With individuals feeling increasing pressures from various sources in their everyday lives, anxiety is a common and frequently debilitating problem. Those who suffer from anxiety find that it affects their whole lives, making social interactions and work environments increasingly difficult to cope with.
Many who suffer from anxiety are prescribed benzodiazepines to help them cope, but this may not always be the right answer.
What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are a group of anti-anxiety drugs that include temazepam, diazepam (or Valium) and lorazepam, among others. They are commonly prescribed to help treat anxiety or insomnia, and sometimes also used to treat seizures.
Recreational use of these drugs is also common, as they produce a calming, sedative effect, and due to their popularity, are relatively easy to acquire. In high doses, they can also have a hypnotic effect, and those using the drugs often end up taking high doses.
Unfortunately, these drugs are highly addictive, and it is common for both those who have been prescribed benzodiazepines and those who use them illegally, to become addicted. Over time, the effect can be diminished, and so more of the drug is needed to achieve the same effect, further increasing the risk of dependency and addiction.
Difficult to Stop
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can result in a number of unpleasant side effects. These can include the very disorders that the drug may have been prescribed for, anxiety or insomnia.
Other side effects can include panic attacks, loss of understanding or ability to think (fuzzy-headedness), short-term memory loss, rage and aggression. Understandably, these side effects can make it extremely difficult for a person to stop taking these drugs, creating an even greater dependency.
For those who have been prescribed benzodiazepines, the stigma of being labelled as an addict can make them reluctant to seek help. The treatment of benzodiazepine addiction needs to include a gradual reduction in the dosage taken, in order to minimise the side effects of withdrawal and reduce the risk of relapse.
Signs of Addiction
The signs of benzodiazepine addiction, as well as the need for increasingly large doses, are similar to the symptoms of withdrawal. Symptoms of addiction to benzodiazepines can include drowsiness (due to the sedative effect of the drugs), poor co-ordination, amnesia, irritability and impaired judgement. Older people taking these drugs could also be confused or appear to be suffering from dementia.
Is There an Alternative?
Individuals suffering from anxiety are all too aware of how debilitating it can be, but there are alternatives out there to drug therapy, and these alternatives can also aid those recovering from benzodiazepine addiction.
Alternative therapies that help to calm the thoughts and help a person to keep control of their thoughts are most effective. These include yoga and meditation to help gain control of breathing and promote a feeling of wellbeing. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which help a person to modify their patterns of behaviour, can also be very effective in treating anxiety. Mindfulness training, which helps you to become more aware of the present, and your thoughts and feelings, can be a very effective tool in controlling anxiety, as can visualisation techniques.
EFT acupoint tapping (or emotional freedom technique) has been found to be especially helpful in treating those suffering from anxiety due to post-traumatic stress disorder. This therapy makes use of acupuncture points but does not use needles, so it can be safely used at home.
Some of these therapies require input from a professional, but many can be carried out, or continued, on your own with the aid of books or information from the internet.
Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction
Benzodiazepine addiction can be very successfully treated once recognised. Like all drug addictions, the first step is detoxification – removing the drug from the body.
In the case of benzodiazepines, the detox process needs to be done gradually in order to prevent the occurrence of the unpleasant side effects discussed above. The dosage of the drug should be gradually reduced, under guidance from medical professionals.
Rehabilitative care is provided alongside this to help the patient to recover from their addiction and can include a number of the therapies, including those mentioned here. In the case of benzodiazepine addiction to prescribed drugs, this rehabilitation will also help to treat the reasons that the drugs were prescribed in the first place. Without aftercare, many patients will relapse, so this rehabilitation is an essential part of recovery.
Here at Addiction Helper, we can provide you with help and advice to aid your recovery. We have fully trained addiction counsellors available twenty-four hours a day who can give you advice on the treatment options available, without judgement or prejudice. Please call now if you need any help for yourself or a loved one or are looking for a treatment referral.
Sources: Anxiety Treatment: Should You Be Wary of Anxiety Medication? (Psychology Today)
Signs and Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Abuse (NarcoNon)