Taking Xanax can give you much-needed relief from distressing anxiety symptoms. But for some people, Xanax use can develop into misuse and potential addiction. If you realize your Xanax use has gotten out of control, you may be asking yourself, “How do I know if I’m addicted to Xanax?” Here we’ll review what Xanax is, what Xanax addiction looks like, and how to turn things around.
What is Xanax?
Xanax, also known as alprazolam, is most often used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It’s the most frequently prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States. Xanax is a type of benzodiazepine, a class of drugs that impacts the central nervous system to calm the body.
How does Xanax work?
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a type of chemical messenger called neurotransmitters. GABA’s primary function is to reduce excitability in the nervous system, and Xanax works by increasing these effects. This process can help people feel less anxious and tense, and it can also make people feel sleepy.
Xanax is a short-acting substance, meaning that it takes effect and gets processed through the body quickly. It’s also a highly potent substance and works well to quickly relieve panic and anxiety symptoms. When used correctly, it’s an effective way to help a person cope with intense symptoms right away as they develop a long-term treatment plan.
What are the risks and side effects of Xanax?
Xanax can be effective, but it also has some side effects and risks. The safest way to use Xanax is for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms for a brief period of time. This can reduce a person’s risk of misuse, allowing time to gradually taper their use when it’s no longer the primary treatment for symptoms.
Side effects of benzodiazepines include the following:
- Sleep problems
- Memory problems
- Slurred speech
- Digestive issues
These effects can lead to a depressed central nervous system when a person takes other substances with Xanax, such as alcohol or opioids. This mixture can lead to life-threatening breathing problems.
How do people get Xanax?
Xanax is a controlled substance, meaning that it cannot be sold or used legally without a valid prescription. Doctors can prescribe it for safe and appropriate use, but some continue prescribing it for longer than recommended. Some doctors may use out-of-date prescription guidelines and unintentionally put a person at risk for misuse.
Xanax is also sold illegally by people who steal it, get fake prescriptions, or obtain it in other unlawful ways. And some people with legitimate prescriptions may take advantage of their situation and continue to get more medication than they need.
Dual Diagnosis: Xanax Misuse and Anxiety
Anxiety and Xanax misuse are a painful combination. A person enduring both conditions has serious needs, many that may go without support without a careful diagnosis.
What is a dual diagnosis?
A person may start using Xanax as a treatment for an anxiety disorder. But Xanax has the potential for misuse, which could develop into a substance use disorder. When two conditions like anxiety and a substance use disorder occur together, it’s called a dual diagnosis or comorbid disorder.
A person with a mental health diagnosis has a better chance of developing an addiction than someone who doesn’t. Often, a person with untreated symptoms will use substances to mask or distract from their symptoms. And the risk goes both ways, meaning that about 50% of the people with substance use disorders will likely develop a mental health disorder at some point and vice versa.
The impact of a dual diagnosis
Both mental health and substance use issues can affect the other, often making each other worse. Mental health and substance use disorders also share common risk factors such as stress, genetic factors and trauma. Because of how these conditions interact, it’s essential to treat both conditions at the same time.
Why does a person become addicted to Xanax?
Xanax works quickly and produces a calm and relaxing effect. Most people who use Xanax don’t misuse it, but people vulnerable to addiction may chase this pleasurable sensation. Also, Xanax has intense withdrawal symptoms, which may prompt a person to keep taking it to avoid discomfort. The risk for Xanax misuse often develops when people already misuse other substances. Xanax can be dangerous when combined with other substances, increasing the risk for overdose.
What are The Signs of Xanax Addiction?
Xanax addiction often develops when people overuse it and have difficulty stopping. Here’s more about the substance abuse cycle explaining the signs of someone addicted to Xanax.
What is the substance abuse cycle?
