Xanax is the brand name of the benzodiazepine alprazolam, a central nervous system depressant and potent prescription medication used to treat the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders as well as insomnia.

At one point, barbiturates were used for this purpose, but because of their dangerous side effects and high risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose, they were replaced by benzos like Xanax, which were meant to be a safer, less addictive alternative.

However, benzos have turned out to be nearly as dangerous, as they also have a high potential for abuse and addiction that can result in serious health problems and a potentially fatal overdose.

How Does Xanax Work?

As a central nervous system depressant, Xanax works similarly to the majority of benzodiazepines, slowing down activity in the brain and nervous system and inhibiting nerve impulses carrying feelings of stress and anxiety to produce sedation, relax muscles, and provide a general sense of calm.

This is a process that the brain already does naturally through the use of a chemical called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). Xanax enters the brain by mimicking GABA, binding with GABA receptors to activate them, stimulating them repeatedly until they have produced an excess of GABA, flooding the central nervous system with much more intense feelings of sedation than the brain would be able to do on its own.

What are the Signs of Xanax Addiction?

While someone might be under the impression that recognizing the signs of Xanax addiction shouldn’t be difficult, it can often escape notice, especially if you are not specifically looking for it. When someone is taking a prescription medication and has been using it regularly, it is often not until someone’s abuse has escalated to addiction that a pattern of abnormal behavior becomes apparent.

Still, there are apparent side effects that are common to regular Xanax abuse that can serve as clues toward a growing problem with Xanax, including:

  • Tremors
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Chronic drowsiness
  • Frequent migraines
  • Paranoia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Noticeably altered sleep patterns

When someone’s Xanax dependence has progressed into addiction, it means they can no longer control their usage and that it has become the driving force behind nearly all of their actions and decisions, taking priority over their responsibilities and relationships. At this point, they will generally begin exhibiting behavior consistent with Xanax addiction and other substance use disorders, including:

  • Taking Xanax outside of the prescribed dosage
  • Taking Xanax without a prescription or forging a prescription
  • Increasing tolerance to the effects of Xanax
  • Experiencing cravings and withdrawal when not using Xanax
  • Becoming increasingly socially isolated and withdrawn
  • Noticeable decline in performance at work or in school
  • Attempting to hide or lie about Xanax use
  • Needing Xanax to function or feel normal
  • Financial or legal issues resulting from Xanax use
  • Trying to quit using Xanax but being unable to stop

If you have observed these signs in someone you care about or otherwise recognized them in your own experiences, do not hesitate to seek out the help of professional addiction treatment services.

What is Involved in Xanax Addiction Treatment?

Medical detoxification is usually the first step in treating most any substance addiction. Medical detox is the process by which all traces of drugs or alcohol are removed from someone’s system to treat acute intoxication and get them mentally and physically stabilized.

For Xanax addiction treatment, medical detoxification is especially critical, and should not be attempted without the careful supervision of an experienced medical detox professional. Xanax withdrawal is one of the most uncomfortable and dangerous someone can experience.

As with other benzodiazepines, the withdrawal symptoms associated with Xanax detox can be life-threatening and unpredictable. They can include anything from hallucinations and suicidal behavior to delirium, seizures, and total psychosis.

There is also the danger of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, which can happen if someone has abused an unsually large amount of Xanax in a relatively short time. Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome lengthens the detox process, causes common withdrawal symptoms to intensify, and can make atypical ones appear as well.

All of this highlights the importance of undergoing Xanax detox while being monitored by a detox team that has been trained to handle any possible serious complications that may occur. Once someone has finished with detox, it is highly recommended that the next step in Xanax addiction treatment be ongoing care in either an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program.

Both program types have their benefits, depending on the needs of the person in treatment. In an inpatient program, someone will live onsite at the facility during the recovery program, which allows for total focus without any triggers or possible temptations as well as around-the-clock access to medical and therapeutic care. Conversely, an outpatient program offers flexibility by being able to stay living at home and structure therapy sessions and medical check-ins around regular life.

With either choice, the person in treatment will work to gain a better understanding of the issues behind their addiction as well as learn more positive and effective ways of managing it to maintain long-term sobriety. This is done through a variety of different therapies and treatment modalities, including:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • EMDR therapy
  • Holistic Therapy
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Addiction education classes
  • Relapse prevention planning

How Dangerous is Xanax?

Even though the dangers associated with Xanax abuse are fairly widely known, people will still engage in Xanax misuse and abuse under the mistaken assumption that since it is a prescription medication that it is safe to do so.

But this is not the case. It is all too easy to not only become addicted to Xanax but also to overdose on it, especially when it is combined with opioids and alcohol. This significantly increases the risk of a rapid and fatal overdose.

The signs of a Xanax overdose include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Weak pulse
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Dangerously slow and shallow breathing
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Drifting in and out of consciousness
  • Bluish skin around the fingernails and lips
  • Coma

Xanax Abuse Statistics

  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 30 percent of opioid-related overdoses in the United States also involved Xanax and other benzodiazepines.
  • In 2016, 10,684 overdose deaths in the U.S. were benzodiazepine-related.
  • In a survey of U.S. teenagers dependent on Xanax, about 70 percent said they started using due to its easy access from their home medicine cabinets.
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