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Xanax Overdose

Estimated reading time: 26 minute(s)

Xanax or alprazolam is a popular yet highly addictive drug that many people rely on to calm down after a tough day, during an anxiety-provoking situation, or when they are unable to fall asleep. Due to these off-label uses, the prevalence of Xanax addiction and dependence is on the rise. Some experts also suggest Xanax is a highly toxic drug that can easily lead to severe, highly complicated cases of overdose than other types of benzodiazepines.

Read Also About the Dangers Of Mixing Xanax And Alcohol

As doctors continue to prescribe Xanax, its availability is constantly climbing. Those with or without a valid prescription for it have started using this medication at higher rates, increasing the risk of an overdose of Xanax. Suppose you or a loved one also use this medication with or without a prescription. In that case, you must familiarize yourself with the common signs of an overdose, how to recognize it, and seek help.

Signs of Xanax Overdose

Because of its rapid onset of action, some of the early signs of this drug overdose are similar to the side effects of too much Xanax. These signs include the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Increased salivation
  • Changes in sex drive

Individuals may use a few of the signs mentioned above can be an accurate gauge to predict the risk of a Xanax overdose or its progression. Keep an eye out for these symptoms for a few hours after developing them. As soon as you start experiencing them, stop taking any more Xanax and refrain from using other drugs and alcohol as well. In case the symptoms worsen, seek urgent medical attention.

Some people may experience more intense side effects due to Xanax overdose, such as:

  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty annunciating or speaking
  • Labored breathing
  • Depressive symptoms, such as low mood or suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Unusual mood or behavioral changes
  • Memory-related issues
  • Lack of balance or coordination

Any of the symptoms mentioned above can indicate a risk of an ongoing alprazolam overdose. Some additional symptoms that may develop as the overdose continues to include the following:

  • Unresponsiveness
  • Profound confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

What’s the lethal dose of Xanax?

The amount of Xanax that may lead to an overdose and death may vary from one person to another, depending on factors like age, weight, and the speed of metabolism. The presence of a positive addiction history in the family, any pre-existing medical conditions, or the use of polysubstance can all decide how much Xanax becomes too much. 

Clinical studies on rats so far concluded that the fatal doses in these experimental animals were between 331 to 2171 mg per kilogram of body weight. [1] While these statistics may not apply to everyone, they suggest that humans may need to take several thousand times more of the official Xanax dose to fatally overdose on it. 

What Causes an Overdose of Xanax?

Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam, a short-acting depressant of the central nervous system that experts prescribe to control panic disorders and anxiety. The drug effectively reduces both conditions and can work for 4 to 6 hours post-ingestion. It works relatively quickly depending on how an individual administers it and may bring out noticeable effects within thirty minutes.

A Xanax overdose is likely to happen when someone takes more than their body can break down and excrete. As a result, the drug accumulates in the body, reaching a toxic level very soon. When this happens, the heart and breathing rates of the user become excessively shallow and may stop, leading to death.

The amount of medication one needs to overdose on Xanax varies from one person to another. Keep the following factors in mind that may influence this amount:

  • Age and weight: people who are underweight or belong to an older age group are more likely to experience an overdose
  • Kidney or liver problem: People with problems with these two organs are unable to process Xanax as efficiently as they should, leading to a risk of an overdose
  • Polysubstance abuse: Combining Xanax with other drugs or alcohol increases the risk of an overdose
  • Tolerance levels: A person who takes the drug regularly or at doses higher than the prescribed amount ends up developing tolerance and increasing the chances of an overdose.
  • Hydration level: Poor hydration leads to an increased risk
  • Method of consumption: Whether a user has consumed medications or food that alter the action of the cytochrome P450 3A enzyme can also influence how rapidly the body clears Xanax out of the system and determines an overdose risk. Some examples of such food items and medicines include antifungal drugs and grapefruit
  • Other medicines: Combining Xanax with prescription medications also determines the overdose risk. Some medicines to keep an eye out for in this regard include other types of benzodiazepines, such as Valium, insomnia medications, certain antidepressants, muscle relaxers, and opioids like codeine.[2]

Someone who has just started using Xanax and is abusing it recreationally is at a higher risk of overdosing on Xanax. The drug alone cannot take lives, but people who combine it with other medications may have this other experience over their heads.

