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Prescription Drug Abuse

Treating addiction to CNS depressants

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Patients addicted to barbiturates and benzodiazepines should not attempt to stop taking them on their own. Withdrawal symptoms from these drugs can be problematic, and—in the case of certain CNS depressants— potentially life-threatening. Research on treating barbiturate and benzodiazepine addiction is sparse; however, addicted patients should undergo medically supervised detoxification because the dosage they take should be gradually tapered. Inpatient or outpatient counseling can help individuals through this process. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on modifying the patient's thinking, expectations, and behaviors while increasing skills for coping with various life stressors, also has been used successfully to help individuals adapt to discontinuing benzodiazepines.

Often barbiturate and benzodiazepine abuse occurs in conjunction with the abuse of other drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine. In such cases of polydrug abuse, the treatment approach should address the multiple addictions.

This page was last updated October 2011

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National Institute on Drug Abuse (2011). Treating addiction to CNS depressants. In Prescription Drug Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs/treating-prescription-drug-addiction/treating-addiction-to-cns-depressants

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