Both benzodiazepines and alcohol are drugs that promote relaxation. They do this by working on the brain’s GABA system. Because of these similarities, people sometimes use benzodiazepines for alcohol withdrawal.
While there are certainly some advantages to this, there are also some disadvantages. It’s a good idea to be aware of both the pros & cons of using benzos for alcohol withdrawal. This article explains both the positive and negative aspects of this method of recovery.
Why Use Benzodiazepines for Alcohol Withdrawal?
Benzodiazepines are used to help people through withdrawal from GABAergic drugs. GABAergic drugs, like alcohol and benzos themselves, are drugs that work on the brain’s GABA system.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This means it prevents other neurotransmitters from over-exciting the nervous system. In other words, it helps to relax us. Drugs like alcohol and benzos are popular because they promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. This is because they influence the release of GABA.
Alcohol withdrawal occurs when the body becomes dependent on alcohol. When you’re dependent on alcohol, your brain struggles to respond effectively to GABA. Through a process known as homeostasis, the brain effectively prevents GABA from being received by cells. This creates alcohol tolerance.
When you stop drinking, your brain doesn’t have enough sensitivity to respond to its own GABA. This means that other neurotransmitters can override your nervous system. This causes many of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal such as nervousness, shaking, anxiety, tremors, and seizures.
Benzodiazepines are useful because they can help to stimulate GABA. This eliminates many of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. However, you’re essentially replacing one GABAergic with another. If you don’t undergo a strict process of dose reduction, then you’ll only prolong, and possibly worsen, your withdrawal.
Pros & Cons of Using Benzodiazepines for Alcohol Withdrawal
This is a quick list of pros & cons associated with using benzos for alcohol withdrawal.
- Benzos provide quick relief for alcohol withdrawal
- When used properly with strict regulation, benzos can make it easier to stop drinking
- Long-acting benzos such as clonazepam can eliminate withdrawals for long periods
- Benzos are GABAergic drugs that cause the same withdrawal symptoms as alcohol
- Simply replacing alcohol with benzos will prolong and potentially worsen your withdrawal
- Benzos are addictive on their own and can be habit-forming
Staying Safe When Using Benzodiazepines for Alcohol Withdrawal
If you want to use benzos for withdrawal, then you need to follow a strict weaning regimen.
Weaning involves gradually reducing your dose until you can stop using it. This can be done with alcohol alone. However, many alcoholics struggle and find it easy to fall into old habits.
If you choose to use benzos for withdrawal, make sure that you use the smallest dose possible. Continue to reduce this dose on a daily or weekly basis. Don’t use benzos for more than a week or two.
Benzos are a useful tool for helping people stop drinking. However, they can be addictive on their own. If you end up addicted to benzos, you should learn about benzodiazepine addiction treatment. Detox from alcohol and detox from benzodiazepines are similar processes. Overcoming these addictions may save your life.