Some take anxiolytics because they cannot manage their anxieties or they have just suffered a trauma. Others because they have a phobia, panic attacks, or generalized anxiety. In 84% of cases according to the National Medicines Safety Agency, these are benzodiazepines which are prescribed, because they are very effective very quickly. With a flip side: beyond 12 weeks of treatment, there is a risk of addiction. 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, member of the Commission for Support Strategies of the High Authority for Health. Know the Side effects and the risks of these drugs taken long term may be enough to feed this motivation: memory loss, drowsiness, confusional state, convulsions, road accidents or falls in the elderly, or even increased risk of dementia.
Choosing the right time to stop anti-anxiety drugs
From the moment the decision is taken, it is no longer within one or two weeks.
“If you have a lot of worries, it is better to postpone to the next vacation or to a quieter time, at the risk that the anxiety, anxieties or sleep disorders linked to this period of stress will not be added to the symptoms of weaning ”, specifies Professor Antoine Pelissolo.
The reduction in doses should be gradual, and be done in stages in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms severe (convulsions), and to limit those which, although less severe, can be painful: anxiety rebound, nightmares, insomnia, sweating, headaches, irritability, dizziness …
To be accompanied by a doctor
It is essential to be accompanied during this period of withdrawal by a doctor.
- Either his generalist : if he knows us well, that he is informed about the weaning protocols, available for follow-up (an appointment at least every two weeks at the start, then every month until the stop) and easily reachable in case of problem.
- Either a psychiatrist, preferably addictologist: “If you have a lot of withdrawal symptoms, make several attempts to stop without success,” says Dr. Laurent Karila. When the follow-up in consultation is very complicated or impossible, a hospitalization of 2 to 4 weeks in an addiction service may be necessary. “
Set a shutdown schedule with the doctor
It is essential to establish with the doctor a schedule for stopping anti-anxiety drugs : we note the dates of reduction of the doses and by how much, the unusual signs if there are any. “This allowsadjust levels and dosages », Says Pr Pelissolo. In the simplest cases, it may take 3 or 4 weeks to stop. “But it takes several months when the initial doses are high and the treatment is old. “
For example :
- If you take it for 3 or 4 months, at a low dose: the dosage is reduced by half every 8 to 10 days.
- If we are under treatment for 1 or 2 years : “To a person who takes a tablet of Xanax morning, noon and evening, quotes Professor Zerr, we can suggest halving one of the three doses, choosing the one that seems to pose the least problem. Fifteen days later, another half of the dose is dropped and so on until stopping. In case of very troublesome symptoms, you can go back to the next level. “
Rely on other medications
Other disorders, which the anxiolytic had alleviated, can reappear after stopping, such as phobias, panic attacks or anxiety disorders. “It is important to treat them but with others drugs that are not addictive, for example antidepressants or, if the anxiety induces sleep disturbances, specific antihistamines or melatonin », Says Pr Pelissolo.
Notify loved ones
If there are withdrawal symptoms, it is best that they be prepared for them so that they are not taken aback or even frightened. “They can also provide beneficial support, if only by encouraging the person to hold on,” notes Professor Zerr.
Combine relaxation techniques
“The ideal is to combine stopping with relaxation techniques and / or a behavioral and cognitive therapy if possible, and which can then be used to manage anxiety situations, ”advises Professor Pelissolo. Other tools should not be neglected, such as Kardia or Respirelax + apps which offer breathing exercises and cardiac coherence (free on AppStore and GooglePlay).