Xanax is the name for a prescription drug, also known as alprazolam. Xanax is in a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, and is used to treat panic disorder, anxiety and anxiety attacks as well as insomnia. A lot of people use Xanax and other benzodiazepines, which account for twenty percent of the total number of prescriptions that are written for controlled substances in the United States each year. Xanax is the most prescribed and the most misused benzodiazepine drug in the nation. In just the past five years, prescriptions filled for Xanax have risen from 29.9 million to 39.5 million.
It has been estimated that over 4 million people in the United States are using prescription drugs, which includes Xanax, for non-medical purposes. Within the last ten years, the problem of Xanax misuse has been highlighted nationally, and Xanax as a primary drug of abuse is now well documented. In a research survey for instance, it was found that seventy-three percent of heroin addicts use Xanax non-medically at least once a week as a sleep aid. It has also been found that an estimated 40% of alcoholics use Xanax non-medically to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
While Xanax is a prescription only medication. It is also a controlled substance, which means you cannot legally take Xanax without a prescription. The risk of addiction and dependence to Xanax is very high, and it is meant to be used for only a short period of time because of this. Individuals who take Xanax both legitimately and illicitly experience the benefits of the drugs within the first hour of using the drug, and full peak benefits are achieved within a short time afterwards. So it is a very fast acting drug. Individuals who use Xanax legitimately, to treat anxiety for example, feel relaxed very quickly when it is taken. Others who use the drug non-medically and illicitly feel calmer as well, even though they have not been diagnosed for anxiety. So it can become addictive because the individual can begin to rely too much on the drug for its effects, which produce an almost immediate calming effect throughout the body and mind. Dependence and addiction occurs both in individuals who are prescribed the drug medically and illicit users, no one is immune.
Addiction and dependence to Xanax can occur because the drug affects the same neurotransmitters in the brain as other drugs of abuse such as heroin. This is what produces the calming and euphoric sensation that Xanax users experience. This calming effect is caused by dopamine, which is the body's pleasure and gratification hormone. Similar to other drugs of abuse, this calming and euphoria is not self-manufactured and can become addictive. Individuals who abuse Xanax in this way build a strong tolerance to the drug and need to take higher doses more often to achieve the desired effects. During 2007, misuse of Xanax abuse contributed to over 2 million cases of prescription drug dependence, and national drug rehab statistics show that the number of individuals that are seeking assistance for Xanax addiction has almost doubled in the last ten years.
Although an individual can have the best intentions and want to come off of Xanax due to addiction and dependence, it is not recommended that they do so unless they are under constant medical supervision. Similar to other medicine and illegal drugs, sudden cessation of use of Xanax results in withdrawal symptoms. However, suddenly stopping use of Xanax cold turkey can cause withdrawal symptoms that can be life threatening. Individuals who are detoxed from the drug are typically weaned off of it to avoid the dangerous and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that result from sudden discontinuation of use. Individuals who have taken Xanax for an extended period of time and then stopped can suffer from withdrawal symptoms which can lead to delirium and seizures, and reports of grand mal seizures are documented after abrupt withdrawal of only short-term use. Without medical supervision, these seizures which result from Xanax withdrawal can result in death. So do not attempt to come off of Xanax on your own if you are thinking about it, this isn't safe.
Coming off of Xanax can also be extremely difficult because individuals who have become dependent to the drug find it difficult to live without it. Xanax has actually been known to create more withdrawal reactions than other benzodiazepines such as Valium. Factors that may influence the severity of Xanax withdrawal include dosage , length of time the individuals has used the drug, how often they dosed, previous use of similar drugs, current drug use, and the methods used to stop. Xanax withdrawal symptoms can also be extremely uncomfortable and in some cases deadly, so it is difficult to kick dependence to the drug. Even forgetting a single dose of Xanax can lead to withdrawal symptoms. One study reported that out of the patients who had taken Xanax for more than 8 weeks, 43% of experienced significant Xanax withdrawal.
