Alprazolam, also known as Xanax, is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. Unfortunately, it is highly addictive, and even those who have a medical prescription are susceptible to abusing it.
As with any addiction, Xanax abuse can damage relationships and negatively affect a person’s physical and mental health. Recognizing the signs to look out for to tell if someone is on Xanax will make it easier to know if a loved one is struggling with drug abuse.
Drug addiction is frightening, but it can be overcome with the right care and support.
What Is Xanax?
Belonging to a group of drugs known as benzodiazepines, Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, a commonly prescribed medication used to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and insomnia.
Xanax decreases activity in the brain and body, producing a feeling of relaxation due to being a central nervous system depressant that increases the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a chemical messenger that stops brain signals that usually result in panic and anxiety.
Along with clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan), Xanax is listed among the 200 most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States.
Though Xanax is legal when prescribed, it is illegal without a prescription due to its adverse side effects and capacity for being misused. Taking too much Xanax can be habit-forming and result in addiction.
What Is Xanax Abuse?
Unfortunately, Xanax is extremely addictive, and physical dependence can develop if it is taken for a prolonged period. The most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine, Xanax is the second most common prescription medication to be involved in emergency room visits due to drug abuse.
Xanax abuse arises when someone takes it against the advice of a medical professional. It can also occur if someone takes the drug when it is not prescribed. This could include taking it recreationally at a party, for example, or another event. Chronic use of Xanax and taking it in high doses can lead to Xanax addiction. Addiction differs from Xanax abuse as those suffering from addiction may find they have lost control over their drug use and may struggle to cope with sober life.
Among those who are medically prescribed Xanax, there are some signs of addiction to look out for. These include:
- Running out of the prescription because of taking too much
- Worrying about when they will get their next dose
- Feeling stressed when Xanax is unavailable
How To Notice Signs of Xanax Abuse
If you suspect a loved one may have taken Xanax and you are worried about them, you can look for some behaviors and physical signs, such as:
- Slurring of speech
- Blurry vision
- Motor-coordination difficulty
- Feeling weak
- Difficulty breathing
- Respiratory failure
Some other common signs to watch out for include:
- Neglecting physical appearance
- Losing interest in hobbies or activities of enjoyment
- Shifty and secretive behavior
- Financial problems
- Relationship issues
- Manipulative behavior
Being clear of the warning signs of drug use helps keep people safe and prevents addiction from escalating.
Xanax and Other Drugs
Combining Xanax with other drugs is extremely dangerous. Most fatalities involving Xanax are due to polydrug abuse, which is mixing multiple drugs.
Taking Xanax with other drugs will exacerbate its effects and can result in death. Abusing Xanax while drinking alcohol, for example, can be life-threatening as the potency of both drugs will increase, and both are central nervous system depressants. Even taking Xanax and alcohol in small amounts is highly dangerous.
Using other drugs alongside Xanax can also result in long-term health effects such as depression, memory problems, insomnia, irritability, and addiction.
What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms From Xanax Addiction?
Those who use Xanax in higher doses than recommended for a long time will likely experience withdrawal symptoms when they begin treatment.
While it may seem like a good idea, quitting Xanax cold turkey can be extremely dangerous. For this reason, it is important for anyone who has become addicted to Xanax to go through the withdrawal process under the guidance of a licensed medical professional. This can be done at a drug rehab center under the supervision of a specialist and other health professionals.
Xanax withdrawal usually involves tapering the dosage slowly, which helps ease the withdrawal symptoms. However, withdrawal can still result in a range of unpleasant physical and psychological side effects. Some of the common physical symptoms include:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle pain
- Weight loss
Some psychological symptoms include:
- Concentration issues
- Memory loss and problems
- Mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts
Because Xanax is prescribed to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia, quitting the drug can result in these symptoms returning with intensity. These are known as rebound symptoms. Although they usually decrease in severity after one week, it is important to seek support from mental health services and addiction specialists to solve the underlying cause of drug addiction.
Substance abuse treatment is a long-term endeavor, and detoxing is just the first step. Once detox has been completed, those in recovery are advised to continue with different treatment options to ensure they maintain sobriety.
Addiction treatment options include attending support groups such as a 12-step program, seeing a mental health professional, and building a support system. Implementing healthy coping strategies will also help those in recovery stay on the right path and adopt a positive routine.
Those in need will be advised to enroll either in an inpatient or outpatient rehab program for treatment. The program best suited to them will depend on their recovery needs, the severity of addiction, and how long they have struggled with addiction.
While many people overlook it, psychological support is vital during recovery. Getting to the root of the problem by addressing underlying mental health issues will help decrease the risk of relapse.
If a loved one is struggling with Xanax abuse or addiction, the good news is that there is help available. Addiction is a disease that causes many to experience feelings of shame and isolation, so remember to be kind to anyone who may be struggling.
With the right care, advice, and support, Xanax addiction can be overcome, and a life free from substance abuse can be achieved.