What to Do After Treatment for Benzos

What to Do After Treatment for Benzos

Recovery is a healing process that cannot be rushed. Treatment offers solid footing and a great, healthy start for recovery, but recovery is lifelong while treatment is temporary. Therefore, you must keep working even after professional treatment ends, because and you can ensure long-term success if you know what to expect and do in the weeks, months and years following rehab.

Why Treat Benzo Addiction?

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a class of powerful drugs. While often prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders, they can be harmful, as use and abuse of these substances can lead to addiction. Addiction is disease, so it needs to be treated just like the anxiety, depression or other mental health issue that may have spurred it. This treatment can take the form of inpatient, outpatient or intensive care depending upon each individual’s needs and the degree of the addiction. In fact, Drugfree.org[1] explains that treatment offers the environment people need for early sobriety along with mental and physical healing, and this supportive environment is combined with education to jumpstart continued recovery.

Drugfree.org continues to say that “treatment educates the patient about the diagnosis and the chronic nature of the disease. Treatment helps the patient understand and accept the idea that substance use disorders are chronic conditions much like asthma or diabetes and that he or she will need to continue to monitor and manage this condition.” In other words, once someone completes initial treatment, she is not considered “recovered,” but she should now be equipped with the information, skills and tools she needs to continue managing benzodiazepine addiction.

Why Does Benzo Recovery Need Continuing Care?

Benzodiazepine addiction recovery often needs more (and more intensive) care than recovery from other addictive substances due to the way these drugs work. Benzos devastate the brain and body, which can challenge recovery. While patients can easily address these effects with continuing care, these problems can undermine recovery if people avoid help after treatment ends. For instance, long-term effects of benzo abuse include protracted withdrawal symptoms and impaired brain function. Withdrawal symptoms are largely finished by the end of treatment, but any drug can create protracted symptoms long after the substance has left the body. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration[2] explains that “chronic substance use causes molecular, cellular, and neurocircuitry changes to the brain that affect emotions and behavior and that persist after acute withdrawal has ended.” In short, benzos may cause more and/or stronger protracted withdrawal symptoms due to the changes they create in both the brain and body. You can ensure your continued physical health if you seek continued care, including regular medical check-ups and notifying doctors if any physical or mental health symptoms arise or recur.

Benzos also have long-term effects on mental health. They can create cognitive impairments that cannot be reversed in just the short time that treatment encompasses. The Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology[3] shares “that previous long-term benzodiazepine use may lead to impairments in cognition…Previous benzodiazepine users are likely to experience the benefit of improved cognitive functioning after withdrawal. However, data from this study do not support a full recovery, at least in the first 6 months following cessation, and [they] suggest that there may be some permanent deficits or deficits that take periods longer than 6 months to completely recover.” To put it plainly, to restore cognitive function from benzo addiction takes time and continued care. Ergo, therapy should continue after treatment ends to ensure that, as the brain changes, recovery adapts. Individuals need different forms of support at different points in their recovery, and staying in therapy ensures these needs are met while recovery continues. When individuals know to reach out for help after treatment ends, then they know how to maintain long-term benzo recovery.

Accessing Continuing Care

Benzo addiction treatment may include aftercare services, or, if patients have attended a program away from home or a smaller program, recommendations to local resources. Treatment professionals at quality programs will always be available to talk to former patients during difficult times, but a complete aftercare team (including medical professionals, therapists and supportive peers and family members) is invaluable for benzo addiction recovery. Begin building this team while you are still in treatment, and then prioritize communicating with them throughout your recovery.

Learn How to Continue Recovery

If you are ready for long-term recovery, then know that we can help. Our admissions coordinators can help you find treatment that will flow seamlessly into aftercare services, or they can help you find the resources you need to strengthen your recovery. Our staff are available 24 hours a day at a toll-free helpline, so do not hesitate to reach out today for help.

[1]    http://continuingcare.drugfree.org/category/continuing-care/#165. “Continuing Care: A Parent’s Guide to Your Teen’s Recovery from Substance Abuse.” Drugfree.org. 2015. Web. 2 Nov 2015.

[2]    http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA10-4554/SMA10-4554.pdf. “Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory: Protracted Withdrawal.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2010. Web. 2 Nov 2015.

[3]    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0887617703000969. “Persistence of Cognitive Effects after Withdrawal from Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use.” Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology. Apr 2004. Web. 2 Nov 2015.