Mother's Little Helper
'You can tranquilise your mind
So go running for the shelter of your Mother's Little Helper...
And four help you through the night, help to minimise your plight.
Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more'
'Mother's Little Helper' was a big hit for the Rolling Stones back in 1966. This was a song about Valium (tranquillisers) that had become readily prescribed three years earlier, mainly to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia. Although Valium is no longer produced under this branded version, its medical components still exist in different formats around the world. Over the years, the addictive element related to what are now commonly called 'Benzodiazepines' has changed little, despite public outcry and copious medical research. To highlight this contemporary dilemma, one of the current central characters in Britain's much loved soap 'Emmerdale' is struggling to withdraw from pain killers, prescribed as a result of a back injury incurred several months ago. 'Rhona' is displaying all the physical and psychological effects of dependence.
The main problems with taking benzodiazepines (which can also be prescribed as a muscle relaxant, and to promote calmness and relaxation) such as Diazepam, Temazepam, Lorazepam, (amongst many others) is that the body develops a tolerance to the drug over a relatively short space of time; this means that more are needed to get the desired effect. With medical advice it is best to be weaned off the drug, as sudden withdrawal can result in very dangerous symptoms, including seizures. However, the most common are: feeling anxious, irritable or agitated, insomnia, irregular heartbeat, muscle tension or tremors, high temperature and sweating.
There are medical benefits for benzodiazepines taken over a short-term period, i.e. 2-4 weeks. However long-term use i.e. over 6 weeks can result in accidents, aggressive behaviour and other anti-social acts, as well as psychological and physical dependence. Taken with other substances such as alcohol or other depressant drugs can produce intoxication, difficulty with co -ordination and confusion.
So, what are the available treatment options? This depends on the extent of the effect that the addiction has had on your daily life, and its impact on your family, personal relationships, work, housing, education etc. The most significant turning point is to admit to yourself that there is a problem, and that help is urgently needed. If your life is spiralling out of control, although friends and family may want to help it is best to seek professional advice, and look at alternative options, some of which may need a referral from your general practitioner.
Community prescribing - a specialised medical treatment, which involves prescribing medication to help you stabilise and withdraw from benzodiazepines. Information can be obtained from a local drug or alcohol service, clinic or medical centre.
Counselling and Psychological support - this involves formal structured sessions, with clearly defined treatment plans and goals, which are regularly reviewed. Coping skills, relapse prevention therapy and motivational interventions can be helpful both individually or in groups.
Complementary Therapies - treatments such as acupuncture, massage, Reiki or relaxation techniques can promote a sense of physical and mental wellbeing, and can help with cravings and some withdrawal symptoms. Ear acupuncture is effective; small needles are inserted into points on the ear that are thought to affect parts of the body concerned with cleansing and detox.
Self-help or mutual aid groups - groups such as Narcotics Anonymous involve people with similar issues coming together to help each other, and can offer a supportive environment for changing your drug use.
Counselling can help you to establish why you initially needed medication, especially if they were prescribed for anxiety or depression. Therapy may be a healthier, holistic option to your difficulties than potential drug abuse - which may only mask the psychological pain, and can be a catalyst to creating a whole host of debilitating problems.
Benzodiazepines - Royal College of Psychiatrists
Benzodiazepines Addiction - Battle against Tranquillisers
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