Detox from benzopdiazepines
Are you considering (or going through) detox from benzos? Here, we explore a recently published study about how your brain rebounds after acute detox. Then, we invite your questions about detoxing from benzodiazepines or benzo addiction at the end.
A Quick Look at Benzos
What is a benzodiazepine?
Benzodiazepines – often referred to by the abbreviated version benzos – are very common class of psychoactive drug that depress the central nervous system (CNS). There are over 50 different drugs in this class. These drugs have been important in the treatment of anxiety disorders but can also be misused. The most commonly used (and abused) benzos include
Benzos stay in your system for a long time, as most have a very long half-life. Additionally, research over the past few decades has shown that people who use benzos for a long period may develop a dependence and that withdrawal symptoms are possible. While each drug differs, dependence on benzos usually appears after siz weeks or more of regular dosing. Upon cessation or dose reduction, uncomfortable and sometimes even serious symptoms can manifest. This is why is it very important to follow a specific regimen for tapering, facilitated by your prescribing doctor or pharmacist, when you want to quot benzos.
After benzo detox, various types of cognition impairment appeared to be both significant and permanent. One of the most common is short-term memory issues. So, what kinds of side effects can you expect as related to brain function? How long do problems last? And will they resolve?
Cognitive Improvement & Benzo Detox
Pulling together research data gives a clearer, more hopeful view. Over the last two decades, there have been quite a few studies on how benzo detox affects long-term recovery, particularly for those who been chronic users of benzos. Studies often seem to contradict each other when compared. More often than not the results of these individual studies felt less than hopeful, particularly when looking at the cognitive (thinking, reasoning and memory) recovery of the brain.
However, in recent months, a new group of curious researchers decided to harness that massive amount of research data available and see if the bigger picture was actual brighter. And they were right! This meta-analysis (using statistical/research data to compare and contrast results from different studies) looked at two particular questions:
1. Does the cognitive function of long-term benzo users improve after benzo detox?
2. Are previous long-term users still impaired during a follow-up period as compared to other groups?
What the New Study Reviewed
The new study looked at the data from 13 independent studies. Each of these individual research projects had a six (6) month follow-up of the participants months after detox. Multiple sub-categories of memory, reasons and thinking were evaluated. These included areas such as problem solving, speed of mental processing, and concentration.
The Big Picture
The new data did confirm impaired cognitive abilities persist six months after the detox/withdrawal period of chronic benzo use. However, there is an important “but” to that statement. Some of the specific cognitive skills need a longer period of recovery to improve, so six months should not be used a benchmark for “full recovery.”
Another important area of hope in treating the thinking, reasoning and other impairment issues that result from long-term benzo use is the new area of neuroplasticity. This means that the brain can be retrained and that the brain can actually change in structure resulting in cognitive improvement.
Many addiction treatment clinicians are beginning to integrate neuroplasticity based cognitive therapy in their client’s care plan. Again, this takes time, and improvement is slow, but it is possible! While this can be frustrating, it also is a reason for celebration for those who have gone through benzo detox had thought their recovery at six (6) months was where they could expect to remain for the rest of their lives.
Going through benzo detox
If you’ve started benzo detox or are thinking about it, be sure to seek the help of your prescribing doctor and/or specialists who have experience in responding to the special symptoms related to brain function. Further, you are not alone! Please send us your questions or comments and we’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.
Photo credit: J E Theriot