Xanax Addiction

Xanax, generically known as alprazolam, is a fast-acting sedative used to treat anxiety disorder, panic disorder, various phobias and depression. Classed as a benzodiazepine, this medication is a powerful and often addictive substance. Xanax abuse is widespread, and dependence is an unfortunate consequence of this overuse. Listed as a Schedule IV controlled substance, it leaves many asking, "Is Xanax addictive?" The topic of Xanax addiction is a common one about pharmacists and other medical professionals. Daily use of the drug for six weeks or more has been shown to lead to dependence in four out of 10 users. While Xanax is often helpful for people experiencing mental illness, overuse of the drug can lead to a variety of negative side effects including slowed or slurred speech, decreased cognitive functioning, and even aggressive and impulsive behavior. Xanax addiction is a disease, but there is hope for recovery.
Xanax is a commonly prescribed sedative used to treat anxiety, panic disorder, various phobias and depression. Generically known as alprazolam, it works by decreasing the brain’s “excitability.” Binding to stereospecific receptors (γ-aminobutyric acid A receptors, also known as GABA) in the central nervous system, alprazolam reduces the overall level of brain activity. It has a depressant effect that varies in potency according to the dosage of the medication taken and the personal chemistry of its user. In some larger doses, the drug can cause euphoric effects. Xanax is often believed to be a narcotic, but this is incorrect. It is classified as a benzodiazepine, which operates differently. Xanax has little to no effect on pain, while this is a main function of narcotics. Likewise, narcotics have little to no effect on anxiety, which is a main function of Xanax.

Xanax and other benzodiazepines are available by prescription only. Many of its users, however, do not have a prescription in their name. Pfizer manufactures brand-name Xanax medication, though other pharmaceutical companies offer generic alprazolam drugs that have the same effect. Approved by the FDA in 1981, the medication is available from Pfizer in tablet and extended release tablet forms. Others offer a similar product in liquid form. Abused for its relaxing “high,, the drug is particularly popular among young adults and women.

Women are roughly twice as likely as men to receive a prescription for Xanax, providing them with greater opportunity to develop Xanax addiction. Xanax is also a popular drug to combine with other substances, particularly among young adults in party or social settings. It is often used to combat the anxious side effects of other drug highs, such as that of methamphetamine. Combining the drug with alcohol, another central nervous system depressant, is also quite common and can be enormously dangerous to a user’s health. In 2011, more than half of the 176,000 people admitted to the emergency room for benzodiazepine use also had alcohol or other drugs in their system. Xanax abuse in nightclub settings appears to have an even distribution among gender and racial groups.

Xanax is most commonly prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder (the regular and sudden onset of extreme anxiety, also referred to as panic attacks). Xanax’s intended uses are psychiatric in nature and the drug can be quite helpful in relieving the symptoms of anxiety and panic, as well as related mental health issues such as various phobias and depression. This can lead to dependence and a Xanax addiction. Many people will take the drug for its sedative effect, some employing the medication as a sleep aid. This is typically ill-advised, as it will reduce the quality of the sleep even while inducing it. Xanax should only be used exactly as prescribed by a physician.

Physicians will often prescribe Xanax to be taken on an as-needed basis, particularly for those experiencing panic disorder. Panic disorder patients will take a dose of the medication when they feel they are about to have a panic attack. Many begin to take Xanax outside of these circumstances, but immediate treatment of panic attacks is the original intent. Xanax is a fast-acting pharmaceutical that does not require any period of uptake or adjustment in order to be effective, so it operates well for this purpose. There is rarely cause to require a daily intake of the medication in order for it to be useful in reducing anxiety and panic.

It is very common for people with a prescription for this medication to later develop Xanax addiction, as they have easy and legal access to its effects. If a person is prescribed or takes a larger dose of the drug, they may experience euphoric effects, increasing the likelihood of Xanax addiction. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health has shown Xanax to be a powerful influence in the United States, reporting that more than six million Americans took Xanax for non-medical purposes during 2016.

xanax pills
Xanax is offered in liquid and tablet forms. Tablets are, by far, the most common shape of the drug. There are a variety of shapes and colors that enable users and administers of the medication to know its dosage and producer. The most distinctive form of Xanax is a Xanax bar. These are elongated tablets that are scored at several points along the pill’s surface in order to allow for easy breakage. This scoring enables users to take smaller doses than the tablet’s original size. Xanax also comes in round, oval, triangular, square and pentagonal shapes. The shapes typically indicate the type of pill, such as regular or extended release. Pills also come in a variety of colors: white, peach, blue, yellow and green. The different colors indicate the dosage. White is 0.25 mg, peach and yellow are o.5 mg, and blue and green are 1 mg. Xanax bars can be as large as 3 mg, though the typical size is 2 mg.

For those abusing Xanax, there are often visible signs. An excess of pill bottles is a major clue. If the user is snorting the Xanax, they may be using a mortar and pestle to grind the pills, making one of these tools a potential indicator of Xanax abuse. Other paraphernalia of Xanax snorting includes straws, rolled up bits of paper and money, razor blades and credit cards lying about.

