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Treatment for Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction

Treatment for Benzo Addiction

Benzodiazepines pose cognitive decline and dependency risks when using them for extended periods. The drug is a depressant and suppresses neurotransmitter activities; they quickly reduce anxiety and stress. After your body adjusts to the medication, you consume higher dosages to achieve the desired effect.


Managing a benzodiazepine dosage involves gradually withdrawing or maintaining dosages, substituting, prescribing interventions, and pharmacotherapies. Long-acting benzos are helpful during withdrawal and maintenance therapy; however, they are not used for elderly patients. Medical professionals gradually reduce the benzo dosage over a few weeks to prevent life-threatening side effects such as seizures. Let's look at a few benzo treatments, then.

Benzo Treatment at Rolling Hills Recovery Center

An individual who has used benzos for more than 3-4 weeks will likely experience severe withdrawal symptoms once they cease utilizing the drug abruptly. Medical professionals use prevention methods by issuing prescriptions limited to 1-2 weeks.


Most doctors prescribe benzodiazepines for anxiety and insomnia; long-term use escalates dosages and worsens the underlying condition. The optimal treatment in primary care is non-pharmacological, primarily behavioral and psychological therapies, including:


  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT); aims to change adverse circumstances and thoughts into more positive ones.

  • Contingency Management (CM); aims to encourage patients by rewarding them for upholding good behavior or reaching a treatment goal.

  • Motivational Interviewing (MI); is a directive, client-centered counseling that elicits behavior change by assisting clients in exploring and resolving ambivalence.

  • Group Therapy; therapists work simultaneously with several individuals with the same addiction problems. Group therapy is an effective way to help mental health patients.


During management, the therapist engages the patient to eliminate patient non-adherence or doctor shopping. The therapist may use motivational interviewing techniques when the patient is considering a change or is not ready for change. When the patient is prepared, management involves two approaches for dependence: benzodiazepine withdrawal that aims for abstinence and maintenance therapy.


However, these approaches cannot cater to every patient's needs; the choice depends on the risk of harm and relapse. Low-risk patients, especially those who haven't used benzos for long, undergo general management and benefit from attempting withdrawal. High-risk patients primarily benefit from initial stabilization and maintenance therapy in highly specialized outpatient or residential addiction centers.


Several principles apply to both groups; withdrawal and maintenance:




Prescribing interventions in both maintenance and withdrawal approaches is beneficial, especially staged dispensing. This is done by regularly distributing small quantities of benzos to a local pharmacy and doing a clinical review; for instance, you can do daily administering and request a clinical study after two weeks. Having a liaison with a local pharmacist is also a helpful strategy.


Benzodiazepine Substitution


Some benzodiazepines are significantly misused and more dangerous in overdose than others; for instance, a 2 mg Alprazolam tablet equals four 5 mg Diazepam tablets. These drugs differ in half-life, perception of intoxication, and risks of withdrawal phenomena. A common benzo substitution would swap shorter half-life drugs like Alprazolam with more extended half-life drugs like Diazepam. However, studies in older people show success for patients who undergo gradual withdrawal without substitution.

Medically Reviewed:


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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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What is Stabilization and Maintenance Therapy?

Some patients may be reluctant to cease using benzos and are at higher risks of relapsing or harm. For this group, therapists may use a harm-reduction strategy, using half-life substitutes to prevent withdrawal episodes and prevent intoxication. This treatment allows patients to engage in holistic medicine for their dependence and reduces the dose as they adjust.


Patients using longer-life benzos manifest a range of chaotic social settings, aberrant drug-related behaviors, or unstable psychiatric diagnoses. Together with drug or alcohol-dependent victims, these patients benefit from maintenance therapy. However, these patients are usually tricky to manage and should enroll in specialist addiction services.


When patients on maintenance therapy eventually reach a stability period, doctors consider downsizing the drug to a lower dosage or even abstinence. However, patients at higher risks, those with unstable medical problems or seizure episodes, may benefit from an inpatient service for withdrawal or stabilization.

Treatment at Rolling Hills Recovery Center

What Does Benzodiazepine Treatment Look Like?

Addiction treatment for benzodiazepine addiction includes:


  • Detox and medical stabilization

  • Substance abuse rehabilitation

  • Aftercare and relapse prevention 


Detoxification is only the first step of treatment that aims to rid the body of harmful chemical substances. Detox is usually accompanied by withdrawal symptoms that depend on the patient's drug use, health, age, etc. Luckily, several detox settings accommodate the needs of specific patients, including outpatient, inpatient, residential, and hospital programs.


Once you complete detox, you undergo various therapeutic approaches to help you stay sober. The most common is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which allows you to swap negative thoughts and circumstances with positive ones. Aftercare planning proceeds once you are done with rehabilitation, including group therapy, continued individual counseling, and 12-step meetings.


Program Characteristics and Treatment Settings

If you are seeking to recover from benzodiazepine addiction, there are several treatment settings for you:


  • A Hospital: provides detox for high-risk patients and constantly monitors them in case of medical complications. People with pre-existing withdrawal complications or medical conditions are safe in the ICU.

  • Inpatient Detox Center: detox and withdrawal facilities with medical professionals monitoring patients.

  • Inpatient Addiction Treatment: comprehensive programs last longer than detox, often 30–90 days. They combine intensive therapy and medical support with a supervised and structured detox period at the start. These programs offer group therapy, individual counseling, support groups, and family therapy as treatment progresses.

  • Outpatient Detox Program: addiction treatment programs with more flexible treatment schedules. Daily or weekly treatment support monitoring based on the patient's needs.

  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs): Though they allow patients to return home at night, they offer a comprehensive addiction treatment program. Patients participate in therapy and addiction treatment for only a specified number of hours per week or day. They also provide individual counseling, support groups, and family therapy.


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The Bottom Line

Now that you have enrolled in a treatment facility, formed a support network, and are on your way to a drug-free life, you might want to consider maintaining sobriety. This is because being sober may be more complicated than getting sober; what about the triggers when you get back home? Therefore, it is essential to have a plan to deal with life stressors and triggers.


Do not torture yourself with significant steps; start small with the weekly meetings with your counselor. Find activities you can do to fill in when you feel like relapsing and join community support groups. You will find it easy to tackle a healthy and sober life within no time.

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Treatment for benzo addiction
Benzo treatment at Rolling Hills Recovery Center
Management for benzodiazepines
What is stabilization and maintenance therapy?
What does benzodiazepine treatment look like?
The bottom line
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