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Xanax is a popular drug commonly prescribed as an effective solution for chemotherapy-induced nausea, depression, anxiety, and other health issues. First introduced to the world in the 1970s, the drug belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Also known as alprazolam, it is currently a Schedule IV drug which means it possesses a low potential for use.
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Despite the repeated warnings issued by the FDA regarding the possibility of Xanax addiction, more and more cases continue to rise with every passing day. In 2012, around 17,019 people reportedly sought treatment across the United States for using benzodiazepines like Xanax as their sole or primary drug of abuse. At present, it would not be wrong to call Xanax one of the highly addictive prescription drugs on the market that can hook a user within a few weeks only. Hence, it is imperative to familiarize yourself with Xanax dependence and addiction, how to recognize it, and what it does to the body so that you can get the necessary help in time.
An Overview of Xanax Addiction
Xanax addiction occurs when the drug alters a user’s brain chemistry due to its uncontrolled use, triggering several harmful consequences. The phenomenon is likely to occur when an individual deviates from the medical advice and does not take this drug as prescribed, for example:
- Using more than the prescribed amount
- Taking it more frequently than prescribed
- Purchasing Xanax illicitly
- Using another person’s prescription to get access to and abuse this drug
As a person continues to use Xanax over time, their brain and body may become dependent on the drug. What this means is when they stop using Xanax after acquiring a dependency, many individuals start experiencing withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms can be so painful that many resorts to drug use to avoid them. Keep in mind that Xanax dependence and addiction are not the same things, i.e., a person who is addicted to Xanax is most likely dependent on it, but the opposite may not be accurate.
Is Xanax Addictive? How Does the Drug Affect the Mind?
Most of the people who abuse Xanax suffer from an underlying anxiety disorder that has led them to use the drug in the first place. With up to 20 percent of the American population suffering from anxiety, it is not surprising that the incidence of Xanax addiction is on the rise. Even if these people strictly adhere to medical advice and take the medication exactly as prescribed, dependency is very likely to occur, and its earliest sign is tolerance.
As tolerance develops, Xanax slowly stops working as the treatment medication, and most people complain about how their anxiety symptoms have returned. Hence, they are forced to up their dose to keep the symptoms managed. However, they do not know that by doing so, they are only making their brain more reliant on Xanax to feel normal. Eventually, such people end up developing mental addiction to the drug where they cannot keep their minds off the thoughts about using Xanax. They even turn a blind eye to the health risks of abusing the medication in higher doses as their minds are compulsively driving them to keep engaging in addictive behavior.
For many people, the mental impact of stopping Xanax at this point can be complicated and turbulent. Their mind becomes habitual of using the drug and may undergo a variety of difficult symptoms, such as depression, paranoia, and insomnia while trying to come off it. Fortunately, most of these symptoms are manageable through professional detox programs where medical practitioners help addicts move toward recovery.
Can You Get Addicted to Xanax? What are the Risk Factors?
No one is safe from developing drug dependence; however, certain demographics are more vulnerable to developing it.
Statistics suggest that females are more likely to fall victim to benzodiazepine addiction than males, but experts believe it’s because women get more prescriptions for these drugs than men. Some studies have even noted that the number of women using Xanax and other similar medications is two times that of men.
Age is another important factor that includes prescribing trends. Older people are generally more likely to get a prescription for benzodiazepines like Xanax; hence, the risk of alprazolam addiction is naturally higher in these age groups.
Past Mental History
People already battling a mental illness may attempt to self-medicate using this drug. This self-medication can quickly turn into abuse and can ironically worsen the underlying mental illness as well. As per the National Alliance on Mental Illness, around 50 percent of people with mental illness also suffer from co-occurring substance abuse issues.
Past Drug Use
People who have been addicted to a substance in the past or are currently using any of them are much more likely to abuse Xanax too. For instance, many alcoholics use this medication to enhance their effects.
