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Sedative Withdrawal Symptoms, Detoxification, and Addiction Treatment

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What Is a Sedative Drug?

Sedatives are a class of drugs that depress, or slow down the central nervous system. This substance class encompasses a wide variety of drugs, the most common of which include:

  • Benzodiazepines (treat anxiety and seizures).
  • Barbiturates (historically used for anxiety and insomnia; today use is largely reserved as anti-epileptic drugs).
  • Prescription hypnotics or sleep aids (for treatment of insomnia).

While conceptually, it may be left out of this broad category of substances, alcohol has a similar sedating effect on the brain.

Sedative Withdrawal Symptoms

Sedative drugs reduce and slow communication throughout the brain. As an individual withdraws from a persistent period of sedation, a much higher level of neural stimulation may be experienced. This can lead to sedative withdrawal symptoms, like:

  • Restlessness.
  • Muscle shaking.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Insomnia.
  • Depression/anxiety.

In extreme cases, the user may experience hallucinations, delirium, and potentially fatal seizures.

Every sedative has a different half-life (the time it takes to completely break down in the body), so withdrawal onset and symptoms will vary. Slowly eliminated sedatives, such as diazepam and phenobarbital, have withdrawal symptoms that begin after about 7 days and can last as long as long as 1 month or longer. Short-acting sedatives—such as alprazolam—tend to break down faster, producing withdrawal symptoms earlier which don’t persist as long.1

What Happens During Sedative Detox?

Someone entering treatment for a sedative addiction will usually begin by meeting with a professional to determine the best treatment plan to fit their needs. By tailoring each addiction treatment plan to the individual, every patient receives the specialized care that will work best for their personal course of recovery.

Once a treatment plan is arranged, detoxification begins. Detox involves eliminating sedatives from the body through sustained abstinence. Because an immediate drop-off of sedatives can have fatal consequences in some situations, most detox programs will taper a person’s dose, reducing the amount little by little until the body is entirely clear of the drug.1 Withdrawing under medical supervision is the safest way to detox from sedative drugs.

During medically assisted detoxification, medical staff will generally do a taper, which means they will gradually decrease the amount of the sedative a person is taking over a set period of time. This gives your body a chance to adjust to lower levels of the drug and minimizes the risk of complications like seizures that may be brought on by abrupt cessation of use.

In some cases of severe sedative abuse, the recovering patient may forego a tapering of their own abused drug and instead be administered benzodiazepines with relatively long half-lives to manage the more serious symptoms associated with the acute withdrawal period. These longer-acting benzodiazepines will help to stabilize the patient and mitigate their risk of severe rebound agitation and seizures. They will then be tapered off benzos over the course of a several days to weeks as detox progresses, before their use is eventually stopped altogether once the withdrawal period is completed.

What Happens After Detox?

Once detox is complete, treatment will ideally continue in the form of therapy and counseling in both group and individual settings. Therapy helps those in addiction recovery learn how to cope with cravings and relapse temptations when they arise. Depending on a person’s treatment plan, they may engage in addiction education, family counseling, and aftercare.

Why Should I Enter a Sedative Detox Program?

Man profusely sweating and grimacingAttempting to detox from sedatives alone and without medical support can be a deadly mistake. Abusing certain sedatives for as short a period of time as 2 weeks may prompt the onset of a severe withdrawal syndrome should use of the drugs in question be abruptly scaled back or stopped altogether. Medical monitoring is often necessary during detox from sedatives to keep the person safe.

Withdrawal from sedative drugs poses the risk of seizures, which can be very dangerous if not treated immediately. Professional detox and treatment programs have experience in managing and providing care in the event of serious medical complications like withdrawal-induced seizures. The safest option is to enter a program that offers medically monitored detox and withdrawal.

Every person will experience slightly different withdrawal symptoms during detox, so it is important that care is tailored to each patient. Most programs will take these individual differences into account and work to address each person’s needs during treatment.

Questions to Ask Sedative Treatment Facilities

Many treatment programs incorporate detox into the treatment course.

The first question to ask yourself is whether you want to work through treatment from home or in a sober facility. Some people find that escaping the original environment in which they abused their drug(s) of choice and staying in an abstinence-focused facility that is free of all substances offers them the best shot at recovery. Others prefer to work through treatment while living in the comfort of familiar home environments.

Another question to ask is whether you want to involve your family in treatment. Some programs emphasize family therapy, while others do not require the involvement of family members. While some users want to have the support of family members throughout the process, others may not have ideal familial relationships that will support their recovery efforts. It’s important to understand, however, that if difficult relationships are contributors to your substance use, the repair of these relationships may be integral to your success. So, while incorporating your family into your treatment may not seem ideal, consider whether you can stay sober after treatment if your relationships suffer continued strain.

Also ask whether you can take time off work to get treatment. If taking time away from work is not a possibility, then consider entering a luxury or executive program. These programs allow patients to continue working while staying at a treatment facility, providing meeting rooms and Internet access and allowing clients to address business needs.

Find Sedative Detox Programs and Rehab Treatment

The main concern for sedative detox and withdrawal should be that the program incorporates professional medical monitoring to ensure the safety of recovering patients. When looking for a treatment program, be sure to clearly communicate your needs so that all of them can be met and you can follow the best recovery course.

Rehab programs are located throughout the U.S., and a variety of treatment types is available. You can use SAMHSA’s Find Treatment tool to search for facilities. Many state government websites will provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading treatment provider and has trusted rehab programs across the country. For help finding the right care for you, please call us free at .

You can also contact free drug abuse helpline numbers.

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