Everlast Recovery Centers

Xanax Addiction

Xanax belongs to a group of drugs called benzodiazepines. These medications act as tranquilizers or anti-anxiety medications. The single most common drug prescribed in the United States for psychiatric treatment is Xanax. It is used to treat generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and other forms of anxiety disorders. Xanax and other benzodiazepines are controlled substances with black box warnings from the Food and Drug Administration about their high potential for misuse.

What is Xanax?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), between 1996 and 2013, the number of benzodiazepine prescriptions increased by 67%. Despite the high potential for tolerance, physical dependence, and addiction, Xanax remains a very popular and in-demand prescription drug.

Benzodiazepines, including Xanax, all act by depressing parts of the central nervous system. They do this by acting on a system in the brain for the neurotransmitter GABA. This transmitter has an inhibitory effect and suppresses nerve cells from firing. Xanax alters these receptors to make them more sensitive to GABA, enhancing its effects. As a result, common side effects include:

Severe life-threatening overdoses can occur when taking Xanax, especially when combined with alcohol or opioids. This mix of central nervous system depressants is more likely to cause death. The NIDA reports that 16% of opioid deaths in 2019 also included benzodiazepines. The cause of death “mixed drug intoxication” has become increasingly common.

In 2020 the National Institutes of Health issued an updated black box warning applying to Xanax and all other benzodiazepines. The warning details how doctors should assess patients for abuse potential before prescribing these medications, and also instructions for how doctors should plan to taper patients off the medications. 

Even though Xanax is intended as a short-term treatment, many people may end up taking the medication indefinitely. Taking any substance daily for a long period of time builds tolerance in the body and the person needs more of the substance to achieve the same effect. To continue getting anxiety relief, people taking Xanax long-term would have to increase the dose. Xanax also creates a dependency since it alters the GABA receptors in the brain. These involve signals all over the body, so removing Xanax from the body will cause withdrawal symptoms. 

The NIDA rates Xanax and other substance abuse as mild, moderate, or severe. In any case, Xanax withdrawal should be monitored in a medical detox facility. Withdrawal symptoms of Xanax misuse can be life-threatening. However, severe cases of substance abuse may also require residential treatment after detox to ensure the individual develops the skills to continue abstinence from the medication.

Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal may include:

Tapering is usually the safest method for withdrawing from benzodiazepines, but if for some reason someone stops completely, they put themselves at a higher risk for seizures.

How is Xanax Addiction Treated?

In most situations, doctors treat Xanax withdrawal by tapering the person’s dose over a period of time. A drastic change in dose can put a person at serious risk for seizures. While medications can treat seizures if they occur, no medication has been approved to treat the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal. Because doctors usually prescribe benzodiazepines to treat anxiety disorders or other mental health issues, they must prepare to treat these issues with alternative methods. 

Research has demonstrated that people tapering off Xanax recover faster and feel better if they receive some form of therapy along with the medication adjustments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and its related methods have proven to have the most effect.

How Does Everlast Treat Xanax Addiction?

For people with a severe substance use disorder, symptoms during the tapering period may feel unpleasant symptoms. Fortunately, some of this can be relieved with therapy and complementary therapies like art, music, and mindfulness. In addition, physical activity has been demonstrated to improve many mental health issues. At Everlast, we encourage residents to get outside and engage in outdoor activities or practice yoga. 

At Everlast Recovery Centers, we also provide CBT to all of our clients. The highly trained medical staff will monitor the client’s medication taper during their stay in our detox facility. Staff will also make them as comfortable as possible with a home-like, relaxed setting where they can feel safe during the detoxification process. 

Xanax Addiction and Abuse

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Xanax: Frequently Asked Questions

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Is Xanax Addictive?

Yes, Xanax can be addictive. It can cause withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it.

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Is Xanax Safe?

It is safe when a doctor prescribes it to a person, and the person takes it as prescribed. However, if it is taken illegally, with other medicines a doctor doesn’t about or is taken more than prescribed, it can be harmful.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the risks for overdose death when a person takes opioids and Xanax is ten times higher than if a person took either drug individually.1

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What Is Xanax’s Drug Class?

The U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency categorizes benzodiazepines like xanax as Schedule IV drugs. This means they have addictive potential and likelihood for abuse, but not as much as drugs on Schedules I through III, such as painkillers, amphetamines, cocaine, and anabolic steroids.2

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How is Xanax Used?

It is a medication doctors prescribe to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia. It belongs to the medication class benzodiazepines along with other medications like Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan. When a person takes it, they feel calm or more sedate.1

Doctors usually prescribe the drug to be taken short-term. An increasing number of people are taking both Xanax and opioid painkillers. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an estimated 23 percent of people who died from an opioid overdose also tested positive for benzodiazepines.1

People who abuse the drug will commonly take more of the medication than needed or crush them up and snort them.3

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What Are Some Street Names?

Street names include:[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.0.9″ text_text_color=”#5e5e5e” background_color=”rgba(225,183,126,0.37)” custom_margin=”||10px||false|false” custom_padding=”8px|15px|8px|15px|true|true”]

Benzos

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Bicycle parts

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Blue footballs

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Footballs

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School bus

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Xanbars

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Xannies

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According to CNBC, the number of fake and smuggled Xanax pills available on the streets is rising.3 It’s difficult to know what is truly in the pill when buying it on the street.

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Physical and Mental Effects of Xanax

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Short-Term Effects

Some of the short-term effects are:

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Amnesia

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Irritability 

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Reduced anxiety

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Reduced muscle spasms

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Sedation

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Vivid and disturbing dreams

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Long-Term Effects

It’s possible to experience an addiction-related to Xanax, which can increase the risks for overdose long-term. Long-term use also tends to result in higher rates of respiratory problems, such as pneumonia because the drug can affect breathing.

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Can You Overdose?

Yes, it can slow a person’s breathing and response times, leading to overdose. Signs a person may be overdosing on Xanax include:

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Cold, clammy skin

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Coma

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Dilated pupils

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Slow respiratory rate

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Weak pulse

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People have died from Xanax overdose.2

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What is Withdrawal Like?

Doctors think Xanax causes more severe withdrawals than when compared to other benzodiazepines.3 Symptoms of withdrawal include:

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Anxiety 

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Depression

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Insomnia

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Irritability 

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Muscle spasms

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.0.9″ hover_enabled=”0″]Some people may also experience seizures, which makes the drug a potentially dangerous medication to withdrawal from.3 For this reason, many medical experts recommend seeking professional medical help when withdrawing from the drug.[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.0.9″]

Treatment and Recovery

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How Do I Stop Using Xanax?

If Xanax use has occurred for a time period longer than a couple of weeks, most doctors don’t recommend immediately stopping “cold turkey.” This is because the drug reduces the likelihood a person will have a seizure. If they suddenly stop using it, it’s possible it could send their body into overdrive, leading to seizures as well as other side effects.2

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Treatment Options

A professional rehabilitation facility can recommend a tapering plan where Xanax doses are slowly cut back on until use is safely ended. They can also provide services to help deal with anxiety and other emotions, which likely helped lead to Xanax abuse. Some common therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy.3

In addition to these approaches, a doctor may recommend alternative medications that can help relieve anxiety and may have fewer side effects and less addictive potential. An example is the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressant. Examples include sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac).

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Resources

  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids
  2. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/sites/getsmartaboutdrugs.com/files/publications/DoA_2017Ed_Updated_6.16.17.pdf#page=59
  3. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/02/antianxiety-drugs-fuel-the-next-deadly-drug-crisis-in-us.html

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