Xanax comes in a variety of doses, from 0.25 mg to 2 mg. Doctors will typically start a patient off on the smallest dose, increasing the milligrams if the drug appears to have little to no effect in treating the patient’s psychological issue. It is recommended that patients not exceed 4 mg in a 24 hour period, though some panic disorder patients are safely prescribed up to 10 mg in the same time frame in order to control their attacks. Some people will take a low dosage of the medication, 0.25 mg to 0.5 mg, as a sleep aid. This is not advisable, as it lowers the quality of the sleep. Dosage for Xanax bars varies, as they can be split into smaller increments.

It is difficult to overdose on Xanax alone, with some people reporting having taken several hundred milligrams with minor toxic effects. It is extremely easy, however, to overdose on Xanax in combination with other system depressants such as alcohol. Taken in combination with other drugs, Xanax can quickly become fatal, lowering brain and central nervous system activity to such a point that the body cannot continue to function.

Xanax is a central nervous system depressant. With a main effect of calming anxiety and reducing overall brain activity, it can also can cause a small percentage of users to experience a euphoric reaction when taken in large doses, which can lead to Xanax addiction. There are typically few experientially positive side-effects to the drug, with the major symptom being drowsiness for those who take it unnecessarily. What is calming for those with overstimulated brains can be deadening for those with normal chemistry. Many users will start off by taking the drug as directed, developing Xanx addiction later on. Some engage in Xanax abuse the drug from the very start, pursuing it purely for its sedative qualities. For those with generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder, a life on Xanax is a life without these unpleasant feelings, and that is enormously appealing. They will often begin to increase their dosage beyond the recommended amount, hoping to stave off all anxiety and/or panic. At very high doses, users can begin to black out, unable to remember what they did while they were on the drug.

Non-prescription, recreational use of Xanax is most popular among young people, and more specifically young men. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 10 percent of people aged 18 – 25 had abused the medication. Xanax abuse increases the chances of Xanax addiction. Xanax abuse is particularly common if one is concurrently abusing another substance such as alcohol, opiates, or painkillers. Many people do obtain their Xanax legally, though there are other methods for procurement. For those obtaining the drug without a prescription, it is common for the pills to come through an intermediary — someone who has gotten a prescription or has a link to a pharmaceutical supplier and is reselling the medication at a higher price. Common street names for Xanax include:

  • Xannies
  • Bars
  • Z-Bars
  • Zanbars (also spelled Xanbars)
  • Handlebars
  • Planks
  • Bricks
  • Benzos
  • Blue Footballs
  • Upjohn
  • School bus
  • Bicycle parts
  • Yellow boys
  • White boys
  • White girls

Xanax makes a number of appearances in popular culture, from music to television to celebrity news. British rock group U2 wrote a song centered around the medication called Xanax and Wine, and rapper Lil’ Wayne’s song I Feel Like Dying includes the line “I am a prisoner, locked up behind Xanax bars.” It makes semi-frequent appearances on a number of reality shows such as The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The drug is also associated with a number of prominent celebrity deaths, such as those of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Heath Ledger.

“Is Xanax addictive?” is one of the most commonly asked questions regarding this substance. Like other, more widely abused drugs such as heroin and marijuana, Xanax causes addiction by releasing and receiving an increased amount of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the reward and pleasure centers in the brain. Taking Xanax decreases the amount of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that typically acts to control the effects of dopamine in the brain. This means there is less of a barrier between dopamine producers and dopamine receptors. The brain receives more dopamine, increasing a user’s feelings of pleasure and decreasing a user’s feelings of panic, anxiety and other negative mental states. This surge of dopamine can cause euphoria in some users. Seeking out a reduction of negative feelings and an increase of positive feelings, many people who are prescribed the drug, or try it without a prescription, are likely to pursue regular use.

Xanax is prescribed most often for generalized anxiety and panic disorder — a connection that can help explain part of Xanax addiction rates. People with anxiety tend to have higher rates of addictive behavior than the general population. Those who experience a significant relief of symptoms when on Xanax will often be driven to consume more of the drug in an anxious effort to curb their symptoms and keep them from returning. It is possible for Xanax addiction to occur, even when used as prescribed. The time it takes for Xanax addiction to develop varies from person to person and depends on other substance habits, personal brain chemistry, frequency and quantity of use, and environmental factors. Xanax addiction is not likely if used in low doses.

