Benzodiazepines can be tremendously effective in treating insomnia and anxiety. But they can also lead to addiction.
You need careful, compassionate treatment to help you reduce your dependence on these drugs safely.
You can’t go it alone.
Here are some situations that suggest you could benefit from treatment for benzodiazepine use disorder:
Trying to cut down on benzodiazepines, but it’s not working
Anxiety and insomnia are getting worse, even though you’re taking a benzodiazepine
Seeing multiple doctors to try to get extra benzodiazepines
Passing up enjoyable activities or having problems at work or school
It’s never too late to break the cycle of benzodiazepine use
At Eappen Clinic, we know how frightening it can be to become dependent on powerful benzodiazepines. We’re committed to helping you break the cycle safely.
What is benzodiazepine use disorder?
Benzodiazepines are called everything from “benzos” and “downers” to sedatives and hypnotics. But by any name, these drugs can cause addiction or dependence. Dependence means you feel like you can’t get by without the drug.
Most people first use benzos for anxiety or sleep troubles, with a legitimate prescription from a doctor.
But in too many cases, benzodiazepines are used for too long or in high doses, causing a person to become dependent on the drug. There are specific criteria to determine if you have benzodiazepine use disorder.
The criteria include:
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like tremors and panic attacks when you don’t take a benzodiazepine
- Spending a lot of time trying to get benzodiazepines
- Failing to do important things in your life because of your use of benzodiazepines
In most cases, your doctor will tell you not to use a benzodiazepine for more than two to four weeks, because they aren’t effective for longer periods. But if you have taken these drugs for a longer time and try to stop abruptly, it can cause seizures or withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can include tremors, fast heartbeat, nausea, even hallucinations. Fifty-eight percent or more of patients who are prescribed benzodiazepines long-term will experience these distressing symptoms, according to research.
Ironically, even though benzodiazepines can give you short-term relief from anxiety or insomnia, they can actually worsen these problems over time. You may believe these drugs are still helping, but it’s possible they’re only relieving your withdrawal symptoms while making your anxiety or sleep problems worse.
Who gets benzodiazepine use disorder?
Anyone who has misused prescription benzodiazepines or used them for longer than two to four weeks could develop a benzodiazepine use disorder. But the disorder is more common for people who carry other risk factors. People with other substance use disorders (such as with alcohol or opioids), a family history of a benzodiazepine use disorder, or those with a chronic medical condition are at higher risk.
Older individuals should also be concerned about possible benzodiazepine dependence. Benzodiazepines are the third most common cause of a substance use disorder in the elderly, behind only tobacco and alcohol.
It’s extremely important that you follow your doctor’s instructions for how and when to take benzodiazepines to reduce your chances of becoming dependent on them. If you took benzodiazepines that came from a friend or relative, you are more likely to develop a benzodiazepine use disorder than if a doctor prescribed the medication for you.
Treatment can help you break the cycle of dependence on benzodiazepines if you feel as if you can no longer get by without them. There are ways to manage your anxiety or sleep troubles without using benzodiazepines or becoming dependent on them.
How is benzodiazepine use disorder treated?
The choice of treatment for you depends on several factors, including how long you have been taking benzodiazepines and how susceptible you are to using them again. One thing we know is that stopping benzodiazepines abruptly can be dangerous. Beyond withdrawal symptoms, it also can cause life-threatening seizures.
At Eappen Clinic, we will help you gradually stop your use of benzodiazepines. And our treatment plan will be tailored to your specific situation.
There is no magic formula for treatment, but research shows that stopping over at least a 10-week period offers the best chance of staying off benzodiazepines. We may suggest medication to help ease the withdrawal process, if you’re a good candidate.
For many patients, receiving psychotherapy while coming off benzodiazepines is better than just reducing the benzodiazepine dose alone. So we may recommend a therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy in your treatment plan.
How long does treatment for benzodiazepine use disorder last?
Because there is no standard schedule for benzodiazepine use disorder treatment, the time you will need to get off the drug will depend on your dose, how long you’ve been taking it, and how well you do during the withdrawal period. We will help you manage any uncomfortable symptoms that bother you during withdrawal.
If, however, you have been on a high dose of a benzodiazepine, have taken extra medication (especially if it’s from more than one doctor), or have another psychiatric diagnosis, a gradual reduction may not be realistic for you.
You may benefit instead from a “maintenance therapy” strategy. That means we might replace your current benzodiazepine with a safer one, and then we’ll give you support until you’re ready to decrease your dose and move closer to stopping completely.
You also may need more time in treatment if you have a setback in your recovery. But we will never consider a return to benzodiazepine use as a personal failure.
If this happens, we will use it as an opportunity to learn, and to adjust your treatment plan if needed. Substance use disorders are chronic illnesses that must be managed over a lifetime. They are no different from diabetes, asthma or any other chronic condition.
Should I get treatment for my benzodiazepine use disorder?
If you have been using benzodiazepines as directed by your doctor, you probably don’t need treatment. Remember that you should never stop using benzodiazepines abruptly or without a doctor’s help.
At Eappen Clinic, we can help you carefully design a treatment plan that will gradually lessen your dependence on benzodiazepines drugs. We can offer you whatever support will lead to your most comfortable path to recovery, including other medication treatment and therapy if necessary. Your first appointment with us is a detailed evaluation. At the end of your evaluation, you’ll know the next steps.
Let’s work together on a plan to break the cycle of benzodiazepines so you can feel well again.