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How Do You Get Off Benzodiazepines?

Mark Halsey
Chief Editor of - Cleanbreak Recovery

Mark Halsey is a licensed therapist, founder, and chief editor of Clean Break Recovery. With over a decade of addiction treatment experience, Mark deeply understands...Read more

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. However, long-term use of these drugs can lead to serious health issues, from addiction to withdrawal symptoms. If you or someone you know is looking to get off benzodiazepines, it can be a challenging process. In this article, we’ll explore the steps you can take to successfully stop taking benzodiazepines, as well as the potential risks and benefits of doing so.

How Do You Get Off Benzodiazepines?

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” are a class of drugs commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia, and other medical conditions. These prescription drugs are considered to be relatively safe when taken as prescribed, but they can be addictive and have potential for abuse. In addition, long-term use of benzos can lead to tolerance, physical dependence, and withdrawal symptoms when abruptly stopped. Understanding the risks and dangers of benzos is essential for anyone considering quitting them.

Assessment of Risk and Benefits

The first step in quitting benzodiazepines is to have a thorough evaluation from a healthcare provider. This evaluation will assess the benefits and risks of taking the medication and whether or not the individual should stop taking them. This assessment should include a review of the individual’s medical history, as well as an assessment of the individual’s current health status. It is important to discuss any concerns or questions that the individual may have with the healthcare provider before deciding to stop taking the medication.

Tapering Off Benzodiazepines

Once the healthcare provider has determined that it is safe to stop taking benzodiazepines, the next step is to taper off the medication. Tapering off benzos slowly and gradually is the best way to avoid withdrawal symptoms and minimize the risk of relapse. The tapering schedule should be determined by the healthcare provider and based on the individual’s needs. In some cases, the healthcare provider may recommend switching to a longer-acting benzodiazepine or using an alternative treatment such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Coping With Withdrawal Symptoms

When stopping benzodiazepines, it is important to be aware of the potential for withdrawal symptoms. The severity of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on how long the individual has been taking the medication and how much they have been taking. Common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, agitation, and muscle tension. It is important to seek medical attention if the symptoms become severe or if the individual experiences any serious side effects.

Managing Cravings and Relapse

When quitting benzodiazepines, it is important to be aware of the potential for cravings and relapse. It is important to have a plan in place for managing cravings and triggers for relapse. This plan may include stress-reduction techniques, support from family and friends, and avoiding situations where the individual may be tempted to use the medication again.

Seeking Professional Help

It is important to seek professional help if the individual is struggling to quit benzodiazepines. Professional help can include individual counseling, group counseling, and support groups. These services can help the individual develop coping skills and find support to help them stay on track. In addition, professional help can provide guidance and support that the individual may need to make a successful transition off of benzos.

Top 6 Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, or “benzos” for short, are a class of drugs that are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and other conditions. They work by increasing the activity of a neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA helps reduce the activity of certain nerve cells in the brain, which can reduce symptoms of anxiety and other conditions.

2. What are the potential risks of taking benzodiazepines?

The potential risks of taking benzodiazepines include drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, impaired coordination and judgment, and memory problems. In addition, benzodiazepines can be addictive and can cause physical dependence, meaning that a person needs to take the drug to feel normal. Long-term use of benzodiazepines can also lead to tolerance, meaning that a person needs to take higher doses of the drug to get the same effect.

3. What are the potential withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepines?

The potential withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepines include anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, sweating, shaking, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and seizures. In addition, long-term use of benzodiazepines can lead to depression and other mental health issues.

4. What is the best way to get off benzodiazepines?

The best way to get off benzodiazepines is to gradually reduce your dose over time. This should be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional, as sudden cessation of benzos can lead to potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. The healthcare professional can also help manage any withdrawal symptoms that may occur.

5. What other treatments are available for anxiety and insomnia?

In addition to benzodiazepines, there are several other treatments available for anxiety and insomnia, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and relaxation techniques. Depending on the severity of the condition, medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and hypnotics may also be used.

6. Is it possible to prevent relapse after getting off benzodiazepines?

Yes, it is possible to prevent relapse after getting off benzodiazepines. A healthcare professional can help you develop a plan to manage your anxiety and insomnia symptoms without needing to take benzodiazepines. This plan may include lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. Additionally, it is important to practice stress management techniques and stay away from situations or activities that may trigger a relapse.

Seth Doane on the growing addiction to anti-anxiety medication, debilitating withdrawal symptoms

Getting off benzodiazepines is no small feat. However, with the right resources, support, and dedication to the process, it is possible. If you have been taking benzodiazepines and are considering making a change, it is important to consult a medical professional and develop a plan that is tailored to your specific needs. With a comprehensive, step-by-step strategy, you can reduce and ultimately discontinue your use of benzodiazepines. With the right support, you can make the transition and reclaim your life.

Mark Halsey is a licensed therapist, founder, and chief editor of Clean Break Recovery. With over a decade of addiction treatment experience, Mark deeply understands the complex needs of those struggling with addiction and utilizes a comprehensive and holistic approach to address them. He is well-versed in traditional and innovative therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and mindfulness-based interventions.

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