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Xanax, a branded form of alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine prescribed to treat the short-term symptoms of anxiety disorders and panic disorders.
While this medication can be extremely effective for alleviating symptoms, tolerance and dependence to Xanax rapidly form. This review of benzodiazepine abuse shows a 300% spike in rates of people seeking benzo addiction treatment from 1998 to 2008.
This guide highlights the dangers associated with Xanax addiction and shows you how to safely and comfortably detox from alprazolam or any other benzo.
Alprazolam (Xanax) is a benzodiazepine is a medication in the same class as clonazepam (Klonopin) and diazepam (Valium).
Xanax gained FDA approval in 1981. According to 2020 data, physicians wrote almost 17 million prescriptions for this benzo for more than 3.5 million U.S. adults with panic disorders and anxiety disorders. In the United States, Xanax is among the most prescribed of all psychotropic medications.
Primarily used to treat the symptoms of panic disorders and anxiety disorders, Xanax is also sometimes effective for treating seizures and alcohol withdrawal.
The following side effects often present upon initiating treatment with Xanax:
Benzodiazepines reduce activity in the brain and the central nervous system. Taking Xanax will intensify the effects of an amino acid and neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). This chemical occurs in the brain naturally and induces a sense of relaxation and calm.
Like all benzos, Xanax is typically effective when used short-term, but the medication also has the potential for abuse and addiction.
Any use of Xanax without a prescription is considered misuse, and this can easily trigger depression, aggression, and a variety of impulsive behaviors. If Xanax is abused long-term, physically dependence forms. Addiction will often but not always follow.
If you use Xanax daily, tolerance to the benzo forms. When this occurs, the effects of the medication diminish, meaning you’ll need more Xanax or more frequent doses of Xanax to benefit from its anti-anxiety properties. This can initiate a vicious cycle that prompts the development of Xanax addiction.
Even if you take small doses of this benzodiazepine as directed, physical dependency can develop within a month. If you become dependent on benzodiazepines, you will experience intensely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when the effects of Xanax wear off.
Tolerance and withdrawal are both diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder (drug addiction), so what else should you look out for if you’re concerned about Xanax abuse?
If you have been using Xanax and you are concerned about addiction, ask yourself these questions:
Have you tried and failed to stop using Xanax?
Do you need more Xanax to achieve the same effects?
Do withdrawal symptoms present when the effects of Xanax subside?
Are you spending lots of time obtaining Xanax, using the medication, and recovering from the after effects?
Do you now spend less time on hobbies and interests?
Are you still using Xanax in spite of these negative outcomes?
Xanax addiction (substance use disorder) is diagnosed according to eleven criteria in DSM-5-TR. DSM-5-TR is the revised edition of APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The above questions are among those diagnostic criteria, so if you respond positively to two or three of those questions, you may have a mild Xanax addiction.
Consult your physician for a diagnosis or a referral to a mental health professional.
The safest and most comfortable way to approach treating Xanax addition is to begin treatment with a supervised clinical detox. You should never discontinue use of benzodiazepines abruptly without medical guidance.
Why is Xanax addiction especially dangerous, though?
The key danger of Xanax is the way it triggers both tolerance and dependence. When this occurs, addiction will often follow.
The sustained abuse of Xanax causes changes to the function and structure of some areas of the brain. Eventually, your brain will be unable to operate in the absence of benzodiazepines. By this point, you will require Xanax to function normally, while at the same time feeling reduced therapeutic benefits as the efficacy of the medication diminishes.
Xanax addiction can impair the following processes:
Ongoing and untreated Xanax addiction can prompt various negative health outcomes. Some research suggests that long-term Xanax use can increase your risk profile for Alzheimer’s disease.
Xanax withdrawal is associated with potentially life-threatening seizure or coma.
Using too much Xanax can also lead to an overdose. The risk of Xanax overdose increases when the medication is combined with CNS depressants like alcohol. Alcohol and Xanax both depress the central nervous system by reducing GABA activity. Taking more than one CNS depressant can cause over-sedation, triggering these side effects:
Loss of consciousness
Extreme respiratory depression
Despite the proven clinical benefits of Xanax, the risks of misuse, tolerance, dependence, abuse, and addiction mean the medication is not indicated for long-term use.
The following short-term side effects may present from the initiation of Xanax treatment:
Reduced energy levels
Reduced sex drive
Inflammation of skin
Abnormal involuntary movements
Excessive saliva production
Upper respiratory infection
Continued abuse of Xanax can provoke hostile and aggressive behavior, as well as pronounced mood swings.
Long-term Xanax abuse often leads to changes in appetite. Weight gain or weight loss often follow. Benzodiazepine abuse can also cause binge eating episodes to develop.
Most people who use Xanax long-term report significant impairments to memory.
Benzodiazepines can also negatively impact your coordination, causing problems with balance and speech.
Ongoing benzo abuse can trigger depression and suicidal thoughts.
Xanax is only suitable for short-term use.
Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine. As such, the early warning signs of a Xanax overdose often resemble the medication’s regular side effects.
The following signs and symptoms may indicate a Xanax overdose:
Inability to stay awake
Loss of balance
If any of these symptoms present, do not take more Xanax. Avoid consuming alcohol or drugs. Seek medical assistance if the symptoms worsen.
If you combine Xanax with alcohol, other types of benzos, opioids, or opiates, the risk of overdose is magnified, as well as the risk of respiratory depression. This can slow breathing dangerously and lead to suffocation.
It is never advisable to suddenly stop using Xanax at home. This will lead to the rapid presentation of withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening.
Instead, engage with a supervised detoxification program at a licensed medical detox center. A tapered reduction in dosage of 0.5mg each three days will mitigate most withdrawal symptoms. Your treatment team may substitute a long-acting benzo for the short-acting Xanax.
Detox is the springboard from which you can leap directly into ongoing treatment for benzo addiction.
We can help you with a variety of treatments for Xanax addiction here at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.
For the best treatment for Xanax addiction, choose one of our three Gratitude Lodge locations at Long Beach, Newport Beach, or San Diego.
Our luxury rehab centers are pet-friendly and inclusive, providing an environment free of distractions, temptations, and triggers.
Kickstart your recovery from Xanax addiction with a supervised medical detox. A team of credentialed addiction specialists and medical professionals will administer a tapered reduction in your Xanax dosage, streamlining the withdrawal process and purging benzodiazepines from your system.
Once detoxed, transition directly into our residential rehab program or consider an intensive outpatient program if you need a more flexible and affordable route to recovery.
All Gratitude Lodge addiction treatment programs connect you with the following holistic therapies and evidence-based treatments:
MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
12-step immersion program
Call the friendly admissions team today at 888-861-1658 to engage with safe and effective treatment for Xanax addiction.
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