Addiction to Xanax (Alprazolam)
Xanax is a powerful benzodiazepine that is often prescribed to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), insomnia, and panic disorders. It can be extremely addictive when used long-term.
Xanax is the most prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States. Seventy percent of teenagers with a Xanax addiction are getting the drug from their family’s medicine cabinet.
Tolerance to Xanax quickly develops, requiring the user to take more of the drug to get the desired effect. Someone with a Xanax addiction can take upwards of 20 to 30 pills per day due to this rapid tolerance development.
If a user decides to stop taking Xanax, they may experience severe withdrawal effects, such as fatigue, impaired coordination, and even tremors. Withdrawal symptoms are a sign that a physical dependence has developed. Tolerance development and withdrawal symptoms are indications of addiction.
Once a Xanax addiction has taken root in a user, daily responsibilities, such as school, work or family, are ignored as energy is now focused more towards drug seeking behavior.
Behavioral signs of Xanax addiction include:
- Use of Xanax even when it is contributing to personal difficulties
- Inability to stop using despite the desire to quit
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Obsessive behavior about obtaining and using Xanax
- Loss of control over the amount being consumed
- Legal problems as a result of using Xanax
- Risk-taking behaviors (ex. driving while under the influence)
If a user wishes to stop taking Xanax after dependence has formed, it is not recommended to quit “cold turkey” or without medical supervision. The symptoms of Xanax withdrawal are very similar to those of alcohol or other barbiturate withdrawal, and the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. If convulsions occur, it is possible that withdrawal from Xanax can be deadly.
Normally, withdrawal process involves slowly reducing the dosage of Xanax gradually and eventually switching the user to a long-acting form of the drug for a period of time. The gradual taper of this drug helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms to ease the transition of the user.
Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, a prescription sedative belonging to the benzodiazepines family. Benzodiazepines were developed as a replacement for barbiturates.
Xanax affects the brain and nervous system. It slows down the nerve cell activity in the brain. The result is a calm and relaxed feeling.
Xanax comes in 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg and 2 mg strengths. The pills come in different shapes and colors depending on strength. The 2 mg pills are white and rectangular in shape while the rest are oval shaped and colored white (0.25 mg), orange (0.5 mg) or blue (1 mg). Xanax is a regulated schedule IV controlled substance.
After taking Xanax, the peak effects of the drug are typically felt within one to two hours. As an intermediate-duration drug, Xanax stays in a person’s system for 12 to 15 hours.
|How Long Do Benzos Stay in the Body?|
|Length of Action||Short-acting||Intermediate||Long-acting|
|Time||2-4 hours||12-15 hours||10-30 hours|
Street names for Xanax include:
- Xannies or zannies
- Blue footballs
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Xanax Effects and Abuse
Taking more than the prescribed amount of, or using Xanax without a prescription is considered to be abuse of the drug. However, it is important to remember those who follow a prescription can still become addicted to Xanax.
Xanax may be abused in several ways:
- Taking multiple pills
- Injecting it
- Snorting it
- Taking it via blotter paper
- Taking it with other drugs or alcohol
Xanax is abused because of the sense of calm and relaxed feeling it causes the user.
“They say drugs fill a void, or at least that’s what my therapist thinks. The first time I popped a Xanax was the first time I felt relief from my anxiety disorder…There was something oddly comforting about Xanax—the way it came in many shapes and colors, like peach and blue. I enjoyed looking at the pills. They were a pretty little assortment of happiness I could feel just by holding in my hands. Although Xanax put a temporary stop to my agony, it soon introduced a new kind.”
Former benzo addict Ashley Zlatopolsky, Salon.com, 2015
An overdose on Xanax can be deadly, especially if the drug is consumed with alcohol or other drugs. Overdose can also occur if pills are crushed or chewed, as the drug is designed to be time-released into the system. Symptoms of an overdose include:
- Slowed heart rate
- Extreme drowsiness
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of balance
- Muscle weakness
Treatment for a Xanax overdose depends on how much of the drug was taken and whether or not other drugs or alcohol were taken as well. In the event of an overdose, medical providers may pump the user’s stomach to remove as much of the unabsorbed Xanax as possible. Medications may also be administered as an antidote. Doctors may insert an IV to provide necessary fluids. It is extremely important for anyone suffering from an overdose to be completely honest with the emergency medical personnel about exactly what substances were taken and how much so that they can provide the correct treatment.
Common Xanax Drug Combinations
Xanax is commonly used in combination with alcohol or other pills—particularly opiates—to get a better high. Heroin users regularly consume Xanax, as do methadone users. In addition, approximately 40 percent of alcoholics regularly abuse Xanax. Alcohol is particularly dangerous when mixed with Xanax because they are both depressants, which can lead to an overdose and respiratory failure.