Xanax is a popular short-acting benzodiazepine that can be used as a tranquilizer. Upon its creation, its sole intention was to treat symptoms that relate to anxiety and panic disorders. Anxiety is a paralyzing and common mental illness that can claim power over someone and their life. Stress is a normal part of life, and it is normal to experience on some occasions, such as the first day at a new job or on a first date. The difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder is more often than not just temporary fears or worries. The symptoms can last for days, months, or years, which can create problems getting out of bed every day because of how crippling the condition can be.
The symptoms associated with anxiety can begin to interfere with daily tasks like job performance, school work, or relationships. There are several types of stress, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and many phobia-related disorders. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and agoraphobia are two more examples that can leave someone feeling overwhelmed by their anxiety. It is easy to assume that it’s just in someone’s head, but these conditions are genuine and require intervention to help the person struggling to get back on track.
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States. It affects at least 40 million adults age 18 and older annually. When the number is broken down, 18 percent of the adult population is struggling with anxiety as you read this article. There are medications; however, that treat the issues. One of these medications is Xanax, but a mere 36.9 percent of those who have anxiety will seek help for their condition. Depression is a common condition to experience in conjunction with anxiety, and almost half of those dealing with anxiety will be diagnosed with depression.
Xanax’s properties make it useful to treat this common ailment that causes many people so much mental anguish. Unfortunately, though, problems can arise when someone self-medicates with Xanax. While it can be a relief for some who use it, it can also be a slippery slope that can lead to addiction.
How Does Xanax Work?
Xanax is a medication that doctors prescribe fairly often to treat anxiety disorders. Benzos fall under a class of drugs known as central nervous system depressants (CNS). They work in the brain by suppressing excitability in the nervous system and function similarly to barbiturates or alcohol. It works by calming the user, which is ideal for someone with an overexcited nervous system. Some other effects include feeling relaxed, sleepy, and anxiety relief. Xanax is used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and social anxiety disorders. It is a short-acting medication when compared to other benzo drugs. Due to this quality, it is not used as a sleep aid.
Xanax works similarly to other depressant drugs in that it increases the efficiency of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). The chemical is solely responsible for the nervous system’s ability to control and manage excitability. Anxiety and panic disorders are the results of an imbalance that affects the way the brain communicates, and this makes it much more difficult to calm down on your own.
Xanax binds to GABA receptors and modulates the function to be more efficient when it is activated. The result? Sedation, anxiety suppression, muscle relaxation, loss of inhibitions, and dizziness. An unintended consequence of the drug is an intoxication similar to alcohol which makes it desirable.
When it is used recreationally, or the dose is taken in more substantial amounts than prescribed, the user can experience euphoria, memory loss, coordination loss, respiratory depression, slurred speech, and confusion.
Prolonged use of the substance can cause dependence, which leads to addiction. Not everyone who uses drugs will develop substance use disorders, but abusing Xanax raises the risk that addiction will occur. Unfortunately, this can lead to long-term and sometimes fatal consequences.
What Are the Signs of Xanax Addiction?
In its earliest stages, addiction is not something that is easily identified. Over time, however, many warning signs can indicate an impending addiction. It’s important to note that even though dependence and addiction are different, they refer to various stages of drug abuse.
Dependence is a risk that is correlated with benzodiazepine use, and it occurs when drugs alter communication pathways in the nervous system. Continuing to abuse Xanax will force the brain to adapt to the presence of the foreign substance, and when you use it longer than intended or in higher doses, you’re increasing the risk of developing a dependence.
When you reach a point of taking the drugs to feel normal, this is considered dependence. Once this level has been reached, the initial symptoms the drug was used for consequently will return but more severely.
As the brain adapts to Xanax, it will stop producing its inhibitory chemicals that balance brain chemistry.
Continued use will suppress the brain’s neurochemistry; if you stop using Xanax abruptly, you could experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
The last stage in a substance use disorder is an addiction. Addiction is when your limbic system, also known as the reward center, begins to mistake euphoria from Xanax as a life-sustaining necessity. It will feel like an impulsive need for the drug, and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines addiction as impulsive use of a drug despite the consequences. If you get arrested on charges for illegal Xanax possession, as an example, and you continue to use despite this legal problem, this could mean you have become addicted.
What Is Involved in Xanax Addiction Treatment?
When addiction treatment begins, it will start with an assessment by addiction specialists and medical professionals. Anyone who enters into treatment for benzo use will see their journey begin in the most intensive portion of care. As mentioned above, withdrawals from Xanax can be deadly, and medical detoxification is the safest way to transition the client back into a sober state.
During detox, you will be monitored around the clock during your stay to ensure you are responding to treatment as safely as possible. The care team’s top priority is to provide a safe environment for all of the clients and make sure each need is met. To mitigate any of the risks involved, the staff will administer medications to help taper off Xanax. The purpose is to negate seizures that can occur during withdrawal.
Once that staff is satisfied that your detox is complete, you will move into the next stage in the continuum of care. Detox can last anywhere from three to seven days, and the severity of your addiction will determine the following levels of care. These include:
- Inpatient services
- Intensive outpatient services
- Outpatient services
Addiction treatment must be tailored to your unique needs. The main objective is to address substance use disorders and other underlying disorders, such as anxiety.
Xanax Abuse Statistics
- Teenagers addicted to Xanax retrieved it from medicine cabinet in the home
- More than 50 million prescriptions were written for Xanax in 2013
- Benzodiazepines were involved in 30 percent of opioid overdose cases