There is no specific treatment for benzodiazepine addiction other than medical supervision during the detoxification phase. This is necessary to avoid possibly fatal withdrawal symptoms. The general principles of treating addictions do apply however.
Because benzodiazepine addiction may be a consequence of legitimate therapy, a replacement medication or therapy must be found. Patients who overused medications prescribed to them still have the underlying condition. In some cases, another benzodiazepine can be tried, along with monitoring so that dosage isn’t increased without medical advice. Generally, those with a demonstrated propensity toward addictive behaviors are not candidates for benzodiazepine therapy.
For those who are dependent on benzodiazepines outside a legitimate medical use, the treatment (after detox) is one of counseling and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The intent is to give patients the skills and knowledge to change their behavior in a positive direction. This usually involves exploring any causative factors. A 12-step program may be recommended as a helpful adjunct and one that patients can pursue without cost.
There are no specific medications that will replace a benzodiazepine in every case. Patients who need help sleeping or who are self-treating depression/anxiety may be prescribed drugs in another class with a lower addiction potential.
photo by Patricia Yliniemi