What Does Xanax Addiction Feel Like? Symptoms Explained
It may not be easy to identify Xanax addiction, so it is worth investing time to learn its common symptoms. Keep an eye on the following symptoms if you believe that you or someone you know may be abusing Xanax:
- Taking Xanax in higher amounts or for longer time durations than intended
- Spending a lot of time obtaining Xanax, using it, or recovering from its effects
- Experiencing a constant desire to decrease drug use without success
- Experiencing intense cravings for Xanax
- Continued use of the drug despite acknowledging its effects on daily life and relationships
- Recurrent use of Xanax leads to a failure to fulfill obligations at school, home, or work
- A feeling that most of your daily activities revolve around the use of Xanax
- Experiencing tolerance, i.e., a need to use more and more of this drug to achieve the desired effects
- Giving up important occupational, recreational, or social activities to use Xanax
- Continuing using Xanax in risky situations, such as during driving or operating heavy machinery
- Continued use despite knowing that it is causing or intensity psychological or physical problems
One of the most important Xanax addiction symptoms is withdrawal, i.e., symptoms that occur when a person suddenly stops using the drug or reduces its dose. The symptoms are highly uncomfortable and may even prove life-threatening without medical intervention. These withdrawal symptoms typically begin within a few hours of the last dose of Xanax and can include the following:
- Muscle cramps
- Increased heart rate
- Intense cravings
Seeking Treatment for Alprazolam Addiction
Fortunately, alprazolam or Xanax addiction is entirely manageable, just like other drug addictions. However, the process can be tedious and requires hard work and motivation. A drug rehabilitation center is the best place to seek treatment for this addiction without putting your life in danger. These treatment centers offer specialized services tailored to the unique needs of each individual, such as:
This process takes place onsite in an environment where medical and emotional support is readily available. Clients attempt to cease their Xanax use in hopes of cleansing their bodies of all remaining drug residues. Experts supervise the entire process, provide adequate treatment, help manage withdrawal, and make recovery possible.
Inpatient treatment helps clients temporarily leave their homes and live onsite to get 24/7 help, support, and therapy. All clients have access to nursing staff and therapists who help them find recovery, recognize their triggers, and learn healthy coping strategies in a drug-free environment.
Outpatient treatment offers individual therapy to clients for a fixed number of hours per week as they continue to live in their homes.
Why do people use Xanax?
Xanax is a type of benzodiazepine that works as a central nervous system depressant due to its sedative effects. The medication is available in tablet form, and most people use it to treat specific anxiety disorders (such as agoraphobia and panic disorder) and seizure disorders.
Are there any side effects of using Xanax apart from addiction?
As a central nervous system depressant, Xanax can lead to a sedative effect or drowsiness initially with the following side effects after continued use:
- Slurry speech
- Poor focus
- Slowed breathing
- Skin rash
- Issues with memory and movement
- Lowered blood pressure
- Dryness of mouth
Seeking medical help becomes necessary for people who develop these symptoms.
What happens when I mix Xanax with alcohol or other drugs?
Xanax can lead to serious side effects with a high potential for addiction on its own. Mixing it with other drugs or alcohol can significantly increase this risk of consequences as most of these substances are depressants of the central nervous system. When combined, they can suppress breathing to a dangerous extent. The risk of an overdose also increases significantly when you mix Xanax with other illicit or prescription medications and alcohol.
Why is Xanax so addictive?
The reason why using and abusing Xanax appeals to people can be different for each of them. Some may continue to do it solely for recreational purposes because they enjoy the soothing effects it brings. Others may abuse the drug because it provides them temporary relief from worldly stressors by numbing the brain. Whatever the reason may be, it is essential to keep in mind that Xanax addiction can be hazardous to your health so you must seek treatment for it as soon as possible.
How to take Xanax without addiction?
While there is no sure-shot way to prevent Xanax addiction, some tips can significantly reduce the risk. These include the following:
- Take Xanax exactly how a healthcare professional has prescribed it to you
- If you feel the need for dose readjustment, do it only after consulting with a medical healthcare professional
- Be conscious about the possible drug interactions of Xanax with other substances, like alcohol, and try to avoid them
- Do not attempt to discontinue using Xanax without discussing it with your doctor
- Do not share your prescription with anyone or ask someone for their prescription
- Store your Xanax supply safely and away from others so that you do not fuel addiction in someone else unknowingly