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Alprazolam Abuse Symptoms, Signs and Addiction Treatment

What Is Alprazolam Used For?

Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine substance better known by its brand name, Xanax. All benzodiazepines are depressant medications that slow down a user’s body and mind, resulting in reduced anxiety and increased relaxation.

Commonly, Xanax is prescribed to people with anxiety and panic disorders. The substance is prescribed to decrease symptoms such as:

  • Physical tension.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Restlessness.
  • Worried thoughts.
  • Fear and panic.

Alprazolam is prescribed more frequently than any other benzodiazepine—numbering close to 49 million prescriptions in 2011. Though alprazolam is effective in medical settings, it can create an addictive “high” that can lead to abuse of the drug, even among those who began taking it with legitimate prescriptions.

Signs and Symptoms of Alprazolam Abuse

When taken as directed, alprazolam will produce the following intended effects:

  • Feelings of peace and tranquility.
  • Relaxation of the body and mind.
  • Improved sleep.

Alprazolam is capable of producing unwanted effects as well. These include:

  • Sedation.
  • Problems with speech and coordination.
  • Feelings of dizziness and disorientation.
  • Poor memory and concentration.
  • Reduced blood pressure.
  • Reduced respiration rate.

Side Effects of Alprazolam Abuse

In the body, alprazolam increases the effects of another substance called GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that down-regulates excitatory brain activity, slowing down the firing of neurons. This results in alprazolam’s ability to produce a sedating, tranquilizing effect.

Since alprazolam additionally elicits a pleasant euphoria and other changed responses in the brain, users can become addicted to this feeling—using more and more in an attempt to recreate these effects. The more of the drug that is taken, the greater the likelihood is that tolerance will begin to develop.

Tolerance, a condition that commonly occurs with alprazolam use, is when the body adapts to increased amounts of the substance, resulting in higher levels of the drug being needed to produce the previously experienced effects. When higher levels of the drug are needed or when the substance is used in combination with alcohol or opioids like methadone, there is increased risk of overdose, which can lead to:

  • Dangerously slowed breathing.
  • Extreme sedation.
  • Coma.

One of the most devastating effects of alprazolam abuse is addiction. This is characterized by a compulsive desire to continue obtaining and using the drug even when negative events are happening to you or your loved ones because of your use. Examples of Xanax addiction signs include:

Common side effects of Xanax use include:11

  • Drowsiness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Changes in sex drive.
  • Increased salivation.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Appetite changes.
  • Memory problems.
  • Decreased coordination.
  • Irritability.
  • Confusion.
  • Urinary retention.
  • Changes in menstrual cycle.
  • Low blood pressure.

Some of the serious possible Xanax side effects include:11

  • Slow and/or shallow breathing.
  • Seizures.
  • Suicidality.
  • Dependency on Xanax.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Fainting.
  • Swelling.
  • Liver damage.

Xanax Addiction Treatment

Due to the risks of alprazolam withdrawal symptoms, professional treatment should always be sought when ending use. When withdrawal is done under the supervision of medical staff, the effects can be diminished, leading to a safer withdrawal process where any complications can be addressed.

It is strongly recommended that someone looking to quit using Xanax undergoes an evaluation by a physician or a substance abuse professional before ending their use so that the best course of care can be recommended. When ending alprazolam use, several options are recommended—the precise program that is suitable will be dependent on the user’s frequency and amount of use. These options include:

  • Detox.
  • Residential rehab.
  • Outpatient treatment.
  • Support groups.

Detoxification is the process of allowing the body to process and eliminate a substance. Detox is a necessary precursor to treatment. You must rid the body of drugs before beginning your recovery. Typically, detox is completed on an inpatient basis in order to monitor the vital signs of the user. Learn about 3-day, 5-day and 7-day detox programs.

Following detox, someone fighting a Xanax addiction might be referred for rehab or inpatient treatment. Rehab will be appropriate in cases of more severe addictions, for those with poor support systems at home, and for those who might benefit from being removed from unhealthy environments for the duration of their recovery programs. Inpatient programs are residential programs wherein the user will be living in the treatment center for a period that typically ranges from between 30 days and 90 days. Their time will focus on learning new skills in order to be happy and healthy without using substances.

Outpatient treatment takes many forms, with intensive programs requiring multiple hours of therapy daily. Other programs will require fewer weekly hours. Inpatient and outpatient programs share the similarities of establishing relapse prevention plans and exploring underlying triggers of addiction, while outpatient rehab allows the person in treatment to live in their own home and resume their normal activities.

Support groups—such as 12-step programs—can be used in conjunction with other treatments. These informal treatments enable people with similar substance use issues to meet, discuss their issues, and receive helpful feedback from others.

Xanax Statistics

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration:

  • More than 20 million people have used benzodiazepines nonmedically in their lifetimes.
  • Benzodiazepines were responsible for nearly 650,000 emergency room visits in 2010.
  • Alprazolam accounted for more than one-third of these ER visits.

Learn more at our Xanax History and Statistics page.

Teen Alprazolam Abuse

Prevention is recommended in order to stop use before it can begin. Consider:

  • Having an honest conversation with your teen about the risks of alprazolam abuse.
  • Keep medications safe and accounted for in the home.
  • Be aware of behavioral changes in your teen.
  • Note sudden changes in the friends with whom your teen is spending time.

Learn more about teen drug misuse.

Resources, Articles, and More Information

To learn more about Xanax addiction, visit the following pages:

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