The stages of Xanax addiction operate as follows:

  1. Initiation — Most people who engage in Xanax abuse are introduced to the medication via prescription. They will either seek out this prescription or a physician will recommend it to them. In non-prescription cases, users will typically try the drug out of curiosity when a friend or acquaintance offers them some. It is not uncommon for these non-prescription introductions to take place in party or nightclub settings, where the drug is regularly combined with alcohol.
  2. Experimentation — Having had Xanax more than once or twice, users will begin taking the drug under different circumstances or at different times in order to see what changes. They may play with the dosage to see what the effects of the medication are in different amounts.
  3. Regular Use — At this point, Xanax abuse has become predictable. A person may not necessarily take the drug daily, but they will use it in some particular pattern. Examples of this include taking the drug on certain days of the week, such as every Friday night, or in response to certain emotional states, such as being bored or stressed.
  4. Problem/Risky Use — When Xanax use reaches the problem or risky use stage, it has become a regular fixture of a user’s life. It is also beginning to produce negative consequences. A user’s performance in work or school, as well as their relationships, may be adversely affected. Their behavior is likely to have changed.
  5. Dependence — This stage consists of three steps. The first is tolerance, when a user begins to require larger or more frequent doses of Xanax in order to feel its effects. Following this stage comes physical dependence, which means that the brain has adjusted to the use of the Xanax. Going without Xanax will cause unpleasant withdrawal effects. Psychological dependence consists of drug cravings, more frequent and greater quantity of use, and returning to the drug after trying to quit. The combination of these things is classified as addiction.
  6. Substance Use Disorder — At this point, life seems unbearable without Xanax. The drug continues to be used despite adverse effects, and significant lifestyle and behavioral changes have occurred.

Signs of Xanax Addiction

In answering the “Is Xanax addictive?” question, it’s important to also consider the signs of Xanax addiction. Xanax addiction can be a very serious and even deadly condition. It can affect a person’s mood, behavior and body. Some of the signs of Xanax addiction include:

  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Hyperactivity
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizures
  • Agitation
  • Mania
  • Dry mouth
  • Heart palpitations

Xanax addiction cannot be cured, but it is always possible for it to be treated. Treatment can help individuals suffering from addiction to address their behavior and find their way back to a whole and healthy life. It is always a good idea to seek out help if you or a loved one are suffering from Xanax addiction or Xanax abuse.

Withdrawal After Xanax Addiction

Many drug treatment programs include a stage of detoxification, which consists of removing the substance from the body. But unfortunately, this stage results in dangerous withdrawal symptoms for various addictions, including Xanax addiction. This is why withdrawing from Xanax addiction should be done only under the supervision of a licensed medical professional and in a secure environment. Symptoms of withdrawal after Xanax addiction include:

  • Weight loss
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Blurred vision
  • Anxiety
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Seizures
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tingling sensation in hands and feet

Is Xanax addictive? Yes, but the good news is that treatment is available. Regardless of how long you’ve been struggling with Xanax addiction, help is within reach.

Xanax is commonly combined with a number of other substances. One of the most common and most dangerous interactions occurs with alcohol. Both of these substances operate as central nervous system depressants, and their combination can slow the body’s rhythms to such a pace that they may cease altogether. Many people have been admitted to the hospital and/or passed away due to respiratory depression and a coma as a result of this interaction. There have also been a significant number of celebrity deaths related to Xanax and alcohol.

A similarly dangerous effect can occur if Xanax is used in combination with ibuprofen, and Nyquil — both of which act as central nervous depressants. Some herbal supplements such as Valerian, St. John’s Wort, and Kava can also increase the depressant potency of the drug, sometime to a dangerous extent. When taken with benadryl, dizziness and confusion are often the main effects.

Consuming caffeine while on Xanax can also be dangerous to a user’s health. This particular interaction increases the toxicity of the drug and can lead to cellular destruction in the brain. It can also counteract the helpful effects of Xanax, as the caffeine can cause symptoms that overlap with those of anxiety. This, in turn, can lead a user to feel anxious and take more Xanax in an effort to curb their negative emotions.

While it is fairly difficult for a person to overdose on Xanax alone, it is quite easy for the depressant effects of the drug to become lethal when combined with other substances. The interactions of Xanax with other depressants is particularly dangerous and most likely to be life threatening. Avoid driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence of a large dose of Xanax or one of its interactions. It is also advisable to check the ingredients of cold and flu medicine and avoid alcohol while taking the drug. If you are taking Xanax, it is best to check with your physician before starting on any other medication.

xanax addiction
Xanax is a popular drug in the United States and around the world. Sadly, this means Xanax addiction is also common. American prescriptions for the medication have grown at a rate of 9 percent per year since 2006. In 2013, more than 50 million prescriptions were written for alprazolam (the generic name for Xanax). Emergency room visits attributed to Xanax or other benzodiazepine abuse have more than doubled, rising from 57,419 in 2005 to 124,902 in 2010. As the number of Xanax prescriptions has gone up, so has the number of overdose deaths associated. In 2013, benzodiazepine overdose made up 31 percent of the prescription drug overdoses in the United States. Data collected on Xanax addiction is beneficial for a number of reasons. One is that it allows professionals to be more proactive about preventing Xanax addiction.

Is Xanax addictive? Yes, but if you or a loved one is struggling with Xanax addiction, you’re not alone. Call The Recovery Village to speak with someone who can help. Xanax addiction can be serious, but it can also be treated. There are several specialized treatment programs that can be customized to meet your specific needs. Recovery from Xanax addiction and any other drug addiction is possible.

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Xanax Addiction was last modified: September 12th, 2017 by The Recovery Village