Xanax Abuse – Xanax belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which are often used to mitigate the symptoms of anxiety. These drugs are designed for short-term use and when used long-term have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Benzos are relatively short-acting medications that have a rapid onset and quickly reduce anxiety. Effects typically begin within a half hour of use and can provide relief for several hours after.
Benzodiazepines produce a relaxing effect by attaching to certain sites on GABA receptors in the brain. After a prolonged period of use, Xanax can cause changes to these receptors in the brain, making them less sensitive to stimulation. Eventually, an individual develops a tolerance to these drugs and requires him or her to take increasing dosages to produce the desired effect.
For people who have become chemically dependent, a decrease in consumption will likely lead to withdrawal effects. It can be quite challenging to regain control over prescription drug use without professional treatment.
Moreover, ue to the life-threatening symptoms related to withdrawal from these types of drugs, it is critical that individuals do not attempt to quit Xanax abruptly without appropriate medical supervision.
Causes & Risk Factors of Xanax Abuse and Addiction
Oftentimes, substance abuse addiction specialists are not able to identify an exact cause – there are numerous factors that can play a role in the development of addiction. However, some well-known contributors include genetics, individual characteristics, and environment.
Genetic Risk Factors
Much evidence has shown that addiction problems can run in families through traits that are genetically passed down through the generations. Moreover, people who have close relatives that have a substance abuse problem are twice as likely to incur a substance abuse problem themselves. While genetics certainly do not guarantee the development of an addiction problem, there is a definite association.
Xanax works by affecting the brain’s reward system, creating feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Some people lack sufficient levels of chemicals in the brain to properly stimulate the reward system – one theory is that when people use Xanax or Ativan it helps make up for the lack of natural brain chemicals. People may then continue to use these substances to continue experiencing feelings of relaxation and pleasure, which can eventually result in addiction.
Environmental Risk Factors
Many people who grow up in unstable home environments or experience extreme life stressors may have come to rely on drugs such as Xanax to help cope with emotional pain. Also, some people are raised in an environment where substance abuse is viewed as acceptable behavior.
Psychological Risk Factors
Individuals who have developed addiction problems are also at high risk of having a co-occurring mental health disorder. People with undiagnosed psychiatric illnesses may not understand symptoms that they are experiencing and may be unsure how to deal with them.
In an attempt to self-medicate, people may begin to use Xanax as a way to manage symptoms. Over time, some individuals may start to rely on such substances to function on a daily basis.
Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Abuse and Addiction
Common symptoms exhibited/experienced by those who are abusing or are addicted to Xanax may include the following:
Mood symptoms associated with Xanax abuse may include anxiety, notable mood swings such as those alternating between depression and mania, agitation, rage, and restlessness.
- “Doctor-shopping,” or visiting multiple doctors to obtain more Xanax
- Stealing or borrowing someone else’s Xanax
- Decreased inhibitions and engaging in risky behaviors
- Exhibiting hostility and violence
- Neglecting family or personal responsibilities
- Declining occupational or school performance
- Taking higher doses or more tablets than what was prescribed
- Chewing pills to make them work faster or crushing/snorting pills to enhance effects
- Swelling in hands and feet
- Coordination difficulties
- Dry mouth, stuffy nose
- Decreased urination, constipation or diarrhea
- Blurred or double vision
- Slurred speech
- Drowsiness, dizziness
- Heart palpitations, tachycardia
- Tremors or seizures
Psychological symptoms may include confusion, disorientation, difficult concentrating, hallucinating, and memory problems.
Effects of Xanax Abuse
Xanax abuse can produce many adverse effects. The intensity of effects experienced depends upon the duration of abuse, the amount of the substance regularly used, and individual character traits of the abuser.
These effects may include:
- Short-term memory loss
- Social isolation and relationship conflicts such as divorce
- Legal or financial problems, incarceration
- Inability to function at work or school
- Muscle pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Uncontrollable muscle twitches or seizures
- Suicidal thoughts
Many people who have substance abuse problems also experience a co-occurring mental health condition. These may include, but are not limited to the following:
- Additional substance addiction (drugs or alcohol)
- Borderline personality disorder, or other personality disorder such as antisocial personality or histrionic personality disorder
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders such as social anxiety
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Effects & Symptoms of Withdrawal from Xanax
Withdrawal from a Xanax dependency can be dangerous should only be done under the direction of a qualified medical professional in a safe environment. The detox process will slowly decrease the amount of Xanax in the body to minimize the chance of life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms of withdrawal from Xanax may include:
- Blurred vision
- Sleep disturbances, insomnia
- Intense sweating
- Nervous feelings and anxiety or depression
- Aggressive behaviors
- Weight loss
- Tingling sensation in hands and feet
- Suicidal thoughts or death resulting from suicide or health
A life-threatening overdose of Xanax is unlikely when taken as directed or used alone, without the presence of drugs or alcohol. However, benzodiazepines such as Xanax are currently estimated to be involved in at least 30% of overdose deaths in the United States. In the majority of cases, other drugs such as opioids or alcohol were also involved.
The following are signs of an overdose, and immediate medical attention may be required to save a life:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Confusion – saying things that don’t seem to make sense
- Dizziness even when not moving around
- Blurred vision and difficulty focusing
- Slurred speech -they have become difficult to understand
- Difficulty breathing – breathing is slow, shallow, labored, or stopped entirely
Treatment for Xanax Abuse
Xanax abuse can result in many adverse mental and physical effects as well as impaired functioning in many vital aspects of life, such as academics, career, and family. Treatment for Xanax abuse may begin with a gradual tapering of the drug over the course of weeks or months to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Long-term rehab, therapy, and counseling should co-occur with the tapering medication schedule or should closely follow it. Our center offers comprehensive, evidence-based approaches that have been shown to treat Xanax abuse and addiction effectively. We offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment formats, each of which includes psychotherapy, family counseling, and group support.
Our medical staff and mental health professionals aim to provide the very best care for our clients and ultimately, provide them with the tools they need to achieve sobriety and sustain well, happy lives long-term treatment has been completed.
If you or your loved one is abusing Xanax, other drugs, or alcohol, please contact us as soon as possible. You CAN regain your life with our help!