Long term users and abusers of benzodiazepines are advised to seek professional help on how to withdraw gradually and ultimately stop taking these medications altogether. The misuse of benzodiazepines not only affects the abuser but society as a whole. The most successful withdrawal strategies include the combination of a gradual reduction in dosage and professional psychological support.
The dose of benzodiazepines taken should be tapered off depending on the individual patient’s circumstances. The process can take several weeks or even months to complete successfully. Withdrawal from diazepam is in most cases particularly easy because of the dosage strengths that are available but it is important to note that it can work with the other benzodiazepines as well.
Some cases may require the use of adjuvant medication that may include propranolol or antidepressants. However, note should be taken that there are no drugs that have been proven to have general utility in the relief of the symptoms related to withdrawal.
Psychological support should be offered during the period of withdrawal from the abuse of the drug and for several months after the patient has successfully quit taking the drug. This support should include the provision of information about benzodiazepines, measures to reduce anxiety, general encouragement and other measures that are aimed at helping the patient to learn natural ways of dealing with stress.
In most patients, the extent of support that is required is quite minimal, but some patients may need some extra therapy and counseling. Patients who are unwilling to end the abuse should be forced to withdraw.
If these methods are applied correctly and as required, the chances of success are usually high and are not affected by the duration of usage, withdrawal rate, severity of symptoms, typeor dosage of benzodiazepine, personality disorder, or the psychiatric history of the patient. The long term success of the treatment is clear; but many patients may for some short periods resort to taking benzodiazepines again and they may need further psychotropic support, therapy or medication.
Generally, the outcome can be improved by the careful psychological and pharmacological handling of withdrawal and the phases of post withdrawal.
The strategies of withdrawal from benzodiazepine as treatment for benzodiazepine abuse are broadly categorized into two categories:
- Management of anxiety
- Gradual reduction of the benzodiazepine dosage.
Drug abuse treatment experts believe that psychological support is vital for the successful treatment of people addicted to benzodiazepines.
Gradual Reduction of the Benzodiazepine Dosage – The benzodiazepine dosage should be tapered off in a very gradual manner. Abrupt withdrawal, especially if the abuse has been of high dosages and has been going on for a while, may cause panic, convulsions, confusion and other psychological disturbances.
Note, however, that these symptoms can still present even when the withdrawal is slow. And for this reason, each withdrawal should be conducted in a way which takes into account the health of each individual patient.
Management of Anxiety – Even when the withdrawal from benzodiazepines is conducted with the utmost care, patients are at great risk of developing anxiety. Due to this, the treatment must include psychological support for the management and relief of anxiety.