Xanax use is widespread in the U.S., due to being one of the most common prescription drugs. Sadly, it is highly addictive, and even those who have a legitimate prescription are at risk of abusing it. Over an extended period, Xanax abuse can affect relationships, work, physical health, and mental health. Xanax also does affect the brain in the short term and the long term, causing a dependence to develop over time.
Drug addiction can feel very scary. Someone may feel as though they have lost control, and they might be unsure of how to break free from the dependence. Fortunately, there is help and recovery information available.
With support, care, and guidance, someone will be able to overcome their Xanax addiction and live a sober life. Likewise, addressing someone’s substance abuse problem will help prevent potential brain damage caused by the drug.
What is Xanax?
Xanax or alprazolam is a prescription drug that treats panic attacks, anxiety, and insomnia. Although it is legal to take Xanax with a prescription, it is illegal to acquire it without one due to the dangers of abuse.
Belonging to a group of sedative drugs named benzodiazepines, Xanax is a depressant drug that increases the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and halts brain signals that would usually cause feelings of anxiety and panic to arise.
Abusing Xanax frequently can have many negative health consequences and can lead to addiction.
What is Xanax Addiction?
Xanax has a high potential for abuse. Someone can develop an addiction if they use Xanax recreationally or in high doses. In fact, Xanax is the most commonly prescribed out of all of the benzodiazepines. This may lull people into a false sense of security as they may think that Xanax is not dangerous. Unfortunately, tolerance and dependence on the drug can develop quickly.
Though safe to consume for a short period, Xanax is the second most common prescription drug involved in medical emergency department visits. For this reason, people should use it with caution.
Many people abuse Xanax recreationally, for example, in a party setting. On the other hand, if someone was prescribed Xanax, they may abuse it by taking too many doses outside the recommended amount. Abusing Xanax can be a sign of a substance use disorder and can pave the way for Xanax addiction.
Characterized by a loss of control over drug use and difficulty in coping without the drug, Xanax addiction may cause them to experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop taking it. Though addiction is a chronic disease, seeking addiction treatment can help them break free from Xanax dependence. This can enable them to get treatment for a co-occurring mental health disorder.
What Are the Effects of Xanax Use?
The main effects of Xanax use include a sense of calm and relaxation. When taking Xanax, someone may also feel sleepy, content, and quiet. These feelings are different from the sensations experienced when stimulant drugs are taken, as they often produce feelings of high energy.
Because of its sedative effects, Xanax is particularly dangerous when mixed with alcohol. Both Xanax and alcohol are central nervous system depressants, so abusing both substances together can have life-threatening consequences.
Likewise, taking Xanax alongside other drugs can be dangerous. Polydrug abuse means taking multiple drugs at the same time. Unfortunately, taking Xanax with alcohol or other drugs causes the most significant amount of deaths.
Long-term effects of taking Xanax alongside other drugs can lead someone to experience symptoms such as:
- An increased likelihood of developing an addiction to both Xanax and alcohol
- Memory problems
What Does Xanax Do to the Brain?
To work effectively, Xanax needs to reach the brain. As with other benzodiazepines, Xanax works by increasing the production of the brain chemical GABA. Xanax may trigger the reward system upon reaching the brain, leaving someone more open to addiction.
As a short-acting benzodiazepine, Xanax works pretty quickly. Some of the short-term effects of Xanax use on brain activity include:
- Mood problems
- Feeling sleepy
- Memory problems
As the brain becomes dependent on Xanax, it forgets how to function effectively when the drug is absent. As GABA is affected, the brain slowly becomes reliant on it to work correctly, causing Xanax to impact thought processes, concentration, muscle coordination, and emotions.
Some of the other effects of Xanax use on the brain include:
- Lowered inhibitions
- Reduction in intelligence quotient (IQ)
- Difficulty processing information and learning new skills
- Slow response times
- Problems concentrating or with attention span
The safest way to protect the brain from potentially irreversible damage is to withdraw from Xanax safely and begin the recovery journey.
How Long Does Xanax Affect the Brain?
Xanax is a fast-acting drug, but the effects of a standard dose (between 0.25 mg and 0.5 mg) tend to wear off quickly, within five hours or so. For this reason, people take Xanax multiple times a day. Of course, dosing can vary. For instance, those living with panic disorders tend to take a higher-than-standard dose.
While the brain may feel the effects of Xanax for only a few hours, the amount of time it takes for the medication to decrease by half in the body can take up to 15 hours. Different factors impact this “half-life.” These include the age, race, weight, and metabolism of the user.
Does Xanax Cause Memory Loss?
Like alcohol, Xanax can cause memory loss when abused. Sometimes, a person may be unable to remember events that occurred while they were under the influence of Xanax. This is known as anterograde amnesia or “blacking out.”
When ingested, Xanax increases the effect of the brain’s neurotransmitters called GABA. GABA slows communication among different parts of the brain. This slowed activity can have calming effects, but it can also prevent short-term memories from becoming long-term memories.
The higher the Xanax dose, the more likely it is the person will black out. Of course, drinking alcohol at the same time as taking Xanax makes memory loss more likely. Once someone has blacked out due to Xanax abuse, there is no way to reverse this and suddenly remember what happened while they were under the influence.
In some cases, the memory lapses caused by Xanax abuse can persist even after a person stops taking the drug. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS can last for weeks or even months after the person quits taking Xanax.
What’s more, long-term use of Xanax has been linked to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the condition that affects memory and cognition, usually in older adults.
What Are Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms?
Xanax withdrawal symptoms can arise if someone has been abusing the drug. Though they may think that stopping taking Xanax cold turkey is safe, this is not true. Due to the effects of withdrawal, they should always complete Xanax detox with support and advice from a clinical professional.
If a person decides to seek treatment for Xanax abuse, they will first complete a substance abuse assessment. This will ensure they get proper treatment. Typically, treatment starts with a detox.
Xanax withdrawal arises when detox commences under the guidance of a professional treatment center. We at Tulip Hill provide the care and advice needed to cope with withdrawal symptoms and usually recommend a medical detox.
Withdrawing from Xanax involves slowly tapering the dosage. The effects of Xanax withdrawal include psychological and physical symptoms, such as:
- Muscle aches and pain
- Excessive sweating
- Heart palpitations
- Weight loss
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleep issues
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be fatal, and some people experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. It is therefore vital to complete detox with the guidance of medical professionals.
Though uncomfortable, withdrawing from Xanax is the best thing for their health as it can reduce long-term impacts on the brain.
What Addiction Treatment Options Are Available?
Fortunately, treatment options for substance abuse are available to prevent any long-term effects of Xanax abuse and protect the brain from damage. At Tulip Hill Recovery, addiction treatment begins with withdrawal.
Upon completing detox, the patient will undergo treatments that reduce psychological dependence. During their time at Tulip Hill, they will have a personalized treatment plan which may involve therapy or counseling to help them develop coping strategies and maintain sobriety.
Find Treatment for Xanax Addiction in Murfreesboro, TN
Xanax abuse can have long-term effects on the brain, increasing the risk of memory problems, information processing, and cognitive impairment in old age. However, quitting Xanax safely via one of the many Tulip Hill Recovery across the country will help reduce the short and long-term effects using Xanax can have on the brain.
If you are ready to find out more about your treatment options, contact us today.