Xanax, generically known by the medical name alprazolam, is a prescription drug that has a fairly high risk of addiction. Classified as a benzodiazepine, it acts as a central nervous system depressant. It’s main function, which it is regularly prescribed for, is warding off feelings of anxiety and panic. It does this by decreasing overall brain activity, interacting with different neurotransmitters. While Xanax is a legal medication and many use it without ill effect, it can also be easily abused. People who abuse Xanax or those who are addicted are likely to attempt to hide their drug use. There are, however, a variety of signs and symptoms that loved ones can be on the lookout for. Here are common Xanax abuse side effects, signs and symptoms to watch for.

Common Signs of Xanax Abuse

The major Xanax addiction sign are social and behavioral changes. As the drug begins to take precedence in a person’s thoughts, their behavior will reflect this shift in priority. People abusing Xanax will often display unpredictable mood swings, their emotions altering in accordance with their drug use. Mood swings can encompass everything from anxiety to lethargy to anger. Skipping school or work on a regular basis is also a red flag. It is a good idea to keep an eye out for a sudden drop in grades or performance, school or work involvement, and a sudden loss of interest in daily activities.

Another common Xanax abuse sign is secretive behavior. If a friend or family member goes to great lengths to keep people out of their room, they may be hiding something. The same can be said of quickly shutting doors when someone enters the house or always closing and locking the bathroom door, even when not using the toilet. Additionally, relational shifts often accompany the beginning of an addiction. A person’s friend group will begin to shift toward new people as they seek out the companionship of other people using or abusing substance and/or use people as sources of drugs. They may “doctor shop” — visiting a number of physicians in order to obtain more Xanax prescriptions. They may also become somewhat antisocial, hoping to avoid the detection of their addiction by others. If a formerly outgoing person has suddenly begun keeping to themselves, it may be a sign of drug abuse.

If a user is deep into their Xanax addiction, they may be crushing and snorting the medication in order to make it work more quickly. Paraphernalia from this habit can be a good indicator of abuse. Look out for a mortar and pestle, razor blades and credit cards. Rolled up dollar bills, papers and straws are also signs of snorting. A number of empty pill bottles should raise a red flag.

As a person addicted to Xanax searches out more of the drug — often extending beyond their prescription — they are likely to exhibit changes in their financial management. Frequent and sudden requests for money are often a sign of secretive spending, which may well indicate a non-prescription Xanax habit. Borrowing funds from friends and family without a valid explanation can also indicate such a struggle. If money suddenly goes missing or is stolen, or if valuable items are taken from your house, it can indicate that someone in your house is financing a drug addiction.

Another common sign of Xanax abuse, and a serious one at that, is legal trouble. If a person’s Xanax habit has reached the point at which they are having run-ins with the law and require legal representation in a Xanax-related matter, they are not a casual user. Many people do not realize that redistributing or reselling prescription medication from one individual to another is illegal. It carries similar consequences to dealing any number of illicit drugs, such as heroin or cocaine. High fees and significant jail time await the person caught redistributing Xanax. If a Xanax buyer dies or is seriously injured as a result of their use, the dealer may face a life sentence for their role in the tragedy.

Physical Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

Xanax is a powerful central nervous system depressant. Its generic name is alprazolam and it is classified as a benzodiazepine, which is a kind of sedative. Most seek out the drug for its relaxing and occasionally euphoric effect. In a high-stress world, Xanax regularly operates as the drug of choice for many high achievers, driven business people, stressed students and overworked individuals of every race, age and gender.

Many people who are addicted to Xanax originally had a physician prescribe them the drug for a legitimate psychological reason — statistically, this reason is panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. The management of these psychological conditions is a powerful draw to the drug, and many will begin to up their dosage in order to eliminate as many of these emotions and physiological reactions as possible.

There are many possible Xanax Abuse side effects that can result from the abuse of the drug. These signs and symptoms can be an indicator to friends and family that their loved one has a harmful Xanax addiction.

Possible physical side-effects include:

  • Drowsiness, fatigue or lethargy
  • Light-headedness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability or being “on edge”
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased salivation
  • Changes in libido (sex drive and sexual performance)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Change in appetite (a sudden increase or decrease in the amount of food consumed)
  • Weight fluctuation (in accordance with changing appetite)
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Joint pain or stiffness of movement
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Skin rash
  • Yellow skin and/or eyes

Psychological side effects of Xanax abuse:

  • Talkativeness or an increase in sociability
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on the task at hand
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Depression
  • Memory loss (both short and long term, directly relating to the consumption of Xanax)
  • Confusion or forgetfulness
  • Speech issues (including slurred or nonsensical speech)
  • Mood swings
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Balance and coordination issues

The most common Xanax side effect is drowsiness, coupled with fatigue and lethargy. These symptoms also result from other benzodiazepines and central nervous system depressants. Constant drowsiness, fatigue and lethargy can result from regular dosage of the drug, as it is a relatively powerful sedative. If a person has trouble concentrating and seems tired all the time, this could be a sign of large-dose alprazolam abuse. Interestingly, lower doses of the medication can have the opposite effect. Often treating symptoms of anxiety and depression, it makes a person more talkative and bubbly. As the dopamine inhibitor GABA is reduced and pleasurable chemical reactions increase, individuals who suffer anxiety and depression are more likely to be social and less likely to experience stress and fear as a result of social interaction.

