A case report in psychiatry was published a few years back (2013) examining the efficacy of slow onset, yet long-acting benzodiazepines like Clonazepam for treating severe withdrawals related to years of benzodiazepine abuse. The study employed the model of treatment for patients dealing with opiate withdrawals – using methadone to gradually wean the patient off drugs altogether by slowly tapering down their doses until medication was ceased entirely.
The same model has been proposed for addicts suffering from withdrawal from fast onset, yet slow-acting benzos like Xanax and Valium. Clonazepam was used as a substitute for Xanax and Valium as well as its pharmacokinetic properties and similar agonist mechanisms. Detoxing from benzos is a serious issue and is known to be even more deadly than an addict coming off of opiates and opioids.
Millions of Americans suffer from the debilitating symptoms of chronic anxiety disorder and social phobia. Many come to psychiatrists seeking help for their panic attacks and other ailments, which drastically reduce quality of life. The majority of these individuals lack the proper care and treatment they need, and instead end up addicted to dangerous anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium – which can be extremely habit forming in a very short period of time.
Diagnosis of such an anxiety disorder is comprised of a complex set of factors and underlying psychological conditions that need to be examined as a whole instead of individually. Talk therapy, like Gestalt therapy, along with productive outlets for self-expression can do wonders in themselves. However the easy route chosen by most professionals in the psychiatric arena is to sedate the person.
This course of action may prove useful in the preliminary phases of treatment and for the acute symptoms when dealing with a sudden panic attack, however, prove to be counterproductive for the long term. The problem with drugs like Xanax and Valium is tolerance is developed quickly and the patient will require more and more dosages in order to achieve the desired effect over time. This results in a vicious cycle whereby the patient’s anxiety eventually returns, and more extreme in nature.
By the time a person reaches this unpleasant stage they will be experiencing withdrawal symptoms virtually 24/7 despite having increased their dosage. This is when serious health complications start to occur as a side-effect of treatment. The following symptoms are experienced in users suffering from withdrawal from benzos:
- Rebound Anxiety
- Panic Attacks
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Heart Palpitations
- Muscular Pain
- Joint Stiffness
It should be noted that although death is a very rare occurrence it is by no means unlikely in the event of acute withdrawal from benzos.
Benzo Withdrawal Protocol
Adopting the same general procedure and guidelines for addicts suffering from opiate and opioid withdrawals, the methadone detox paradigm is useful for those suffering from dependence to benzos.
The program consists of 4 stages as follows:
- Induction Phase
- Stabilization Phase
- Maintenance Phase
- Medication Withdrawal Phase
This model evolves from a static approach to a more dynamic processes that allows for the patient to resume a normal healthy functioning life. Adhering to this approach gives the patient the best chance at reclaiming their old self, sans the addiction to benzos. The key is to gradually implement the changes in a way that is not too unsettling and uncomfortable. By using a more mild benzo like Clonazepam as a substitute during the initial stages of the detoxification process ensures the patient is comfortable and not prone to suffering undue side-effects that could hamper the odds of a full recovery.
As with anything it takes time, dedication and the willingness to implement behavior modification. It doesn’t matter if you’re addicted to benzos or opiates – there is always a solution to your problem. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Nobody achieved success without a little help from friends, family and their community.