Help for Addiction to Benzos and Alcohol

Stuck to the side of every bottle of benzodiazepines (benzos) is a warning. It reads: Do not mix with alcohol. Sadly, many people who struggle with addiction barely see it and rarely consider the dangers of washing pills down with an alcoholic drink. That mistake leads to thousands of preventable deaths a year according to the Center for Disease Control. They report that half of prescription drug-related deaths involve at least one other drug such as alcohol. Benzos and alcohol are sedatives. The substances affect the body’s central nervous system, lulling users to sleep and bringing the heart, lungs or other crucial functions to a fatal stop.

Benzodiazepines and Alcohol: A Toxic Combo

Benzos are a class of prescription drugs often called tranquilizers. They are commonly prescribed to treat insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks and include drugs such as the following:

  • Valium
  • Librium
  • Xanax
  • Ativan

Benzos work by enhancing the effect of neurotransmitters in the brain to create a sense of calm. When taken for short periods of time as directed they are relatively safe and carry little risk of overdose. However effects produced by the drugs such as confusion and short-term memory loss can be dangerous, especially when benzos are combined with alcohol. Tranquilizers magnify alcohol’s depressive effects, placing users in serious physical and emotional jeopardy by producing the following effects:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Decreased mobility
  • Depressed central nervous system
  • Strained respiratory system
  • Impaired breathing

Stopping benzo addiction “cold turkey” also poses health dangers and can cause seizures, delirium tremens and possible death. The best way to recover safely is to seek medical supervision as quickly as possible.

Detoxification and Inpatient Addiction Treatment

Treatment for benzo addiction and alcoholism are similar. Both begin with detoxification. While detoxing from benzos, an individual may be given decreasing amounts of the drug to end use slowly and minimize side effects.  The process can take 3 to 30 days depending on the severity of the addiction. Once both substances are removed from the system, treatment for the psychological underpinnings of addiction can begin.

A 2009 study supported by the National Institutes of Health found that length of stay in treatment is the most important factor in predicting positive treatment outcomes. Longer treatment stays yield the following benefits:

  • More post-detox treatment. People who spend several weeks withdrawing physically may need more time to work on the psychological and emotional aspects of their addictions.
  • Brain recalibration. It takes a minimum of 90 days for the brain to heal enough to begin thinking clearly.
  • Opportunity to practice. Reentering society quickly can be overwhelming and can trigger relapse.
  • Time for new habits take root. People who practice a recovery lifestyle may feel more secure after they leave the structure of rehab.

Overcoming addiction is not easy. Overcoming two can be twice as difficult. Individuals with co-occurring addictions may require inpatient treatment to launch a strong recovery.

Outpatient Programs for Addiction Recovery

Individuals who are not heavily addicted may be a good fit for outpatient programs. Outpatient treatment gives people extra help fighting addiction without requiring them to drop work and family commitments. Outpatient programs typically last for 60 to 90 days and offer additional benefits that include the following:

  • Regular content with a support structure
  • Ability to maintain head-of-household functioning
  • Freedom to keep a presence at school or work
  • Treatment within driving distance of home

Outpatient programs often provide therapy and support options that are similar to those found in inpatient programs. Treatment includes the following components:

  • Counseling to identify emotional and mental issues behind the addiction
  • Ongoing therapy to boost coping skills and prevent relapse
  • Family therapy for affected loved ones
  • Support group attendance

Many individuals find that outpatient treatment gives them the help they need to break addiction, but inpatient care typically offers the best and longest-lasting results.

Preventing Relapse

Ongoing support is critical to preventing relapse. A study supported by the American Psychological Association shows that people with a variety of coping strategies stayed abstinent longer than other individuals with addictions. Therapy approaches that offer long-term support including the following according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Identifying and correcting problematic thinking results in changed behaviors that can stop drug abuse
  • Behavioral couples therapy: Committing to a sobriety contract and applying behavioral principles reinforces abstinence
  • Motivational enhancement therapy: Resolving ambivalence about treatment and drug use  results in behavior change
  • 12-step facilitation therapy: Connection to peer support through a 12-step support group promotes abstinence

Many individuals find that the best treatment program of all is one that contains elements from many different approaches. Professional help tailored to your specific needs can help you design a winning strategy for a healthy, drug free life.

Getting Help for Benzo Addiction

You can recover from benzo addiction and alcoholism. Recovery counselors are available at our toll-free 24 hour helpline to help you make the transition from addiction to a drug-free life. Help is just one phone call away, so please call today.

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