Treatments For Benzo Addiction

Edited by Keerthy Sunder

Last updated January 30, 2020

Benzo prescriptions and overdose fatalities involving benzos have both risen over the course of the past decade and a half. Typically, benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Klonopin are only prescribed for short-term treatment of panic attacks, insomnia, and anxiety due to their high potency levels. Unfortunately, doctors may  overprescribe them and people use them to self-medicate or misuse them. Once someone becomes addicted, it’s difficult and dangerous to abruptly stop using. 

When used as a regulated medication, part of the treatment plan is to slowly decrease dosage amounts near the end of the prescription to allow the body to adjust. When this fails to happen either unintentionally or due to benzo abuse, withdrawal symptoms are more likely to appear. These are painful, uncomfortable, and often last for several days in a row. As a result, many people continue using benzodiazepines, therefore, continuing with the addiction. 

Fortunately, there is help available for those who wish to receive treatment in a safe, secure environment. Treating benzodiazepine addiction requires the ongoing supervision and care from certified and licensed practitioners who are trained and experienced in the nuances of drug addiction treatment. While there are set phases of care, each treatment plan is guided by what’s in each individual’s best interest. Depending on specific needs, these can alter timelines, program lengths and therapies, and other facets of care to incorporate the best possible route to recovery. 

Regardless of the level of treatment you choose, Northbound has a dedicated team to provide exceptional care at all levels. Treatments for benzo addiction include: 

  • Detox 
  • Residential treatment
  • Partial hospitalization program
  • Intensive outpatient treatment 
  • Long-term and short-term treatment

Additionally, a unique value offered includes services designed to help individuals reach their personal goals. When addiction changes the course of someone’s life, often there are milestones that are delayed, such as enrolling in school or securing a job. With the help of programs like CollegeBound® and CareerBound®, in addition to the other specialized programs each focused on specific avenues of care, each person can create a treatment plan along with their support team that makes the most sense for them. 

Detox Starts the Recovery Process

Before the beginning of any full-fledged treatment program, a person must be free and clear of any substances, including benzos, alcohol, and opioids. Alcohol and opioids are frequently used at the same time as benzos and everything must be fully eliminated from the system before the next phase of care. 

The detox period is when a person experiences withdrawal symptoms. These may begin with headaches, body aches, nausea, and diarrhea, which are common examples experienced in the acute phase, but can quickly advance to more serious symptoms like hallucinations, tremors, and/or seizures. Everyone goes through the detox process differently. Some may feel the symptoms of withdrawal right away with great frequency and intensity, while others may not start to feel them until after a few days have gone by without benzos being present in the body. 

Either way, it’s valuable to have the medical monitoring and emotional support of a residential facility to track progress and/or setbacks. Every treatment for benzodiazepine addiction starts with detox before the next phase can begin. A typical detox period is anywhere from seven to ten days, but it depends on your certain situation. Symptoms normally peak after four or five days before they begin to reduce in severity. 

Due to the unpredictability of the body’s reaction to detox, it’s not recommended to go through the withdrawal process on your own. Plus, there’s the advanced likelihood of relapse without the support of others to help guide you along. By choosing to detox in the care of a supervised, well-established facility, you’ll have care available to monitor changes to your health during this volatile time.

Residential Treatment Offers Well-Rounded Care

After the initial detox program, residential treatment is the next step. It requires a temporary stay for a recommended three to four months in a treatment facility. Residential treatment provides the opportunity to separate yourself from your current environment and influences, and allows you to add structure to your day in a healthy way. 

A standard morning at Northbound often begins with time for meditation, followed by breakfast, and the first therapy session of the day. As the day progresses, there is time allotted for individual counseling, educational programs, exercise, and recreational activities to create a balanced schedule that’s focused on your healing and recovery. This routine builds a foundation for people to better transition and function back in the world sans addiction. 

The comprehensive care model also prepares people for future challenges and temptations to know how to handle situations as they arise. The roots of addiction may be severed during residential treatment, but there’s always the risk of them growing back when treatment is complete. As part of Northbound’s trademarked In Vivo® model, the dedication is on guiding people on how to learn, adapt, and thrive in day-to-day life by becoming emotionally balanced and spiritually fit.

Outpatient Treatment Provides Transitional Support 

As the next phase in the full continuum of care, outpatient addiction treatment continues to solidify the foundation created during residential treatment and prepare people to continue their sobriety in the outside world. This part of treatment involves programs to meet you are in life and guide you toward any goals that may have been shelved due to addiction. 

