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How to stop taking anxiolytics?

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Taken long-term, anxiolytics, most often benzodiazepines, have drawbacks that far outweigh their benefits. One of these side effects is the risk of addiction. Deciding to stop taking these medications is a first step, but no matter how motivated you are, abstinence should always be gradual.

Some people take anti-anxiety medications because they cannot cope with their anxieties or because they have just experienced trauma. Others because they have a phobia, panic attacks or generalized anxiety. In 84% of cases, according to the National Agency for Drug Safety, benzodiazepines are prescribed, because they are effective very quickly. On the other hand: beyond 12 weeks of treatment, there is a risk of dependence. The good news: Anyone can stop taking these anxiety medications.

First be motivated

"For this to work, you have to be determined to make a real commitment," insists Professor Philippe Zerr, a member of the Haute Support Strategies Commission. Knowing the long-term side effects and risks of these drugs may be enough to fuel this motivation: memory loss, drowsiness, confusional state, seizures, traffic accidents or falls in the elderly, or even an increased risk of dementia. .

Choosing the right time to stop anxiolytics

From the moment the decision is made, there is not a week or two to go.

"If you have a lot of worries, it is better to postpone for the next vacation or for a quieter moment, at the risk that the anxiety, anxieties or sleep disorders linked to this period of stress add to the withdrawal symptoms", explains the professor Antoine Pelissolo.

Gradually leave

The dose reduction should be gradual and in stages to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms (seizures) and limit those that, although less severe, can be painful: rebound from anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, sweating, headaches, irritability, dizziness

Be accompanied by a doctor

It is essential to be accompanied during this period of abstinence by a doctor.

It is essential to establish a schedule to stop the anxiolytics with the doctor: note the dates of the dose reduction and the amount, any unusual signs if any. "This allows for levels and dosages to be adjusted," says Professor Pelissolo. In the simplest cases, it may take 3 to 4 weeks to stop. "But it takes several months when the starting doses are high and the treatment is old."

For example :

If you take it for 3 or 4 months, at a low dose: the dose is reduced by half every 8 to 10 days.

If we have been in treatment for 1 or 2 years: "for a person who takes a Xanax pill morning, noon and night, Professor Zerr quotes, we can propose reducing one of the three doses by half, choosing the one that seems to pose the least problem Fifteen days later, another half of the dose is withdrawn and so on until it stops. In case of very bothersome symptoms, we can go back to the next level. "

Other disorders that the anxiolytic had alleviated can return when stopped, such as phobias, panic attacks or anxiety disorders. "It is important to treat them but with other drugs that are not addictive, for example antidepressants or, if anxiety induces sleep disorders, specific antihistamines or melatonin", says Professor Pelissolo.

Notify your loved ones

If there are any withdrawal symptoms, you better be prepared for them so they wont be surprised or scared. "They can also provide beneficial support, if only by encouraging the person to endure," says Professor Zerr.

Combine relaxation techniques

"The ideal is to combine the stop with relaxation techniques and / or behavioral and cognitive therapy if possible, and that can then be used to manage anxiety situations", recommends Pr Pelissolo. Other tools such as the Kardia or Respirelax + apps that offer breathing exercises and heart coherence should not be overlooked.

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