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Published On: December 21, 2023|Categories: Substance Abuse|

When recovering from alcohol addiction, individuals will experience several withdrawal symptoms as a result of their body learning to adjust to the absence of the chemicals and toxins found in the substance. These symptoms can be dangerous and are undeniably unpleasant. Certain medications have been approved which mitigate withdrawal symptoms and help achieve sobriety. 

Understanding alcohol withdrawal

Once a body has learned to function with increasingly high levels of alcohol in its system, it seemingly “forgets” how to properly function without it. If you seek to stop consuming alcohol after long periods of frequent consumption, you are likely to experience not only cravings that are difficult to deny but withdrawal symptoms as well. 

Withdrawal symptoms are often flu-like illnesses but can be much more serious and life-threatening depending on the level of addiction the body is experiencing. These occur as the body works to rid itself of toxins and chemicals and rebalance the natural levels within its systems.

Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Shaking muscles
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Increased heart rate 
  • High blood pressure

Not only are these symptoms dangerous and potentially life-threatening for some individuals, but they make recovery increasingly difficult. For example, someone who seeks sobriety and quits drinking cold turkey is likely to relapse and begin drinking again, possibly in larger, more dangerous quantities than before because of the unpleasant severity of withdrawal symptoms.

It is these withdrawal symptoms and resulting negative effects that certain approved medications are prescribed to address.

How medication-assisted treatment aids in alcohol withdrawal

To make the experience of detoxing from alcohol less severe and uncomfortable, recovery programs utilize the benefits of certain approved medications to help. Known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), this method of addiction treatment is not replacing one substance with another. 

Instead, MAT seeks to use medications with less or no known addictive properties for the sake of decreasing withdrawal symptoms and improving recovery success. 

Common medications used in medication-assisted treatment include benzodiazepines, a family of drugs known as sedatives. Benzodiazepines are often sought out for alcohol withdrawal because of their calming effect on the body. 

Drinking alcohol causes an increase of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of calm. But when drinking ceases, GABA decreases along with those relaxed feelings – withdrawal symptoms often take their place. 

Benzodiazepines help to maintain a relaxed state in the body, which ultimately allows the body to heal from the effects of alcohol addiction without experiencing the full effects of withdrawal.

Klonopin and alcohol withdrawal

Clonazepam – brand name Klonopin – is often used by treatment facilities to help mitigate these withdrawal symptoms and promote sobriety. It is a benzodiazepine most commonly prescribed to treat panic disorders and seizures because of the way it stabilizes the levels of GABA in the brain, reducing a potentially excitable state of mind. 

It is also used for those withdrawing from alcohol abuse as a means of promoting sobriety. And while there are obvious benefits to using Klonopin for these reasons, the use of any medication does not come with some warnings. 

  • Klonopin should not be used in combination with alcohol consumption, as mixing the two can lead to serious complications – it is to be used, instead, as a part of a treatment regimen
  • It should only be used in close adherence to one’s prescription instructions as Klonopin, like all benzodiazepines, can be addictive if used improperly – for this reason, be sure to mention any concerns or reservations to your doctor and seek other forms of treatment if needed 
  • Work with your doctor to find the lowest effective dose and only take the prescription for as long as needed, to prevent unnecessary side effects and lower any risks of dependence/addiction
  • Be transparent with your recovery team, and let them know if you feel like Klonopin is a beneficial, successful part of your recovery journey, or if you believe a different benzodiazepine would be more helpful
  • Consider other forms of treatment/other medications if you have had an addiction to or dependence on Klonopin in the past 

While there are numerous benefits to medication-assisted treatment, it is nevertheless an important aspect of treatment to keep a close eye on. If you believe you have reached a level of sobriety and no longer experience cravings or withdrawal symptoms, it may be time to decrease use and return to natural living without any kind of routine consumption of medication. 

Seeking alcohol addiction treatment?

If you or someone you know need addiction treatment for alcohol use disorder, contact High Focus Centers by calling 800-877-3628 or contact us online to learn more about our programs. 

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