Substance use disorders (SUDs) are complex chronic health conditions affecting a person’s brain, body, and mental health. A person affected by a SUD falls into a harmful cycle of behaviors centered around getting and using substances. This cycle includes three phases: intoxication, withdrawal and preoccupation. Each one feeds into the next, making it increasingly difficult for a person to manage their use.
Intoxication: What happens when a person takes Xanax?
When a person takes their substance of choice, they tap into their brain’s reward system. Taking the substance produces a dopamine release, resulting in a pleasurable sensation. This good feeling increases the chance they’ll take the substance again in the future. Also, the brain begins associating a person’s substance use with people, objects, and locations. These elements trigger intense urges to use many find difficult to resist.
Withdrawal and detox
Being addicted to Xanax means withdrawals may be possible, should you decide to quit. Xanax withdrawal is safest when medical professionals can help a person gradually taper off their use. It may take time for a person going through Xanax detox to become medically stable. If a person tries to stop cold turkey, they may develop dangerous side effects. Seizures and rebound anxiety may occur as the substance leaves a person’s body. Even if a person knows they should stop taking Xanax, they may start using it again to avoid these symptoms.
Anticipation and substance seeking
The anticipation of a substance-induced high can lead to a pattern of overuse and substance-seeking behaviors. A person can become preoccupied with memories of using the substance and their next opportunity to take it. This anticipation triggers a dopamine release into a person’s body, reinforcing their desire to get and use the substance again. When a person pursues the sensation rather than following directions for symptom relief, they’ve stepped into the territory of potential misuse.
The risk of overdose
Xanax is highly potent and more toxic than other benzodiazepines, so an overdose may cause significant harm or lead to death. A person is also at greater risk of overdose after they’ve stopped using for a while. If a person takes the same amount they did at the height of their addiction, the impact is often more potent than they expect and can lead to unintended overdose.
Xanax overdose symptoms can include:
- Poor coordination
- Life-threatening breathing problems
- Blurry vision
- Confusion and disorientation
- Comatose (when combining Xanax with illicit drugs or alcohol)
Anxiety and Xanax Addiction: How to find help
Xanax is an effective medication for anxiety symptoms, but misuse can happen. When you become addicted to Xanax, you may not know where to turn. Here’s where to start when looking into treatment and recovery.
Seek out treatment that focuses on both SUD and anxiety disorders
When a substance use disorder and anxiety disorder are both present, it’s essential to get an accurate diagnosis and treat both together. If one condition is left diagnosed or untreated, both can make each other worse. Residential and outpatient programs are two effective ways to approach treatment.
Residential or inpatient rehab
24-hour care is sometimes necessary for moderate to severe substance use disorders. residential and inpatient treatment offer the highest level of care, including medical monitoring and a supervised environment.
Inpatient addiction treatment is often set in a secured area of a hospital or clinical facility. It’s suitable for people who need to become medically stabilized before starting rehab, especially people with other medical conditions.
Residential care is a step down from inpatient care with structured activity but in a more comfortable home-like environment. This type of rehab program typically includes other therapies like art therapy, yoga and nature activities.
Not everyone who needs treatment can leave home for long periods, nor is that required to have a good recovery experience. Dual diagnosis outpatient treatment is effective and can be less disruptive to your life.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
IOP treatment sessions take place several times a week, often in the evening and on weekends. This schedule helps people address their addiction while working or attending school. No overnight stays are necessary, and programs are available in many communities, making it an affordable option.
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)
PHP treatment is the most intensive type of treatment available without overnight stays. Sessions are held several hours a day for most days of the week. This intensity provides structure, intensive counseling and additional therapies while allowing a person to take comfort at home each night.
Anxiety and Xanax Addiction: You’re Not Alone
Anxiety disorders can be challenging to cope with, and being addicted to Xanax can worsen your situation. You don’t have to keep your struggle a secret. You can get help with both conditions, and we’re ready to support you. Learn more about dual diagnosis outpatient treatment today by calling the P.A.T.H. program at 1-888-622-7809.