Serious side-effects such as hallucinations, balance and coordination issues, and seizures are quite rare, though they do happen from time to time. If any of these effects occur, it is best to transport and admit the person using Xanax to a hospital as soon as possible. Not only has their drug abuse reached a dangerous point, the side effects of the addiction are powerful enough that they could cause serious injury or even death.

Long-Term Effects of Xanax Abuse

Overall, the medical community is relatively unclear of the long-term effects of Xanax abuse. It is extremely difficult to measure the drug’s influence as its effects are often fairly slow to develop and tend to work behind the scenes. Few signs of prolonged Xanax use are externally visible. From what is known, it seems safe to say that long-term Xanax abuse can be quite serious and result in a variety of physical and psychological issues.

Very often, Xanax’s long-term effects will result from the extension of the medication’s various negative side effects. For example, if a particular person experiences heart palpitations or tachycardia as a result of taking the medication, he or she may experience some serious cardiac issues later on. In some cases, liver damage can result from the body’s inability to process large amounts of Xanax. This, in turn, can lead to a variety of health complications. Other possible, negative, long-term effects include symptoms like hypotension, weight loss or gain, trouble breathing or shortness of breath, blurred or double vision, and an increase in the frequency and seriousness of falls. All of these can cause continuing damage long after a person has ceased to take the drug.

Xanax’s most well-known long-term effect lies in the realm of memory and cognition. Over a long period of misuse, both memory and cognition will see a significant decrease. The enforced reduction in brain activity can make a user feel hazy or be slow to think. Drops in attention span, verbal learning ability and motor skills are also common. For older people, the use of Xanax has been shown to speed up cognitive decline. One study demonstrates that people are less likely to recall memories made while on Xanax than while drug-free, regardless of whether or not they were high on Xanax at the time they attempted to recall these memories. Another study shows that people who take Xanax for a prolonged period of time view themselves, even several years after they have ceased regular use of the drug, as less attentive and clearheaded, and more incompetent and clumsy than people who were administered a placebo at the same point in time.

Some of the more interesting side effects of Xanax are the psychological symptoms that occur after prolonged use. People may experience anxiety, depression, paranoia and hallucinations if they have been under the influence of Xanax for a long time. Many often find this result confusing, as it is roughly the opposite of what the drug is designed and reputed to do. In many cases, people will up their dosage or the number of times they take the medication in hopes of curbing the symptoms. This leads to an exacerbation of the drug’s negative effects.

Above all, the most serious long-term effect of Xanax abuse is addiction. The psychological and physiological dependence that results from a regular influx of chemicals can be damaging to a person’s life and relationships. Continued use of the drug can bring about a variety of serious and negative side effects including cardiac issues, cognitive decrease and negative psychological experiences.

Xanax Overdose

As compared to other benzodiazepines, alprazolam is one of the more toxic central nervous system depressants. It is quite possible, though somewhat difficult, to overdose on Xanax alone. The most common way to overdose on Xanax is to combine the drug with other sedative substances such as alcohol or herbal supplements, thereby suppressing the central nervous system to such a point that the body slows to a stop. Doctors recommend Xanax users avoid taking more than 2 mg of Xanax at any given time in order to avoid overdose.

What happens if you overdose on Xanax, though? A person experiencing a Xanax overdose is likely to appear confused or comatose, their central nervous system suppressed to such a point that they cannot respond properly to stimuli. A slowed heartbeat and breathing issues are reliable physical indicators of a medical emergency. If someone you know shows these signs of a Xanax overdose, get them to a hospital as quickly as possible. Trained medical professionals can perform a gastric lavage (stomach pump), monitor the person’s vital signs and administer intravenous fluids. In some cases, Flumazenil, a medical antagonist to benzodiazepines, will be administered, reversing the sedative effects of the medication and allowing the central nervous system to return to normal functioning. When addressed in a timely manner, the prognosis for Xanax overdose is quite good. It is rare for someone to overdose on Xanax and die. Typically, deaths associated with the drug also involve a variety of other substances.

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