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Treating Addiction to CNS Depressants

Patients addicted to Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants such as tranquilizers, sedatives, and hypnotics should not attempt to stop taking them on their own. Withdrawal symptoms from these drugs can be severe and, in the case of certain medications, potentially life-threatening.

Research on treating addiction to CNS depressants is sparse; however, patients who are dependent on these medications should undergo medically supervised detoxification because the dosage they take should be tapered gradually. 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, has also been used successfully to help individuals adapt to discontinuing benzodiazepines.

Often CNS depressant misuse occurs in conjunction with the use of other drugs (polydrug use), such as alcohol or opioids. In such cases, the treatment approach should address the multiple addictions.

At this time, there are no FDA-approved medications for treating addiction to CNS depressants, though research is ongoing in this area.

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