Benzodiazepine Abuse (cont.)
Benzodiazepine Abuse Medical Treatment
- Acute toxicity: The treatment required usually depends on what drugs were taken and how much. Often, you need only a period of evaluation in a hospital emergency department.
- If the drugs were taken within the previous one to two hours, the doctor may consider gastric lavage. With this procedure, a large tube is placed directly into your stomach through the mouth. Large volumes of water can then be pushed into the stomach in an attempt to wash out the pill fragments. This is not used often and only if you are known to have swallowed other potentially more lethal medications.
- A single dose of activated charcoal is recommended for people who come to the emergency department within
four hours of taking drugs. This acts to prevent absorption of the medication. It is a black powder that is mixed with water and given to you to drink. Side effects can include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
- There is an antidote to counteract the toxic effects of benzodiazepines called flumazenil (Romazicon). This reverses the sedative effect of benzodiazepines. It is, however, usually reserved for severe poisoning because it can cause withdrawal and seizures in people who are chronic benzodiazepine abusers.
- Chronic abuse: The treatment of chronic abuse can usually be done at home with the help of your doctor or in specific drug rehabilitation (rehab) centers. The first step consists of gradual reduction of benzodiazepines to prevent withdrawal and seizures. This is often much easier than the prolonged recovery phase in which the person attempts to stay drug free. In addition to the medical care, someone abusing these drugs often requires individual and family psychotherapy, social support, and help in finding housing and employment. The involvement of family and friends in therapy and in other forms of treatment and support can be very helpful during this difficult stage.
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