Can I go to rehab for benzodiazepine addiction?

Why are benzodiazepines prescribed?

Can I go to rehab for benzodiazepine addiction?

Until relatively recently, prescriptions were renewed automatically and little was done by the GP or medical practice to restrict or limit the time that any drug was allowed to be prescribed to individuals. This included prescriptions for benzodiazepines, as little was known about the effects of taking these long term.

Benzodiazepines have always been a popular drug to be prescribed for anxiety or for people who feel distressed, as they work to calm or sedate by raising the level of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain.

GABA is short for Gamma aminobutyric acid. It is an amino acid that functions as the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter for the central nervous system. Many psychiatric illnesses have been linked to low concentrations of GABA and generalised anxiety is just one. As GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, then decreased concentrations of it will produce feelings of, for example, anxiousness. Some medications used to increase the GABBA levels have now been found to potentially have the added risk of creating an addiction to that medication and one such medication is any Benzodiazepine.

Benzodiazepines are only beneficial for short term use

Benzodiazepines or “Benzo’s” are more commonly known as Valium, Diazepam, Xanax and Lorazepam. Current research has shown that they should only be prescribed for short term use and even using them for a period of three to four weeks and then to suddenly stop using them could lead to withdrawal symptoms.  

This is obviously a major concern. If a person has been taking a prescribed medication correctly and they have experienced a marked improvement in their wellbeing and then due to their GP’s diligence, that medication is reduced or stopped, causing withdrawal symptoms, then this will negate the benefits of the medication being prescribed in the first place. The individual will possibly experience increased agitation and anxiety with this stopping of the medication as they will feel that the answer to their problem has been removed. We have found that in some cases they will resort to searching the internet to find ways of obtaining a benzodiazepine without a recognised prescription.

There is absolutely no guarantee that any medication, sourced illicitly from the internet has any medical properties that it is advertising that it has. In fact, it is an extremely dangerous practice to be consuming “medication” that we have no knowledge of where it has been sourced and even what ingredients that it contains.

The continued use of any medication and in particular a Benzodiazepine such as Valium or Diazepam will create a tolerance to that drug and its effectiveness will lessen and so will any positive results that it was initially prescribed for. The only way to increase the effectiveness is to increase the amount of medication consumed. However, this also accelerates the tolerance which, in time, reduces the drug’s effectiveness again.  Two things can happen, we can increase our daily authorised prescription intake which will require us to source non authorised medication or if the prescription has been stopped, we may try and purchase Benzo’s using the internet, which is our easiest means of obtaining them.

Benzodiazepines are addictive

Research on the long-term use of any Benzodiazepine demonstrates that this type of drug may have a similar effect on the brain as alcohol and is associated with depression, increased anxiety, sleep disorders and mood swings.  It is also clear that the long-term use of any Benzo will lead to addiction: that time would be calculated at a minimum of continued use for 3 months.  It’s a scary thought that a prescription drug dependence or addiction can develop so quickly and to such a degree that it would be a risk to suddenly stop taking the drug.  So, in the past, the addiction developed due to the practise of continually renewing prescriptions. Now it is usually from individuals sourcing Valium, Diazepam etc illegally, using the internet after their prescription has been correctly stopped, basically through them self-medicating.

This unregulated self-medicating will start to impact on all of our life areas. As our body tolerance changes and our body becomes used to the drug we will start to revert back to depressive episodes and heightened levels of anxiety. We will choose not to see our GP as we will not want to disclose that we have been taking medication that was not prescribed for us so we get stuck in not knowing where we should go to get help.

Detoxing from benzodiazepines at home is very difficult

At The Haynes Clinic, we generally find that people will tell us that they have tried to cut back the dosage themselves. This is a very difficult thing to do in a home environment.  The body is used to a certain amount of a drug each day and when you start to daily reduce down the quantity you can start to experience withdrawal symptoms.   At home the temptation is that the only way to stop any benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms is to take more medication and thus the reduction doesn’t work.

This inability to cut back on the daily medication consumption gives rise to further depressive episodes and feelings of guilt, shame, anger and remorse. There becomes this feeling of hopelessness where we acknowledge the drug has been controlling us and a final realisation that we can not do this on our own.

A Benzodiazepine detox as a rehab from prescription drug addiction can take up to six weeks (or more) in a residential drug rehab or addiction clinic.  There, you will be detoxed by a daily medication reduction, but the difference is that you will be in a safe environment and will also be participating within a daily structured therapy programme.  You will be under the medical care of the clinic GP and the qualified staff. If you have been in treatment at The Haynes Clinic there will also be the added benefit of 12 months of weekly ongoing Aftercare support, following discharge from treatment, either at the clinic or by Zoom meetings.  This ongoing support can be critical to maintaining a changed life with changed thinking and behaviour that is not now dominated daily by unprescribed medication.