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About Sedatives

Sedatives, also known as tranquilizers, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, or sedative-hypnotics, are medications prescribed to help people with anxiety and insomnia. Like so many other addictive medications, sedatives present their own unique causes and experiences, which, when abused, requires a tailored addiction treatment plan. Before we review Long Island Center for Recovery’s (LICRs) treatment approach for sedatives, we must first explore the different types of sedatives and their effects.

Most Common Sedatives:


  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Ativan
  • Klonopin
  • Librium


  • Fiorinal
  • Fioricet
  • Nembutal
  • Luminal

Insomnia Medications (Non-Benzodiazepines or ‘Z Drugs’)

  • Ambien
  • Sonata
  • Lunesta

An addiction to sedatives can be life threatening depending on the level of use and specific sedative, but where does the addiction start? Sedatives work in the brain by increasing the activity of GABA, which stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, and this increase affects the brain much like the consumption of alcohol. The increase in GABA slows down cognitive functions, making users feel drowsy and calm, but can also give off a feeling of euphoric high.

The feelings are established as helpful, desired, but will also become dampened overtime, as users build up a tolerance, requiring higher and higher doses to produce similar effects. This can lead to users prioritizing sedatives over other elements of their lives and falling into the dangers of sedative addiction.

Reaching these levels of addiction with sedatives is critical; detox at this point can be deadly if not managed appropriately due to the increased risk of seizures or experiencing of rhabdomyolysis (a condition that can lead to kidney failure). Attempting to self-detox, quit, or going ‘cold turkey’ is strongly discouraged when associated with such high levels of risk, and the only appropriate next step would be seeking sedative addiction treatment at a detox facility.

How Long Island Center for Recovery (LICR) Treats Sedative Addiction

Sedative addiction treatment would begin at LICR with medically assisted treatment and detoxification. As mentioned previously, admitted sedative clients are at a critical stage, and require medically supervised detox to ensure their safety. Additionally, withdrawals are far too extreme, and would require use of medication to help wean clients off the sedatives.

The detoxification period lasts from five to seven days as clients medication dosage would gradually decrease as they continue their treatment. During this period post-withdrawal, clients would continue with counseling in both a group and individual setting to change their overall perception and attitude towards drugs and their reasons for use. Continued support is key and meeting such as the therapies listed below are held periodically at LICR to help addictive clients of all types:

These programs are an extremely helpful addition to the standard inpatient program, as well as the incorporation of family involvement to nurture the experience and help manage triggers through support once discharged. These programs and activities combined with individual and group therapies will aid clients in maintaining their sobriety, giving them a sense of community, and providing them with the tools necessary to maintain this success for the future.

Frequently asked questions from clients seeking sedative treatment at Long Island Center for Recovery (LICR)

What drugs are considered sedatives and what do they do?

Benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and medications used for insomnia are considered sedatives. They all work by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. This is similar to the action of alcohol and so the experience is similar to alcohol intoxication.

How will I manage my anxiety/headaches/insomnia without sedatives in the future?

As with some other drugs, sedatives are considered to have medical uses, and so addiction may have been preceded by these kinds of issues. Many clients worry that they will not find relief without these medications. At LICR, we help with all aspects of addiction and its accompanying problems. Clients will learn strategies to manage their symptoms without the medications, will prepare to make changes to ameliorate the causes of the underlying condition, and will work with medical staff on non-narcotic treatment options.

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