The essential elements of a successful program to kickstart recovery.
Addiction to benzodiazepines, often called benzos, such as Xanax, is a dangerous and salient reality in the United States. The desire for the calming or euphoric effects of benzodiazepines can lead to a persistent and detrimental chemical dependency. If benzos are not taken properly, the body rapidly builds a tolerance to their effects. This increase of tolerance can lead to substance abuse, due to a person needing to consume benzos in larger, more frequent doses in order to experience the same euphoric effects.
The cycle of abuse continues to grow as the body requires more and more benzos in order to achieve the desired state of mind. Health declines as abuse persists as each instance of substance abuse jeopardizes the health and well-being of the individual.
So what should a person do if they struggle with an addiction to benzodiazepines? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to have an accurate understanding of what benzos are and how a healthy benzo detox process works.
What Is A Benzo?
Benzos, short for benzodiazepines, are a group of drugs referred to as minor tranquilizers. Benzos are typically prescribed by doctors to patients who experience sleep problems and/or anxiety. Benzos calm anxiety and relax the body by slowing down the operations of the brain and central nervous system.
Benzos are frequently prescribed because they are very effective. However, their potency also makes them susceptible to abuse. Addiction to benzodiazepines causes multiple health problems, and can even be fatal. So it’s important to seek treatment for benzo addiction when it occurs.
The recovery process begins with a healthy and stable detoxification. Detoxification occurs after the patient stops using a certain substance, and begins flushing that substance form his/her system. This purging of the system is not easy or quick, but requires patience and supervision by a medical professional. In the case of benzodiazepines, the detoxification process gradually expels benzos from the body, in addition to any other toxic chemicals, which could hinder the health and recovery of the patient.
Detoxification is a volatile process, and should never be done alone. If addicted to benzos, the body has grown accustomed to the presence of this drug in the system. As a result, the body will not immediately respond well to the purging of benzos. The danger of detoxification increases with the length of time someone has been using benzos. The longer someone has consistently introduced the drugs into their system, the harder it will be for the body to function without their presence.
Attempting to detox from benzos alone, or quit “cold turkey”, is dangerous, and can even be fatal. That is why it’s essential to have a medical professional monitor the detoxification process. A medical professional will have the knowledge and experience required to safely and effectively flush benzos from the body. They will provide the supervision required to manage withdrawal symptoms and help the body maintain stability.
Benzo Detox Methods
There are two main methods for benzo detoxification. The unique situation of each individual determines which method will be most successful.
- Tapering Off Benzo Use: Tapering off of benzo use can be a healthy way to detox without triggering major symptoms of withdrawal. The brain gets used to the presence of certain chemicals when abusing benzodiazepines, so the gradual decrease of benzos can help the brain adjust to the chemical changes.
- Medication Assisted Detox: The detoxification process can also use medication in order to curb withdrawal symptoms and help the body and brain transition to a benzo-free lifestyle. Drugs like Ativan and Librium, for example, are utilized to ease the withdrawal symptoms of Xanax and other sedative/hypnotics during a long-term detox.
In addition to medication, a healthy lifestyle can go a long way toward creating a smooth detoxification process. Fueling the body with proper nutrition, taking vitamins, getting regular exercise and engaging in healthy, supportive relationships can mitigate the difficulties involved in a detox program. Throughout the detoxification process, it’s important to invest in emotional, physical, relational and spiritual well-being.
What to Expect During Detox
During a benzo detox, possible withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Insomnia/ Sleep disturbance
- Anxiety & Increased tension
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty in concentration
- Muscle aches and pains
- Weight loss
The withdrawal symptoms can vary in type and degree, it’s impossible to accurately predict the specifics of each benzo detox experience. The most important thing is to make sure that the detoxification is administered and monitored by a medical professional who will be prepared to address any issue which may arise.
One of the most important aspects of recovery is the prevention of relapse. A relapse resets the steps of the recovery process, causing a person to start from the beginning. Recovery is not a one-time event, but a process that continues throughout life. Relapse prevention is essential to the ongoing maintenance of a healthy life of recovery.
Surrounding oneself with positive influences is essential to avoiding relapse. It’s crucial to build a supportive community that is invested in health and well-being. Other elements of relapse prevention include:
- Taking time in therapy. Stay as long as needed. Nothing good comes from rushing the treatment process. A slow, careful, intentional investment of time and energy in therapy will pay off in the future.
- Taking prescribed vitamins and medication. Consult a doctor to know which vitamins and medications are ok to take. Set aside time each day to make sure that vitamins and medications are taken consistently as prescribed by a physician.
- Staying active. Exercise at least 30 minutes each day. Attending to physical fitness makes every other aspect of recovery and self-care easier. Consistent physical fitness fosters a clear mind, a sense of accomplishment, and physical strength.
- Avoiding tempting situations. One of the best ways to avoid temptation is to keep a distance from situations where temptations are likely to be present. Carefully think about activities and events before committing to them. Avoid any circumstances in which temptations are likely.
- Getting rid of bad company. Sever ties with anyone who will enable or foster a toxic atmosphere. All relationships will affect the mind in some way, so choosing company wisely is important.
- Creating a positive network. Develop relationships with both professionals and others who will help with abstaining from benzodiazepines and provide the support needed for a sustained and successful recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with benzodiazepine abuse, consult a professional with your questions and concerns. Contact us at Futures of Palm Beach to receive the answers and support that you need.