Other common Xanax withdrawal symptoms include Xanax withdrawal symptoms can include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of appetite
- Nightmares, psychoses or delusions
- Rapid heartbeat and/or high blood pressure
- Ringing in the ears
As discussed previously, stopping Xanax abruptly without medical intervention is never recommended. A drug rehab center for example can perform a safe medical detox which can get an individual safely through withdrawal and off of the drug. This can then be followed up with a drug treatment program for those struggling with Xanax addiction, so that the individual can stay off of the drug for good. It is recommended that individuals who require treatment for Xanax addiction find a treatment center that has a proven track record in treating Xanax addiction.
Aside from the risks associated with overdose from Xanax and withdrawal, Xanax can also cause some very serious side-effects. Xanax side effects that individuals may experience when taking the drug can include seizures, depression, vision difficulties, mental confusion, stupor, sleep problems, muscle spasms, tachycardia, palpitation and an imbalance in blood sugar levels. Some of the more commonly reported side effects of Xanax are slurred speech, drowsiness, dizziness, clumsiness, stomach cramps, blurry vision, diarrhea, dry mouth, headache, and vomiting. Xanax is a central nervous system depressant, so may impact the ability to drive safely. Excessive use of the drug may impair the brain's ability to hold onto memories and create short-term and also longer-term memory loss. There have actually been many cases when Xanax has been used as a "date rape drug", due to the sudden onset of effect and the side effect of memory loss. Common symptoms that someone is abusing Xanax can include extreme fatigue, drowsiness, slurred speech, short term memory problems, rage, aggression and hostility.
As with all medicines, it is possible for individuals who are not using the drug correctly to overdose on Xanax. The effects and outcome of a Xanax overdose can vary, and depend on how much Xanax was taken and whether it was taken with any other medicines, alcohol, or street drugs. Xanax overdose is more likely in cases of misuse and addiction, as addicts will commonly take higher and higher doses of the drug chasing the original euphoria they experienced. This is very dangerous and is responsible for many Xanax overdoses. Xanax overdose symptoms can include drowsiness, confusion, coordination problems, slow reflexes, coma, breathing problems, and even death.
A risk of a fatal Xanax overdose is even more possible if the individual abuses the drug in combination with alcohol. Xanax and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants that slow the activity of the brain. Combining the two can cause brain atrophy, peripheral neuropathy, and can possibly cause a damaging stroke that could cause permanent problems or be fatal. According to recent studies, fatalities have been reported in individuals that have overdosed with the combination of just one single Xanax pill and alcohol. According to a study of deaths in Palm Beach County, FL where the Xanax was detected, almost 50% of the deaths were attributed to the individual combining Xanax with other drugs. Xanax can even interact with herbs, nicotine and dietary supplements, all of which can be potentially dangerous.
One of the problems with Xanax is that individuals who take the drug for anxiety and then discontinue use often experience what is known as "rebound anxiety". This refers to the recurrence of symptoms of anxiety when someone stops taking Xanax, and the symptoms return to pretreatment levels. This happens with most benzodiazepines. One study of patients who had taken Ritalin for just 8 week showed that 35% of them experienced significant rebound anxiety. So it is evident that the underlying reasons the individual was experiencing anxiety were never addressed in the first place, and were just masked with the Xanax. Drug rehabs who address Xanax addiction can help address the underlying reasons the individual was experiencing anxiety to begin with, so that there may not even be a need for medication.
If you or someone you know has become dependent to or is addicted to Xanax, or simply wants to stop using the drug, there are treatment programs which can help them overcome withdrawal symptoms and addiction issues. There are many inpatient and outpatient drug rehab programs which address Xanax addiction, with proven track records of helping individuals with their dependence to the drug. It could happen to anyone, no one is immune. There is no shame in seeking help for Xanax addiction and dependence. The drug is grossly over-prescribed and misused, even legitimately.