Xanax abuse is so prevalent that it has become a figurehead for prescription drug addiction. This powerful benzodiazepine is often used to treat anxiety and anxiety-related insomnia, but is dangerously addictive, even when used as prescribed. The number of Xanax and other benzodiazepine prescriptions has been rising steadily over the past decade, with the number of overdose cases rising along with it. Here, we will take a look at what exactly Xanax is, what makes it addictive, the risks associated with its use and the treatment options for those struggling with Xanax addiction.
What is Xanax?
Xanax is an anxiolytic or anti-anxiety drug. It belongs to the benzodiazepine family of drugs, which are usually prescribed to patients suffering from severe anxiety, nervousness or panic attacks. It is also used to treat insomnia which is the result of anxiety, as it causes sleepiness and relaxation. Its onset is rapid and lasts about six hours, making it an attractive choice for many who experience panic or anxiety attacks. The generic name for Xanax is alprazolam.
How is Xanax effective?
Xanax works by affecting the dopamine receptors of your brain. Dopamine is your brain’s happiness chemical, which means that when your brain receives more of it, it reduces the fight-or-flight effect of panic and increases feelings of pleasure. Some people find this sensation very pleasant, and once they start taking Xanax, they will want to use more and more of it to experience the same effects.
Many people become addicted to Xanax because they get it on prescription and use a higher dose than recommended to experience the aforementioned high. Although Xanax can be addictive even when used as prescribed, it is especially addictive when abused. It is usually recommended for short-term use, but some people use it for longer periods of time, putting them at risk of developing dependence and addiction. Often those who fill their Xanax prescription visit other doctors to receive additional prescriptions. Xanax remains in the body for up to 24 hours, so users can quickly build up a tolerance. Once a physical dependence on Xanax occurs, it is very difficult to stop, and withdrawal can even be dangerous.
Risks of Xanax addiction
Although the generality of Xanax may make it seem harmless, and the fact that it is prescribed by a doctor may make it seem safe, the truth is that Xanax is a powerful and dangerous drug that should be used with extreme caution, if at all. Benzodiazepine abuse can result in serious and long-term mental and physical health problems, such as the following:
Using Xanax regularly over a long period of time causes you to become accustomed to the presence of the substance in your body. Your body will become dependent on Xanax for things like feeling calm and releasing dopamine. When you try to stop, extremely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms will occur, such as severe anxiety, irritability and insomnia. You may get headaches, experience tremors and feel emotionally volatile or generally distant. You may even feel as if you are having a nervous breakdown. Withdrawal symptoms usually occur about six hours after the last dose.
In the more severe cases of Xanax withdrawal, users may have full-body seizures, which can even be fatal. Therefore, it is important that detox is done under medical supervision and monitored by professional addiction treatment services.
Because Xanax is most often prescribed for generalised anxiety disorder (GAS) and panic disorder (PS), it lends itself to addiction because people with such mental health problems are more likely to reduce their unpleasant feelings. However, once users develop a dependency, the problem is exacerbated – anxiety may increase when not taking Xanax and they may experience a rebound effect or an intensification of the original problem.
Similarly, people who use Xanax to treat insomnia may become dependent on it to help them fall asleep. It may become increasingly difficult for them to sleep without the use of Xanax.
Interactions with other drugs
Xanax is often used with alcohol or prescription drugs to enhance its relaxing effects, but this combination is extremely dangerous and even deadly. Because alcohol, benzodiazepines and opioids all suppress the central nervous system, they can slow down the body’s functions to the point of stopping completely.
Xanax can also be dangerous when used in combination with other sedatives such as cold medicines taken at night or herbal relaxants such as kava, valerian or St John’s wort. Another common combination is Xanax and caffeine. Although users often drink coffee to relieve the drowsiness caused by Xanax, this counterproductive action can cause these individuals to take more of the drug to experience its anxiety-reducing effects. The combination also increases the strength of alprazolam and can destroy brain cells.
Although not exceptionally common, it is possible to overdose on Xanax. This usually happens when it is mixed with alcohol, opioids and other sedatives.
Treatment for Xanax Addiction
While the use of Xanax undoubtedly brings with it some very frightening effects, the good news is that, with a medically supervised detox, effective addiction treatment and ongoing aftercare, it is entirely possible to safely stop using Xanax and learn how to control your anxiety levels without the use of harmful and addictive substances.
Hacienda Paradiso offers an intensive Xanax addiction recovery programme, set in a beautiful retreat located in the peaceful and scenic foothills of Malaga, Costa del Sol (Spain). Our highly trained staff of medical professionals, psychologists and holistic therapists have extensive experience in treating addictions and have seen many people like you make it through to successful recovery. If you are ready to discover how wonderful life can be without Xanax, contact us today to find out how we can help.