The Recovery Process After a Benzodiazepines Overdose
Benzodiazepines (such as Valium) are commonly prescribed for issues like insomnia, anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures, as well as sometimes being used to treat withdrawal from alcohol use. While they have much medical value, they are also often abused recreationally for their calming and sedative qualities. Knowing the risks of Benzodiazepines overdose – and what the recovery process is like – is vital to anyone using or abusing these drugs.
As with many other potentially addictive drugs, the body will build up a tolerance to benzodiazepines over time. This means that a larger dose has to be taken to achieve the same effect. Benzodiazepines are considered safe for medical use for short periods of time, but this tolerance buildup is one of the main reasons why they are generally not prescribed for long-term use. Some patients find they need to take double or more the previous dosage each day to continue getting the same effects. These larger doses quickly build to a level where a benzodiazepine overdose is a serious risk.
How Much Does It Take To Have a Benzodiazepines Overdose?
As with many other drugs, there is no one single dose amount that will guarantee a benzodiazepines overdose with adverse effects. The level required to overdose is subject to a number of individualized factors, and one of the biggest ones is the person’s current level of tolerance to the drug (based on how much they’ve been taking recently).
Medical research has shown a lethal dosage range of 331 to 2,171 milligrams per kilogram of body weight in rat studies. While that is used as a general guideline for medical application, it does not mean that adverse (and even potentially life-threatening effects) are not possible at lower doses.
Fatal overdose from a benzodiazepine in isolation is actually relatively rare, as it seems to take very large doses for it to become life-threatening. However, that’s not how most overdose deaths happen. Most overdose deaths come from patients mixing their benzos with other substances, particularly other sedatives or “downers” like alcohol and opiates. When you start mixing benzodiazepine with other strong substances such as these, the potentially lethal dose becomes much lower.
How is a Benzodiazepine Overdose Treated?
If someone is showing benzodiazepine overdose symptoms, they should be taken to an emergency room for immediate evaluation.
If the patient has ingested substances other than benzodiazepines, they will usually be given active charcoal to absorb them. Other than that, the standard treatment is to simply keep the patient under medical observation and give them supportive care until the benzodiazepines are cleared from their system by natural processes.
There is one antidote that directly acts as an antagonist for benzodiazepines, but it is not always used. Flumazenil can be used to block the receptors that take up benzodiazepines. However, it has a wide range of dangerous contraindications that make it inappropriate in many situations. Given that, and the fact that overdose on pure benzodiazepines is relatively rare, it is not often considered appropriate to use. Since most benzo overdoses also involve alcohol or opiates, medical treatment usually focuses on blocking those from uptake instead.
Recovering from a Benzodiazepine Overdose
A benzodiazepine overdose is usually an indication that the patient has a serious problem with substance abuse, often with the abuse of multiple types of addictive substances.
In almost all cases, someone who has overdosed on benzos should go through a period of medical detox to ensure that all of these substances are cleared from their system in a safe way. This also gives them a chance to speak with medical professionals and counselors about their substance use to determine a long-term strategy for treatment.
For most, this will involve moving on to inpatient treatment at a rehab facility. A medically certified and professionally staffed treatment facility like White Sands offers patients the best possible chance for long-term recovery from their substance abuse issues. In addition to being in a safe and holistic environment free of use triggers, patients will learn the skills they need to prevent relapse and will have easy access to any medical treatment and medications they might need.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.