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The Ultimate Guide To Xanax Addiction
Xanax is a powerful drug that belongs to a wider class of substances known as benzodiazepines. It is, as such, used as a prescription medication for the treatment of GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), insomnia, and panic disorders. When used in the long term, however, it is quite addictive.
Today, Xanax is the no. 1 prescribed psychiatric drug in the United States. However, many teens are addicted to the drug, 70% of whom get it from the medicine cabinets in their family homes, or from neighbors with the prescription.
Tolerance to this substance tends to develop quite fast, eventually requiring you to take more of it to achieve its desired pleasurable effects. Someone who has an active addiction to Xanax, therefore, may take anywhere between 20 to 30 pills of the drug in a single day.
If you decide to stop abusing it, you might experience adverse withdrawal effects - including but not limited to impaired coordination, fatigue, and tremors. The onset of withdrawal is a clear sign that you have already developed physical dependence on Xanax while the development of withdrawal and tolerance indicate an addiction to the drug.
After you become addicted to Xanax, you may start ignoring your usual daily responsibilities - including your family, work, and/or school. Instead, you will choose to redirect your energy and effects towards adverse drug seeking.
Read on to learn more about Xanax, how it is used, its effects, withdrawal, addiction, dangers, and more:
Xanax is a trade name drug for alprazolam, a prescription medication that falls in the category of drugs commonly referred to as benzodiazepines. In most cases, it is prescribed for the treatment of panic disorders and anxiety.
The drug works by interacting with brain receptors. In turn, this will increase inhibitory activity in the brain and tempering the problematic excitement that is commonly associated with anxiety.
Since Xanax is a fast-acting substance, most of its benefits should be established within the first hour of use. The duration of the effects can last as long as 6 hours. Since the drug causes sedative effects, some people may start abusing it.
This substance is particularly addictive among those who misuse it by taking it recreationally or over and beyond the direction of a doctor's prescription. This means that just about anyone can develop addiction to it.
The NLM (National Library of Medicine) also reports that using Xanax can result in abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction - particularly if you take it for a prolonged time period or in large quantities. Even those who take it exactly as their doctor prescribed might develop addiction without realizing it.
The drug affects the CNS (central nervous system) and the brain by boosting the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) chemical in the brain. This chemical slows the activity of nerve cells in the brain. By so doing, Xanax results in a relaxed and calm feeling. Since Xanax depresses the CNS, some of the effects of using it include disorientation, loss of coordination, and slurred speech.
Today, Xanax is typically dispensed in strengths of 2 mg, 1 mg, 0.5 mg, or 0.25 mg. It is available in the form of pills of different colors and shapes depending on the strength of each. While the 2 mg tablet is rectangular and white, the rest are all oval and white (0.25 mg), blue (1 mg), and orange (0.5 mg).
Today, Xanax is classified and regulated as a Schedule IV controlled drug by the federal government. On the street, it goes by a variety of names, including but not limited to:
- Bicycle parts
- Blue footballs
- School bus
- White boys
- White girls
- Yellow boys
- Zanbars (or Xanbars)
The names might also be misspelled, and some common misspellings include:
Today, Xanax is commonly prescribed for treating GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and panic disorder (which refers to the sudden and regular onset of panic attacks and extreme anxiety).
As such, the intended uses of the drug are mostly psychiatric in nature. As such, it is quite helpful particularly in the relief of the symptoms of panic and anxiety, as well as those of related mental health problems, such as depression and a variety of phobias.
However, this also means that using Xanax can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. Most people start taking the drug because of the sedative effects it causes, while others take it as a sleeping medication. These forms of use, as you can well imagine, are ill-advised because although the drug might induce sleep, it will reduce its quality. Therefore, you should only use Xanax exactly as your physician prescribed.
In most cases, the drug is prescribed to be taken when you need it - especially if you are suffering from panic disorder. In this case, you should only take Xanax when you feel that you are about to get a panic attack. However, some users start taking the substance outside these circumstances.
It is good to note that Xanax is a pharmaceutical that tends to act fast. Additionally, it does not require an adjustment or uptake period for it to be effective. As such, it tends to operate quite well. Still, you never need to take the medication on a daily basis for it to prove useful in the reduction of panic and anxiety.
That said, if you have a prescription for this drug, you might later become addicted to it - particularly due to the legal and easy access you will have to its mind-altering effects.
However, when you take a larger dose than was prescribed, you might experience its euphoric effects - which could increase your risk of developing an addiction to Xanax. At the moment, NSDUH (the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) classifies it as one of the most powerful drugs in the country - particularly because over 6 million people reported that they took the drug for non-medical reasons in 2016.
