Benzodiazepine Abuse Treatment
Treating Benzodiazepine Abuse at Home
People who abuse drugs -- including benzodiazepines -- often deny their
problem by playing down the extent of their drug use or blaming job or family
stress. The most important thing that can be done at home is to recognize that
there may be a problem and to seek help.
- Awareness of the signs and symptoms of abuse help with recognition.
- The next step is to try to obtain help for the person. This can be done
either through your doctor or by contacting many of the drug abuse help lines
in your community.
Medical Treatment for Benzodiazepine Abuse
- Acute benzodiazepine toxicity: The treatment required usually depends on
what drugs were taken and how much. Often, you need only a
period of evaluation in a hospital emergency department.
- If the drugs were taken within the previous one to two hours, the
doctor may consider gastric lavage, also called stomach pumping. With this
procedure, a large tube is placed directly into your stomach through the mouth.
Large volumes of water can then be pushed into the stomach in an attempt to
wash out the pill fragments. This is not used often and only if you are known
to have swallowed other potentially more lethal medications.
- A single dose of activated charcoal is recommended for people who come to
the emergency department within four hours of taking drugs. This acts to
prevent absorption of the medication. It is a black powder that is mixed with
water and given to you to drink. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal
- There is an antidote to counteract the toxic effects of benzodiazepines
called flumazenil (or Romazicon). This reverses the sedative effect of
benzodiazepines. It is, however, usually reserved for severe poisoning because
it can cause withdrawal and seizures in people who are chronic benzodiazepine
- Chronic benzodiazepine abuse: The treatment of chronic abuse can usually be
done at home with the help of your doctor or in specific drug rehabilitation
centers. The first step consists of gradual reduction of benzodiazepines to
prevent withdrawal and seizures. This is often much easier than the prolonged
recovery phase in which the person attempts to stay drug free. In addition to
the medical care, someone abusing these drugs often requires social support and
help in finding housing and employment. The involvement of family and friends
can be very helpful in this difficult stage.