Xanax (alprazolam) is a commonly prescribed benzodiazepine medication used for treatment of anxiety disorders and depression. When used as prescribed Xanax can be safe and effective. However, misuse and abuse of the medication often leads to a very dangerous addiction.
Understanding Xanax Abuse
When you take Xanax it goes to work quickly on your brain and central nervous system (CNS). This action is responsible for the sedative, calming, and anxiolytic (anxiety-fighting) effects that Xanax is known for. However, the speed by which this drug works makes it a prime target for recreational drug abusers.
These individuals take dosages which go beyond the amounts used for therapeutic uses. Some users crush Xanax tablets so that they can snort them, while others chew the drug. Using Xanax in an amount or manner other than prescribed can be perilous, even if you’re self-medicating. At these quantities, and in these forms, the likelihood of addiction runs high. This is due to Xanax’s chemical makeup. Xanax is a high-potency benzodiazepine (benzo) with a short half-life.
Because of these mechanisms of action, “dependence will develop sooner (such as in one to two months) in a patient who is taking a high dosage of a high-potency agent such as alprazolam,” according to the American Family Physician. When people use larger quantities of Xanax, this occurs even faster. This quick and potent effect reinforces the drug-seeking and craving which addicted individuals encounter on a daily basis, in a way that intensifies the addiction.
But as a person uses Xanax in this way, their body adapts.What may have once created a calm, relaxed and/or pleasurable state may now leave you feeling unfulfilled. This means that you have developed a tolerance, another hallmark of addiction. To counter this, you may be quick to shake out another pill or two. Over time, the amounts needed to trump this effect go beyond merely a couple of pills. The more Xanax you use, the higher the likelihood of adverse health effects and detriment to your life.
How Does A Xanax Addiction Change Your Life?
When a person is addicted to Xanax, their thoughts and actions begin to revolve around the drug. They will likely give up activities that they once enjoyed or which are important to their well-being (like those relating to school, employment, or family). Instead they commit large amounts of time and energy to finding, using, and/or recovering from the drug.
As these behaviors become more central within their life, a person’s sense of self will become vastly contorted. They may begin to feel as if they need the drug to function properly, claiming that Xanax makes them better company. Life may begin to feel too difficult without the drug and basic emotional needs begin to seem unattainable in its absence. A person may come to believe that they can’t relax or feel any pleasure when they’re not using.
Eventually, many of the pleasurable feelings associated with Xanax abuse fade, leaving a person surrounded by the shambles of their life. Out of fear, shame, or embarrassment an addicted individual may push their loves ones away and instead spend time with other drug abusers.
What Are The Signs Of Xanax Abuse?
When a person abuses Xanax they may seem intoxicated, in a way similar to alcohol’s effects. But here’s a more in-depth look at signs of Xanax abuse:
- Acting in an uncharacteristic way
- Becoming secretive or lying
- Job or school performance begins slipping
- Sleeping at odd times of day
- Trouble speaking (slurring words)
- Wide and variable moods
- Decreased inhibitions
- Feeling little to no emotions
- Memory trouble
- Poor concentration
- Altered sex drive
- Blurry vision
- Extreme sedation
- Impaired reflexes
- Intense drowsiness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Poor sense of balance
- Slowed breathing (respiratory depression)
- Trouble walking
Benzodiazepine abuse can actually lead to many of the issues that the original use sought to treat. For example, a person could develop rebound anxiety, depression, or insomnia with prolonged use. This is especially prevalent within periods when a person isn’t using the drug.
What Are The Risks Of Xanax Abuse?
Xanax is extremely addictive. Even casual, recreational use can forge an addicted state far quicker than you might expect. Once addicted, a person is in jeopardy of overdosing and withdrawal, both of which could take your life. If you’re using Xanax with other drugs, especially CNS depressant like alcohol and opioids, the risk of respiratory depression, overdose, and death soar.
Benzos have also been linked to:
- Anterograde amnesia
- Cognitive impairment
- Difficulty controlling muscles or voluntary movements
- Impaired motor skills
- Inability to cope when not taking the drug
- An increased risk of dementia
- Motor vehicle crashes
- Hip fracture (there is a 50 percent increased risk in older individuals)
No matter how you find the drug, Xanax abuse is dangerous, but one avenue is riskier than the others. Diverted Xanax is commonly bought and sold on the street. And according to the DEA, counterfeit Xanax has hit our nation. These fake pills could be comprised of virtually anything, but have been found to contain fentanyl, an opioid drug 25 to 50 times stronger than heroin. Taking one of these pills could cause overdose, especially if you use it along side of authentic Xanax.
Does Xanax Need A Medical Detox?
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can can lead to seizures and delirium tremens and even endanger a person’s life. Even though symptoms don’t always progress to these extremes, the possibility of fatal complications necessitates that you consider a medical detox.
During a medical detox your vitals will be monitored 24/7. Medication-assisted therapies will be administered as needed to reduce or alleviate any cravings or symptoms you may be battling. Facility staff will do everything in their power to make sure you’re comfortable and safe while your body rids itself of the drug.
What Is Protracted Benzodiazepine Withdrawal?
There exists another facet of benzodiazepine withdrawal which can afflict individuals beyond the immediate, acute stages of withdrawal. This protracted abstinence syndrome, or post-acute-withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), can occur for several months.
PAWS symptoms may include:
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia)
- Mood swings
- Musculoskeletal conditions
- Neurological complications
- Rebound anxiety
- Suicidal ideation and suicide
These symptoms can impair a person’s quality of life and increase the likelihood of relapse.
According to the AFP, “This abstinence phenomenon may develop despite long, slow, judicious tapering of the dosage and is hypothesized to result from chronic neuroadaptation.” What this means is that prolonged and frequent drug abuse changes a person’s brain chemistry so deeply that the brain requires a longer period to heal.
While a medical detox treats the acute symptoms of withdrawal, these symptoms may linger during rehab and beyond. This is why you should pursue treatment directly after you finish a medical detox. Inpatient treatment is the best option for severe benzo addictions, due to this and other concerns.
When PAWS occurs, some individuals consider using the drug again as a means to reduce the symptoms, especially since Xanax treats anxiety and insomnia. Therapy will teach you coping and relapse prevention skills to ground and direct you during this time. If you experience PAWS after you’ve left an inpatient program, you might want to consider peer support groups and/or an outpatient program to support you during this time.
Treatment for Xanax Addiction
A sober life can be very fulfilling, but when you’re newly detoxed from Xanax, this can seem highly improbable and very intimidating. At this point, you may only be thinking of all that you’ve lost to the drug, and all the hard work you have ahead of you. Behavioral therapies form a critical axis to this care by empowering you with the skills you need to create a healthy, sober life. These may include:
- Motivational interviewing
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Family therapy and support
- Mindfulness and stress management practices
- Individual and group therapy and counseling sessions
Rehab doesn’t have to be a boring experience. To help you achieve your recovery goals, and to remind you of all that life offers, many programs offer these and other dynamic treatment modalities:
- Adventure therapy
- Equine therapy
- Art and Music therapy
- Wilderness therapy
- Holistic therapies
No matter your needs or walk of life you, there’s a treatment program for you.
Reach Out And Up For A Better Life
Don’t let your Xanax addiction rule your life any longer. We want to help you discover the strength that lies within you. DrugRehab.org’s confidential and compassionate assessment will help you find out which treatment options are best for your unique needs. Contact us now.
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