When you use Xanax - especially for an extended time period - you might experience its numerous and negative effects on the brain and body. As a CNS depressant, the drug will slow down certain aspects of your physical and mental health.
Some of the effects of using Xanax, to this end, include but are not limited to:
- Lack of coordination
- Slurred speech
On the other hand, if you abuse the drug, it might slow down your respiration. On its own, this effect can prove dangerous because it will slow your breath. However, the situation can prove fatal when you mix Xanax with alcohol. This is because both drugs work as depressants, meaning that their combined effect might lead to coma, serious injury, or even sudden death.
Some users of the drug may also develop memory impairment - although this effect might only affect your short term memory. Another concern is sedation, with those who take it in large doses experiencing severe sedation that might last for anywhere between 3 and 4 days.
When you take more than the dosage prescribed or if you use Xanax without a legal prescription, you will be abusing it. However, even following a prescription can lead to addiction.
Some of the ways the drug is abused include:
- Injecting it
- Snorting it
- Taking multiple pills
- Taking Xanax through blotter paper
- Taking Xanax with alcohol or other drugs
Most people typically abuse Xanax because of the intense sense of relaxation and calm it creates. Others try to improve the high by mixing it with alcohol and other drugs or taking larger than normal doses - which only heightens its risks and dangers.
Xanax Side Effects
There are other potential side effects that arise when you abuse Xanax. Some of the potential side effects that come with using the drug in ways other than that it was prescribe include:
a) Physical Side Effects
- Being on edge
- Change in appetite, leading to a sudden decrease or increase in the food amounts consumed
- Changes in libido, or sexual performance and drive
- Difficulty urinating
- Dry mouth
- Increased salivation
- Joint pain
- Shortness of breath
- Skin rash
- Stiffness of movement
- Trouble breathing
- Weight fluctuation, which is in accordance with the appetite changes
- Yellow eyes and/or skin
b) Psychological Side Effects
- Coordination issues
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating on the tasks at hand
- Increased sociability
- Memory loss (both long and short term)
- Mood swings
- Problems with balance
- Speech issues, including nonsensical and slurred speech
- Suicidal thoughts
That said, the most common side effect of Xanax use is drowsiness, which might be coupled with lethargy and fatigue. These are some of the symptoms that come with abusing CNS depressants and other benzodiazepines.
If you take a large dose of the drug, however, you might seem tired almost all the time and have trouble concentrating. Interestingly, taking lower doses than recommended that might the exact opposite effect.
Since Xanax is used to treat the symptoms of depression and anxiety, it might make you bubblier and more talkative than normal. It works by reducing the GABA dopamine inhibitor and increasing the reactions of this pleasurable chemical. In the process, it will cause you to become more social. You will also be less likely to suffer fear and stress in a social context.
The other side effects, which tend to be more serious, including coordination and balance issues, seizures, and hallucinations. However, these Xanax side effects are quite rare. When they do happen, the best thing you can do is get the user to a hospital for emergency medical treatment. This is because the drug might lead to serious injury and sudden death.
Xanax Addictive Qualities
Xanax addiction is widespread and affects many people. Since addiction tends to develop over time, it might be some time before you realize that you are directly affected.
In most cases, this type of substance use disorder and addiction is often characterized by physical and psychological dependence. Eventually, it might cause withdrawal when you decide to stop taking the drug. When this happens, you may benefit from a taper off schedule as prescribed, administered, and directed in a hospital or inpatient rehab facility.
Xanax is like other widely abused substances like marijuana and heroin in the sense that it can cause addiction. It does this by releasing (and receiving) dopamine in amounts higher than normal. Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter that usually serves to control the pleasure and reward centers of the brain.
Therefore, when you take this drug, it will decrease the amounts of GABA in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that serves to counteract the effects of the dopamine neurotransmitter inside the brain.
Therefore, using Xanax will cause your brain to receive higher than normal amounts of dopamine. In the process, the drug will increase your feelings of happiness and pleasure while simultaneously decreasing your negative mental state, anxiety, and feelings of panic. The dopamine surge may also cause euphoria.
Most people start abusing Xanax in search of a reduction in any negative feelings as well as to increase positive feelings. With time, they become addicted to the drug and have to go for rehab to control it.
The typical stages of developing addiction to Xanax work in the following way:
Most of the people who are addicted to Xanax tend to be introduced to it as a prescription medication. A doctor will either recommend it or the user will actively seek the prescription out.
In non-medical situations, users may try the drug just because they are curious about its effects after an acquaintance or friend offers them some. This might happen in a nightclub or party setting, where most people end up combining Xanax with alcohol and other intoxicating substances.