Through intensive outpatient treatment, it allows people to continue their recovery pathway in a sober living environment with support available on flexible terms to each person’s schedule. It’s also a way to help people refocus on their recovery to prevent relapse. This level of treatment requires six to twelve hours a week of participation that involves much of the same type of care that’s provided through residential treatment. Individual and group counseling and education, recreational and experiential activities, and ongoing drug testing are all parts of the outpatient program. 

It’s in this stage that psychiatric care is also available, in addition to concurrent participation in one of Northbound’s specialized programs, such as the Music Therapy or Trauma Program. There is also a Family Program designed to help clients reconnect with family members and repair damaged relationships caused by substance abuse. With the guidance of a team of therapists and practitioners, you’ll decide which areas of care are most significant for you and your recovery.

How to Identify Benzo Abuse

Benzos are fast-acting and physical dependence on them can occur over just a few months of daily use. They’re intended to use for a short-term basis or as-needed basis intermittently. Prolonged use even if consistent in frequency day after day can still lead to benzo dependency. Since most benzos have a long half-life, they linger in the body longer and start to accumulate in the fatty tissues. As more is taken, it raises the body’s tolerance level for the drug.

It can be difficult for someone to realize they’re becoming dependent on benzos, especially if they began taking them as prescribed medications. However, with the side effects associated with benzo use, such as drowsiness, irritability, difficulty with coordination, and trouble concentrating, these signal abuse when they happen more often or become more intense. 

Also, knowing a person is taking the benzos outside the realm of a doctor’s recommendation is misuse of the drug and can lead to overdose, which is one of the main signs of abuse. From the standpoint of a loved one who’s concerned about the habits and mental health of a friend or family member, consider any noticeable differences in side effects and how they’ve negatively affected their life. 

What to Expect During Detox and Treatment

Two of the main things to expect when going through treatment under the guidance of an addiction recovery facility are structure and support. When addiction takes over the body, it leads to upheaval at every level. Addiction causes problems physically, emotionally, and psychologically at varying rates and occurrences. Treatment is designed to bring stability back to your life on all levels. 

Drug addiction causes a physiological change in the brain which convinces the body that it needs benzos to function properly. This drastic change comes with its side effects that can be difficult to manage alone. The body has to find its balance and functioning again without the use of benzos. Due to its intensity, detox is best done under the supervision of a medical team. Having emotional support nearby can give you the motivational push to keep moving forward. It becomes far easier to relapse when trying to detox alone due to how withdrawal causes the body and mind to react.

Every step of benzodiazepine addiction treatment provides support, mentoring, and guidance from therapists to help guide you through the next phase and onto a path of healing and recovery. In the beginning, it can feel overwhelming, but as each day passes and you become stronger and your mind becomes clearer, the path becomes more visible. By taking the opportunity of the treatment options available, you can take back control over your future in a positive, consistent way. 

Sources: 

  1. Lembke, Anna, et al. “Benzodiazepines: Our Other Prescription Drug Epidemic.” STAT, 22 Feb. 2018, www.statnews.com/2018/02/22/benzodiazepines-drug-epidemic/
  2. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Benzodiazepines (and the Alternatives).” Harvard Health, Mar. 2014, www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/benzodiazepines_and_the_alternatives
  3. “Alprazolam (Oral Route) Side Effects.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 July 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/alprazolam-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20061040

Article Reviewed by Keerthy Sunder

Keerthy SunderDr. Keerthy Sunder previously served as the Chief Medical Officer for Tune My Brain, an Integrative Brain Optimization Center in California. Doctor Sunder has devoted his life to helping others build peace, joy, fulfillment, and peak performance on the foundation of physical and mental health. Through 20 years of medical experience, he has realized that the best way to optimize the mind and body is a multi-pronged approach. This led to the creation of the Brain Tune Sunder Method, which combines cutting-edge science with ancient Eastern wellness techniques for brain optimization, such as Nutraceutical Supplementation, Meditations and Neurofeedback. Inspired by his beloved mother who suffered from Depression, who embraced integrative approaches from the East and the West, Dr Sunder, an accomplished Physician has devoted his life to optimize wellness across the life span.

Dr. Sunder holds Diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Board of Addiction Medicine. He is also a Diplomate of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in London, England and certified as a Credentialed Menopause Practitioner by the North American Menopause Society. He served his Ob/Gyn residency at James Cook University Hospital in England. He served his Psychiatry residency at the University of Bristol, England as well as Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania.

He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a Visionary Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine. He is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Riverside School of Medicine and an Adjunct Professor at Southern California University of Health Sciences.

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