How to Stop Xanax Overdose

If you suspect that you have overdosed on Xanax, seek emergency care right away. Do not wait for your symptoms to get worse, as it may put your life at risk. Get a phone and contact the National Poison Control Center to await further instructions. Try to stay calm, and keep your body cool as long as help arrives. Do not try to induce vomiting intentionally, as it will not stop the absorption of the drug.

If someone around you has overdosed on Xanax, stay with them and try to keep them alert and awake as long as emergency help arrives. You may consider calling an ambulance directly if the victim starts having a seizure, develops troubled breathing, or gets a seizure. The emergency personnel will transport you or your loved one to the nearest emergency room or hospital as soon as they arrive. As you are on your way to the hospital, the staff may give you some activated charcoal to potentially alleviate some symptoms.

As soon as you arrive at the hospital, your Xanax overdose treatment will begin. A doctor may come and take a brief history, followed by pumping the stomach to remove any residual drug. Sometimes, they may also use flumazenil, a drug that acts as a benzodiazepine antagonist, to reverse the effects. Intravenous fluids are also a part of the treatment plan to keep patients away from dehydration. Once your active symptoms subside, a doctor may keep you in a hospital for monitoring and observation.

Preventing Xanax Overdose: What is Your Role?

If your doctor has given you Xanax for medical reasons, sticking to the doctor’s instructions is the best way to minimize the risk of an overdose. Keep an eye on your daily dose and the time you take your regular medication. If you are having difficulty remembering this information, take a diary and note down the details daily. If you ever feel like you are taking Xanax more often or in a high dose, talk to a doctor at once.

If you or someone you know has developed Xanax addiction and you are worried about their overdose risks, seeking drug rehabilitation is essential. For this purpose, you have several treatment options to choose from.

Individual Counseling

This type of counseling includes one-to-one sessions with a substance abuse counselor where you will discuss your personal treatment, progression, and future plans.

Group Therapy

Group therapy gives patients a chance to seek help along with other people in similar shoes and provide support and comfort to each other.

Outpatient treatment

This type of treatment program includes meeting a therapist or counselor once or twice a week in the form of up to 2-hour-long sessions. Group meetings occur almost daily, while individual sessions have a fixed number of sessions per day. Outpatient therapy can be of two types: partial hospitalization program, which conducts in a hospital setting and runs for up to 6 hours per day on weekdays, and intensive outpatient therapy with counseling sessions for up to 3 times a week.

Inpatient Treatment

This type of treatment involves living onsite in good and safe accommodation. The program typically lasts for 30 days but may exceed this depending on client needs.

Detoxification Program

This is the very first step to getting rid of drug addiction. The process involves detoxing from Xanax under a team of specialists who will keep monitoring all clients while screening them for any other mental or medical complications. Sometimes, experts may prescribe medications to keep its symptoms under control.

FAQs

Can you overdose on Xanax?

Yes, Xanax poses a serious threat of overdose, mainly because it has a quick onset of action and comes into action the minute you ingest it. Shortly after you take it, the drug crosses the GI tract and enters the bloodstream, from which it moves toward the brain to start its effects. Hence, if someone takes too many tablets of this drug, the response may become overwhelming for many, leading to an overdose.

How much Xanax will be too much?

Different doses of Xanax have other effects and overdose risks for different people. For example, chronic abusers do not develop signs of overdose as quickly as a layman would. Similarly, the fact that you combine it with other drugs may also alter the exact dose.

References

1 FDA. (n.d.). XANAX® alprazolam tablets, USP. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/018276s045lbl.pdf

2 Vankata, H. G., Gaurav, C., Ram, S., & Talari, G. (2017). Co-prescription of opioids and benzodiazepines. BMJ, 356, j760.

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