After using Xanax once or twice - or more times - you may start taking the drug under very different times to see if there are any changes in its effects. Some also play with the drug dosage while trying to experience different effects as a result of an increase/decrease in the amounts.
c) Regular Use
Once you get to this point, your Xanax abuse will have become more or less predictable. Although you might not start using the drug on a daily basis, there will be some pattern in your use. For instance, you may find yourself constantly taking the drug on certain days - such as on Friday night before you hit the party scene - or as a response to particular emotional states like stress and boredom.
d) Risky/Problem Use
When your get to this stage, Xanax will become a regular and common fixture in your life as an user. It will also start producing its negative effects and consequences. For instance, your relationships and performance in school/work might be affected adversely. Your behavior might also change for the worse.
Dependence occurs in 3 basic steps. You will start with tolerance where you require higher and more frequent doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects. After that, you will develop physical dependence, meaning that your brain would have become used to having the drug.
If you stop using Xanax, you may experience unpleasant and uncomfortable withdrawal. This is when the 3rd step of dependence will set in - in the form of psychological dependence. This step is marked by drug cravings, using the drug in greater quantities and/or more frequently, and relapsing when you try to quit. All these symptoms are the hallmarks of an addiction.
f) Substance Use Disorder
When you develop substance use disorder, your life will seem close to unbearable when you don't have Xanax in your system. As such, you may continue abusing the drug even after you observe and understand its adverse effects, and after you have experienced significant behavioral and lifestyle changes.
Regardless of how you abuse Xanax' there are some red flags that show that you are addicted to it. These include, but are not limited to:
- Avoiding friends and family because they may prevent you from abusing the drug
- Being unable to control how often you use the drug, or how much of it you take
- Continuing to use Xanax despite the conflicts and adverse effects it causes
- Developing tolerance, which will cause you to increase your normal dose of Xanax
- Using the drug whenever withdrawal symptoms start appearing
- Worrying about your supply of Xanax, and constantly thinking about the next opportunity you will get to use it
Overdosing on Xanax can prove fatal - particularly if you mix it with other drugs or alcohol. Additionally, overdose can occur when you chew or crush the extended release pills (Xanax XR), because this particular form of Xanax comes in a time-release format, meaning it should go into your system gradually and not at once.
Some of the symptoms of a Xanax overdose include, but are not limited to:
- Difficulty breathing
- Extreme drowsiness
- Loss of balance
- Muscle weakness
- Slowed heart rate
In comparison to the other benzodiazepines, Xanax (or alprazolam) is a toxic CNS depressant. Therefore, you can easily overdose on this drug. However, the risk of an overdose will be heightened if you decide to combine it with another sedatives, such as pain killers and/or alcohol. This action will effectively suppress your CNS to such a point that your body may slow down to an immediate stop. To avoid an overdose, it is highly recommended that you never exceed your dose beyond the 2 mg mark at any point in time.
But what will happen when you overdose on this drug? In most cases, you are highly likely to appear comatose or confused. Xanax may also suppress your CNS to such a point that you won't be able to effectively respond to external stimuli. Other physical indicators of an overdose - which require emergency medical assistance - include breathing issues and a slowed heartbeat.
If you show any of these signs of an overdose - or someone you know does - it is essential that you get to a hospital in the shortest time possible. From there, trained medics will monitor your vital signs, administer fluids intravenously, and perform a stomach pump (medically referred to as a gastric lavage).
In some instances, the doctors might administer Flumazenil, which acts as a medical antagonist to most benzodiazepines. This way, the drug will reverse most of the sedative effects of Xanax and allow your CNS to start operating normally.
If a Xanax overdose is addressed quickly and in a timely fashion, its prognosis is quite good. However, you might die as a direct result of an overdose particularly if you mix Xanax with other addictive substances.
Last but not least, the treatment for the overdose will depend on a variety of factors - including but not limited to the amount of drugs ingested, and whether you ingested it in combination with other intoxicating substances, like alcohol or opiates. As such, it is important that you are absolutely honest with your doctors and emergency first responders about the substances you took and at which amounts.
Most drug rehab and treatment programs will have an initial detox stage designed to remove the addictive substance from your body. However, this procedure often causes withdrawal symptoms - a common occurrence even with Xanax addiction.
To this end, if you are withdrawing from Xanax, you should only do so under medical supervision and in the most secure environment you can get. Some of the typical symptoms of Xanax withdrawal include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Blurred vision
- Suicidal thoughts
- Tingling sensation in the feet and hands
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss
While in recovery from Xanax abuse and addiction, you may relapse. If this happens, the risks of an overdose is heightened. However, even those who are actively addicted to the drug can also suffer an overdose.
