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Xanax, also known by its generic name alprazolam, is in a class of commonly prescribed drugs called benzodiazepines. For people living with anxiety and panic disorders, this medication can help them manage their symptoms. However, it also has a high potential for abuse when taken long-term, even for those who take it exactly as prescribed. To understand why, you should first know how Xanax and other benzodiazepines affect the brain and body.
How Does Xanax Work?
Xanax helps decrease anxiety because it increases the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid, which suppresses the activity of the neurons in your body. People who use benzodiazepines can experience side effects such as sleepiness, clumsiness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, impaired decision-making ability and low blood pressure. Some benzodiazepine users also report depressive and suicidal thoughts, especially when taking more of the drug than prescribed.
People who use Xanax may combine it with other medications or alcohol in hopes of magnifying its effects, but doing so can be deadly. Mixing benzodiazepines with any other drug can dramatically slow down your breathing and heart rate, leading to a high risk of respiratory failure and even death.
Why Is It Addictive?
Since people most often begin taking Xanax to find relief from symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder, its use lends itself to addiction. Why? People with these mental health concerns may already have a tendency to rely on substances to “take the edge off.” But once users develop a dependence, it compounds their problem. They can experience a rebound effect, in which their anxiety becomes more intense when they’re not on the drug.
Why does Xanax use lead to addiction? When you take benzodiazepines, they flood your brain with dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical that creates a pleasurable high. These surges of dopamine reinforce the desire for repeated use, which can create a tolerance that evolves into physical dependence and, later, addiction. Xanax can stay in the body for up to 24 hours, which is what allows many users to build up a tolerance to the drug so quickly.
What Does It Mean to Be Addicted to Xanax?
There is a common misconception that people who develop substance abuse disorders do so because they lack willpower or morals. The truth is that addiction can happen to anyone, and that nobody begins taking drugs in hopes that they will become dependent on them. Today, most doctors and medical researchers agree that long-term drug or alcohol use fundamentally changes our brain chemistry in ways that require multiple methods of treatment and therapy to unravel.
As a drug addiction progresses, it takes higher and higher doses to achieve the same pleasurable sensation, which further solidifies compulsive use of the drug.
Xanax addictions can be both physical and psychological.
- A physical addiction occurs when your body needs the presence of the drug to function. When you stop taking your meds, you might experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that make you feel sick.
- A psychological addiction is when you believe you cannot feel normal without taking Xanax regularly. You can begin to dread the feelings associated with withdrawal, or the return of the symptoms for which your doctor originally prescribed you the drug.
Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Drug Use
You may have a Xanax addiction if you answer yes to two or more of the following questions.
- Have you ever taken a higher dose of the drug than your doctor prescribed?
- Have you wanted to reduce your usage, but realized you couldn’t?
- If you run out of Xanax, do you find yourself obsessively worrying about how and where you will get more?
- Have you ever made bad decisions because you were using?
- Do you feel physically ill when you stop taking your medication?
- Do you spend a lot of time using or recovering from Xanax?
- Have you ever visited multiple doctors to try to get more drugs?
- Has your drug use ever caused problems in your relationships?
- When you are sober, do you experience cravings for your medication?
- Have you lost interest in things you used to enjoy?
- Does the drug make you feel depressed or worthless?
Drug Withdrawal Symptoms
If you experience physical and psychological withdrawal when you stop using Xanax, that could be a significant indication that you have a substance abuse disorder. The most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Anxiety and/or panic attacks
- Disturbed sleep
- Mood swings
- Agitation and restlessness
- Muscle aches
Because of the severity of some withdrawal symptoms, trying to quit taking Xanax cold turkey can be extremely dangerous and even fatal, in some cases. Instead of trying to stop on your own, you should instead gradually taper off your usage in the safe and comfortable environment of a medically supervised detox center, where addiction professionals will be able to monitor your condition around the clock and create a customized treatment plan to meet your needs.
How to Get Help for Your Xanax Addiction
Evidence has shown that a two-pronged approach of medication-assisted treatment and therapy is the most effective way to manage powerful cravings and increase recovery chances when quitting Xanax. Some people require longer-term or multiple treatments to maintain a stable recovery, avoid relapse and keep moving forward with their sobriety goals.
Though Xanax use and withdrawal do have terrifying side effects, the good news is that it’s entirely within your reach to make a full recovery from a Xanax addiction. Undergoing medically supervised detox, followed by inpatient treatment, can help stabilize you and get to the root of the underlying reasons for your addiction. Drug rehab will also equip you with the tools you need to manage your anxiety without relying on dangerous and addictive medications.
If you are ready to achieve long-lasting freedom from a Xanax addiction, the caring professionals at Beach House are here for you. We provide high-quality substance abuse treatment and ongoing care at our state-of-the-art facility in Florida. Don’t let a Xanax addiction continue to weigh you down spiritually, mentally and physically – contact us today for your confidential consultation.