Xanax Abuse

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What Is Xanax?

Even people who take the medication exactly as prescribed can become addicted to it without realizing it.

Xanax is the trade name of the prescription medication alprazolam, and is in a category of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Typically, doctors prescribe Xanax to treat patients suffering from anxiety and panic disorders.

The medication works by interacting with a receptor in the brain that in turn increases inhibitory brain activity, thus tempering any problematic excitement related to anxiety.

As a fast-acting drug, the majority of the benefits are established within an hour after use, with the total duration of effect being at least 6 hours. Xanax is commonly abused by those seeking it for its sedative effects.

Xanax is especially addictive when misused (taken recreationally or other than as directed). Anyone can become addicted to Xanax. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Xanax use can result in tolerance, addiction, and dependence if taken in large quantities or used for a prolonged period.

Even people who take the medication exactly as prescribed can become addicted to it without realizing it.

Signs and Symptoms

Other Names for Xanax

  • Alprazolam – The chemical name for the drug.
  • Niravam – A variation of alprazolam that dissolves on the tongue rather than needing to be swallowed with water.

Street names include:

  • Xannies/Zannies.
  • Handlebars/Bars.
  • Blue footballs.
  • Benzos.

Symptoms and signs of Xanax abuse can be both physical and mental.

Physical Signs and Symptoms

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Feelings of elation.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Sleeping for extended periods of time.
  • Light-headedness.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Problems with memory.
  • Sluggishness.
  • Nausea.
  • Headache.

Mental and Social Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of Xanax abuse typically can infiltrate nearly all aspects of a person’s life. It is common for people with Xanax problems to have strained relationships with close friends and family, as well as marital problems.

Professional issues are also common, as those struggling with a Xanax dependence will often miss work due to them not feeling well, especially if they are unable to take Xanax and experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Other common signs of a Xanax addiction include financial problems. Finances can suffer due to spending increased amounts of money on the substance, or dedicating time to obtaining more drug that would otherwise be spent more productively.

Additionally, someone that is overusing Xanax will appear excessively tired and lethargic while lacking the motivation to engage in normal activities of daily life. They will show signs of lower interest in tasks that require sustained attention.

Benzodiazepine drugs can have an amnestic effect, making it quite easy for individuals abusing them to forget the fine details of important conversations or tasks that need to be performed.

You might find yourself thinking about how you are going to get more Xanax when you have finished what you have. You could develop cognitive problems that make it difficult for you to articulate your words.

Addicts also tend to build up a tolerance to Xanax. This means that more of the substance is required to achieve a similar effect to when it was first used. In addition, those people dependent on the drug will experience withdrawal symptoms when they are not taking the medication. An addict’s life begins to revolve around drug use, and it is common for users to start taking other drugs when they do not have access to Xanax.

Effects of Xanax Abuse

Woman agitated

Using Xanax, especially for a prolonged period, can have numerous negative effects on your body. The medication is a central nervous system depressant, which means that it slows down aspects of your mental and physical health. The most common effects of Xanax use include:

  • Lack of coordination.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Confusion.
  • Disorientation.

Xanax is known to slow down respiratory rates of people that abuse the substance. Alone, this can be dangerous as your breathing slows, but the situation becomes more troubling when the substance is mixed with alcohol. Since they are both depressants, their combined effect could lead to serious injury, coma, or death.

Some people develop memory impairment, which typically only affects the short-term memory.

Sedation is also a concern for Xanax users. People who take the medication in large doses might experience severe sedation that can last for 3-4 days.

Xanax Addiction Statistics

Xanax addiction is a widespread problem and affects the lives of numerous adults. Because the addiction develops over time, it may take some time before you even realize that you have a problem.

  • According to the 2011 Treatment Episode Data Set Report, 60,200 people obtaining drug abuse treatment were addicted to benzodiazepines.
  • This showed a drastic increase from the 22,400 people who sought treatment for benzodiazepine addictions in 1998.

Teen Xanax Abuse

Xanax abuse is not only a problem among adults; teenagers have prescription medication addictions as well. According to the 2014 Monitoring the Future survey, 13.9% of teenagers report using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in the past year. While this includes other prescription drugs, Xanax seems to be a quite popular prescription drug abused by teens.

Xanax is also monitored in the tranquilizer category by the same survey. These data illustrate that tranquilizer use is showing some mild declines in the years between 2011 and 2014 across 8th, 10th, and 12th graders sampled.

Xanax Abuse Treatment

People dealing with tolerance, addiction, and dependence to Xanax must always seek professional treatment to safely end use of the drug. Sudden unsupervised cessation of Xanax use is related to many unpleasant, if not dangerous withdrawal effects—including seizures. Depending on the level of your dependence, the duration of the addiction, and your general physical health, an inpatient treatment program may be the most appropriate option.

Inpatient treatment programs give you a stable and temptation-free environment for your recovery. Centers have around-the-clock care. The medical staff will help you cope with your withdrawal symptoms and may administer medication to make the detoxification symptoms subside until the drug is completely cleared from your system.

It’s not too late to get help.
Treatment is available.

Rather than ending the medication suddenly, a medical professional may wean you from the drug by reducing the dose on a regular basis until you no longer take Xanax.

A typical day in an inpatient facility could include:

  • Addiction education.
  • Individual and group therapy sessions.
  • Relapse prevention techniques / skills training.

Outpatient treatment programs allow people to reside at their homes for the duration of recovery treatment. There are few typical variants on the type of outpatient programs that are offered. A daily check-in program requires you to check in with a drug abuse counselor every day, while the more intensive outpatient, day treatment and partial hospitalization programs can require you to be at the center for a set number of hours each day. Similar therapeutic interventions will be employed in both outpatient and residential treatment programs, including ongoing behavioral therapy sessions and possibly educational lectures about addiction and recovery.

Many treatment options exist outside of the professional setting with community-based treatment and 12-step meetings being successful ways to end your relationship with the substance.

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Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC, is a professional counselor who has been working for over a decade to help children, adolescents, and adults in western Pennsylvania reach their goals and improve their well-being.

Along the way, Eric worked as a collaborating investigator for the field trials of the DSM-5 and completed an agreement to provide mental health treatment to underserved communities with the National Health Service Corp.

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