What is Xanax?

Alprazolam, often known by the brand name Xanax, is a prescription medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Alprazolam works by affecting chemicals in the brain and central nervous system that create a calming effect. The most common way of taking alprazolam is by taking pill-sized tablets, known as Xanax bars. Xanax bars come in doses of 2, 1, .5, and .24 milligram tablets. Alprazolam can become addictive, especially if higher doses are taken than what are prescribed or if it is used recreationally.1

What is Xanax used for?

Xanax is often prescribed for anxiety or panic disorders. It provides a calming effect which can often be very beneficial to address some symptoms of anxiety. Xanax is often only prescribed for a limited time to help reduce anxiety levels before moving to more suitable long-term treatment options. It isn’t recommended to take Xanax for more than 8 weeks due to the addictive properties it can have. If you are taking Xanax, you should have symptoms monitored by a medical professional and should only take it at the prescribed dosage level.

How is Xanax Abused?

When Xanax is taken in higher doses it can have seemingly pleasurable euphoric effects. This can cause some people to take higher doses than what is prescribed or use it recreationally for the effects they get from the drug. Over time, tolerance will be built to the drug and higher doses are required to get the same high that was experienced before. This is where addiction can take place. Xanax is highly addictive, especially when taken in high doses. When a dependence forms on the drug, it frequently accompanies feelings like you can’t function without it. This often leads to drug-seeking behavior, where life and thoughts revolve around trying to get more pills while withdrawing from everyday activities.2

What are the effects of Xanax?

The main reason Xanax is abused is often for the seemingly pleasant effects it can have when abused in higher doses. However, alprazolam has both negative short-term and long-term side effects that may occur. Short-term Xanax side effects may include drowsiness, weakness, delirium, headache, and cognitive impairment.3 Long-term use or abuse of Xanax may cause more serious side effects, including depression, aggression or impulsivity, increased risk of dementia, and psychosis. Xanax side effects may be dangerous and can cause problems in work or personal life.3

Dangerous Drug Interactions

One of the main drug interactions that can occur is between Xanax and alcohol. Both Xanax and alcohol are central nervous system depressants. The combination of both Xanax and alcohol can be dangerous since it may severely decrease mental alertness. Doctors will often recommend the avoidance of alcohol while on alprazolam or will prescribe lower doses if they think there Is a risk of non-compliance to the direction.4 Another dangerous drug interaction can occur between Xanax and marijuana. Like the combination of alprazolam with alcohol, combining it with marijuana can cause a decrease in mental alertness or an exaggerated sedative effect. Doing things like driving or operating machinery while under the influence of both these drugs can be very dangerous. It is recommended to avoid marijuana while taking Xanax.4

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction and Abuse

When trying to determine the presence of  Xanax addiction and abuse, it’s important to know what signs to look for. Physical signs can often be a good first indicator. If someone is seeming drowsy, having a lack of coordination, feeling lightheaded, having slurred speech, or nausea, these could all be signs that they’re taking more than the recommended dose of Xanax. Next, there are also psychological signs you can look for to see if an addiction is present. Psychological signs may include increased irritability, mood swings, feeling withdrawn from daily activities, or trouble remembering things.

Lastly, signs of Xanax addiction and abuse may show through work or personal life. Increases problems at work or have trouble maintaining a job is also a sign of an issue. They may also have increased conflicts or distance in their relationships. Addiction can affect life greatly, but there are resources available to get the help required to overcome addiction.5

Xanax Statistics

In 2013, 50 million prescriptions were written for Xanax. It is one of the most highly prescribed medications in the U.S. despite the fact it has highly addictive properties. Unfortunately, addiction negatively affects lives in many ways including overdose. Xanax overdose can occur because tolerance is built on the drug over time, requiring higher doses to be taken for the previous effects. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “More than 30 percent of overdoses involving opioids also involve benzodiazepines.”6 Alprazolam is one of the most common benzodiazepines and Xanax overdose is often the most common in conjunction with opioids such as heroin.

Xanax Addiction and Abuse Treatment

Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be intense and even deadly at times, so it’s important to have medical support when trying to get sober and taper off of Xanax. Common Xanax withdrawal symptoms include increased heart rate and blood pressure, agitation, and seizures. Going to a treatment center to get help for Xanax addiction and abuse can be very beneficial. A treatment center can provide around the clock medical support during the Xanax withdrawal period. They can also provide therapy along with resources for ultimately transitioning back to normal day to day life at the end of the treatment program.

Alprazolam, often known by the brand name Xanax, is a prescription medication that is often prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. Alprazolam can be very addictive, especially when taken at higher than recommended doses or over a long time. It is only recommended to take Xanax under medical supervision and at recommended doses. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are resources available. You don’t have to go through recovery alone.