Alprazolam, more commonly referred to by its pharmaceutical name, Xanax, is a prescription benzodiazepine, or sedative-hypnotic. This class of drugs is designed to treat anxiety, panic disorders, sleep problems, skeletal muscular spasms, and acute alcohol withdrawal.
When used properly, Xanax effectively treats these conditions, as demonstrated by a 50-year-old female with no history of drug abuse or addiction:
The enclosed space of the MRI machine they were going to slip me into really triggered one of my claustrophobic panic attacks, so we couldn’t finish. I was yelling, ‘Get me outta here,’ along with some nasty threats to do them bodily harm. They next time they gave me a benzodiazepine and though I still felt nervous, it did calm me enough so I could have the scan done. It seemed like a dream.
With a true medical use, Xanax is an effective drug. Over the years of its use, however, the drug’s addictive qualities were identified and the drug become widely abused. In an effort to escape, as if in a dream, like the woman reported, people abuse Xanax for the same reason people abuse alcohol.
The use of benzodiazepines is often combined with another mind-altering substance to achieve even greater inebriation. Around 40% of all alcoholics report also using, and abusing, Xanax or another benzo. 100% of all clients admitted for benzodiazepine abuse or addiction treatment were also dependent upon, or addicted to, at least one other psychoactive drug.
Xanax is harmful enough, so when it is used with another addictive psychoactive drug, the side effects are heightened and the risk of physical, psychological, social, relational, professional, and financial consequences are greatly increased.
For more information on Xanax or polydrug use, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731 today.
Xanax Side Effects
When any substance offers a good feeling, a high or a euphoria, an escape from reality, an increase in confidence, a decrease in anxiety, or a way to connect socially, everything seems positive. Being more outgoing is expanding a cocaine user’s circle of friends. Finally feeling relaxed without debilitating physical pain is allowing a Vicodin user to get some rest. And the absence of paralyzing social anxiety is allowing a Xanax user to complete a full day of work or school out in the world.
The desired effects of any substance serve as medication for an issue that needs various forms of treatment, not just chemical alteration. Psychoactive drugs, like cocaine, Vicodin, Xanax, alcohol, heroin, and even marijuana, change brain chemistry. The benefits of that process can only last for so long. Beyond the positive impact lies brain damage and difficulty in recovering organic, naturally-occurring brain chemistry.
For Xanax, the following desired effects and harmful side effects show why millions of people need help for a quick progression from appropriate Xanax use to Xanax addiction.
In an effort to reduce anxiety, 34 million people filled a prescription for Xanax in 2005, making it the most widely-abused benzodiazepine in the United States. As a member of the sedative-hypnotic, central nervous system (CNS) depressant family of pharmaceuticals, Xanax works by slowing down brain activity, and impairing almost every aspect of functioning.
Those who abuse Xanax, meaning those who ingest the drug in any way other than as prescribed by a physician, do not realize the effects of this CNS depressant when a sense of calm and a complete lack of anxiety is happening.
The desired effects of Xanax are much like getting drunk:
- an escape from reality
- lowered inhibitions
- increased sex drive
While enjoying a break from reality, Xanax users often do not realize the damage being done to the brain, and to the entire central nervous system. Brain chemistry is disrupted, brain activity is slowed, and functioning is impaired.
The most basic side effects during Xanax use and abuse are:
- low blood pressure
- impaired coordination
- difficulty speaking or slurred speech
- sleep disturbances, generally insomnia
- swelling of the hands and feet
- muscle weakness
- upset stomach, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea
- dry mouth
- stuffy nose
- changes in eating patterns, often experienced as a loss of appetite
- loss of interest in sex
The following side effects occur after prolonged periods of Xanax abuse:
- depressed mood
- thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- unusual risk-taking behavior
- decreased inhibitions
- lack of fear or awareness of potential danger
- ongoing lightheadedness
- urinating less than usual, or not at all
- chest pain, pounding heartbeats or fluttering in the chest
- uncontrolled muscle movements, tremor, seizure, or convulsions
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
Since each drug creates varying effects on its users, it is impossible to predict how an individual will react to repeated Xanax use. Consequently, when any of these effects are observed, it is important to explore the extent of Xanax use.
If you, or someone you love, is taking Xanax in any way other than prescribed by his or her doctor, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731 to find out more. The dangerous effects of the misuse of this drug will continually get worse as Xanax use progresses.
Xanax Abuse & Addiction
I was unhappy and I wanted the easy way out. I will go back to the same psychiatrist and get a prescription of Xanax. It starts out at 25mg, and I ended up doing between 800 to 1,000mg a day.
When the body, and more specifically the liver, becomes more efficient at processing the chemicals that make up Xanax, more of the prescription drug is needed to feel the same desired effects. This concept is called tolerance. When tolerance has developed, a person is gradually taking more Xanax each day to feel the same effects.
As the woman above shared, “it starts out at 25mg” of Xanax. For general anxiety disorders, the maximum dose recommended by a doctor is 4mg, and when a panic attack occurs, a maximum of 10mg is prescribed during any given day. Tolerance has definitely developed when 4 or 10mg in a single day, on the high end, becomes 25mg per day, and then further progresses to 800 or 1,000mg; 80 or 100 times the highest prescribed dose of Xanax.
The body wants more of the same drug and the user wants to feel the same effects, so more Xanax is taken than prescribed and medically needed.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2012, 423,000 people used Xanax in a way other than as prescribed by a doctor, which was up from 373,000 in the previous year.
