For two years before and two years after her husband’s death, Marjorie has prescribed a benzodiazepine to cope with her grief and pain in the morning and to help her to sleep at night. As each prescription was refilled, the 75-year-old took the medication as she was told, never knowing that the highly addictive drug was recommended for short-term use only.
By little choice of her own, Marjorie became one of the thousands of Americans dependent on benzodiazepines, a class of drugs that includes Restoril, Ativan, Valium, and Xanax. Yet, despite mounting evidence that these drugs are addictive, doctors continue to prescribe patients like Marjorie benzodiazepines for long-term use.
If that were not enough, these “accidental addicts” who are prescribed benzodiazepines, like Restoril, may face severe withdrawal symptoms once they recognize their dependence and want desperately to stop taking their medications.
Sometimes the prospects of nausea, anxiety, and headaches from withdrawal are too much to bear, precipitating a return to use and fueling a vicious cycle of stopping and starting over and over.
Scores of people worldwide struggle to get off sleep aids like Restoril. With protracted use, it becomes that much more difficult. Too many individuals will not realize that Restoril must be slowly tapered off over months to avoid the discomforting withdrawal symptoms that are associated with the medication. When withdrawal isn’t processed under the supervision of a medical professional, nasty side effects including vertigo, memory lapses and depression may linger for months, if not years after the medication is stopped.
Restoril is the brand name for temazepam, which belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Typically prescribed as a short-term sleeping aid, Restoril begins to act quickly, usually with 10-20 minutes. Restoril is also taken to treat anxiety by reducing the level of neurotransmitter activity in the brain. However, any Restoril prescription should not be for more than 10 days. Any dosage beyond this period may be problematic and, at the very least, habit-forming.
Restoril is taken in a capsule form just before going to bed. The medications should be taken as directed, no more, no less. Because Restoril is a short- to intermediate-acting acting benzodiazepine, the side effects should begin 10-20 minutes after taking the medication and extend for up to six hours. Some of the more common side effects include:
Restoril should not be taken under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Any combination of Restoril and these substances may pose life-threatening breathing problems, sedation, or even coma. If Restoril is taken with any opioid, the risk increases. These opioids may include tramadol, codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, or morphine. Symptoms of overdose may include:
Thirty percent of prescription medicine overdose deaths were attributed to a benzodiazepine in 2013.
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Like any benzodiazepine, Restoril attaches to gamma-aminobutyric acids. These chemicals are found in the brain and throughout the nervous system. Once attached, Restoril begins to act like a GABA by reducing neuron activity in the nervous system. As a result, the brain receives less communication, which, in turn, produces a range of sedative-hypnotic effects on the mind and body including increased levels of relaxation and sleep, reduced stress and pain, and more balanced moods.
As the brain becomes more and more accustomed to the chemical activity, the body responds when Restoril medications are either stopped completely or reduced in terms of concentration and frequency. This is called withdrawal.
The encouraging news is that a gradual, progressive reduction of Restoril will limit the intensity of withdrawal until the body is completely rid of the medication.
Knowing how long Restoril remains in the body is essential for determining what to expect during withdrawal. The effects of Restoril peak about one-and-one-half hours after intake. Because Restoril is classified as a short- to intermediate-acting benzodiazepine, the medication has an average half-life of about nine hours. That means the concentration of Restoril in the body will be one-half the dose taken.
When the amount of Restoril is either stopped abruptly or reduced, an individual who has become dependent on the benzodiazepine will experience withdrawal, typically for one to four weeks. Depending on the individual’s genetics, frequency of use, and dosage, the stages might follow a similar timeline.
Because Restoril has a half-life of about nine hours, symptoms from withdrawal may surface within six to 24 hours after the last dose. For the next couple of days, symptoms might include anxiety, appetite loss, nausea and difficulty sleeping, changes in blood pressure, mood swings, depression, and cravings to return to use
From one to four days, physical and psychological symptoms including, nausea, anxiety, and fatigue intensify. The possibility of seizures and hallucinations should not be dismissed
During the next one to two weeks, symptoms gradually lessen
After the first two weeks, some individuals will experience the return of post-acute withdrawal symptoms, most of which may be psychological
To reduce unpleasant side effects while tapering off Restoril, a doctor may prescribe longer-acting benzodiazepines along with antidepressants, such as Trazadone, as a sleep aid.
What started as a well-intentioned attempt at a good night’s sleep has turned into a nightmare for you and your loved ones.
The reality is that detoxification at either a hospital or residential substance abuse treatment facility may be your safest and most comfortable option.
Here, a doctor can treat your dependency by gradually reducing Restoril dosages.
To minimize the awful side effects associated with Restoril withdrawal, a doctor may also prescribe medications to alleviate symptoms while highly trained staff monitor your vitals to prevent any further complications.
Detox was your wake up call, but to ensure you that you remain free from sleeping pills, continued treatment at a residential substance abuse facility is highly recommended, especially for individuals with a history of addiction or alcoholism. During this stay, patients are exposed to group therapy, one-on-one counseling, educational lectures and, workshops as part of a comprehensive recovery program.
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U.S. National Library of Medicine. Medline Plus. Temazepam. from from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a684003.html
National Center for Biotechnology Information. Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. 4.4. WITHDRAWAL MANAGEMENT FOR BENZODIAZEPINE DEPENDENCE from from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310652/
CNN. Benzodiazepine overdose deaths soared in recent years, study finds. Storrs, C. from from https://www.cnn.com/2016/02/18/health/benzodiazepine-sedative-overdose-death-increase/index.html
Mayo Clinic, from from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/temazepam-oral-route/precautions/drg-20072162