What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, more commonly referred to as “benzos,” are a class of drugs often prescribed to treat conditions rooted in an over-activity of nerves, namely anxiety, panic disorders and seizures. Benzos primarily affect neurotransmitters in the brain. One type of neurotransmitter in particular, gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), quells the process of neural action, so benzos are an effective drug because they strengthen the effects of GABA. Benzodiazepines are also regularly prescribed as part of a regimen for medically supervised alcohol detox. Some of the most recognizable names in the benzodiazepine category of prescription medications are Ambien, Ativan, Klonopin, Xanax and Valium.

Benzos are somewhat complicated because they are often initially prescribed for safe, short-term usage but can ultimately be abused or even addictive. When used correctly and as prescribed by a doctor on a temporary basis, these drugs can be extremely helpful. However, when abused for their sedative or euphoric outcomes, their intended purpose can easily get muddled into the blurred lines of misuse and inevitable dependence. It’s also worth noting, benzos are not intended for combination with other types of mind-altering substances, such as opiate-based drugs or alcohol. When someone does abuse benzos alongside opioid painkillers or booze, the risks of negative outcomes become exponentially higher.

As previously mentioned, benzos are often prescribed as an anxiety reliever and as a sleep aid for someone detoxing from alcohol. Unfortunately, people who have safely detoxed from alcohol sometimes continue to use the benzos long beyond the intended doctor-advised time frame—especially if they used to depend on alcohol in order to fall asleep.

Benzodiazepine Detox

According to the Ohio Hospital of Psychiatry, some of the withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with benzo cessation include, “flu-like aches and pains, restlessness, confusion, feelings of unreality, psychosis, hallucinations and delusions, seizures and suicidal ideations and behaviors.” Benzos can be a complex drug to wean off of so it is advised that someone begin the process of quitting under the care of a physician. In formalized residential treatment settings, like Recovery Malibu, for example, a doctor overseeing a benzo detox creates an individualized plan. This tailored detox approach is usually based on how much of the drug the client has been taking, how long he or she has been taking it and what approaches he or she has used to try and quit benzos in the past.

The most commonly prescribed medications for detoxing from benzos are anti-seizure or anti-convulsive meds such as Phenobarbital, which helps prevent seizures and makes detox more comfortable, or Gabapentin, a drug that helps control convulsions but can also help with anxiety. Sleep aides such as Trazodone can also be implemented into the benzo detox regimen.

Restoring Health for Recovery

Ultimately, there are lots of options for someone to undergo a safe detox from benzodiazepines. Of course, supervision by a physician well versed in addiction medicine is crucial. Recovery Malibu employs some of the top addictionologists in the field and therefore ensures a comfortable, safe and personalized detox experience. When someone is in the best physical condition possible, he or she is much better equipped to begin addressing the behavioral and mental facets of addiction and substance use disorders. If a person has developed an addiction to benzos, gradually getting the body accustomed to no longer relying on these drugs is an integral first step in the recovery process.