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October 8, 2018

Do I Need Xanax Rehab?

woman thinkingThe short-acting benzodiazepine Xanax (generic name alprazolam) has been prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders since 1981. While many find it helpful for short-term relief, it is highly addictive and should be used with extreme care. If you’ve been taking it and start to notice disturbing symptoms, you may need Xanax rehab.

BASICS OF XANAX/BENZO PRESCRIPTIONS AND RISKS

“Anxiety disorder” is the most common psychiatric diagnosis in the U.S., particularly among women and teenage girls. Nonetheless, of 47 million prescriptions written for the popular anti-anxiety drug Xanax in 2011, about a third were for males (although Xanax is also prescribed for insomnia, muscle spasms and alcohol withdrawal symptoms).

Xanax belongs to the benzodiazepine family of drugs, which work by binding to the brain’s neurotransmitters to calm overactive neurons. Unfortunately, tolerance—and physical addiction—can develop quickly with any drug in this family. Among patients who take “benzos” daily for at least six weeks (the medically recommended period is a maximum of four weeks), about 40 percent will become addicted.

SYMPTOMS OF ADDICTION

Even if you’ve taken Xanax less than six weeks, you may be developing an addiction if you experience:

  • Chronic restlessness
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Loss of initiative
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • A need to take larger doses for the same effect
  • Using up, and refilling, prescriptions ahead of schedule
  • Taking Xanax indiscriminately at the first twinge of anxiety, never bothering to practice alternate methods for calming down

If one or more of these things are happening regularly, and especially if you’re over 60 years old and/or have been on Xanax for more than four weeks, your answer to “Do I need Xanax rehab?” is probably “Yes.” Get advice from your doctor and a detox specialist immediately.

There are other signs that clearly indicate more advanced Xanax addiction and the need for immediate treatment.

  • Have you ever crushed a prescription Xanax pill and used the powder for snorting or injecting?
  • Have you ever bought Xanax through black-market channels?
  • Are you spending money you can’t afford on more Xanax?
  • Have you ever used Xanax in combination with other drugs, especially other depressants?
  • Have you ever experienced symptoms of an overdose (loss of coordination, total disorientation, passing out) within 30–45 minutes after taking Xanax, whether or not you recovered without medical treatment?

And, of course: Do you suffer withdrawal symptoms if you go more than 48 hours without a dose?

WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS AND DANGERS

Be aware of the most common Xanax/benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms:

[one-half-first]

  • Panicky feelings
  • Reckless impulses
  • Inability to sleep
  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Blurry vision

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  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Tingling in the limbs
  • Muscle tremors

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In many cases, withdrawal symptoms include seizures, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations or suicidal thoughts. Even with moderate symptoms, someone may become so desperate for more Xanax as to gulp it down when it finally becomes available, or to self-medicate the symptoms with another depressant drug.

Such behavior carries a significant risk of creating a medical emergency: each year, there are over 100,000 overdoses and other benzodiazepine-related medical emergencies requiring emergency room treatment. When benzos are used with opiates or alcohol, the risk of long-term hospitalization or death may increase by as much as 55 percent.

Because Xanax detox is so potentially dangerous, it should never be attempted apart from medical supervision. A medically managed detox is the only safe course for getting a person through physical withdrawal.

GETTING HELP

If you need Xanax rehab, the best time to seek it is now. While long-term effects of the drug are not universally agreed on, many believe it can cause permanent brain damage. It definitely can hurt a person’s cognitive and other functions in the present: many DUI arrests involve Xanax rather than alcohol.

To pick a top Xanax rehab center, look for one with experience treating benzodiazepine addiction specifically. Review its mission statement and get all the details you can on specific treatment procedures. You may also want to consider:

  • If you have or suspect you have a mental illness (especially if you originally received the Xanax prescription for anxiety disorder treatment), do they offer “dual diagnosis services” for treating such disorders as well?
  • Can they accommodate special diets or additional health needs?
  • What are their rules regarding contact with loved ones on the outside?

Finally, pay the center a personal visit and see if you like the grounds and if the staff treat you with friendliness and respect.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM XANAX ADDICTION TREATMENT 

Typically, the physical-detox stage of Xanax rehab takes about a week, though anxiety attacks may recur periodically for months. Proper treatment takes place on two fronts, the physical and the psychological.

Physical: During the worst of physical withdrawal, you’ll be kept under 24/7 medical supervision, and any medication prescribed to assist treatment will be administered in carefully measured doses. After initial symptoms abate, you’ll be encouraged to rest and stay well-nourished and hydrated for several days.

Psychological: You’ll receive intensive counseling to root out the reasons behind your original anxiety and the addiction, and you’ll be trained in nondrug methods of coping with anxiety and avoiding potential relapse triggers.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER REHAB?

Once official rehab is complete, experts recommend ongoing therapy and support-group involvement to maximize the effectiveness of long-term recovery. Here are a few additional hints for those who have completed Xanax rehab and those who have general anxiety struggles. (Remember that Xanax, even under the best circumstances, is only a short-term solution.)

  • Stay physically fit.
  • Make time for hobbies that allow you to be creative and productive without pressure to “achieve.”
  • Practice relaxation and mindfulness.
  • Don’t bottle up your struggles: discuss them with a counselor or trusted friend. Anxiety has the most power over you when you deny it: bringing it into the light gives you power to subdue it. Just as with Xanax (or any other) addiction itself.

For related information on Xanax and other benzodiazepines, see the following articles:

SOURCES

McMillan, Kelley (2014, April 25). “The Truth About Prescription Pills: One Writer’s Story of Anxiety and Addiction.” Vogue. Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/article/prescription-pill-addiction-drug-abuse

National Alliance on Mental Illness (2016, October). “Alprazolam (Xanax).” College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Mental-Health-Medications/Alprazolam-(Xanax)

Pétursson, H (1994, November). “The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome.” Addiction, Vol. 89, No. 11, pp. 1455–1459. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7841856

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (2014, December 18). The DAWN Report: Benzodiazepines in Combination with Opioid Pain Relievers or Alcohol: Greater Risk of More Serious ED Visit Outcomes. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/DAWN-SR192-BenzoCombos-2014/DAWN-SR192-BenzoCombos-2014.pdf

Timms, Dr. Philip, series editor (2018, March). “Benzodiazepines.” Royal College of Psychiatrists, Leaflets Department. Retrieved from https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/treatmentswellbeing/benzodiazepines.aspx

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