Benzodiazepines For Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Author: William Henken
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What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines, commonly called “Benzos,” are drugs that are often prescribed to treat anxiety. They include common household names like Xanax, and many Americans either take Benzos themselves or know someone who does; over 30 million have taken a Benzodiazepine at least once.
There’s a rich variety of medications, tools, and resources available to those struggling with an alcohol use disorder, also called alcohol addiction; Benzos can certainly be a potent tool in the recovering individual’s toolbox. Benzodiazepines may be given to someone going through alcohol withdrawal, however they may come with their own side effects so it is important to be monitored by a medical professional.
How Can Benzos Help With Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol slows down the function of the brain, which is why so many find drinking to be relaxing. Benzodiazepines and alcohol have that in common; additionally, they both act on GABA, a crucial neurotransmitter that regulates mood and can provide a sense of emotional stability.
Being that alcohol and Benzodiazepines have comparable effects in the brain, it’s extremely dangerous for anyone to drink alcohol and take Benzos simultaneously. This can lead to depressed breathing, slowed heart rate, coma, and even death — all effects, essentially, of being too relaxed.
Benzos cannot and should not be used to treat someone who is currently drinking alcohol or who has alcohol in their system.
Instead, Benzodiazepines can be an important part of treating alcohol withdrawal. During alcohol withdrawal, the brain and body struggle to function in a new state of “hyper-excitability,” which may result in seizures and delirium (sometimes known as delirium tremens, which is an extreme and sometimes fatal complication of alcohol withdrawal.)
While patients are going through alcohol withdrawal, Benzos can sedate them — the drugs are not without their side effects or without addictive potential, however.
What Are Complications Of Benzodiazepine Use?
Just like alcohol can cause a state of hyper-vigilance, anxiety, and overexcitement upon its cessation, so too can Benzodiazepines. The phenomenon is sometimes called “rebound anxiety,” and those afflicted with rebound anxiety may suffer from panic attacks, racing thoughts, sleeplessness, fidgeting, and a persistent sense of fear or worry.
Furthermore, Benzos can become addictive and be abused in their own right (a medical team working with a patient recovering from alcohol addiction will be aware of this information — and Benzos will typically be prescribed on a short-term basis to prevent this from happening.)
How Can Rebound Anxiety Be Treated?
The secret to treating rebound anxiety, or anxiety of any kind, may be in helping the brain to produce the right amounts of GABA (the neurotransmitter that both alcohol and Benzos act on) at the right times.
Fortunately, there are many methods that could be effective to this end — and once a patient is safely through alcohol withdrawal (which can be deadly if undergone alone and can require medication to treat), the below options may become helpful ways to stabilize mood in the long term.
1. Get moving. According to a piece published in Psychology Today, studies have shown that “vigorous bouts of exercise increase levels of two common neurotransmitters—glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).”
2. Try meditation. The ancient technique, which can be as simple as setting a timer, sitting in a chair, and focusing on one’s breathing as best one can until the timer goes off, can be helpful in reducing anxiety. According to an article published in the Ancient Science of Life peer-reviewed journal, “By increasing GABA levels, meditation may help to decrease anxiety levels.”
3. Eat right. Certain foods may help to stimulate GABA. Specifically, research shows that green veggies, beans, tomatoes, tea, and rice may be beneficial. Even if these specific foods don’t fit the palate or are unavailable, eating as healthily as possible may help to stabilize mood and increase relaxation.
If none of these options work well enough to soothe anxiety, it may be a good idea to talk to a therapist or find a support group for those struggling with the same condition — in any event, by avoiding alcohol and problematic drug use and trying all the treatment modalities available, rebound anxiety can be mitigated to the greatest extent possible.
What’s The Next Step?
If you or a loved one is living with alcohol addiction, there’s no reason to delay seeking treatment. By going to rehab, you or your loved one can receive the treatment medications (like Benzodiazepines) needed to calm the body and mind and ward off the worst possible side effects of alcohol withdrawal — without veering into developing a new addiction entirely.
But ultimately, the choice about whether to receive treatment of any kind is in the hands of the one living with alcohol misuse. If you’re ready to learn more about what it means to seek treatment at rehab, then take the next step now and contact a treatment provider.
They can help you find a facility or a treatment program that could help get you on a better track — and knowing all of one’s options can be an incredibly crucial part of the healthy and lasting recovery that you or your loved one deserves.
Author: William Henken | Last Edited: March 17, 2022
Medical Reviewer: David Hampton