Poisoning (Benzodiazepine): Care Instructions

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You have had treatment to help your body get rid of a large amount of a benzodiazepine medicine. You are recovering, but you may not feel well for a while. This is because it takes time for the medicine to leave your body.

Doctors prescribe benzodiazepine medicines to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, sleep disorders, and seizures. You may know them by their generic and brand names. These include alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan).

While you were with the doctor, the doctor may have:

  • Found out what kind of medicine you took. The doctor may have tested your urine and blood to identify the medicine. You may have had other tests too.
  • Given you an antidote for benzodiazepine through a tube in your vein, called an I.V. This prevents or undoes some of the effects of the medicine.
  • Helped you breathe by giving you oxygen. This is given through a mask or nasal cannula (say "KAN-yuh-luh"). A cannula is a thin tube with two openings that fit just inside your nose. Or your doctor may have put an oxygen tube down your throat.
  • Given you activated charcoal by mouth. This is to help remove the benzodiazepine from your digestive system. This may give you diarrhea. And it may turn your stool black for a few days.
  • Given you fluids.

The doctor also watched you closely to make sure you were recovering safely.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Get plenty of rest. The medicine that made you sick may take a long time to get out of your body completely.
  • If you had a tube in your throat to help you breathe, you may have a sore throat or feel hoarse for a few days. Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids may help soothe your throat. Hot fluids, such as tea or soup, may help ease throat pain.
  • Benzodiazepines can be addictive. If you think you have an addiction problem, contact your doctor.
  • If you are going to keep taking benzodiazepine medicine, make sure you take it exactly as directed by your doctor.
  • If you took too much medicine on purpose, or if you feel like you want to do it again, talk with your doctor or a counselor.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol increases the effect of these medicines. This can make you very ill.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Go to 988lifeline.org for more information or to chat online.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have serious withdrawal symptoms such as confusion, hallucinations, or severe trembling.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.
  • You have been feeling sad, depressed, or hopeless or have lost interest in things that you usually enjoy.
  • You think you may have a problem with benzodiazepines or another substance.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.