About 20 percent of Americans struggle with anxiety disorders, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and those people who are affected may be so disabled by their symptoms that they feel completely unable to interact with strangers, head to crowded places and/or move through the day without engaging in ritualistic behaviors. These are incredibly serious conditions that can cause a significant amount of pain and suffering, and it’s no wonder that people who are affected would do almost anything to make their symptoms go away.
For some of these people, Valium can provide intense relief, amending the chemical imbalances that can lead to anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, NAMI reports that people who have anxiety disorders are more likely to develop substance abuse issues, when compared to the general population. These people may end up abusing the substances that once brought them relief, and they may need detoxification programs to help them heal. This article will outline what a typical Valium detoxification program looks like, and why it’s so very important.
A Powerful Medication
Valium is in a class of medications known as benzodiazepines. These medications act upon a specific neurotransmitter in the brain, GABA, that’s responsible for quieting and calming the brain. With the influence of benzodiazepines, the brain utilizes GABA a bit differently and the brain becomes calmer and quieter as a result. In time, the brain adjusts to this modulation and the person might need to take higher and higher doses of benzodiazepines to achieve the result that once came about so easily. People who take Valium for anxiety, and who take the medication for a long period of time, may be taking incredibly high dosages of the drug as a result.
People who take very high dosages of benzodiazepines like Valium for long periods of time can experience terrible side effects if they attempt to stop taking the drug rapidly. Researchers who witnessed a seizure in a man who attempted to stop taking Valium wrote, in the American Journal of Psychiatry, that the drug shouldn’t be given for periods longer than one month. People who are already taking the medication may not be soothed by this advice, however, as they are unlikely to find it easy to change the past. If they do become alarmed by their drug use and attempt to stop rapidly, they could endure seizures or other symptoms such as:
- Twitching muscles
- Sensitivity to light and noise
As their long-sedated brains wake up once more and their neurons begin to fire at a rapid rate without the influence of calming neurotransmitters, these types of symptoms can quickly take over and cause the person an intense amount of difficulty. These symptoms tend to become progressively more severe, and some can be life threatening.
Using a Taper
The brain can become accustomed to the presence of Valium quite quickly, and symptoms of dependence and addiction can appear within just a few weeks. The brain can heal, however, if it is provided with an ample amount of time to adjust. A very slow, very controlled taper is one way to accomplish that. The speed of the taper, and the dosages provided during the tapering process can vary significantly, depending on the amount of drugs the person is accustomed to taking, and the length of time the person has been taking the drug. Some people can taper their dosages within just a few weeks, while others might take a significantly longer period of time to heal. For example, an article in the journal The Lancet described the withdrawal process for 41 people who had taken Valium for a long period of time, and these clients were gradually withdrawn from the drug over a three-month period. There are other people, however, who have taken six months or even longer to completely stop taking Valium.
During a slow taper, medical professionals provide supervision and support, creating a detailed plan for how the process will move forward and watching their clients closely to ensure that no negative side effects are taking place. If clients become extremely agitated and upset during a taper, for example, medical professionals might increase the dose by a small amount and then watch closely to see if those symptoms of distress disappear. As long as clients are honest about their symptoms and they maintain close contact with their doctors during this process, this can be an effective approach.
Differences From Traditional Detox
In a typical drug addiction detox program, medical professionals ask their clients to stop taking the medications they were once addicted to, and they might strive to achieve complete drug use cessation within just a few weeks. For people who are addicted to benzodiazepines, this kind of abrupt process isn’t always possible. In fact, an abrupt cessation like that could even be life threatening. Just because it might take a person months to complete the process, rather than a few days, doesn’t mean that people who are in Valium detox aren’t doing real work. The truth is that by enrolling in detox, they’re taking the first step on the road to recovery.
Drug addictions are characterized by compulsive drug use. People who are addicted can’t control how much of a drug they take and how often they take it, and they may try to set limits on their own, only to revert to their original drug use levels just a few days later. During Valium detox, these habits can begin to resolve. People can learn how to control how much of the drug they take, and they can begin to see their minds clear and their personalities return. They may feel calm and collected enough to enter a formal treatment program for addiction when they’re still in a taper from Valium. Since the process can take so long to complete, it might be cruel to suggest that people need to wait and be completely sober before they can get further help.
Settings for Care
Some people can work with their doctors and taper their Valium usage on their own at home, but not everyone will be able to accomplish this. According to research presented by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, benzodiazepines can work much like heroin and other addictive drugs, causing changes in the brain that can lead to euphoria. Addictions like this can lead to intense temptation to use drugs, and that temptation can be incredibly difficult to handle alone at home. People might be overwhelmed with the temptation to take higher doses of Valium, just so they can feel a hit of the joy that once came so very easily.
Additionally, people who have mental illnesses that started them on the road to addiction, including people who have anxiety disorders, may feel a resurgence of their illnesses when they attempt to taper their Valium dosages. These people could be at risk of:
- Anxiety attacks
- Violent behavior
- Suicide attempts
- Severe depression
- Extreme phobias
Those people who can’t yet control their cravings or who have mental illnesses that complicate their recovery might best enroll in a formal treatment program for addiction. Here, they can go through the early stages of withdrawal while in a safe environment that doesn’t allow easy access to drugs, and they can access monitoring and support, ensuring that side effects are handled before they become too difficult to face.
If you’re ready to start living a life that’s free of a Valium addiction, we’re here to help. At Axis Residential, we specialize in providing care to people who have both addictions and mental illnesses. We provide personalized care and attention, creating individual treatment plans and supporting clients through each stage of the recovery process. When you’re ready to move forward, please call us.