In the same way, if you are already used to taking Xanax in a certain amount and you decide to increase your usual dosage, you may raise your risk of overdosing. This is because your tolerance for the drug will be low.
Xanax is also dangerous in the sense that the batch you buy on the streets might be laced with Fentanyl - another dangerous and highly potent drug. When you take this combination, you might overdose especially if you are intolerant to the powerful effects of Fentanyl.
That said, the dangers of Xanax are additionally related to polysubstance abuse. This is because most users tend to combine it with other intoxicating substances - particularly alcohol.
Combining drugs might compound the effects of each substance. For instance, if you drink alcohol after or before taking Xanax, your CNS might be depressed, and your bodily rhythms will be slowed - including heart rate. You may also experience respiratory depression, unconsciousness, or coma. This combination can also cause death, which is common in the celebrity world.
On the other hand, if you mix Xanax with Nyquil or ibuprofen, the dangers will also be heightened. This is also the case when you take herbal supplements like Kava, St. John's Wort, and Valerian - because they will increase the potency and depressant activity of Xanax. If combined with Benadryl, the mixture might cause confusion and dizziness.
Signs And Symptoms Of Xanax Abuse
The signs and symptoms of Xanax abuse come about in a variety of ways. They include, but are not limited to:
a) Physical Symptoms
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dry mouth
- Feelings of elation
- Heart palpitations
- Problems with memory
- Sleeping longer than usual
- Slurred speech
b) Psychosocial Symptoms
Abusing Xanax might infiltrate almost all the aspects of your life. If you have a problem with this drug, therefore, relationships with your family and friends might become strained - and you may experience problems in your marriage.
Additionally, your professional life might be affected negatively. This is because you may skip work when you are suffering the effects of Xanax, particularly if you start experiencing withdrawal.
Xanax also causes financial problems. This is because you will spend more of your money to support your substance abuse, or dedicate more of your time looking for and abusing the drug - time that you would otherwise have spent more productively.
In the same way, using Xanax may cause you to appear lethargic and excessively tired. It might also lower your motivation to participate in activities you initially found interesting. The drug might also lower your interest in the tasks that typically need your sustained attention - such as reading.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax also come with amnestic effect, meaning that it is quite easy for you to forget some details from important conversations or some of the tasks that you have to perform.
Addiction might additionally cause you to constantly think about your next episode of use, you may develop severe cognitive problems that will make it more difficult for you to speak and be articulate.
Eventually, you may build up your tolerance for the substance. At this point, you will have to take more of it to achieve the desired effects. If you decide to stop abusing Xanax at this point, you might experience severe withdrawal.
When all is said and done, taking Xanax often causes the drug to take center stage in your life. This means that you may have to use another intoxicating substance whenever your supply of this drug runs out.
c) Behavioral Symptoms
- Being unable to stop abusing the drug even if you want to
- Facing problems with the law as a direct result of abusing this drug
- Losing interest in the activities you once enjoyed
- Losing your control over how much of the drug you consume
- Obsessing about Xanax, including how to get and use it
- Taking greater risks, including driving when you are still under its influence
- You keep on taking Xanax even after observing the problems it is causing
Treatment For Xanax Addiction
If you are dealing with Xanax abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction, it is of vital importance that you seek immediate professional help to ensure that you stop taking it. When you stop abusing the drug suddenly and without any supervision, you may experience a variety of unpleasant - if not dangerous - withdrawal marked by symptoms like seizures.
In most cases, inpatient rehabilitation and treatment might be the best option for you. However, this will mostly depend on how dependent you are on Xanax, the duration of your abuse and addiction, as well as the general state of your physical and psychological health.
Inpatient treatment will provide a stable environment free of temptations where you can easily focus on full recovery and healing. You will also get care around the clock and the medical and addiction professionals present will help you deal with withdrawal. You might also be required to take medications to ensure that withdrawal subsides, especially during the detox stage of your drug rehabilitation.
Inpatient rehab also comes with addiction education, group and individual therapy sessions, and learning how to prevent relapse. You may additionally be taught other skills to help you overcome your Xanax dependence.
Other forms of treatment include outpatient rehabilitation, which will allow you to get help while still staying at home and attending to your normal day to day schedule and responsibilities.
After that, you can go for 12 step or non-12 step support meetings. These may provide you with the ongoing support you need to officially end your ties to Xanax, and to the triggers that could cause you to relapse.
Apart from the above, you may benefit from therapeutic healing through arts and music therapy, as well as support focused on health, wellness, and a life free of addictive and intoxicating substances.
Overall, overcoming Xanax addiction is never easy. This is why it is highly recommended that you get therapy and treatment from an inpatient or outpatient facility until you no longer need to use the drug to function normally.
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