Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, a short-acting benzodiazepine (or benzo) and minor tranquilizer. It was created to treat the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders.
On the first day of a new job or a blind date, it’s normal to feel some anxiety, but an anxiety disorder often results in ongoing fears. When these worries don’t go away, this disorder can make something as routine as getting out of bed a cause for concern.
The symptoms of anxiety disorder can start interfering with daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and relationships.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobia-related disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and agoraphobia. They can often leave individuals feeling paralyzed by anxiety. It may be easy to classify this kind of disorder as just being in an individual’s head, but they’re very real problems that require intervention.
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S. It affects 40 million adults over the age of 18, which accounts for 18% of the population. These disorders are treatable with medications such as Xanax, but only 36.9% of those suffering ever receive the treatment they need. Individuals who suffer from an anxiety disorder are more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders, and it’s very common for these sufferers to experience depression.
While benzos like Xanax are effective at treating anxiety disorders, problems can arise if an individual uses it to self-medicate, as this drug can eventually lead to addiction.
How Does Xanax Work?
Benzos fall under a class of drugs called central nervous system (CNS) depressants. They affect the brain by suppressing excitability in the CNS, so they have similar effects as barbiturates and alcohol.
Overall, they make users feel relaxed and sleepy. Xanax has the power to treat many disorders, such as anxiety, panic disorders, and social anxiety. When compared to other benzos, it’s a short-acting medication, which makes it far less beneficial than sleep aids.
By increasing the levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), your brain can regulate feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear by inhibiting the nerve impulses that carry these feelings to the brain. Xanax mimics this natural GABA flow, so it binds with receptors in the brain, activates them over and over, and creates an excess flood of GABA.
This impact will result in sedation, anxiety suppression, muscle relaxation, loss of inhibitions, and dizziness. Recreational users experience cognitive euphoria, which can cause memory loss, coordination loss, respiratory depression, slurred speech, and confusion. In many cases, ongoing use of this substance can cause dependence, which can lead to addiction.
What Are The Signs Of Addiction To Xanax?
In its early stages, addiction may be hard to pinpoint, but there are several warning signs. While dependence and addiction are very similar, they refer to different consequences of drug abuse.
Dependence is a risk that’s associated with the use of benzos, which occurs when drugs alter your communication pathways to the CNS. If you keep abusing Xanax, the brain will start adapting to the presence of the drug. If you overuse it, you’re increasing your risk of dependence.
Dependence will result in consuming the drug to maintain a sense of normalcy. As your tolerance increases, the drug may feel like it’s getting weaker, and you may need higher doses to achieve the same effects.
As the brain adjusts to Xanax, it will stop producing its own inhibitory chemicals. Continued use will suppress the brain’s neurochemistry. At this point, you could experience uncomfortable and dangerous withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop using it.
The final stage of substance use disorder is addiction. When your limbic system (aka the reward center) starts mistaking euphoria for a life-sustaining necessity, you could feel an impulsive need for the drug. For example, perhaps you’re still taking Xanax, even though you got a DUI while you were abusing it.
Once Xanax addiction has taken hold, your daily responsibilities, such as work or school, will be ignored. You will start to focus your energy on getting Xanax.
Once you begin exhibiting drug-seeking behavior, your priorities in life will start to shift. You will start to notice a shift in your routine.
Some behavioral signs of Xanax addiction to look out for will include:
- Continuing to use Xanax even though it is causing personal difficulties
- Unable to stop using Xanax despite a desire to get clean
- Losing all interest in the activities that you once loved
- Obsessing about having Xanax in your possession at all times
- Loss of control over your Xanax dose
- Legal problems that stem from using Xanax
- Engaging in risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex with multiple partners
If someone wants to stop using Xanax after they’ve developed a dependence, medical experts alike will advise against quitting cold-turkey, or without medical supervision.
The symptoms of Xanax withdrawal can be deadly, and they are very similar to alcohol or barbiturate withdrawals. The severity will vary based on many factors, but if convulsions occur, withdrawal can be fatal.
The withdrawal process requires a slow reduction in dosage through a tapering process. Medical experts will also switch the client to a long-acting form of the drug for a short period, and then gradually taper them off Xanax to reduce the withdrawal symptoms.
Common Xanax Drug Combinations
Xanax is one of the most commonly abused benzodiazepine drugs in the nation. With that said, Xanax is routinely mixed with other drugs. The most common reasons users mention is to get a better high. Heroin users often use Xanax to increase their effects. Methadone users also abuse Xanax since methadone doesn’t cause much of an impact.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that 30 percent of opioid overdose deaths also had benzodiazepines present at the time of death. Nearly 40 percent of those who drink alcohol also abuse Xanax. Alcohol is especially dangerous when used in conjunction with Xanax due to the depressant effects, which can lead to respiratory failure resulting in an overdose.
What’s Involved In Addiction Treatment For Xanax?
Addiction treatment begins with an assessment by medical professionals and specialists. Patients who enter treatment for benzo use get the most intensive type of care. Due to the dangerous withdrawal symptoms associated with Xanax, medical detox is the safest way to transition back to sobriety.
During medical detox, the patient will be monitored round-the-clock to ensure their safety. In order to avoid serious complications such as seizures, the staff will administer medications to help them taper off of the drug, which will help alleviate the worst withdrawal symptoms.
While detox is a very important step in the treatment process, it doesn’t necessarily result in long-term sobriety. Detox usually lasts for about a week, and clinicians will help create a treatment plan that highlights the next stages of treatment. When the staff feels detox has been achieved, the next stage in the continuum of care will begin.
The levels of care include:
- Inpatient services, which can range from 24/7 medically monitored service to clinically managed residential service.
- During intensive outpatient services, you’ll live independently, and you’ll have access to nine hours of clinical services each week
- During outpatient services, individuals commute to treatment, which will involve up to nine hours of therapy per week. This treatment is useful for those transitioning back into everyday life.
Addiction treatment will be completely tailored around an individual’s needs. Regarding Xanax, the primary objectives are to address substance use disorders and anxiety disorders. During treatment, the client will probably go through cognitive behavioral therapy, which was created to examine how your thoughts influence your behaviors. This therapy is very beneficial, and it will help form relapse prevention strategies and identify high-risk situations.
Xanax Abuse Statistics
- Benzos were involved in 30% of overdose cases involving opioids.
- Around 70% of teenagers who are addicted to Xanax obtained it from their medicine cabinets at home.
- In 2013, more than 50 million prescriptions were written for Xanax.