Although benzodiazepines are effective in the treatment of many disorders and useful in the detoxification treatment of opiates and other drugs, addiction to “benzos” is no fun. As one client shared, “I started taking half a Xanax at night to sleep after partying. Then I’d take one at work to cruise through the day. I’d forget stuff and mess up, but nobody really noticed. Pretty soon I couldn’t sleep without taking Xanax and Valium. At one point, I had prescriptions for Ativan, Klonopin, Xanax, plus hydrocodone. One night I vomited in my sleep. I almost drowned in my own puke.” This client’s experience illustrates the highly addictive nature of benzodiazepines and the dangers of misuse: mixing benzodiazepines with opiates can be fatal. These drugs are usually intended for short-term use, and when prescribed for emotional disorders, relief can easily slip into abuse. Some individuals quickly develop a tolerance for benzodiazepines, creating the need to take more pills in order to get relief. Individuals find themselves in a benzo fog, bouncing from anxiety and insomnia to a zombie-like state of waking.
Benzodiazepine addiction treatment should last as long as clinically necessary and include the therapy required to gain genuine relief and serenity. To accomplish this, Morningside treatment includes ongoing physical and mental assessments of each client, individual therapy, group sessions, therapy with the family, lectures about addiction, educational programs, and individual meetings on a regular basis with psychologists, psychiatrists and caseworkers.
Since many individuals who become addicted to benzos begin with a legitimate prescription or as a recreational user, recovery often starts with clients getting honest about when it was that their use became problematic. Both individual and group therapy look at the “triggers” or “feedback loop” that causes addiction. From this, clients begin to discover and deal with unresolved and underlying emotional issues that led them to seek relief from benzodiazepines. For instance, many individuals attracted to the relaxed attitude of benzos often have underlying and unprocessed anger issues. These individuals don’t want to be angry – but they are. Only by exploring and resolving emotional and psychological issues can a client experience genuine relief and freedom from their addiction.
Morningside’s team approach provides structure and psychological support for clients. The compassionate staff guides clients in group therapy, where they gain strength from understanding many others have been successful in beating benzodiazepine dependency. One client shared her story: “Me and mom both had a bunch of prescriptions from different doctors. At first I tried to take only what I needed because I thought I was having panic attacks. But then it was like the drugs were worse than my anxiety. I’d go shopping and come home and forget what I bought. I lost my cell phone three times in a month. I accidentally backed my Jeep into the side of building. At Morningside I learned how deal with the situations that used to freak me out with relaxation techniques and deep breathing. Before coming here I never would’ve believed it could work for me.”
During treatment clients learn that they don’t need pills in times of stress. They learn to gain control over their symptoms. This empowerment can be life changing. This is possible because clients at Morningside actively participate in an addiction recovery program. The program is staffed clinicians, therapists, counselors and case managers who know their way around the recovery process. It is through the efforts of these skilled professionals that clients work through their issues and gain long-term sobriety.