Xanax Addiction Treatment: Symptoms, Warning Signs, and Getting Help
Xanax (generic name: alprazolam) belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines (called benzos for short). Benzos are laboratory-made medications that are prescribed to treat a range of conditions, such as panic disorder, anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Xanax is one of the most prescribed psychiatric medications in the United States with nearly 50 million prescriptions dispensed every year.1,2 However, Xanax can be highly addictive if used long-term. Xanax addiction treatment at a professional drug rehab center can help those who have become addicted to this medication.
What is Xanax? Why is it Addictive?
Xanax is the brand name of the generic drug called alprazolam. It is a prescription sedative medication. You can find Xanax on the medicine shelf of many American households. Xanax has a tranquilizing and anxiolytic effect. It eases restlessness and relaxes the muscles. That’s why it is prescribed to treat stress, anxiety, and panic disorder.
Xanax acts on the central nervous system and slows down the effect of brain chemicals that cause excitement. It is a fast-acting drug and brings about changes in brain chemistry quite rapidly. Long-term use of Xanax puts a person at risk of developing Xanax addiction. The risks are higher in people who take larger doses of Xanax for longer than 12 weeks (typical doses are 0.25 to 0.5 mg per day). However, anyone who uses Xanax is at risk of addiction.
Tolerance to Xanax can develop rapidly, wherein the user needs to take more and more of the drug to get the same effects. This causes many people to start using Xanax more often or at larger doses than prescribed. Throughout this process, the person becomes increasingly dependent on Xanax to feel normal. Psychological factors drive drug-seeking behavior in such individuals. Some people with Xanax addiction have reported taking 20-30 pills a day.
Besides a psychological dependence, people with Xanax addiction also develop a physical dependence on the drug. In other words, if they stop taking Xanax, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, and paranoia. Supervised Xanax detox at a drug rehab facility is necessary to safely clear the drug from the user’s body. Once detox is complete, Xanax addiction treatment with psychotherapy and other modalities can help recovering addicts stay clean.
Effects of Xanax Addiction
Even when Xanax is used exactly as prescribed, it is a powerful drug. Relatively small doses can cause drowsiness, impaired motor function, and impaired judgment, putting the person at risk of accidents. Other Xanax effects include memory loss and the inability to learn new information or retrieve previously learned information.
Large doses of benzodiazepines such as Xanax can result in an overdose with symptoms such as intoxication, stupor, coma, and life-threatening respiratory depression. The risk of overdose is especially high when Xanax is used in combination with other medications that are also central nervous system depressants.4 Some of the signs and symptoms of Xanax overdose include:
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Poor motor coordination
- Difficulty breathing
Mixing Xanax with other prescription medications, illegal drugs, or alcohol can be fatal. Symptoms can include hallucinations, seizures, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and unresponsiveness (coma). A Xanax overdose is a medical emergency. If you suspect someone has taken too much Xanax, please call 911 or your local emergency number.
If you or a loved one has Xanax addiction, it’s important to get help before tragedy strikes. Professionals at a Xanax addiction treatment center can support your efforts towards recovery from Xanax abuse.
Recognizing Xanax Addiction
Xanax abuse takes a toll on every aspect of a person’s life. People who have become addicted to Xanax need the support and encouragement of their loved ones to get their life back on track. The first step, however, is recognizing Xanax addiction in a family member or friend. Here are some of the warning signs that should raise a red flag:
- Repeated problems with meeting work, school, or family obligations.
- Drug-seeking behavior (spending significant time trying to obtain, use, or recover from the side effects of Xanax).
- Continued Xanax use despite obvious problems (for example, interpersonal problems, professional losses, or trouble with the law).
- Unable to discontinue Xanax despite a desire to do so.
- Tolerance to Xanax (needing increasing amounts to get the same effects).
- Using larger or more frequent doses of Xanax than intended.
- Withdrawal symptoms after stopping Xanax use or reducing the dose.
- Poor work performance and/or reluctance to participate in social activities and family affairs.
Sedative use disorder (Xanax abuse) is a challenging condition to overcome, but it is not an insurmountable problem. Help is available at specialized Xanax addiction treatment facilities.
Xanax addiction and abuse lead to both physical and psychological dependence. If a person who has become addicted to Xanax stops taking the medication, they may experience psychological effects, such as anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, memory loss, and mood swings. The stress of withdrawal from Xanax can also lead to suicidal ideation (benzodiazepines are implicated in about one-third of suicide attempts with intentional overdose).5
Quitting Xanax cold turkey can also lead to several distressing physical symptoms, such as palpitations, muscle aches, trouble sleeping, tremors, nightmares, nausea and vomiting, and tingling.
To safely come off alprazolam, it is important to undergo a medically-supervised Xanax detox, during which addiction treatment experts gradually transition the patient off the drug.
Xanax Detox and Addiction Treatment
Xanax abuse in yourself or a loved one can feel like an overwhelming problem to overcome. Knowing that you can turn to professionals for help will give you the strength to take the first steps towards recovery.
Xanax addiction treatment facilities are staffed by professionals who are trained in the management of prescription drug abuse. During a supervised Xanax detox, the dosage of Xanax is slowly reduced. In some instances, the individual is switched to a longer-acting benzodiazepine and then weaned. Once the tapering is complete and withdrawal symptoms are under control, the recovery process from Xanax addiction can begin. This usually consists of psychotherapy, counseling, medication management, support groups, and aftercare to prevent relapse.