What a Carer Needs

    Withdrawing from benzodiazepines is a difficult and long-winded process, and to a new carer will seem strange and incomprehensible. Unlike recovering from, say, a broken leg, there is no apparent logic to withdrawal and it produces many strange symptoms along the way. As I said in the introduction, I have tried not to paint too gloomy a picture, but forewarned is forearmed. However, there is good news. Much of the damage caused to the nervous system is temporary, and people recover. They often find this very difficult to believe and are convinced that their minds are going. But this is effect of the drugs temporarily distorting their real minds which are still there and will recover. They need courage, belief and support to do so, and it takes time, but people who have recovered say that it is the best thing they have ever done, and is wholly worth the effort. 

    To help someone through benzodiazepine withdrawal successfully a carer needs:

  • understanding and compassion
  • commitment
  • knowledge
  • patience
  • time
  • self-sufficiency

    Understanding and Compassion. Withdrawal is a painful and distressing experience and radically changes sufferers’ lives. When a sufferer behaves in an unexpected way, they are not making it up, and indeed they have no effective control of the process at all, so the carer needs a sympathetic voice and attitude. There is no place for the “snap out of it” approach.

    Commitment. The carer must be committed since withdrawal is likely to be a long process. There will be moments when the sufferer is convinced they will never succeed, and that is when the carer must provide the reassurance needed. The carer must be prepared for the proverbial long haul.

    Knowledge. The carer must know about the way benzodiazepines work, why tapering is important and how it is done. They must be familiar with the broad spectrum of symptoms, and their meaning. 

    Patience. There will be times when sufferers become frustrated with progress and sometimes even aggressive, so lots of patience is called for. As we say, “it’s not me, it’s the illness”.

    Time. Obviously carers will have varying amounts of time available. I am lucky to be able to be full-time, but many people won’t have that luxury. Caring takes more time than you might think. If the sufferer needs to talk things through, and talking is one of the most valuable tactics, it will take time, and the carer must be prepared to spend it.

    Self-sufficiency. Outside support is limited which means that sufferers and their carers are thrown back on their own resources much of the time. Carers must be prepared to devise ingenious means of alleviating sufferers’ problems.