Xanax, or alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine, a class of medications known as tranquilizers. Examples of other benzodiazepine medications include Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan. Tranquilizers like benzodiazepines slow down the central nervous system causing sedation, muscle relaxation, and decreased anxiety. Benzodiazepines also have addictive properties that can lead to abuse. Xanax addiction is a possible side effect of taking this prescription medication.
Xanax Slows Down Brain Activity
Alprazolam, like other benzodiazepine medications, works by decreasing neuron activity in the brain. This drug blocks the benzodiazepine site on the brain’s gamma receptors. With this site blocked, neurons fire less frequently than normal, slowing down brain activity. When neuron activity slows, parts of the brain which induce those feelings of anxiety or fear become less active. This means that patients who take Xanax will feel calmer and respond with less anxiety to stressful situations. Unlike depressants, which can take weeks to slow down neuron activity, Xanax begins working immediately after the first dose.
Like opiates, this drug depresses brain activity. However, opiates like heroin or morphine depress brain activity associated with pain and pleasure. Xanax blocks feelings of fear and anxiety. While users feel calm, they do not typically experience the euphoric high associated with opiate abuse.
Xanax Addiction Can Occur Even When Used as Prescribed
Alprazolam is extremely effective at helping anxious individuals relax. However, over time the brain adjusts to the constant presence of the drug. When an individual discontinues use, the brain goes into overdrive, responding with too much neuron activity. This causes individuals to experience withdrawal symptoms that include shaking, high blood pressure, seizures, and extreme anxiety.
Suffering from extreme anxiety, especially after experiencing relative calm, can cause serious distress for individuals who are already struggling with an anxiety disorder. This side effect is worsened by the fact that Xanax has a very short “half-life,” which means that the drug leaves the body very quickly after it is taken. Consequently, some users may experience withdrawal symptoms between doses, even when taking it exactly as prescribed. Since alprazolam offers immediate benefits and undesirable side effects, even with proper usage the risk for addiction is very high.
Xanax addiction is one of the fastest growing prescription drug addictions in the United States. Individuals abuse this drug by:
- Taking higher dosages than prescribed
- Taking tablets more frequently than prescribed
- Crushing and snorting pills
- Chewing pills
Symptoms of Addiction
When abused, alprazolam is highly addictive. Consequently, individuals who struggle with addiction need a constant pill supply. Some users may “doctor shop” in order to obtain as many prescriptions as possible. Other users may purchase from street dealers or even steal from friends.
Side effects of Xanax abuse include:
- Impaired motor skills
- Loss of memory, difficulty forming new memories, difficulty remembering short-term information
- Lack of responsibility in relationships and professional duties
- Lack of emotional range
- Disorientation, confusion, and slurred speech
- Muscle weakness, lack of coordination
- A psychological compulsion to obsess over taking and obtaining more Xanax
Individuals who abuse alprazolam find themselves trapped in a never-ending cycle. As users increase their Xanax intake, the brain responds by recalibrating, resulting in tolerance and withdrawal. Consequently, even greater quantities of Xanax are necessary for the same effects. Some users may combine Xanax with other substances such as alcohol, cocaine, or methadone for a more intense high. This increases the risk for overdose and death. According to the American Academy of Psychology, heroin addicts may also use Xanax as a sleep aid. Alcoholics may also use Xanax to self-medicate alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Managing Withdrawal Symptoms
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, it is important to seek help from a drug rehabilitation center. Abruptly discontinuing alprazolam use can cause serious physical and psychological side effects, including intense anxiety. These withdrawal symptoms drive users to return to the drug, preventing a successful detox. For users who are accustomed to taking large doses, the sudden removal of Xanax can result in neural hyperactivity. Users may suffer seizures and other health problems. Successfully treating an alprazolam addiction requires supervised medical detox. Slowly decreasing intake is the safest way to help users through the withdrawal process.
Seeking Help for an Addiction
Xanax’s best feature, that the drug works immediately, is also its greatest liability; it is all too easy for users to become addicted, even when they begin by taking the medication exactly as prescribed by their doctors. If someone you know is addicted to Xanax, seeking treatment from a drug rehabilitation center is the first step towards recovery.
Medically supervised detox programs can help a user through the most challenging withdrawal symptoms. A residential treatment center will also help users develop coping skills for avoiding future abuse. When choosing a rehabilitation center for Xanax addiction, choose a center that includes addiction counseling. It is important that users address the anxiety issues that underlie their addiction and prompted the abuse of Xanax in the first place. With help from Best Drug Rehabilitation, you can find the treatment program that will help you overcome addiction.