You may have been prescribed Xanax (alprazolam) to treat your anxiety, depression or panic disorder. But there is a possibility that you could get addicted to Xanax even if you take it as prescribed.
Xanax is a popular prescription drug used to treat anxiety as well as panic disorders. It interacts with the brain and enhances the effect of particular natural chemicals found in it. The specific neurotransmitter that it interacts with is known as GABA. The goal is to create a relaxed feeling. When taken correctly, Xanax is an effective medication that is also safe. Unfortunately, Xanax is a widely abused drug.
Xanax is a brand name for the drug alprazolam. This is just one drug in the benzodiazepine class. People often refer to these drugs as “benzos.” The drug Xanax is very fast acting. It is also considered long-lasting. The positive effects of the drug last a minimum of six hours.
Generally, Xanax is used to treat patients who have an anxiety disorder. Everyday anxiety and stress are not treated with medication. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most common condition for which Xanax is prescribed. According to the DSM-5™, anxiety is diagnosed when an individual worries excessively more often than not for at least six months. Symptoms of anxiety include:
- Clammy hands
- Accelerated heart rate
- Frequent urination
- Exaggerated startle response
Panic disorder is another condition commonly treated by Xanax. These attacks are marked by an intense fear that peaks in roughly 10 minutes and ends as quickly as it starts. Symptoms of this disorder include:
- Chest Pain
- Feeling of choking
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Chills or hot flashes
- Fear of dying
- Fear of being out of control
- Sensation of smothering
People wondering what is Xanax used for are often surprised to learn it is prescribed occasionally for insomnia, alcohol detox, involuntary muscle movements, and sedation before a surgery.
Xanax, both when taken properly or abused, can have a long list of side effects. Some common Xanax side effects include:
- Memory problems
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss or gain
- Dry mouth
- Stuffy nose
- Slurred speech
- Concentration problems
Xanax, like all benzodiazepines, is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers. It can cause fetal abnormalities. The drug is also easily passed into a mother’s milk.
When people become dependent on Xanax, they go about getting it in a few ways. Some users “doctor-shop.” This means they mislead their doctor about symptoms and find a new one if they do not get the prescription they want. There are also many illegal websites that sell the drug. Drug dealers on the street often have the drug for sale as well. No one should buy the drug from someone who can’t answer the question “what is Xanax?”
Adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are at a higher risk of addiction. This is especially true if they do other “party drugs.” Xanax should never be taken with alcohol or other drugs.
While anyone can become addicted to Xanax, people with a history of addiction are more at risk. Anyone who uses the drug for more than 4 weeks will begin to create less GABA. They will then be dependent on the drug to feel “okay.”
When not taken as prescribed, what is Xanax used for? Users report a feeling of euphoria that they become dependent on. Some people experience visual and auditory hallucinations. Others like it because it causes a feeling of unreality. Everyone who takes the drug is at risk of becoming physically and mentally dependent on it. Addicts can take the pill orally but many crush it and snort it. Some people go so far as to dissolve it in water and inject it.
On top of the many Xanax side effects listed above, people who abuse the drug suffer many social and mental issues. People who abuse Xanax often find themselves with strained relationships with those closest to them. Marriage issues are common as well.
One of the biggest impacts of Xanax abuse can have is financial. People can spend a great deal of money getting the drug. Missing work is often common for people abusing Xanax, causing further financial issues. People who are addicted to Xanax build up a tolerance. As a result, they need to take more and more of the drug to achieve the results they are looking for.
People who are addicted to Xanax organize their whole lives around the drug. They spend much of their time planning how they will get their next fix. At the same time, other important things in their life get neglected. Those who abuse Xanax often seem very lethargic and uninterested in life.
Physically, Xanax abuse can slow down the person’s respiratory rate. This alone can be dangerous. Unfortunately, many people who abuse Xanax also drink alcohol or take other drugs. Both Xanax and alcohol are depressants, meaning a person could easily end up in a coma or worse.
The half-life of the drug Xanax is 12 hours. Your average user will have the drug out of their system within about four days. People who need to take drug tests for work often wonder how long does Xanax stay in your system. This depends on the type of drug testing being done.
Xanax can be detected in urine 5-7 days after the last use. It can be detected in blood anywhere from 1-6 days. In saliva, Xanax can be detected 2.5 days after the last use. Hair testing can detect it for up to 90 days, starting 1-7 days after the last use.
How bad Xanax withdrawal symptoms are will depend on how long a person has used the drug and how much they used. It is very important that a person going through Xanax withdrawal does so under the supervision of medical professionals. There are many frightening Xanax withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Aggressive behavior
- Tingling feelings in feet and hands
- Weight loss
- Suicidal thoughts
Due to the way Xanax interacts with the brain, withdrawal from it is very serious. It can even be life-threatening. This is why going through a medical detox program is so important.
Due to the dangers of withdrawal and the difficulty of kicking a Xanax habit, an in-patient treatment program is recommended. Ideally, the person can also get treatment for any other anxiety or panic disorder at the same time.
A good treatment program will include medical detox. This will be followed by both group and individual therapy. More appropriate and less addictive drugs may be given to deal with underlying conditions. The program should leave the person ready to deal with life without relying on Xanax.