Sedative (benzodiazepine) Treatment

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Addiction to sedatives: the Enterhealth treatment approach

Sedative (benzodiazepine) addiction

Enterhealth Ranch provides treatment for sedative addiction, which are prescription medicines in two primary classes of medications –benzodiazepines and barbiturates that all have sedating effects. The benzodiazepines are mild sedatives, while the barbiturates are major tranquilizers. Like alcohol, these medications are frequently abused for their calming effects and can produce a high in some patients. When taken in excess, both of the classes of medications can cause coma and even death.

Common sedative addictions treated at Enterhealth

Benzodiazepines (minor tranquilizers)


Barbiturates (major tranquilizers)


Enterhealth’s treatment approach for sedative addiction

At Enterhealth, our team of board-certified addiction psychiatrists, physicians, neuropsychologists and other experts take a holistic approach to treating sedative addiction; combining their highly trained expertise with the latest evicence-based therapeutic and pharmacological techniques to help those suffering from sedative addiction regain control, sobriety and stability in their lives. Proven to be more effective than traditional addiction treatment programs, the Enterhealth team developed an evidence-based set of treatments and protocols based on the latest medical research from the National Institutes of Health identifying alcohol and drug dependency as a treatable chronic brain disease.

Medications used to reduce cravings

There are no medications approved by the FDA specifically to treat sedative addiction. However, certain medicines can be used to help sedative abusers with the anxiety with which they often struggle after they have gone through withdrawal (often a great deal more anxiety than other types of addicts face). Many sedative abusers began using these sedative drugs to relieve an anxiety disorder. Once they are removed safely in the detoxification phase of treatment, their original anxiety returns full-blown – and possibly stronger than ever– but they can no longer turn to the medicines they abused for help. Because of sedative toxicity to many areas of the brain, sedative abusers also seem to have significant problems with insomnia, especially early in sobriety. Fortunately, there are non-addicting medications that can treat anxiety or insomnia once the withdrawal stabilization process is complete. These include antiseizure/antiepileptic medicines, atypical antipsychotics, antihistamines and antidepressants.

Sedative withdrawal symptoms and how we treat them

Enterhealth Ranch provides residential supervised drug and alcohol detox (also known as withdrawal stabilization) services for sedative addiction with 24-hour nursing and medical staff available at any hour of the day. The sedative withdrawal stablilization process is a crucial first step to recovery and should only be done under the supervision of a physician with formal training in alcohol/drug addiction treatment, as sedative detoxification can be quite dangerous. Due to the the brain’s and the body’s dependency on the drug, stopping sedatives abruptly can be life-threatening, possibly leading to seizures and/or delirium tremens.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms and barbiturate withdrawal symptoms are similar to those seen with alcohol withdrawal. Potential symptoms include aches and pains, numbness and tingling, irritability, rapid breathing and heart rate, insomnia, tremors, seizures, and changes in brainwave patterns. There is also the risk of suffering the potentially toxic syndrome of delirium tremens, which is a life threatening condition that should only be managed in an ICU setting in a hospital.

With mild benzodiazepine/barbiturate withdrawal, you typically only see restlessness, anxiety, shakiness, and intermittent weakness, but these can often be accompanied by dizziness upon standing, nausea, cramps, and vomiting. These symptoms may be similar to the anxiety symptoms for which the benzodiazepine or barbiturate medication was initially prescribed. Oftentimes, the return of significant anxiety during the withdrawal phase causes sedative addicts to have intense cravings and to relapse early in the process, at times leading to death.

The withdrawal syndrome for long-acting benzodiazepines such as Valium and barbiturates such as phenobarbital may not begin until several days after use of the drug has stopped, because it takes a while for these drugs to clear from your body.

The objective of sedative withdrawal is to stabilize the withdrawal symptoms by giving the patient a long-lasting sedative at a selected dose, then gradually lowering the dose in order to “wean” him or her off the medication. For example, if you were abusing Xanax, you might be given the longer-lasting Valium/Phenobarbital in order to reduce the withdrawal symptoms by making them less severe and more gradual. Which medicine to use and at what dose and for what length of time will be left to your physician’s discretion.

Withdrawal stabilization is not treatment

Please note that withdrawal stabilization is NOT treatment but, rather, serves only to remove the substance safely out of the body so that the treatment phase can be started.