Xanax, also known by its generic name alprazolam, is the most widely prescribed medication in the benzodiazepine family. In 2012, almost 94 million prescriptions had been written for the drug. Xanax is also the most abused benzodiazepine.
The drug works by targeting a specific receptor in the brain that reduces anxiety by decreasing the output of fear-interpreting neurotransmitters. Some of the street names for Xanax include xannies, benzos, and bars. The drug may also be used by individuals wishing to come down from ecstasy use.
The benefits of Xanax are usually seen quickly, within 15-20 minutes of use, and only last around six hours. Since it enters the brain quickly, it produces a more pronounced “high” than other benzodiazepines. It is known to have a sedative effect, which is the reason it is abused. It is also highly addictive, even if used as prescribed.
General anxiety disorder, which the National Alliance on Mental Illness states can be treated with Xanax, can cause symptoms such as sleep disturbances, irritability, fatigue, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating. Individuals may also experience panic attacks, which can cause them to experience tachycardia, shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, nausea, dizziness, and fear of another such episode. Xanax can address these symptoms, helping to keep individuals calm and
relaxed when a panic attack is on the horizon. It may also be used to treat insomnia or alcohol
Some physical effects of Xanax use include:
- Double or blurred vision
- Memory problems
- Feeling elated
- Difficulty concentrating
- Nausea and vomiting
Individuals should not take Xanax before driving or operating heavy machinery, as it can impair one’s ability to do so safely.
Xanax dependence and abuse can have long-term effects on both physical and mental health. These effects may include short-term memory impairment, sedation that can last for days at a time, and confusion. Since Xanax suppresses the central nervous system, lack of coordination, disorientation, and decreased respiration may occur. Decreased respiratory function can be more pronounced when Xanax is mixed with other depressants, such as alcohol, and combining substances in this way can be fatal.
Xanax, if taken at high doses for any period of time, can also cause serious side effects, such as thoughts of self-harm or suicide, depression, hallucinations, seizures, and chest pain.
If an individual has overdosed on Xanax, the following symptoms may be exhibited:
- Impaired coordination
- Slow reflexes
If individuals exhibit any of these symptoms, they should seek medical assistance immediately, as overdose can lead to death.
When individuals develop Xanax dependence, many aspects of life will suffer. Their personal relationships may be affected, from friendships to marriages. Problems with their jobs may develop, whether due to attendance or job performance. They may also be spending more money in efforts to obtain more Xanax, and this can be especially problematic if they are unable to go to work due to Xanax use or withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug.
Individuals who have become dependent on Xanax often devote a large amount of time to obtaining the drug.
Withdrawal symptoms may occur even when they have only gone without the medication for a short period of time.
Individuals who have become dependent on Xanax often develop a tolerance to the medication, where their bodies begin to need increased amounts of the medication to achieve the same effect that used to be achieved with smaller doses. As a result, individuals often increase their dosages, and these higher dosages increase the risks associated with use.
Individuals who are addicted to Xanax should not attempt to stop taking the medication abruptly. Doing so can cause dangerous and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, and in some instances, these withdrawal symptoms can lead to death. Medical detox is always required in instances of benzodiazepine addiction.
With an inpatient treatment program, individuals follow a personalized treatment plan created by a physician to wean them off Xanax. Since treatment centers are staffed by medical professionals, individuals will be monitored around the clock and kept safe and comfortable throughout the medical detox process. Medical staff may prescribe certain medications to address specific withdrawal symptoms as they arise.
Following detox, therapy is essential. Whether individuals choose to pursue inpatient or outpatient treatment, behavioral therapy is a large part of every treatment plan. This type of therapy helps clients isolate their drug-related behaviors, as well as the thoughts behind those behaviors, and work to change
them. Behavioral therapy can also help individuals to learn more appropriate
coping skills, such as relaxation techniques, to minimize their risk of relapse.
Individuals should be assured that their treatment plan is tailored to their specific needs, as no one treatment plan is appropriate for all clients.
This plan should also be evaluated as needed and at certain points during treatment to ensure that individuals are receiving the best care possible.
Individuals should also be monitored for Xanax use during treatment, as relapse is possible, and this is particularly true for those in outpatient treatment where the risk of relapse is higher. Relapse does not signify failure in recovery; it simply means that the treatment plan needs to be evaluated and adjusted as needed. It is possible that the treatment approach is not appropriate for the person, and another approach should be attempted.
Peer-based 12-Step meetings can also help individuals in the recovery process. These groups may pair individuals with sponsors – more experienced group members who are also working on recovery. The peer support and accountability offered by these groups can help individuals to stay sober and strong in recovery. They also offer a new social circle for those new to life in recovery. Many addiction treatment programs incorporate 12-Step meetings into their program offerings. While clients begin attending meetings while in formal treatment, they are able to continue attendance once they graduate from the program.