A significant facet of addiction recovery is learning how to cope with feelings and emotions in healthy ways. In treatment, men and women learn techniques for managing unwanted feelings that can lead to cravings. Those who adopt practices like breathing exercises when they are feeling anxious are better able to manage their sensations.
While some people in recovery take prescription medications to mitigate their symptoms of anxiety, it can have a ripple effect for many individuals. Men and women in addiction recovery who have a co-occurring anxiety disorder are advised to avoid sedatives and tranquilizers. The most common prescription sedatives are benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium.
There is a good reason for steering clear of benzodiazepines or “benzos” while you are in recovery. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and carry a significant risk of overdose if misused. If you are in recovery and also struggle with anxiety, then your doctor has probably recommended that you try alternatives to medicine.
Exercise and meditation have been found to reduce people’s stress and anxiety. Perhaps you have already incorporated such routines into your day to day life? If not, please consider taking a walk to clear your mind or engaging in mindfulness exercises when you are feeling anxious.
If the suggestions above don’t produce the desired effect, then you can discuss non-habit-forming medications with your doctor. Many antidepressants are prescribed by physicians off-label, as they have been found to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
If you presented with an anxiety disorder in treatment, then it’s likely the center’s physicians prescribed you a non-addictive SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) such as Lexapro or Celexa. SSRIs have proven effective in treating generalized anxiety disorders (GAD), panic disorders, and social anxiety disorders.
Anxiety Disorders, Benzodiazepines, and Addiction Recovery
While it’s possible for people in recovery to take addictive medications as prescribed and avoid relapse, doing so is hardly worth the risk. Benzos are particularly hazardous for individuals in addiction recovery for alcohol use disorder. Many alcoholics are unaware that both benzodiazepines and alcohol are central nervous system depressants. What’s more, they each activate GABA in the brain, which results in reduced anxiety.
People recovering from an alcohol use disorder who start taking benzos to treat their anxiety unknowingly activate the same neurotransmitters as alcohol. Many recovering alcoholics have relapsed on alcohol after receiving a benzodiazepine prescription. Aside from the risk of relapse, people in recovery who take benzos can develop a substance use disorder.
Drugs like Klonopin and Ativan are meant to be taken for short durations and in small doses. Continued use leads to tolerance and the need to take more of the drug to produce the desired calming effect. Before one knows it, they become dependent on their anti-anxiety medication.
Anxiety, agitation, and insomnia are common amongst men and women in early recovery. Unless one has a diagnosed disorder, such feelings will occur less frequently and may completely subside over time. Turning to benzodiazepines while in addiction recovery, prescribed or otherwise, to cope with temporary sensations can severely derail your program.
Long-term sedative use can become addictive. Substantial misuse can cause an overdose, especially when mixed with another mind-altering substance. What’s more, those who attempt to stop taking benzodiazepines require medically supervised detox. The symptoms of benzo withdrawal can include life-threatening seizures.
If you are struggling with anxiety or sleep problems, then you will benefit significantly from looking for alternatives to sedatives. Learning to cope with uncomfortable feelings in healthy ways is possible, and doing so will not only strengthen your recovery, it will make you feel more positive.
A Hidden Facet of the American Addiction Epidemic
We would be remiss if we failed to share that we have a problem with prescription sedatives in America. New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that doctors are prescribing benzos at elevated rates, CNN reports. The CDC found that about 65.9 million office-based doctor visits resulted in a prescription for a benzodiazepine between 2014 and 2016.
Studies have shown that this type of central nervous system depressant is involved in overdose deaths quite frequently. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that about 30 percent of what is labeled an opioid overdose is an opioid-benzodiazepine overdose.
This is a really undercovered story,” said Keith Humphreys, a psychologist and Esther Ting Memorial Professor at Stanford University. “I think of it as the hidden element of our overdose epidemic that does need attention.”
Gender-Specific Substance Use Disorder Treatment
If you are an adult male who is struggling with benzodiazepines and a co-occurring anxiety disorder, then please contact PACE Recovery Center. Our dedicated team of professionals can help you adopt a program of addiction recovery. We rely on evidence-based therapies to ensure you are equipped to lead a positive life in long-term recovery.