Benzodiazepine Family of Drugs

Benzodiazepines are drugs used most commonly to treat psychiatric problems, such as anxiety and panic attacks. Some are muscle relaxants, which are prescribed for muscle spasms and spastic disorders. Others are anti-convulsants for epilepsy and other seizure disorders. They can also be used to treat alcohol detoxification and psychosis, and as a medication before surgeries.

This family of drugs accounts for five out of the 10 categories in the government’s list of most abused drugs in the United States. Between 10% and 15% of all Americans are taking them. Part of the reason that so many people are abusing benzodiazepines is that they account for about 33% of all prescription drugs. They are classified as Schedule IV substances, which means the government considers them more habit-forming than addictive.

However, many people develop chemical dependencies upon benzodiazepines. As their bodies become tolerant of the drug, they will increase their dosages to dangerous levels to obtain the same effects of feeling calm and free from anxiety. Withdrawal can be harder to manage than withdrawal from heroin.

It is best to withdraw from benzodiazepines under medical supervision. You can experience seizures and other severe problems if you withdraw too quickly. Some people have actually died after they suddenly stopped taking benzodiazepines.

Withdrawal symptoms will depend upon how long you have been using drugs and at what levels. They will also depend on your current health, age, weight, sex, medical history, additional drug use, and so forth. Your symptoms may be only mild depression and sleeplessness. However, some people go into a major withdrawal syndrome that includes flu symptoms like vomiting, sweating, convulsions, tremors, and abdominal and muscle cramps, and dangerous problems such as delirium, visual and auditory hallucinations, and lowered blood pressure. These symptoms begin between 12 to 24 hours after your last dosage of benzodiazepines and are worst between hours 24 and 72. Some clinics help you through this period by using medications or by gradually decreasing your levels of benzodiazepines.

Once all traces of drugs have been removed from your body, you may “rebound,” or experience deep anxiety and panic at higher levels than before you took the drug. Depending on the level of your involvement with benzodiazepines, you may want to remain in a residential center for a few months or weeks to get help with any anxiety and depression that may surface.

When you phone, you can discuss your treatment options with a trained counselor. Depending on your budget, lifestyle, and level of drug use, you can choose a residential or outpatient center for your treatment. Residential treatment is more intense, in that you live with others undergoing treatment, along with full-time counselors. You participate in group and individual counseling, and may attend classes in nutrition and relaxation techniques. Usually, your family members will become involved in counseling, too, often by telephone. Most centers offer both indoor and outdoor sports, yoga, art, music, drama, and other activities that teach you how to relieve stress and anxiety in healthy ways. You also learn to deal with situations and people that may “trigger” a relapse into using drugs.

Once you return home, you usually will attend support meetings in your community, such as Narc-Anon. You will likely continue with individual and family counseling on an outpatient basis.

The National Institute of Health has done research indicating that people who spend at least a year in active treatment have better outcomes and are more likely to become permanently drug-free. Give yourself time.

If you are the custodial parent of a child who is abusing benzodiazepines, you have the right to place your child in a drug treatment center. Even teenagers who go through drug rehabilitation unwillingly can achieve excellent outcomes.

Please call now and discuss your situation with a counselor. All of our counselors are professional, informed, and non-judgmental – and some have been through the same problems you are now experiencing.