Xanax is a prescription sedative belonging to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs, and account for nearly a third of all fatal drug overdoses each year. Misusing Xanax is likely to lead to dependence and addiction.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax is the brand name for the drug alprazolam. As a central nervous system depressant, Xanax works by slowing down activity in the brain. By slowing down brain activity, Xanax is useful for treating panic and anxiety disorders.
Routinely prescribed for anxiety, Xanax produces feelings of calm, relaxation, and mild euphoria (feel-good feeling). Due to the sedating effects, Xanax is prescribed with caution and should always be taken as directed.
Xanax comes in tablet form, but may also be found as a concentrated liquid to take orally. Doctors generally recommend the drug be taken 2-4 times daily.
Although Xanax can be useful for treating panic and anxiety disorders, Xanax has the potential for abuse, and was once the most commonly abused prescription drug on the market. Prescription drug abuse occurs when a person takes the drug without a prescription, uses it for reasons other than what it’s prescribed for, or takes the drug in an effort to feel the effects, or get high.
Xanax is also abused when the tablets are crushed and snorted for a quicker high. This is also true if someone injects the liquid concentrate of Xanax without a prescription or direction to do so.
Street names for Xanax include gold bars, school bus, X, and Zanies. As a benzodiazepine, they may also be referred to as candy, downers, or benzos.
Xanax can produce adverse side effects when abused or not taken as directed. After a person begins to regularly misuse Xanax, they’re likely to show signs and symptoms of Xanax abuse and addiction.
Signs And Symptoms Of Xanax Abuse And Addiction
As a sedative, Xanax produces calming effects that may make a person seem more tired than usual. They are likely to be drowsy, lethargic, and slow to react. Other common side effects of Xanax include:
- changes in appetite
- lack of balance and coordination
- slurred speech
The more Xanax a person takes, the more likely they are to experience side effects. Because Xanax produces feelings of mild euphoria, taking Xanax may become a person’s top priority. After a period of abuse, people are likely to show signs of drug-seeking behavior.
Drug seeking behavior consists of intense drug cravings, compulsively using drugs, showing impaired judgment relating to drug use, and continuing to use drugs despite harm to themselves or others. People suffering from Xanax abuse or addiction may have trouble with relationships and may begin to neglect responsibilities at home, work, or school.
When a person begins abusing Xanax, they’re likely to feel off-balance and sleepy. Further use, however, will diminish these effects, and the person will likely build a tolerance to Xanax, needing to take more to produce the desired high.
Tolerance is an early sign of addiction and means a person is likely closer to developing dependence. Because a person will need to take more of the drug, their body and brain will likely become used to having Xanax in the system.
Abusing Xanax can be dangerous because of the intoxicating effects, potential health consequences, and risk of overdose.
The Dangers Of Xanax Abuse And Addiction
Overdose occurs when a person takes too much Xanax, either by accident or on purpose. Symptoms of Xanax overdose may include:
- loss of consciousness
- problems with coordination
If someone is having an overdose, 9-1-1 should be contacted immediately. Medical professionals can monitor a person’s vitals after an overdose, and may also administer Flumazenil, a medication capable of reversing the effects of overdose from benzodiazepines.
The risk of overdose increases when a person mixes Xanax with alcohol. Overdose is often fatal when Xanax is mixed with alcohol because both substances are CNS depressants, and the combination may result in severe respiratory depression, or slowed breathing. Breathing problems are the main cause of death during a drug overdose.
It’s also dangerous to mix Xanax with prescription opioids. Taking Xanax with opioids will likely increase the risk of overdose, and can be fatal. For many fatal opioid overdoses, benzodiazepines like Xanax are often involved.
Xanax abuse and addiction can also lead to risky behaviors like driving while under the influence, having unprotected sex, and engaging in other unlawful activities.
Adverse side effects may also occur from prolonged Xanax abuse. Side effects may include seizures, hallucinations, memory loss, depression, abrupt mood changes, and suicidal ideation. There have been reports of adverse behavioral effects occurring in people abusing Xanax. People may be hostile or violent, show severe rage, and have trouble sleeping.
Although there are many inherent dangers associated with Xanax abuse and addiction, it can be difficult for a person to stop use on their own. After stopping the use of Xanax, people are likely to show symptoms of withdrawal.
Xanax Withdrawal And Detox
Symptoms of withdrawal are likely to occur after a person develops a physical or psychological dependence to a drug. After a person forms a dependence, the body needs time to adjust and recover from having too much of a drug in their system. Withdrawal is the period of adjustment where a person likely feels sick and out of whack.
Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal include:
- agitation or aggression
- blurred vision
- change in sense of smell
- concentration problems
- increased sensitivity to light or noise
- insomnia (difficulty staying or falling asleep)
- loss of appetite
- muscle cramps
Withdrawal is likely to be painful and uncomfortable, and the person may struggle to do anything at all. The length and severity of withdrawal likely depends on how much and how often a person took Xanax, and symptoms may cause enough discomfort to turn a person back to using Xanax or other drugs.
If withdrawal is severe, a person may need a medically supervised detoxification, or detox. Medically supervised detox takes place in a hospital or inpatient treatment center where staff can monitor and observe a person’s progress, administer medication when necessary, and provide a safe and comfortable environment during withdrawal.
Detox is not a cure for addiction but is often the first step in recovery. Medical supervision during detox ensures a person will not turn back to using drugs so they can further the process of healing and recovery. Following detox, a variety of behavioral therapies is likely the best course of action.
Treatment For Xanax Abuse And Addiction
Most substance use disorders (SUDs) are treated with a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. For benzodiazepines like Xanax, there are currently no government-approved medications used during treatment. However, a method called tapering may be effective.
Tapering involves medical staff administering Xanax or another benzodiazepine, and then gradually decreasing the dose over time. By giving a person less and less Xanax over time, a person is less likely to undergo symptoms of withdrawal. Tapering should always be done under medical supervision and may be offered at an inpatient treatment center.
Inpatient treatment centers, or drug rehab, offer a residential setting where a person will live during treatment. Staying at an inpatient treatment center may be effective because it can offer all the components a person needs to be successful in recovery.
For treatment to work, a person should have access to withdrawal support during detox, medications, treatment for other physical or mental health conditions, medications, peer support, and behavioral therapy.
Behavioral therapy is essential for recovery because it aims to change a person’s thinking and attitudes towards drugs. Therapy may consist of one on one sessions, group support, or other more intensive therapies like dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
The ultimate goal of behavioral therapy is to provide a person with the skills and tools needed to remain sober after treatment.
Contact us today for more information on Xanax abuse and addiction.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration—Xanax Drug Label
National Institute on Drug Abuse: TEENS—Facts on Prescription Drugs