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Xanax Abuse

Xanax has gained popularity in the last decade, overtaking valium as the anti-anxiety drug of choice.

Xanax is the trade name for the generic alprozolam, a short-acting drug from the benzodiazepine class. Xanax is used to treat moderate to severe anxiety disorders, panic attacks and depression, when it is combined with other medications. The drug possesses the properties of anxiolytic, sedative, hypnotic, anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant.

Xanax is also known as alprazolam and is considered to be a Schedule IV controlled substance. On the street, the drug is known as Z-bars, bars, tabs and Upjohn. The drug is available as an immediate and extended release formula.

Abuses of Xanax

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has highlighted that Xanax abuse is on the rise in the United States. Abusers often either ingest the pills or inject or blow the drug into a body cavity after crushing the pill. As Xanax does not fully dissolve in water, it can cause severe damage to the arteries.

Xanax is considered one of the more toxic benzodiazepines. When the drug is combined with alcohol or other drugs, a fatal overdose is much more likely. Abuse is common among young, healthy people seeking to achieve a high. Known as “Xannie Poppers,” these individuals tend to be club-hopping, 20-somethings that are likely to use Xanax in combination with other stimulants.

Effects of Xanax

When taken under the care of a physician, Xanax can be a very effective medication for those suffering specific conditions, especially anxiety and panic attacks. Not everyone will develop a tolerance or an addiction to the drug, but for those that do, the impact can be life-changing.

Some, however, will develop a compulsion for the drug, and be unable to stop taking it. Others may develop a preoccupation with the drug, growing increasingly concerned with acquiring more Xanax. Still others may develop lifestyle changes, such as ignoring responsibilities or social engagements.

Taking Xanax can cause side effects even without misuse. Side effects can make it dangerous to drive when taking Xanax. Studies show the drug can increase the risk of falls in older adults.

Side effects of benzodiazepines include:

  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Memory problems
  • Poor balance or coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Increased sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Upset stomach
  • Blurred vision
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Swelling in hands or feet
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nasal congestion
  • Loss of interest in sex

Some research shows Xanax has a few unique withdrawal symptoms compared to other benzodiazepines. These include delirium and psychosis caused by Xanax withdrawal. Alprazolam is more toxic than other benzodiazepines, so substance abusers need to be extra careful about Xanax overdose.

Xanax Withdrawal

No matter what the reason for taking Xanax, if it is taken for an extended period of time, an abrupt cessation is likely to induce some uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms associated with Xanax can include, but are not limited to:

  • Rapid heartbeat and/or high blood pressure
  • Anxiousness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Detachment
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nightmares, psychoses or delusions

About Xanax

Xanax is the brand name for the generic medication alprazolam. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1981. The prescription drug alprazolam belongs to a group of medications called benzodiazepines. Doctors use these to treat conditions like:

  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Panic attacks
  • Muscle spasms

Like other drugs in this class, the brand name Xanax or its generic form (alprazolam) is typically prescribed as a:

  • Sedative
  • Hypnotic
  • Anti-anxiety med
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Muscle relaxant

The brand name Xanax is sometimes prescribed “off label” for depression and to improve symptoms associated with sleep disorders. Some psychiatric professionals believe the effectiveness of Xanax is best when treating short-term anxiety issues. Benzodiazepines cause certain neurochemical changes in the brain when used improperly that can lead to substance abuse.

How Does Xanax Work?

Like other benzodiazepines, Xanax works by slowing down central nervous system (CNS) activity. This reduces certain chemical imbalances that contribute to anxiety and panic disorders. Brand name Xanax products are available in regular and extended-release tablets. Other alprazolam products are available in liquids and dissolving tablets.

Some drugs and medications only lead to physical dependence when used in excess. Xanax can lead to physical dependence even when taken according to a doctor’s orders. This is why Xanax use should be medically supervised by a physician or psychiatrist. They can monitor symptoms that indicate a negative impact on the central nervous system and address any signs of Xanax addiction.

Xanax Addiction

Taking Xanax can be very helpful for conditions like anxiety disorders when medically supervised. Doctors may also prescribe Xanax for one-time uses. An example is a patient that suffers anxiety and panic when flying. However, the prescription drug has a high potential for abuse. Due to their potential for misuse, addiction, and illicit diversion and sale, Xanax and other benzodiazepines are federally regulated.

The risks of Xanax abuse are potentially high. This is because alprazolam changes brain chemicals such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. When these changes recur repeatedly over time, the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug. It begins relying on it to stay “balanced.” This is the basis for chemical dependence, a key factor in the development of Xanax addiction. Once physical dependence occurs, medical detox and specialized behavioral therapy is often needed to quit using Xanax.

Signs of Xanax addiction include:

  • Taking  Xanax in larger doses than prescribed
  • Doctor shopping for Xanax
  • Developing a tolerance to Xanax’s effects
  • Experiencing Xanax withdrawal symptoms when decreasing or stopping the medication
  • Feeling unable to control or curb Xanax use
  • Experiencing negative social, personal and career consequences because of Xanax abuse
  • Deteriorating mental health

Consider Xanax treatment if you can relate to any of the above signs.

Treatment of Xanax Addiction

As Xanax withdrawal can cause potentially dangerous symptoms, it is important that Xanax addicts seek care from a board-certified physician and board-certified addiction psychiatrist. To ensure the individual rids their body of the drug completely and have a better chance of staying off the drug in the future, entering a center for 24/7 comfortable detox treatment is highly recommended.

Many quality centers use withdrawal medications during comfortable detox for those suffering with a Xanax addiction. This method is used to correct the chemical imbalances in the individual suffering from a Xanax addiction and should be combined with psychological evaluations and other medical care to address cravings for the drug. With this type of method, the center is able to identify the reason for the addiction and treat the whole person.

Posted on August 14th, 2009
Posted in Articles

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