Xanax is a widely prescribed benzodiazepine that is addictive and easily abused. Because of its mind and mood-altering effects, it has become popular as a recreational drug among teens as well as adults.
Xanax addiction is often minimized among its users, a common problem with prescription drugs. People often have the mistaken belief that because something is prescribed means it is less dangerous than a “street drug” like cocaine or heroin. This couldn’t be further from the truth, however, and Xanax is responsible for deaths and hospitalizations every year.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax is the trade name for Alprazolam, a central nervous system depressant in the benzodiazepine family that is frequently prescribed for symptoms of anxiety disorder. It is the eighth most prescribed drug in the United States right now, and nearly 50 million prescriptions were written for the drug in 2014 alone.
Xanax is effective as an anti-anxiolytic and provides relief to those who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. It is often used as needed, to deal with symptoms as they come up. Effects of Xanax include drowsiness, a feeling of relaxation and well-being, impaired speech, motor skills and cognitive function. It is not safe to drive or operate machinery when taking Xanax.
Other times Xanax may be prescribed include prior to surgeries, to aid in relaxation, and for insomnia relief. Getting a prescription for Xanax is relatively easy. Although it is prescribed for symptoms of a mental illness, it is often prescribed by general physicians after an initial visit. It is not unusual for a person to go into a doctor’s office complaining of anxiety and walk out with a prescription.
The Dangers of Xanax Addiction
The ease of which Xanax is obtained has created a huge problem. Xanax is highly addictive, and very difficult to quit. The fact that it is so widely prescribed despite the fact that it is both addictive and dangerous is a testament to the lack of accountability displayed by big pharmaceutical companies. Because Xanax is a central nervous system depressant, users expose themselves to a variety of dangers, including overdose. The drug slows down everything, including the respiratory system. A person who has overdosed can stop breathing, and not start back up again. Xanax and other drugs in the benzodiazepine family, such as Valium and Klonopin are even more dangerous when combined with alcohol or other drugs. Most deaths that occur from Xanax are a result of mixing the drug with alcohol.
Another problem with Xanax is that even when it is used as directed, tolerance and addiction can develop. Over time, it will take more of the drug to produce the same results. This is tolerance. You may find that you are using the drug more often and using larger quantities. At this point, stopping the drug abruptly will cause withdrawal symptoms. This is known as dependence.
While tolerance and dependence don’t always equal addiction, they often go hand in hand. When you find that you are not “okay” without the drug, if you find that you are craving the drug or are feeling apprehensive, anxious or depressed when you run out of the drug, then there is a good chance you have developed a Xanax addiction.
Xanax Addiction and Withdrawal
One issue that sets Xanax and similar drugs apart from many other drugs is the fact that Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. While it may be unpleasant (to say the least) to withdraw or “kick” opiates like heroin, Vicodin, Oxy, etc., it is generally not life-threatening (although you should always seek the help of a medical provider when quitting drugs.) With Xanax, however, abrupt withdrawal of the drug can cause seizures and in extreme cases, death.
Xanax is meant to be a short-term therapeutic drug, used sparingly and in conjunction with other forms of treatment, such as therapy. Too often, Xanax is prescribed and refilled over and over again. Ironically, people who use Xanax long-term often begin experiencing increased anxiety, agitation, and irritability — the very things they sought relief for.
Unfortunately, when someone makes the decision to stop taking Xanax, dependence and addiction have often set in. Withdrawing from Xanax is uncomfortable and dangerous to do on your own. It is important that you seek help in order to detox from the drug safely and comfortably.
In addition to the risk of overdose, liver and heart damage, there are other side effects of Xanax addiction. Behavioral and mood changes can be quite dramatic.
Persons who are addicted to Xanax may find themselves experiencing erratic moods, extreme agitation, aggressiveness and increased anxiety. Family members may be alarmed and concerned, and relationship problems are common.
In addition to mood and personality changes, cognitive side effects are even more alarming. New research shows that people who use Xanax for extended periods of time, even as directed, may experience permanent cognitive impairment. This includes memory loss, difficulty thinking and processing information and difficulty solving problems. These changes may be irreversible.
People who are addicted to Xanax may struggle with holding a job, and even simple tasks such as maintaining hygiene can go by the wayside.
As destructive and dangerous as Xanax addiction is, it is treatable with help