According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, along with opioids and stimulants, sedatives are among the three most commonly abused types of drugs. Sedatives are also commonly called depressants as they slow down brain function to create ultra-relaxed effects. However, regular use of stimulants can lead to tolerance and subsequent dependence which can result in sedative addiction, requiring treatment at a drug rehab center.
Although alcohol is also considered to have depressant or sedative effects, it is treated as a separate substance by most drug rehab centers. The main difference between sedative pills and alcohol is that they are often prescribed by physicians for valid health reasons. Benzodiazepines are sedatives that are routinely used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders and barbiturates seizures and as anesthesia during surgery, however, both have risks attached.
Psychological Symptoms of Sedative Addiction
There is a difference between a person who has become dependent on a sedative drug and someone with an addiction. That said, it can often be difficult to distinguish the difference although there are certain signs and symptoms that suggest sedative use has become a problem including:
- Overwhelming cravings for the drug
- A need for progressively higher doses to achieve the desired effects
- The individual is likely to have tried several times to stop using without success
- Emerging withdrawal symptoms when the individual isn’t using
- Continuing to use despite the negative consequences for the individual and their loved ones
Physical Signs of Sedative Addiction
An individual who has been abusing sedatives will also show some physical signs of addiction which include the following:
- Slow and slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
- Impaired motor function
- Dizzy spells and fainting
- Out of character risk-raking behaviors
Symptoms can vary quite widely from person to person and depends on the amount of sedative being abused and for how long. For this reason, it is very often the people closest to someone struggling with addiction who are the first to recognize the signs of a developing illness.
What Is Withdrawal from Sedatives Like?
When someone has become addicted to a sedative substance, they have usually developed a physical dependence to it. Dependence is characterized by cravings and withdrawal symptoms which work together to keep an individual trapped in an addictive cycle. When an addicted person stops using sedatives, they will soon start to crave them which results in the body experiencing unpleasant sensations until they feel powerless to stop themselves using again.
Sedative withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Depression and anxiety
- Night terrors
- Fever and nausea
- Increased heart rate and rapid breathing
- Abnormal blood pressure
Withdrawal from sedatives can produce intense symptoms which is why it is always recommended that individuals seek detox treatment in the medically supervised environment of a drug rehab center.
How is Sedative Addiction Treated?
The first step of a program in a rehab center is detox which is when a person stops taking the drug immediately. Due to the intense withdrawal some people with sedative dependence and addiction experience, this process is best carried out in a drug detox center. This provides patients with a safe environment where they will be supervised throughout detox and any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms treated.
Sedative withdrawal symptoms typically emerge after 12 to 24 hours of last taking the drug. Symptoms generally peak in severity between 24 and 72 hours after which time, they begin to fade. Sedatives are a relatively fast-acting drug which generally means detox is less intense than it can be for longer-acting drugs such as opioids or heroin.
When an individual has left the drug detox center, they are ready to enter a drug rehab center for the next phase of drug addiction treatment. Individuals can choose from a residential or inpatient rehab center or more flexible outpatient treatment if that is likely to be a more effective approach for their particular case. There is no difference between the two types of addiction treatment in terms of goals and objectives which are to prepare patients for a successful life in sobriety.
Complementary Therapies for Sedative Addiction Treatment
Alternative approaches to drug addiction treatment have been found to be very effective, particularly for individuals who are dependent on over-the-counter or prescription sedatives. This is because these drugs negatively affect a person’s mental, physical and emotional health which is best addressed by holistic treatments such as meditation, physical exercise, and nutritional awareness.
Although many people may view alternative approaches to drug addiction treatment as “new age”, research shows that when combined with evidence-based therapies like CBT they can be highly effective in promoting long-term recovery. The objective of holistic addiction therapies is to address the root causes of addictive behavior, helping patients to find healthier ways to respond to triggers for sedative abuse in recovery. For example, meditation allows individuals to silence the negative internal dialogue that often accompanies addictive behavior, enabling them to better protect their sobriety after a rehab center.