Abuse is any non-medical use of a drug. Also, using a prescription drug in a way that was not specifically prescribed to that user is abuse. Additionally, taking a prescription written for another person, and using other substances to enhance the effects of a prescription drug, are each classified as drug abuse.
Another criteria for abuse is the continued use of a drug after an adverse life consequence has occurred as a direct result of that drug’s use. If the effects of Xanax cause the loss of a job because of poor performance and missed work days, yet Xanax use continues, the drug is being abused.
Often alcohol abuse is identified by a person’s return to drinking after a driving under the influence (DUI) ticket or accident has occurred.
When tolerance continues to increase, the body becomes accustomed to a drug’s presence, and gradually becomes dependent upon its unique set of mind-altering chemicals for everyday functioning. When a person is taking 10, 20, or up to 100 times the prescribed dose, or even when taking the doctor’s recommended dose for a year or more, physical and psychological dependence can develop.
Tissue dependence is one indicator of Xanax addiction. This point of body and brain disruption is difficult to stop, and the system will adversely react when Xanax is not taken, even for just a few hours.
Dependence and compulsion are the factors that separate drug abuse from addiction. Choices are made without much thought, and a loss of control over the use of one or more substance has transpired. Additionally, the user becomes obsessed with the drug of choice, in this case Xanax, and cannot do or think about much other than using again.
The compulsive nature of addiction also includes the ability to deny any problem with a drug like Xanax, and includes a very high likelihood of a relapse, or a return to Xanax, when the drug’s use is stopped for any length of time. With intense cravings, both physical and psychological in nature, an addictive, mind-altering drug like Xanax creates a dangerous cycle when use progresses to abuse and onto addiction.
If you see the signs of tolerance, abuse, dependence, or addiction in yourself or in someone you know, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731. Stopping the cycle of Xanax addiction is possible with the right care. Call today!
Withdrawal from Xanax
When tolerance has steadily increased and Xanax use has progressed to abuse, stopping the drug will create intense discomfort and the desire to use again. When Xanax abuse progressed to physical and psychological dependence, and addiction, the cessation of Xanax will cause majorly adverse withdrawal symptoms.
A 34-year-old recovering benzodiazepine addict shares one experience with withdrawal:
Benzo detox in the morning is very frightening because your mind is just telling your body that ‘we are not connected.’ It took maybe 10 days before the manic depression state of the detox finally started to show some light at the end of the tunnel.
While the process of detoxification to remove all remaining traces of Xanax is not pleasant, any chance of sustained sobriety depends on its successful completion.
With proper medical attention, and medications, the following withdrawal symptoms can be appropriately managed:
- drug craving
- tremors and muscle twitches
- nausea and vomiting
- excessive yawning
- tachycardia (irregular heartbeat)
- inability to focus
- sleep disturbances
- temporary loss of vision, hearing, or smell
- fatal convulsions
Withdrawal from Xanax, attempted without the supervision of a trained medical staff, can result in coma or death. For that reason, it is vital for anyone abusing or addicted to Xanax, or any other benzodiazepine, to seek formal detoxification treatment when the use of Xanax stops.
The risk is greatly increased when Xanax has been abused along with alcohol. The combination of these CNS depressants leaves little room for a return to functioning. Overdose is highly likely that, again, leaves a person either in a coma or dead.
When you, or someone in your life is ready to stop using Xanax, detoxification is the first step. To find the detox program that is right for you, call the team at Recovery Now TV today at 800-281-4731.
Treatment for Xanax Abuse & Addiction
As reported by the Treatment Episode Data Set Report (TEDS) from SAMHSA and other affiliates, of all the people who were admitted to a drug treatment program in 2011, 60,200 were being treated for benzodiazepine addiction. This statistic does not take into account all of the people who needed treatment that year, but who did not have access to care; only the ones who enrolled in a formal rehab program.
58.1% of all treatment centers that offer detoxification services offer medically-monitored Xanax detox. Ridding the body and brain of all harmful, residual chemicals is the first step in a new life without this damaging benzodiazepine. Once the system is clean, drug cravings taper off and the ability to stay sober becomes easier each day. Detox is the first step in recovery.
Formal Substance Abuse Treatment
SAMHSA and the TEDS survey report the following:
- Residential (non-hospital) treatment was offered by 25% of all rehab facilities and was received by 9% of all clients who participated in treatment.
- Outpatient treatment was offered by 81% of all rehab facilities and was received by 90% of all clients in treatment.
- Hospital inpatient treatment was offered by 5% of all facilities and was received by 1% of all clients in treatment.
While various levels of care are often recommended for each addicted client, throughout the different stages of early recovery, these survey findings show that the majority of substance abusers participated in outpatient treatment services in 2011.
Why Formal Treatment for Xanax Abuse & Addiction?
It is impossible to quantify the need for each level of treatment by each person who is actively abusing Xanax, but people who need help who do not get it, do not stop using.
Why? Because the underlying reasons for feeling that a drug like Xanax helped, and was then needed every day, need to be identified, treated, and healed. If this could have been done on his or her own, a Xanax user would not have progressed to a Xanax abuser or addict.
The process of healing is not proven more effective with any other method than that of the evidence-based practices used in formal drug and alcohol substance abuse treatment. Various methodologies and therapeutic approaches need to be combined to create the proper treatment plan for each addict, but overall, more people recover from an addicted life with treatment than without.
To find out where you, or a loved one, can break the cycle of Xanax abuse or addiction, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731 today. Healing happens when Xanax use stops.