Anxiety is often a coexisting problem affecting those trying to recover from alcoholism and drug addiction. In the absence of the substances, it can become severe and disruptive during the recovery phase. Generally, people initially develop an anxiety disorder and start self-medicating using alcohol and drugs that eventually end up in developing a dual diagnosis or coexisting disorders.
In some people, it could develop as a secondary disorder because of their addiction, particularly in those recovering from alcoholism. And then again, in some, it could develop independently and may just happen to co-occur in the same person. Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term for a range of mental illnesses, such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder (SAD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and specific phobias. People affected by any one of these illnesses tend to suffer from overwhelming distress that can negatively affect the quality of life, mental and physical health, etc.
One of the common ways to treat anxiety disorders is through a class of psychoactive drugs known as benzodiazepines. Being as addictive as opioids, people on benzodiazepines run an increased risk of developing an addiction. Therefore, doctors are often cautioned against prescribing these drugs for long. Apparently, people taking benzodiazepines are likely to witness increased hindrance during the phase of recovery.
Understanding the addictive nature of benzos
Benzodiazepines, also known colloquially as benzos, are typically prescribed for a range of conditions, including anxiety, insomnia and seizures. These drugs are one of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States. They are a class of central nervous (CNS) depressants that goes by brand names, such as Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Klonopin, etc.
Patients are likely to inadvertently become dependent on benzodiazepines even when taken as per the prescription of a doctor. Some of the long-term implications of benzodiazepines development of tolerance and addiction, include memory lapses, nausea, vertigo, etc. Moreover, persistent users tend to suffer from protracted withdrawal symptoms that makes treatment quite difficult. Some who received the high doses of benzodiazepines have been known to become dependent on the drug in as few as two days.
People misusing benzos tend to take higher than the prescribed doses or mix the pills with alcohol or other drugs. They adopt extremely dangerous ways of taking these drugs, such as crushing or chewing them, that interfere with the timed-release formula and speed up the effects.
Treating anxiety of patients recovering from alcoholism
Benzodiazepines are often prescribed to ease the symptoms of physical withdrawal from alcohol because of their cross-tolerance to alcohol and tendency to mimic the effects of alcohol to some extent. Though this presents no grave problem in the short term, some doctors tend to leave patients on benzodiazepines for a longer time than recommended to help them quit drinking. This results in increased tolerance to the drug and consequently addiction in patients. The higher the dose or the longer the use, the greater is the likelihood of addiction.
Popping a pill to manage anxiety is a quick fix with adverse consequences that may worsen addiction-related problems. Although doctors resort to this medication to ease the symptoms of alcoholism, one should explore other safer alternatives to manage anxiety over the long term, such as meditation, yoga, neurofeedback, etc. Such a therapy coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) under the supervision of a trained therapist can play a crucial role in ensuring recovery.
Considering the addictive nature of benzodiazepines, it is essential to not prescribe them to the patients undergoing recovery from substance abuse. While many medical practitioners have publically renounced benzos for the treatment of alcoholism, others are steadily breaking away from this practice.
Seek holistic treatment to ensure recovery
An individual may consider taking amino acids, particularly L-Llysine with L-arginine, for treating anxiety. A combination of these amino acids has been proven to reduce stress responses among those with a high level of trait anxiety. The supplementation of diet with vitamin B complex is also a proven strategy as the deficiency of vitamin B3 (niacin) is known to cause anxiety.
If you or your loved one is addicted to substances of abuse, contact the Arizona Drug Addiction Helpline to access some of the best drug rehabilitation centers in Arizona. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-576-4147 or chat online to know about the best drug rehabilitation center clinic in Arizona.