Benzodiazepines (widely referred to as Benzos) are a class of medications commonly used to treat disorders such as anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia. Working by attaching to the Gamma-Amino-Butryric-Acid (GABA) brain receptors, Benzodiazepines such as Valium, Xanax and Restoril help produce a ‘dampening’ effect on the brain, replicating the natural GABA molecules that are released when a person feels stressed or anxious. The calming effect of these drugs can help slow the heart rate, reduce feelings of worry and help promote peaceful sleep, and are often prescribed to patients who are experiencing particularly distressing times in their life such as relationship breakdowns or bereavement, as well as psychiatric disorders.
Due to the long-term nature of anxiety and insomnia, and the effectiveness of Benzos in reducing these problems, it is common for people to use these drugs regularly. After a period of weeks or months of use, the brain starts to reduce its own natural GABA production, making it increasingly difficult for patients to feel calm and relaxed, so the person becomes increasingly reliant on Benzodiazepine medication to make theGABA receptor work. The GABA receptor itself starts to change over time, making it less effective in reducing anxiety or inducing sleep, even in the presence of GABA or Benzos, so that increasing doses of Benzodiazepines are needed for the GABA receptor to produce its effects. This vicious circle means that medical professionals are cautious about prescribing Benzos in the long-term, even when they are the best source of treatment for a patient. Yet, in some instances, patients remain on Benzos for too long and establish a pattern of high-dose use, often prescribed, sometimes obtained from non-medical or illegal sources, leading to physical dependence.
Many Benzodiazepine-dependent patients attempt to wean themselves off their Benzos, or even try to stop them immediately. For some, symptoms of withdrawal can be relatively minimal but unfortunately for many, especially with high-dose use, the withdrawal symptoms can be very severe, with many citing severe anxiety, bodily ‘shock’ sensations, light sensitivity, nightmares, increased blood pressure, confusion, insomnia and even seizures as side effects. There is, therefore, a high risk of relapse back to using Benzos to counter the symptoms of withdrawal. Even after successful detox, patients may find the anxiety and insomnia that existed before theirBenzodiazepine use is too difficult to manage and relapse back into regular Benzo use and eventual dependence again.
The acute phase of Benzo withdrawal can last7-90 days, depending on the severity of addiction, the original underlying reasons for use, the dose and the length of Benzodiazepine use, followed by a post-acute withdrawal syndrome, which can continue for up to two years. It’s no wonder that as the most widely prescribed class of drugs in the world (W-Bad.org), asolution to assisting in the Benzo detox process was sorely needed.
Enter Flumazenil. Identified by scientists in1981 as a Benzodiazepine blocker, the drug is administered to patients as a subcutaneous infusion and detoxifies the body off Benzos within 10-14 days - with minimal side effects. Whilst this may sound too good to be true, Dr. Vince Gradillas, CEO of BREVIN - a private mental health treatment service in London - has witnessed the results first hand, explaining;
‘Rapid Benzodiazepine Detoxification (RBD) has provided groundbreaking results to those suffering with acute withdrawal symptoms from widely prescribed Benzo medications. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms are minimal in most cases and the chance of relapse during detox is significantly reduced, as the patients are comfortable throughout the process’.
It is worth noting that whilst RBD works extremely well in ‘re-setting’ the GABA receptors in the brain so that patients can stabilise without the need for Benzos during the withdrawal phase, it does not treat the underlying stressors and issues that may have caused the individual to begin medication originally. Therefore, it is recommended that patients use the detox program as part of a more comprehensive treatment plan that includes support from psychiatrists and trained therapists.