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A Guide To Xanax Addiction
Since it was first approved for use in treating panic disorders back in the 70s, Xanax has grown in popularity. Today, it is recognized as one of the most effective medications for anxiety, depression, and nausea arising from chemotherapy, among other issues.
Essentially, Xanax is a benzodiazepine. As a Schedule IV controlled drug, it is widely considered to have a relatively low potential for addiction and abuse. However, since so many people seek treatment for dependency to the drug, Xanax is nonetheless dangerous.
For instance, 17017 individuals were admitted in 2012 citing that they had been abusing benzodiazepines like Xanax according to SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
The drug is particularly addictive when taken recreationally, or abused for reasons other than was prescribed. Similarly, Xanax addiction can affect just about anyone. The US National Library of Medicine reports that using the drug might result in tolerance, dependence, and addiction especially if you take it over an extended period, or in large quantities. Even those who use the drug as prescribed might become addicted to it.
Read on to learn more about Xanax:
Xanax is sometimes used in place of alprazolam (its chemical name) and acts as a benzodiazepine. Doctors typically prescribe this medication for the treatment of panic disorders and anxiety. The drug works on receptors in the brain, thereby increasing inhibitory activity and tempering all the problematic episodes of excitement associated with anxiety.
Since the drug is fast acting, most of the benefits of using Xanax might be established a hour or so after you take it. These positive effects are likely to last for a minimum of 6 hours. However, since one of the effects of Xanax use is sedation, those using it for medicinal purposes might start abusing the prescription.
That said, Xanax is also referred to as Niravam, which is a variation of the chemical Alprazolam. Niravam is taken orally and dissolves right on the tongue, meaning that you don't need to swallow it with water as you would regular Xanax tablets.
Street names for the medication include:
- Bicycle parts
- Blue footballs
- School bus
- White boys
- White girls
- Yellow boys
- Zanbars (which can also be spelled as Xanbars)
Xanax acts as a prescription sedative in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. As a benzodiazepine, the drug is designed to affect the central nervous system and the brain.
More specifically, taking this prescription medication might boost the GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) brain chemical thereby slowing down the activity of nerve cells in the brain. In the process, Xanax will create a relaxed and calm feeling. However, since the drug acts as a CNS depressant, it might also cause disorientation, loss of coordination, and slurred speech, among other effects.
Doctors typically prescribe the drug for dispensing in 2 mg, 1 mg, 0.5 mg, and 0.25 mg strengths. Xanax comes in the form of pills in different colors and shapes depending on their strength. Whereas the 2mg tablets are rectangular in shape and white in color, the rest tend to be white and oval shaped (0.25mg), orange (0.5mg), and blue (1mg).
After you take this medication, you might feel its effects in around 1 or 2 hours. However, Xanax is likely to stay in your system for anywhere between 12 and 15 hours since it is an intermediate-duration pill.
That said, the Xanax is primarily designed for psychiatric uses, and it works well to relieve the common signs and symptoms of panic and anxiety, as well as several related problems related to poor mental health (including depression and various phobias).
The psychiatric nature of the medication means that it might lead to tolerance, dependence, and eventual addiction. Whereas some individuals use Xanax to achieve its sedative effects, others will use it as a sleeping pill.
If you have a prescription for the drug, you might become addicted to it especially due to the legal and easy access your prescription will provide. If you take large doses of the drug, you are likely to experience its euphoric effects, which is how many people become addicted.
In 2016, over 6 million Americans used Xanax for non-medical reasons according to NSDUH (the National Survey on Drug Use and Health). The same body reported that the drug was a powerful influence based on its 2013 survey.
The effects of using and abusing Xanax might be visible in how the drug affects your life, relationships, and mind. Since the drug - even in the generic alprazolam form - is widely prescribed, it also happens to rank among the most widely abused of all benzodiazepines.
More specifically, hundreds of thousands of patients suffering the effects of abusing Xanax visit hospital emergency rooms every year. From 2004 to 2010, the total number of people experiencing these adverse effects increased from 46000 to close to 125000.
Added to the above, many users also mix the drug with other substances. In fact, DAWN (the Drug Awareness Warning Network) noted that over 96,000 of those who suffered the effects of Xanax abuse reported using more than one substance, including cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and alcohol.
The adverse effects you might experience will depend on how long you have been abusing Xanax, how much of the substance you have consumed, and your characteristics. These effects include but are not limited to:
- Acquiring suicidal thoughts
- Chest pain
- Financial problems
- Inability to function ordinarily at school or work
- Lack of coordination
- Legal problems
- Muscle pain
- Relationship conflicts
- Short term memory loss
- Slurred speech
- Social isolation
- Uncontrollable muscle twitching
The drug has also been showed to slow down the rate of respiration among those who abuse. By itself, this effect might prove to be dangerous, but it is even more troubling if you mix Xanax with alcohol. Both of these substances are depressants, meaning that their combined effect is highly likely to induce coma, lead to serious injury, or even result in death.
Some users also experience adverse memory impairment, although this might only affect your memory in the short term. Others suffer sedation, which might be so severe that it lasts for anywhere between 3 and 4 days.
