Treatment for Sedatives

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What is Sedative Use Disorder?

Sedative, hypnotic, and anxiolytic drugs are a group of prescription medications that work by slowing down brain activity. Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, Valium) are the most well-known in this group, though they also include Z-drugs (Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata) and older medications called barbiturates (phenobarbital, secobarbital, butalbital).

A sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder is a chronic brain disease that leads to the persistent use of these drugs despite repeated adverse effects from their use.

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4.8 million

people ages 12+ misused prescription sedative-hypnotics drugs in 2022.

3.7 million

people reported misusing benzodiazepines.


of all opioid overdose deaths involved benzodiazepines in 2021.

Recent surveys indicate that an estimated 4.8 million people ages 12 and older misused prescription sedative-hypnotics drugs in 2022, including 3.7 million who reported misusing benzodiazepines. (NSDUH)

In 2021, nearly 14% of all opioid overdose deaths involved benzodiazepines.

Frequently asked questions

What are the reasons for addiction?

Sedative, hypnotic, and anxiolytic drugs are widely prescribed for the treatment of various medical issues, including anxiety disorders and insomnia. In addition to reducing anxiety and supporting sleep, these medications can create a euphoric effect in some people, increasing the risk of developing an addiction. Consistent use of these drugs over time, even at prescribed doses, can lead to the development of tolerance (needing a higher dose for the same effect) and withdrawal symptoms that impact continued use and difficulty making changes. 

What symptoms accompany sedative use disorder?

Sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder is diagnosed by a healthcare provider based on the presence of symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The symptoms that make up the diagnosis may include problems developing in the following areas: 

- Difficulty controlling the use of sedatives 

- Cravings, or strong urges, for sedatives 

- Sedatives impacting ability to complete important responsibilities 

- Getting into potentially dangerous situations because of sedatives 

- Tolerance to stimulants (needing a higher amount for the same effect) 

- Development of withdrawal symptoms if stopping 

Symptoms may vary from person to person and a qualified medical professional can assist in diagnosing and discussing treatment options to address symptoms. 

What are the medical issues with sedative use disorder?

Low doses of these drugs may lead to drowsiness, slowed thinking, and diminished motor skills. These issues can lead to falls, impaired driving, and impact on decision-making. 

Benzodiazepine medications may have a dose-related impact on memory and learning including reducing the ability to remember new information. Research is also currently investigating the association between benzodiazepine use and the risk of developing dementia. 

Withdrawal from regular sedative use can occur with rapid dose changes or stopping completely. Symptoms may include anxiety, tremor, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, abnormal skin sensations, hallucinations, and seizures. 

Treatment options

There are currently no FDA-approved medications for sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder.

Safe withdrawal is the first step due to the risk of severe side effects if stopping abruptly and should be completed in consultation with a medical provider with experience providing this type of treatment.

There are many behavioral treatments and therapy options available to support long-term recovery along with identifying and treating any previously undiagnosed mental health conditions.

It is important to speak with a qualified medical provider who can help understand your goals and discuss what treatment options are appropriate for you.

How Frontier Recovery works

Empowering you on a path to healthy living


Comprehensive assessment to understand your goals


Personalized medical treatment plan based on shared decision-making


Coaching sessions to develop new skills and support change


Digital tracking to assess progress toward your goals


Regular follow-up to assess treatment response & support long-term success
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