospitalization program perfect for patients who require daily monitoring, or every other day, but don’t need to be admitted for 24-hour supervision.
The intensive outpatient program is similar to PHP but with less clinical support. In this program, patients should attend sessions for only 9 to 20 hours per week. The IOPs are designed to provide the intensive treatments offered to an impatient case through an outpatient program.
All the programs designed to treat benzodiazepine addiction have a few points in common to deliver the best medical and mental care and support.
These points include:
All therapies must include evidence-based therapy sessions:
CBT is one of the crucial parts of any drug addiction therapy program. It helps patients recognize self-destructive thoughts and actions, learn methods to identify the pattern of these thoughts, and apply new ways of thinking and dealing with stressful situations.
Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is a part of CBT, but it’s for people with intense emotions. DBT helps patients understand, accept, and communicate hard feelings about their drug addiction.
Motivational interviewing is a type of therapy that aims to strengthen the patient’s motivation and commitment to sobriety. It helps the patients identify the pros and cons of change and set their own reasons to reach that change.
Contingency management means applying positive reinforcement to desirable behaviors, like attending sessions and being sober, by rewarding the patients.
Along with therapy sessions, patients should attend counseling sessions individually or in groups to benefit from a supportive community. The patients will also need to go through family therapy to strengthen the support system they find at home.
According to the guidelines of the National Center for PTSD, supervised benzodiazepine tapering happens by reducing the dose by 50% for the first month, then maintaining that dose for another 1-2 months. After that, reduce the dosage by 25% every two weeks.
To manage withdrawal symptoms, doctors prescribe Flumazenil to relieve the withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse.
As a way of preventing relapse, aftercare programs help patients adjust to living sober without depending on any substance.
These treatment programs include Alumni programs, sober housing, support groups, and self-help meetings.
During the detoxification phase, patients will need medical supervision to help them apply the required strategies to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
These strategies should include medicines to help the patient deal with withdrawal symptoms and therapy sessions to manage the need to use substances.
One of the barriers that stop patients from seeking help is the stigma surrounding drug addiction treatment. People can be afraid of what others might think of them.
So to help treat as many people as possible, we’ll need to address the stigma surrounding this topic and increase access to specialized benzodiazepine addiction services.
And last but definitely not least, insurance coverage needs to expand and cover addiction treatment programs, and specialized centers need to offer affordable programs to help treat more cases.
Of course, the best-case scenario for any problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. The same applies to preventing benzodiazepine addiction. The first step to preventing any disease is understanding it through awareness campaigns.
We’ll also need to provide resources for at-risk populations to help minimize the number of patients. And last but not least, we’ll need to apply strict strategies for responsible benzodiazepine prescription and educate the patients on how to use the drug correctly.
Benzodiazepine addiction is a serious problem, yet there isn’t enough research on how to solve this issue permanently and reduce the overall number of patients.
As the issue grows within our society, we need ongoing research to always stay up to date and develop new effective treatment options for long-term recovery from substance abuse.
If you or someone you know suffer from benzodiazepine addiction, don’t hesitate to seek help and support. The sooner you take action, the easier your treatment journey will be.