Benzodiazepines, more commonly referred to as benzos, are a type of prescription medication most commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. Benzos were first developed as a safer alternative to barbiturates, another type of central nervous depressant/tranquilizer with an extremely high potential for abuse.
It was believed that benzos were less habit-forming than barbiturates and would lead to fewer side effects. However, it was soon discovered that benzos were just as addictive and that abusing these medications long-term could easily lead to serious and lasting consequences.
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Where Did Benzodiazepine Come From?
The first benzos were introduced to the pharmaceutical market in the 1960s. Librium and Valium were the first benzos available in the U.S., and as soon as they hit the drug market, they began to be widely prescribed. Today, over 12 different benzodiazepine medications are available in the U.S. with a written prescription. Medications like Xanax are some of the most widely prescribed. Even though safer alternatives are being developed, benzos are not about to leave the pharmaceutical scene anytime soon.
However, for people who have struggled with substance abuse and dependence in the past, offering an alternative to this potentially addictive medication is extremely important. So, what are some good substitutes for benzodiazepines, and how can a person overcome a moderate or severe anxiety disorder without turning to medication?
Most people experience some degree of anxiety on occasion. For example, if you have ever been studying for a major exam the night before the test is set to take place, or if you have ever messed up at work and been called in to speak with your employer face-to-face, you have probably gotten at least a little bit anxious. However, as soon as your current circumstances shift, the anxiety subsides, and you can move on with your life.
Some Alternatives For Benzo
However, for people suffering from an anxiety disorder this feeling of high stress never subsides — it interferes with daily life, and can often be entirely crippling. Benzodiazepines help calm the central nervous system, reducing feelings of anxiety and helping people operate as they normally would. However, benzodiazepines are not right for everyone who is struggling with anxiety. If a person has a history of substance abuse, it is good to look into alternatives. Some alternatives for benzodiazepines include:
- SSRIs and SNRIs (antidepressant medications)
- Beta-blockers (blood pressure medications)
- OTC medications like diphenhydramine (it is not recommended that a person experiment with OTC medications unless advised by a medical professional)
- Intensive psychotherapy
- Lifestyle changes (like improved sleep and healthy eating habits)
If you have been struggling with anxiety and substance abuse, help is available, and recovery is possible.
Garden State Treatment Center and Dual Diagnosis Recovery
At Garden State Treatment Center, we offer dual diagnosis treatment services, helping people who have been struggling with substance abuse and anxiety disorders. Although substance abuse and mental illness often go hand-in-hand, struggling with some degree of anxiety is extremely common among men and women in treatment for addiction.
Unfortunately, in many cases, people who struggle with an undiagnosed or untreated anxiety disorder begin to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. This might make their anxiety symptoms go away temporarily, but substance use always exacerbates mental health symptoms in the long run. Therefore, rather than providing our clients with antipsychotic medications, we teach them how to work through their anxiety in healthy and non-invasive ways.
Overcome Benzo Dependence at Garden State Treatment Center
We teach beneficial techniques like mindfulness and meditation, healthy communications, grounding techniques, and yoga therapy. But, of course, medication is sometimes necessary – we have psychiatric professionals on staff to prescribe medication whenever needed. To learn more about our recovery program or dual diagnosis treatment options, contact us today.
What are good substitutes for Benzodiazepines?
The choice of a substitute for benzodiazepines depends on the condition for which benzodiazepines are being used. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional for personalized medical advice, as the appropriate alternative may vary based on individual circumstances. Here are some general alternatives that might be considered for different conditions:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or sertraline (Zoloft) are often used for long-term management of anxiety disorders.
- Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) like venlafaxine (Effexor) or duloxetine (Cymbalta) may also be used for anxiety.
- Buspirone is an anti-anxiety medication that can be used as an alternative to benzodiazepines for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.
- Beta-blockers like propranolol can be used for situational anxiety, such as performance anxiety.
- Melatonin agonists such as ramelteon (Rozerem).
- Non-benzodiazepine hypnotics like zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), or zaleplon (Sonata).
- Antidepressants with sedative effects, such as trazodone or mirtazapine, are sometimes used for insomnia.
- Over-the-counter sleep aids containing antihistamines like diphenhydramine, though these should be used with caution and under a doctor’s supervision.
- Anticonvulsants like valproate, lamotrigine, levetiracetam, or carbamazepine.
- Medications such as baclofen, cyclobenzaprine, or tizanidine can be used as muscle relaxants instead of benzodiazepines.
Behavioral and Psychological Interventions:
- For both anxiety and insomnia, behavioral interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), relaxation techniques, and mindfulness meditation can be effective alternatives or adjuncts to medication.
It’s important to note that transitioning from benzodiazepines to an alternative medication or treatment should be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional to manage any potential withdrawal symptoms and to ensure the alternative is appropriate for the individual’s health condition. Additionally, the effectiveness of alternatives can vary among individuals, so it’s important to have ongoing communication with a healthcare provider regarding treatment options and progress.