In his article in the journal Gender and History, Jonathan Metzl traces the history of the prescription of, and addiction to, benzodiazepine medications like Valium. He states that, given the influence of songs like “Mother’s Little Helper” by the Rolling Stones, and countless articles written between 1955 and 1959 that claimed that a pill could cure most mental ills, most people believe that benzodiazepine addiction peaked between 1965 and 1979. The thinking is that most people have moved away from these addictions in the years that followed, and instead, people develop addictions to hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine, and they use Valium and other drugs appropriately.
These people may be astonished to learn, therefore, that addictions to benzodiazepine medications such as Valium are on the rise once more. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of people who were admitted to treatment programs for benzodiazepine addiction tripled between the years of 1998 and 2008. During that same time period, admissions for treatment for all other drugs only increased by 11 percent. It’s clear that more people are returning to Valium and drugs like it.
Addressing a Valium addiction is important. Long-term use of the drug can be incredibly damaging to the chemical system in the brain, and a person who abuses the drug could face emotional, social and even legal consequences as a result of the abuse. In a Valium recovery program, the person can learn how to deal with the addiction and start living life without the use of drugs.
Pulling Together a Plan
In the past, medical professionals believed that there was one, and only one, way to deal with a substance abuse disorder, and the person had no say in developing the play that would be put into place. Now, most people would probably believe that imposing a plan on someone else would be impractical at best and cruel at worst. In fact, most people know that a person struggling with an addiction is still a sentient human being with thoughts, opinions and belief systems that must be respected and honored at all times.
This concept is especially important in the context of addiction medicine. A Valium rehabilitation plan will only work, after all, if the addict believes in the plan and continues to follow the steps and do the work necessary in order to heal. For this reason, most addiction treatment programs allow the addict to be heavily involved in making choices, outlining therapy goals and detailing acceptable alternatives. According to an article published in the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, this is the best way to form a treatment program that is, “…meaningful and to which clients can adhere.” In other words, the plan comes, in part, from within the addict, allowing that person to take control and begin to learn to make good decisions.
Drug rehabilitation programs tend to come in two formats: inpatient and outpatient. According to SAMHSA, most people who enter treatment programs for Valium and other benzodiazepines tend to choose inpatient formats. While SAMHSA doesn’t speculate as to why this might be true, it’s possible that people choose inpatient formats due to the difficult nature of withdrawing from Valium and benzodiazepines. Often, people need a large amount of help in order to avoid feeling horrible symptoms of withdrawal when they’re reducing their use of Valium, and they may find that the help is easier to obtain when they’re working in an inpatient program. In programs such as ours at Axis Treatment Centers, patients live in the facility and have access to help 24 hours a day. People who go through treatment on an outpatient basis may not have this sort of help. But, it’s true that some people don’t need this sort of help, either, as they can lean on their family members and friends during their recovery process.
For most people, recovery programs begin with a visit to the family doctor. People who abuse Valium may find this appointment difficult, as they have likely been using their doctor to get the drug they are now addicted to. As awkward as it might be, it’s important to be completely honest with the doctor about the addiction. Lying about any detail might make the recovery process that much more difficult. During this original visit, according to the Mayo Clinic, the doctor might ask questions such as:
- How much Valium are you taking each day?
- Are you using other drugs or alcohol at the same time?
- Have you tried to quit?
- What happened when you tried to quit?
Typically, a person addicted to drugs moves from an appointment with the family doctor to enrollment in an inpatient detoxification program. Valium addicts may skip the inpatient detoxification step altogether. According to an article published in the magazine Addiction, people who are addicted to Valium may work with their doctors and take smaller and smaller doses of the drug until they’re taking no drugs at all. It can take months to complete the process, and no one would suggest that the addict should cease all treatment until the detoxification is complete. Therefore, some people begin their rehabilitation programs immediately, and work on detoxification and rehabilitation at the same time.
There are some people, however, who do need to complete detoxification programs before they can enter rehabilitation programs. Typically, people in this group abuse Valium along with other drugs. According to an article published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, people who abuse Valium often abuse other drugs including heroin or alcohol. These addictions must also be managed in order for the person to recover, and often, that means the person must complete a formal alcohol or heroin detoxification program first. Once that is complete, the addict can move on to a Valium rehab program, while continuing to taper off Valium.
Whether the program is provided in an inpatient or outpatient format, Valium rehabilitation involves a significant amount of therapy. At the beginning of therapy, the addict and the therapist may begin to explore the roots of the person’s addiction. For some people, these discussions could uncover other mental illnesses. There is a link between benzodiazepine addiction and mental illness, and some people may not even know that they have a mental illness. For example, a person with an anxiety disorder may feel keyed up and jittery, and may rely on Valium to calm down. When that Valium is gone, the person may feel a resurgence of those jittery feelings, and the therapist can help the person identify those symptoms and place them into the context of mental illness.
In order to help the addict build up skills that could keep a relapse at bay, many therapists use a form of treatment known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). There are many ways in which this technique is employed, but in general, most techniques attempt to teach an addict to identify this pattern:
- I have a thought.
- I believe that thought is true.
- I act upon that thought.
- I experience harm.
In CBT, the therapist encourages the addict to examine thoughts before acting upon them. If the addict can truly understand that the thoughts aren’t true, the addict can avoid acting upon them. This form of therapy has been proven effective in addiction, and it can also help people struggling both with addiction and mental illness. For example, a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that people with a dual diagnosis of schizophrenia and addiction improved remarkably with therapy, and those benefits lasted for 18 months or more.
Length of Care
Inpatient programs may last for several weeks, and some may last for longer. When those programs are complete, most people transition to outpatient programs, and they continue to work with their therapist and their doctor, learning new skills and strengthening their recovery toolkit. Valium addicts may taper down in this manner for months with their doctors, and when they’re completely free of Valium, they may continue to check with their doctors to ensure that they don’t become anxious or symptomatic with the loss of the drug.
In general, addiction programs take a long time to complete. The addict needs to learn a completely new way of thinking and a new way of living life and managing stress, and these aren’t lessons that are implemented without a significant amount of practice. In fact, a researchers writing in the journal Addiction Research and Theory found that it typically takes people 9.3 years to completely recover from an addiction. During that time, the patient may relapse. This doesn’t mean that the program is a failure, but it does mean that the addict will need to redouble his or her efforts in order to keep another relapse from occurring. It’s hard work, to be sure, and the road can seem long. But, true recovery is worth the effort, and that recovery is completely achievable.