Alprazolam Xanax Addiction Help
Benzodiazepines like Xanax can quickly lead to physical dependence, even with legitimate medical use. If you misuse Xanax, physical dependence encourages continued abuse, and this triggers an addictive cycle of use.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax is the most widely prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States. It belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines that are prescribed to people who have an anxiety or panic disorder.
It is possible to safely use Xanax, but this means using it according to prescription instructions while under doctor supervision.
How Xanax Works
Xanax is often prescribed to people who have been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. It is an alternative to Valium, another kind of benzodiazepine that treats anxiety and panic attacks.
Panic and anxiety are usually caused by excess activity in the brain. Xanax and other benzodiazepines cause you to feel calm because they influence a chemical messenger in the brain, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Xanax causes an increase of GABA in the brain, which elicits a feeling of calm and provides short-term relief from feelings of panic or anxiety. It is normal to start at the lowest most effective dose and work your way up as you build tolerance and as your doctor sees fit.
Xanax also works quickly. Some people feel different after 15 to 20 minutes, though it may take up to an hour to feel its effects. Once taken, the effects of Xanax can last up to six hours.
Doses of Xanax usually start at 0.25 mg, and most people receive about 2 mg to 4 mg per day.
It may take your body about five days to fully get rid of Xanax.
Xanax can also be used as a one-time medication for certain panic-inducing situations, such as fear of flying or the temporary effects of a phobia.
Tolerance and Dependence
With regular use, you may become dependent on Xanax. This begins by building tolerance, which means you need higher doses of Xanax to achieve the same effects as before.
You may experience symptoms of withdrawal when you go without Xanax, and these can be dangerous. If you have been taking Xanax for a prolonged period of time, you should never stop taking it suddenly. Consult your doctor for how to safely and slowly taper your dosage.
Dependence can form with legitimate medical use. This doesn’t mean you are addicted to Xanax. If you have been using it according to your prescription instructions, you are not abusing the medication.
Signs of Xanax Abuse
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that people with a Xanax prescription of more than 4 mg per day and those who take it for longer than 12 weeks are at increased risk of Xanax dependency and abuse.
Taking Xanax without a prescription, in higher doses than recommended, or for longer than directed is misuse. Other signs of Xanax abuse are:
- Craving Xanax on a consistent basis.
- Going through a lot of trouble to obtain the medication.
- Spending money you do not have on Xanax.
- Trying but being unable to quit using Xanax.
- Combining Xanax with other substances, like alcohol.
If you are concerned that someone you know is abusing Xanax, you can also look for these signs:
- Decreased performance at work or school
- Changes in appearance, such as less attention to hygiene
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Money issues that seem to have no legitimate explanation
- Moodiness, depression, or anxiety that was not present before
Is Xanax Abuse Risky?
Yes, Xanax abuse can lead to an array of physical issues, such as overdose, seizures, and memory problems.
Along with health issues, abuse of Xanax could carry legal consequences. The Drug Enforcement Administration states that it is illegal to buy scheduled drugs, such as Xanax, without a prescription.
Since Xanax requires a prescription, this means the FDA has set standards and controls for the medication. A physician must prescribe the drug after taking your medical history into account.
If you purchase Xanax on the street, it could be contaminated with other substances or not even be Xanax at all.
Additional risks include:
- Allergic reactions. It is possible to have an allergic reaction to Xanax. If you take Xanax and experience swelling of your lips, face, or tongue, you might be having an allergic reaction. This warrants immediate medical attention.
- Overdose: The FDA warns that it is possible to overdose on Xanax even when it’s taken on its own. Risk of overdose increases if you drink alcohol or take other drugs when taking Xanax.
- Accidents: Even when taken as directed, Xanax may cause you to become drowsy. Users are always advised not to drive or operate machinery until they know how they will react to Xanax.
Xanax may work differently in people with certain conditions. These groups may feel Xanax’s effects more strongly:
- The elderly
- People who are obese
- Those with a history of alcohol use disorder
- People with limited renal or liver function
What Is Treatment Like?
If you are addicted to Xanax, you are dealing with profound changes in your brain. These changes cause you to seek the drug out even if that means neglecting responsibilities, social activities, and personal relationships.
Addiction is a disease, so it requires professional treatment. Like other chronic diseases, there is no cure, but it can be effectively managed with the right care.
Reducing your dose of Xanax is the first step you will take as part of treatment. This is done through a process called tapering. An October 2015 case report from the Australian Prescriber states that the goals of tapering are:
- To manage withdrawal symptoms properly.
- To tailor care.
- To reduce the risk of relapse
Tapering also prevents dangerous reactions, such as seizures, which can occur when people quit taking Xanax cold turkey after regular use.
As outlined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), treatment for Xanax addiction must first acknowledge that addiction to drugs is complex and can be managed. Other things you should expect in treatment are:
- An assessment. This is where a physician or addiction specialist asks questions about your use of Xanax, use of other substances, and medical history. Proper assessment allows you to receive treatment in a way that is tailored to your needs.
- Counseling. In therapy, you’ll gain important insights into your substance abuse and learn the skills necessary to abstain from misusing Xanax and other substances. Some options are:
- Individual therapy. You will dig deeper into your relationship with Xanax and learn how to better deal with emotional triggers. This is where the bulk of your recovery work takes place.
- Group therapy: These are therapy sessions that involve multiple clients with one to two therapists. Participants have a chance to learn from each other and progress together as a group.
- Family therapy. This allows your family and close friends to learn strategies to help you with your recovery. It also provides everyone with tools they need to repair damaged relationships and understand the chronic nature of addiction.
- Peer support groups. These may or may not be affiliated with 12-step groups. They are usually led by someone else who is in recovery. They provide a social setting that is free of drugs where you can exchange stories and strategies with people who understand the struggles of addiction. They don’t take the place of therapy, but they can be a valuable supplement to your recovery process.
- Medication or medical supervision. Depending on how long you used Xanax, it is likely that your tapering period lasts weeks or even months. In some cases, additional medications may be prescribed to manage certain symptom of withdrawal or to address other mental health issues.
- A long-term strategy. Relapse is often part of the recovery process, and it isn’t a sign of failure. Aftercare is critical to reducing instances of relapse. It often includes peer support groups, long-term therapy, and lifestyle changes that allow you to live a productive life and deal with stressors in a healthy manner.
Understanding the Use of Xanax
A March 2018 article on VICE says that Xanax is now widely known for its role in pop culture. Artists such as Eminem, Lil Wayne, and A Tribe Called Quest have mentioned Xanax at some point in their songs. Xanax was the most mentioned drug in hip-hop music between 2014 and 2017.
Statistics show that benzodiazepines like Xanax have been found in more than 30 percent of toxicity screenings of opioid overdose deaths. NIDA also reports the following:
- Prescriptions of all categories of benzodiazepines have gone up by 67 percent between 1996 and 2013. Over 8 million adults had a prescription for a benzodiazepine, but the latest figure shows that 13.5 million people now have a prescription.
- People who have a prescription for opioids and any kind of benzodiazepines are at increased risk of going to a hospital emergency room or having an emergency relating to these medications.
- Veterans with an opioid prescription are more likely to overdose if they later receive a benzodiazepine prescription.