Xanax Side Effects
Using Xanax over the long haul also causes several serious side effects, some of which might end up being permanent. These include:
- Stomach problems, such as vomiting and nausea
- Sight problems, including double or blurred vision
- Muscle control problems, such as tremors and poor coordination
- Memory problems, such as forgetfulness or amnesia
- Lack of natural interest in sex
- Increased risk of developing dementia
- Cognitive impairment
- Attention problems, such as confusion and poor focus
Recovery from these side effects is difficult. It might also be dangerous to try and quit the drug on your own. A better solution would be to go for medical detoxification where a physician will try and wean you off Xanax.
Xanax Addictive Qualities
Although Xanax is designed for use in managing panic and anxiety disorders, the medication might cause a high accompanied by drowsiness and intense feelings of relaxation.
The US National Library of Medicine reports that Xanax is highly addictive especially when used over the long haul. Even if you are using the drug according to a legitimate prescription from your doctor, you might still become addicted.
For instance, you might use the drug for some time before discovering that you no longer experience the same effects you got when you first got your Xanax prescription. This is likely to compel you to take larger amounts to achieve these consequences.
As your tolerance builds and you take more of the drug, you are highly likely to become dependent on the medication. With time, you may continue using larger amounts even as you continue experiencing the negative personal and health consequences of abuse. At this point, you might become addicted to the drug.
However, since addiction tends to develop slowly over time, you might not realize that you have a problem until it is too late. In case you realize that you are feeling tempted to use more of the drug, the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor. They might spot the addiction approaching and find a solution before you sink too deep into the problem.
Xanax overdose may be fatal, particularly if you combine the medication with alcohol or other dangerous substances. The chances of an overdose are much higher if you chew or take the drug in crushed form since Xanax was designed for time release straight into the system.
The symptoms of an overdose include:
- Slowed heart rate
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of balance
- Extreme drowsiness
- Difficulty breathing
Treatment for overdose mostly depends on the volume of drugs ingested as well as on whether you combined it with alcohol and other substances. If you overdose, doctors might pump your stomach to remove as much of the drug that hasn't been absorbed into the system.
Similarly, medications like flumazenil might be administered because they act as an antidote. Alternatively, the doctors are also likely to insert an IV into your blood stream to provide you with the fluids required to flush out the excess Xanax.
If you are suffering from a Xanax overdose, it is important that you be honest with the medical personnel at the emergency room. Inform them about the amount of the drug you took, and tell them if you mixed Xanax with any other substance.
Xanax withdrawal might prove to be dangerous. As such, you should only attempt it under a doctor's supervision and within a safe environment. In many cases, detoxification slowly reduces the volume of the drug in your system while minimizing the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms.
That said, the typical withdrawal symptoms from Xanax abuse and addiction include:
- Aggressive behaviors
- Blurred vision
- Death, which might result from health complications or suicide
- Intense sweating
- Nervous feelings
- Suicidal thoughts
- Tingling sensation in the feet and hands
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss
Xanax is quite dangerous, especially when you consume it in large amounts or with other drugs and alcohol. Since this substance is a sedative, it might cause accidents if you try using machinery or vehicles while under its influence. Similarly, large doses of the drug are likely to result in severe sedation for several days.
Other dangerous effects of abusing Xanax include:
- Uncontrolled muscle spasms or movements
- Thoughts of causing harm to yourself
- Suicidal thoughts
- Chest pain
Signs And Symptoms Of Xanax Abuse
Apart from the above, abusing the drug might cause the following classical signs and symptoms:
1. Mood Symptoms
- Mood swings
2. Behavioral Symptoms
- Borrowing or stealing the drug
- Changes in appetite
- Chewing pills to achieve the effects of the drug sooner
- Crushing the pills and snorting them to increase Xanax effects
- Declining school or occupational performance
- Decreased inhibitions
- Doctor shopping
- Forging prescriptions
- Increasing the dose of your prescription
- Neglecting personal and family responsibilities
- Risky behavior
- Taking more of the tablets on a regular basis than was prescribed
3. Physical Symptoms
- Decreased urination
- Difficulties with coordination
- Double or blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Heart palpitations
- Slurred speech
- Stuffy nose
- Swollen feet and hands
- Weight fluctuations
4. Psychological Symptoms
- Memory problems
- Non-cohesive thoughts
- Trouble concentrating
Treatment For Xanax Addiction
Once you develop an addiction to Xanax, you should not stop taking it cold turkey. Instead, you might fare better by undergoing medical detoxification, a process through which you will be slowly weaned off the drug. This is because quitting Xanax all of a sudden might cause dangerous effects to your health.
After detox, you are highly likely to check into an inpatient treatment center especially if your addiction is moderate to severe. Outpatient treatment, on the other hand, might be suitable if the addiction is mild.
As with other addictions, the best solution would be to seek treatment as early as possible. Once you realize that you are using more of the drug than was prescribed, or displaying any of the signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction, talk to a medical professional. They may diagnose the problem early enough for you to benefit from outpatient treatment.
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