Xanax (alprazolam) belongs to a class of medications known as benzodiazepines (benzos), often prescribed to relieve anxiety and panic disorder symptoms. These drugs are schedule IV substances designed for short-term use and have a relatively high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction. Benzos are rapid-acting medications that can reduce anxiety quickly and effectively. Effects typically onset within 30 minutes of use and can offer relief for several hours.
Benzos like Xanax produce a relaxing and calming effect by attaching to GABA receptors in the brain. After an extended period of use, they can adversely alter these receptors, making them less sensitive to stimulation. Eventually, a user can develop a tolerance to benzo medications and require ever-increasing dosages to achieve the desired effect.
A significant decrease in use will likely lead to withdrawal effects among people who have become physically dependent on Xanax. Due to the potential for life-threatening symptoms related to withdrawal, individuals should not attempt to quit Xanax abruptly or “cold turkey” without proper medical intervention.
Causes and Risk Factors of Xanax Abuse
Substance abuse specialists often cannot identify an exact cause or reason why a person chooses to abuse drugs or alcohol. Numerous factors can play a role in addiction development, including the following:
Substantial evidence suggests that addiction can run in families through genetic traits passed down through the generations. Moreover, individuals with close relatives who experience substance abuse problems are more likely to incur similar issues themselves.
Xanax works by altering the brain’s pleasure and reward system, inducing feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Some people lack sufficient brain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers like dopamine) to stimulate the reward system adequately.
Moreover, one reason why some people abuse Xanax or other substances to make up for the lack of natural brain neurochemicals—at least temporarily. People then continue to use these substances to experience relaxation and pleasure, eventually leading to dependence and addiction.
Many people who are raised in unstable home environments or experience extreme life stressors turn to substances to cope with emotional pain. Some people are also raised in an environment where substance abuse is generally viewed as acceptable (or even desirable) behavior.
Individuals who have mental health issues are also at an increased risk of developing substance abuse problems. People with untreated psychiatric illnesses may not understand their symptoms and may be unsure how to cope with them and attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
Signs of Xanax Abuse and Addiction
Common signs and symptoms exhibited by those who are abusing or are addicted to Xanax may include the following:
- “Doctor-shopping,” or visiting multiple doctors or pharmacies to obtain more prescription drugs
- Stealing or buying someone else’s medication
- Decreased inhibitions and engagement in risky behaviors
- Neglect of important family or personal obligations
- Declining occupational or academic performance
- Taking higher doses or more often than what was prescribed
- Chewing tablets to make them work faster or crushing/snorting them to enhance effects
- Edema (swelling) in hands and feet
- Impaired coordination
- Dry mouth, stuffy nose
- Decreased urination
- Constipation, or diarrhea
- Blurry or double vision
- Slurred speech
- Drowsiness, dizziness
- Heart palpitations
- Accelerated heart rate
- Confusion, disorientation
- Impaired concentration, memory
- Mood swings
- Agitation, anger
Other Effects of Xanax Abuse
Xanax abuse can produce many adverse consequences. The severity of effects experienced depends upon the duration of abuse, the dose regularly used, and the abuser’s individual characteristics.
These effects may include the following:
- Social withdrawal
- Relationship conflicts
- Legal or financial issues
- Inability to function at work or school
- Muscle aches and pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Uncontrollable muscle twitches
- Suicidal ideations or behaviors
Effects and Symptoms of Withdrawal
Withdrawal from Xanax and other benzos can be dangerous and should only be attempted under a qualified health provider’s supervision in a clinical environment.
Symptoms of withdrawal from Xanax may include the following:
- Blurry vision
- Sleep disturbances, insomnia
- Profuse sweating
- Aggressive behaviors
- Weight loss
- Tingling in hands and feet
- Psychotic symptoms
- Suicidal thoughts
A lethal overdose of Xanax is unlikely to occur when it is used as directed. However, benzos such as Xanax are currently estimated to be involved in at least 30% of overdose deaths in the U.S. In the majority of cases, other substances, such as opioids or alcohol, are also involved.
The following are signs of an overdose requiring immediate medical intervention:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty focusing
- Slurred speech
- Slow or labored breathing
Treatment for Xanax Abuse
Xanax abuse can lead to many adverse mental and physical effects and impaired functioning in many important aspects of life, such as school, career, and family. Treatment for Xanax abuse often begins with a gradual tapering of the drug over weeks or months to mitigate the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer comprehensive, evidence-based approaches that have been shown to treat substance abuse and addiction effectively. We offer both inpatient and partial hospitalization formats, including essential services such as psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, group support, and much more.