When someone is addicted to benzodiazepines and wants help overcoming that addiction, professional guidance is necessary for proper treatment and recovery. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, particularly after long-term use of the drug, and the Ashton Method can help users withdraw successfully.
Benzodiazepines are usually prescribed for the treatment of insomnia, seizures, or anxiety. While the short-term use of this drug is usually effective and safe, long-term use can lead to dependence, tolerance, and other adverse side effects.
Different types of benzodiazepines have different uses. Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Versed (midazolam).
Taking more than the prescribed dosage can be dangerous as can mixing the drug with alcohol and other substances, which can be fatal. In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a drug safety communication about the serious risks, which included death, of using benzodiazepines in combination with opioid pain medicine or with cough medicine.
When the individual who is addicted to benzodiazepines tries to stop using the drug, serious physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms could result. Physical symptoms can include weakness, pain, spasms, muscle tension, and flu-like symptoms. Psychological symptoms include restlessness and agitation, anxiety and panic disorders, depression and mood swings, reduced concentration, as well as nightmares and other sleep disturbances.
Professor Heather Ashton
Professor Ashton established the first benzodiazepine withdrawal clinic in 1982, within the British National Health Service. She ran that clinic for 12 years during which she studied the history of over 300 patients as she also followed their progress. She was a clinician, a researcher, a lecturer, an emeritus professor, and the author of the Ashton Manual, formally titled Benzodiazepines: How They Work and How to Withdraw.
The Ashton Method
Recognizing the significance and the impact of the withdrawal symptoms as she studied patients trying to overcome their addiction to benzodiazepine, Professor Ashton developed her namesake method that involves dosage tapering. As she states the issue, “There is absolutely no doubt that anyone withdrawing from long-term benzodiazepines must reduce the dosage slowly.”
The Ashton Method emphasizes that abrupt withdrawal, particularly if the individual has been taking the drug in high doses, can result in severe symptoms, including psychotic reactions. The recommendation is for slow withdrawal, tapering the dosage gradually over a period of several months. Ashton says the goal of this slow withdrawal is to “obtain a smooth, steady and slow decline in blood and tissue concentrations of benzodiazepines so that the natural systems in the brain can recover their normal state.”
In the Ashton Method, the professor further explains that long-term use of benzodiazepines will take over the functions in the body that are normally mediated by the neurotransmitter GABA. She explains further that “Sudden withdrawal from benzodiazepines leaves the brain in a state of GABA-underactivity, resulting in hyperexcitability of the nervous system. This hyperexcitability is the root cause of most of the withdrawal symptoms.”
However, when the drug is removed from the body slowly and smoothly, the natural systems in the body are able to regain control of the functions that had been taken over by the benzodiazepines. Ashton adds that “There is scientific evidence that reinstatement of brain function takes a long time. Recovery after long-term benzodiazepine use is not unlike the gradual recuperation of the body after a major surgical operation. Healing, of body or mind, is a slow process.”
The Ashton Method at Recovery Without Walls
We want to help you overcome your addiction to benzodiazepines safely. When it is appropriate, we use the evidence-based Ashton Method to help you withdraw successfully, especially if you have been a long-term user. We treat your withdrawal symptoms and individualize your tapering schedule for a safe and healthy recovery.
Our addiction treatment program includes detox directed by a caring and compassionate physician. During the detox process, you’ll consult with the physician who will regularly monitor your progress as you cleanse your body of the drug.
When you need help with your addiction during the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to email or call us for care and answers to your questions. Our providers continue to work to help you through treatment and recovery. Contact us today to learn more about the link between mental illness and substance use disorder and to get help.