Xanax Addiction

Xanax is a popular anti-anxiety medication that goes by the brand name alprazolam. It is a benzodiazepine that affects the central nervous system (CNS) and is considered a potent depressant prescription medication. It has several uses that include treating the symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and panic disorders. 

Today, Xanax is used in place of other potent depressant drugs known as barbiturates, which were replaced because of their dangerous side effects. Barbiturate drugs are well-known for the potential of abuse, addiction, and fatal overdoses. Xanax was designed to be a safer and less addictive alternative, but that hasn’t been the case. 

Unfortunately, benzodiazepines like Xanax have turned out to cause similarly dangerous effects. The potent prescription benzodiazepine drug has a high potential for abuse and addiction that may result in severe health problems or fatal overdoses. Please keep reading to learn more about how the medication affects the body and mind, and how it’s treated. 

How Does Xanax Work?

Like other central nervous system depressants, Xanax works similarly to other benzodiazepines by slowing down activity in the brain and nervous system. It does this by inhibiting nerve impulses that carry feelings of anxiety or stress and produces feelings of sedation by relaxing muscles and providing the user with a sense of calm.

The brain produces a similar process naturally with the assistance of a chemical known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). Xanax works by mimicking the effects of GABA and binds with natural GABA receptors to activate and stimulate repeatedly until the central nervous system is flooded with feelings of sedation the brain couldn’t produce by itself. 

What Are the Signs of Xanax Addiction?

You may be under the impression that noticing the signs of Xanax addiction would be an easy task. However, some are extremely good at hiding their addiction in its earliest stages, especially if you aren’t looking for the right signs. When an individual uses prescription medication regularly, it’s common that the pattern of abnormal behavior will only become apparent when the substance abuse escalates to addiction.

Fortunately, there are clues you and noticeable side effects of consistent Xanax abuse that will provide clarity toward a growing problem with the drug. These include:

  • Depression
  • Problems with the memory
  • Tremors
  • Frequent migraines
  • Chronic drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Dizziness
  • Concentration problems
  • Visibly altered sleep patterns

When Xanax dependence progresses into full-blown addiction, it means the person is unable to control their usage. Taking Xanax will be the driving force behind all of their decisions and actions, which will eventually take priority over their relationships and responsibilities. At this stage, the warning signs of addiction will become apparent and consistent with Xanax addiction and other substance use disorders, including:

  • Using Xanax without a prescription – stealing prescriptions from doctors and forging them.
  • Using higher doses than prescribed of the drug.
  • Increased tolerance to the effects of the drug.
  • Becoming withdrawn or socially isolated.
  • Experiencing severe cravings or withdrawal when not using Xanax.
  • Significant decline in performance at school or work.
  • Financial or legal issues stemming from Xanax use.
  • Hiding or lying about Xanax usage.
  • Requiring the drug to function or feel normal.
  • Attempting to stop using Xanax with no success.

If you observe these signs in a friend or loved one or recognize them in yourself, you must reach out for the help necessary. Professional addiction treatment can be a vital resource for restoring the life stolen from you through addiction. Fortunately, many resources exist for help. 

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What is Involved in Xanax Addiction Treatment?

As mentioned above, Xanax works by meddling with GABA in the brain to calm the central nervous system. Unfortunately, this can lead to dangerous and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. A person attempting to overcome a dependency or addiction to Xanax must take the proper steps to ensure their safety. Medical detoxification is the first step to treat substance addiction. 

Medical detox is a process that removes all traces of drugs or alcohol from a person’s system and treats acute intoxication to get the individual medically and physically stable for the next phase of treatment. It is especially critical in the case of Xanax and should not be attempted without professional supervision. Xanax withdrawal is known for being extremely uncomfortable and dangerous. 

Xanax withdrawal may be deadly but can also lead to unpredictable symptoms that include hallucinations, seizures, total psychosis, delirium, or suicidal behavior. There is also another danger associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal, which may occur when a person abuses large amounts of Xanax in a short period. Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms may lengthen the detox process, cause more common signs to intensify, or make atypical ones appear. 

All of this should demonstrate the importance of Xanax detox while undergoing strict monitoring by a team of professionals trained to handle complications that may arise.

Once a person finishes detox, they’ll be ready to move onto the next stage of care. It’s highly recommended to continue treatment for Xanax addiction, which may include inpatient or outpatient treatment. Detox is not enough to solve the underlying problems that contribute to addiction. 

You will find benefits in both programs, but it must be tailored around the individual in question. During inpatient, the individual will live onsite during their recovery program. It will allow them to focus on their sobriety without triggers or temptations that may arise. There will also be around-the-clock access to medical care. An outpatient program will offer more flexibility by allowing the client to live at home and attend structured therapy sessions.

No matter the placement, the client can expect to work toward understanding these issues behind their addiction. Treatment will also allow them to learn positive coping skills and how to manage their sobriety long-term. This is done through therapies that include:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Group therapy
  • EMDR therapy
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Holistic therapy
  • Addiction education classes
  • Relapse prevention planning

How Dangerous is Xanax?

Xanax’s dangers are widely known, but individuals will still engage in Xanax misuse with a false sense of security because it’s a prescription medication. Unfortunately, despite it providing relief in those who use it as prescribed, it is still dangerous. 

Unfortunately, Xanax addiction is extremely common, and overdosing is easier than you might expect. When you combine Xanax and opioids or alcohol, the risk of a fatal overdose is increased significantly. The signs of a Xanax overdose include:

  • Weak pulse
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dangerously slow or shallow breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Bluish skin around the fingernails and lips
  • Drifting in and out of consciousness
  • Coma

An estimated 30 percent of opioid-related overdoses throughout the United States involved Xanax or other benzodiazepines, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). If you are prescribed opioids, you must talk with your doctor before considering benzodiazepine therapy. 

Sources

NIDA (August 2020) Prescription CNS Depressants DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-cns-depressants

MedlinePlus (August 2020) Insomnia. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/insomnia.html

MedlinePlus (August 2020) Alprazolam. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a684001.html

National Library of Medicine (Nov 1994) Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7841856/

NIDA (August 2020) Types of Treatment Programs. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs

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