Xanax Addiction: Dangers and Risks of Its Abuse Doctors commonly prescribe Xanax to patients with anxiety\u00a0and\u00a0panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and social anxiety disorder. Xanax comes with side effects and carries a high risk of abuse and addiction.\u00a0It\u2019s important to use it as your doctor orders. Learn about the side effects of Xanax, Xanax withdrawal, and treatment for Xanax addiction. How Does Xanax Work? Xanax is the brand name for the prescription drug alprazolam. It\u2019s part of a group of drugs called benzodiazepines. Doctors usually prescribe benzos as treatment for anxiety. Benzos act on the brain and central nervous system (CNS) and produce a calming or sedating effect. Xanax boosts the effects of a neurotransmitter (chemical) in your brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA reduces tension, anxiety, and panic by slowing down the activity of nerve cells in the brain.\u00a0By working on the central nervous system, drugs like Xanax offer rapid relief for anxiety disorder symptoms. Ideally, Xanax is paired with behavioral therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The effectiveness of Xanax depends on the individual and the dosage.\u00a0 What Are the Risks of Xanax? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Xanax in 1981, but its use has\u00a0spiked in the last few years.\u00a0The effects of Xanax can be dangerous when other drugs are used in combination. Xanax can also be physically and psychologically addictive. Taking Xanax under medical supervision can reduce these risks. Some\u00a0risks of Xanax\u00a0include the following: Combining Xanax With Other Drugs The most serious risk to people taking Xanax is what can happen when it\u2019s combined with other drugs and alcohol. Taking Xanax with other GABA-inducing drugs such as opiates, hypnotics, barbiturates, or alcohol raises the risk of overdose exponentially. Your central nervous system gets bombarded with billions of messages to slow down, which\u00a0can cause\u00a0a dangerously slow heartbeat, cessation of breathing, and even death.\u00a0This is particularly alarming, considering that research shows that almost 50 percent\u00a0of teens take\u00a0Xanax with at least one other drug, including alcohol. Xanax Overdose The National Institute on Drug Abuse published data showing that\u00a0deaths from overdoses involving benzos\u00a0like Xanaxquadrupled\u00a0between 2002 and 2015.\u00a0You can put yourself at risk for Xanax overdose if you take larger than prescribed amounts. This risk also increases when you combine large quantities of Xanax with other substances like alcohol and opioids. Xanax is 10 times stronger\u00a0than Valium\u00ae\u00a0(another benzo) and should never be taken in amounts\u00a0other than indicated by your doctor.\u00a0Benzos such as Xanax\u00a0are involved in accidental overdoses and approximately 30% of\u00a0intentional overdoses or suicide attempts. Xanax Addiction If taken as prescribed by a doctor, Xanax can help conditions like anxiety and insomnia, but those who abuse it often do so because it\u2019s a fast-acting sedative and has relaxing effects. A study\u00a0published in the journal\u00a0Psychiatry\u00a0showed that\u00a0general practitioners wrote 55 percent of all prescriptions for benzos. According to two clinical studies, most people who are prescribed Xanax do not develop a substance use disorder, but it is fairly common for Xanax users to become physically dependent\u00a0on the prescription drug.\u00a0When you have a physical dependence, your body has become accustomed to the drug you\u2019re taking, and you need larger and larger amounts to get the desired results. Even if you take Xanax for a short period of time at a prescribed dose, there\u2019s a risk of psychological and physical dependence. That said, data suggests the risk of dependence and its severity appear to be more pronounced in people treated with doses of more than 4 mg\/day and for more than 12 weeks. If you take benzos for long periods of time, you\u2019re likely to experience several symptoms, including: \t Drowsiness \t Tiredness \t Dizziness \t Slurred speech \t Poor balance or coordination \t Trouble concentrating \t Nausea \t Headaches \t Irritability \t Lethargy \t Sleep problems \t Memory impairment \t Aggression \t Depression \t Diarrhea \t Constipation \t Vomiting \t Upset stomach \t Increased sweating \t Dry mouth \t Stuffy nose \t Loss of sex drive \t Appetite or weight changes \t Dry mouth \t Muscle weakness \t Blurred vision \t Swelling in hands and feet A limited number of studies have analyzed factors that might increase people\u2019s risk of abusing or becoming addicted to benzos. A Norwegian study found a greater number of people who started taking Xanax became excessive users compared to those using any other benzo. A 2018 study analyzing opioid overdoses in Medicare Part D recipients\u00a0uncovered troubling prescribing patterns. On the day of or leading up to the overdose, 20,665 of 71,248 people with an opioid prescription were also using benzos. An estimated 14,132 of 20,665 concurrent users (68.4 percent) had more than 180 days of overlapping supplies of both medications. Researchers found simultaneous benzo and opioid use during the first 90 days was associated with a fivefold increase in the risk of opioid overdose. This study highlights why doctors need to closely monitor individuals taking Xanax and opioid medications. Those abusing Xanax may take it in pill form or inject it after crushing the pill. Xanax does not fully dissolve in water. This means it can cause severe damage to the arteries when it\u2019s injected. What is Xanax Withdrawal Like? The severity of Xanax withdrawal symptoms depends on dosage and how long you\u2019ve been taking the drug. Some people who\u2019ve been taking Xanax for even short periods at recommended doses (e.g. 0.75 to 4 mg\/day) have reported withdrawal symptoms, including seizures. The physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms of Xanax may include:13 \t Dissatisfaction with life \t Insomnia \t Nightmares \t Increased anxiety and panic \t Panic attacks \t Abdominal pain \t Muscle cramps \t Nausea \t Vomiting \t Hypersensitivity to light, sound, touch, and taste \t Depression \t Sweating \t Confusion \t Tremors \t Seizures If you\u2019ve been taking Xanax with alcohol or other drugs,\u00a0Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be more severe and even deadly. How Do You Treat Xanax Addiction? If you\u2019ve been\u00a0abusing Xanax, talk to a doctor before quitting abruptly. A sudden decrease in dosage can lead to withdrawal symptoms like the ones listed above. If you\u2019ve been abusing alcohol or other drugs as well, detoxing on your own can be dangerous.\u00a0Xanax detox should be medically supervised, and the right course depends on how much Xanax you\u2019ve been abusing and for how long. Medical detox may involve a taper, gradually reducing your dose over several days or weeks to prevent intense withdrawal symptoms and risk of seizure. Alternatively, your drug rehab team may prescribe less harmful, longer-acting benzos for a period of time to ease your Xanax withdrawal. Doing this under the care of a medical professional will help to keep you safe both physically and mentally. Effective\u00a0Xanax addiction treatment\u00a0goes beyond drug detox. For the best chances of recovery, it\u2019s necessary to address the underlying reasons behind your addiction, not just the symptoms. Entering\u00a0residential drug rehab after medical detox can give you the space you need away from triggers and teach you new coping skills, so you can handle your anxiety or panic disorder\u00a0without depending on drugs. Individual therapy and group therapy, relapse prevention training, and continued involvement in support groups will help you learn to manage any underlying mental health disorders. These approaches can also allow you to heal from any trauma or emotional issues that contribute to substance abuse.