Addiction to Xanax (Alprazolam)

Xanax (alprazolam) is the most prescribed benzodiazepine in the United States.1 However, despite its ability to help treat several conditions, Xanax is often misused for its sedative and euphoric effects.2,3 This page will explore what Xanax (alprazolam) is, the potential effects it can produce, and what addiction, withdrawal, and detox from this substance can be like.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is the brand name of alprazolam, a member of the benzodiazepine class of medications.4 It is distributed in pills, taken orally, and comes in a variety of different doses.4 A central nervous system depressant, Xanax works by enhancing the effects of GABA, a major inhibitory neurotransmitter, to calm an otherwise overexcited central nervous system.3

Xanax Uses

Under professional supervision, Xanax is FDA-approved to be prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorders.4 This medication is usually only prescribed for the short-term, as it carries some risk for dependence if used for longer periods of time.4 Clinicians who prescribe Xanax are typically well-versed in the possible side effects Xanax can produce and often aim to limit the amount and frequency of its use in their patients.

However, even though it can be beneficial for those who take it as prescribed and for the appropriate conditions, Xanax can also be dangerous and potentially deadly if it is misused.4

Using Xanax without a prescription, even in an effort to self-medicate an anxiety or panic disorder, is a form of misuse in itself. Many individuals recreationally misuse Xanax for its ability to lower inhibitions, create euphoria, and to modulate certain effects of other drugs, etc.3 This behavior is dangerous and can create several adverse effects that can impact all areas of one’s life.

How Dangerous Is Xanax?

Xanax is federally recognized as a Schedule IV substance under the Controlled Substances Act, which describes it as a substance with the potential for misuse and dependence.3,5 In fact, even when prescribed, Xanax is intended for short-term usage to minimize the risk of potential dependence.1

The continued use or misuse of Xanax increases a person’s risk of Xanax overdose, physiological dependence, and associated dangers.2 Danger of potentially fatal overdose is further increased when a person takes Xanax at high doses, or alongside other substances like opioids or alcohol.2 In addition to overdose, continued Xanax use, with the development of physiological dependence, can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if the drug is abruptly stopped or reduced.1,4

Is Xanax Addictive?

As a drug with potential for misuse and dependence, Xanax also has potential to become addictive.4 While it is possible for anyone to develop an addiction to Xanax, people who have a history of or increased personal risk of substance use disorder are more likely to develop physiological dependence.1 Additional factors that contribute to an increased risk of developing any addiction include:6,7

  • Early age of first substance use.
  • Poverty.
  • History of substance misuse in family members.
  • Low peer refusal skills.
  • Having an existing mental health condition.
  • Significant stressors during childhood, such as isolation, neglect and trauma.
  • Racism and other forms of discrimination.

Signs of Xanax Addiction

Xanax addiction can look different from person to person.8 However, certain signs may signify if you or a loved one are experiencing a substance use disorder. Something mental health professionals use for diagnostic purposes is a set of 11 criteria to identify Xanax addiction (known as a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder) as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).8

A few of the criteria listed in the DSM-5 include:8

  • Desiring to cut down or stop using the substance but being unable to after multiple attempts on your own.
  • Having cravings or strong desires to use the substance.
  • Continued use of the substance makes you unable to fulfill major duties at work, school, or home.
  • Persistent use of the substance despite recurring social or relational issues caused by using the substance.

It is important to understand that these and additional diagnostic criteria for substance use disorders are not meant to be used by anyone other than professionals to provide a diagnosis.

Side Effects of Xanax

The use of Xanax can have several unwanted side effects.2 The severity and likelihood of experiencing side effects are often influenced by the amount used and how long a person has used it.4

Some side effects of Xanax can include:9

  • Problems with coordination.
  • Hypotension.
  • Trouble speaking words clearly.
  • Changes in sex drive.
  • Dizziness.
  • Slowed motor skills.
  • Seizures.
  • Mania.

The misuse of benzodiazepines like Xanax often (but not always) involves the use of doses greater than the maximum recommended dosage and commonly involves accompanying use of other substances, which is associated with an increased risk of serious adverse outcomes, including respiratory depression, overdose, or death.

Xanax Detox and Withdrawal

Long-term, regular use of Xanax can cause a person to develop a physical dependence on it, even when it is taken as prescribed.4 That means a person’s body requires the drug to function normally because of adaptations it has made while the drug was being used.6 When someone who has developed a physical dependence abruptly stops taking the drug or reduces the dose, they may experience withdrawal symptoms.4

Individuals who experience Xanax withdrawal may develop some of the following symptoms:4

  • Increased sensitivity to sense perception.
  • Difficulty with concentration.
  • Change in smell.
  • Blunted senses.
  • Tingling or numbness.
  • Cramping or twitching muscles.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss.
  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Seizures.

Withdrawal symptoms that result from Xanax dependence can be life-threatening.4 As a result, medical supervision is beneficial when detoxing from Xanax.4 If dangerous withdrawal symptoms develop under supervision, medical professionals are available to help.

Treatment for Xanax Addiction

If you or a loved one are concerned about a Xanax addiction, treatment is available. Seeking help at a professional treatment center gives you the best chance at a safe and long-term recovery. Recovery First Treatment Center offers inpatient rehab near Miami for anyone who needs it. Professional and accredited staff members are ready 24/7 to help you start treatment and answer all of your questions. Whether you are using insurance to pay for rehab or trying to figure out how to pay for rehab, Recovery First can help guide you through any steps needed to start your road to recovery. Call today and discover more about the different types of addiction treatment available at Recovery First. Freedom from addiction could start at Recovery First.

To get started on your recovery, fill out our right now to have your insurance verified.

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