Xanax is the brand name for a drug known as Alprazolam. It’s a sedative belonging to the Benzodiazepine family.
When taken in proper dosages, Xanax is effective in treating seizures and anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia and panic disorder.
Its sedating action results from the active compound boosting a chemical that slows down brain activity, leading to a feeling of relaxation and calmness.
When an individual uses Xanax in a different manner than prescribed (more than the prescribed dose, for a longer duration, or more frequently than indicated), uses a different person’s prescription, or buys Xanax illegally, addiction can begin.
Xanax addiction is a growing concern across the country.
- In 2011, more than 124,000 emergency room visits were due to Xanax drug abuse.
- More than 16.7 million prescriptions for Alprazolam were written in 2020.
- 30 percent of deaths resulting from opioid overdose also involve benzodiazepines like Xanax.
- Xanax has boxed warnings from the FDA to alert patients and doctors about the possible occurrence of dangerous effects, including risk for addiction, misuse, physical dependence, and withdrawal.
Treating Xanax addiction is vital to protect the patient from serious side effects such as seizures, breathing problems, paranoia, and suicidal tendencies.
Xanax addiction can also lead to overdose symptoms that can leave permanent effects such as lung damage and CNS depression, which can result in death.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Does Xanax Addiction Happen and How To Recognize It
- 2 What Are the Treatment Options for Xanax Addiction?
- 3 Challenges of Xanax Addiction Treatment
- 4 Final Thoughts
How Does Xanax Addiction Happen and How To Recognize It
As one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the benzodiazepine family, Xanax addiction is more than likely to happen.
There are several reasons why people become addicted to Xanax and many symptoms/signs that can give away a Xanax addict. We’ll explain each of these below.
Causes of Xanax Addiction
Thanks to the drug’s relaxing and calming effects, taking Xanax can be linked to feelings of pleasure and euphoria.
Xanax drug addiction can be triggered by not following the prescription as specified and trying to self-medicate for stress/anxiety.
Some risk factors can increase the odds of Xanax addiction, whereas the fear of dealing with withdrawal symptoms can make it worse.
Not Taking Xanax as Prescribed`
When an individual doesn’t adhere to the dosage and directions indicated in the Xanax prescription, they’re probably on a fast track to addiction.
Examples of failing to follow a Xanax prescription include taking more than the prescribed dose, taking the drug for a longer duration than outlined, or taking the drug more frequently than indicated.
Using the prescription of another person or buying the drug from illegal sources also falls under the category of not taking Xanax as prescribed.
Fear of Withdrawal and Rebound
Alprazolam in Xanax has a relatively short half-life. Its effects start wearing off after 11 hours of taking the drug, which means that a person can develop an addiction even at low doses because it’s easy to become tolerant to Xanax.
Tolerance can happen at any dose of Xanax, leading to a short-lived duration of the drug’s therapeutic action. At the same time, the sensation of coming down from the high and experiencing withdrawal symptoms hits faster.
To avoid the unpleasant and potentially painful effects of Xanax withdrawal, people may continue taking the drug and develop an addiction.
In addition to fear of withdrawal, there’s also fear of rebound.
Using Xanax can cause a phenomenon known as rebound symptoms if you suddenly stop taking the drug. It manifests as a more severe reoccurrence of the symptoms that you’re using the drug to treat.
To avoid these consequences, people may continue taking Xanax as the discomfort and pain seem to outweigh the benefits of stopping.
Belonging to Risk Groups
Another factor that can contribute to a person developing an addiction to Xanax is if they belong to a risk group.
If you or a loved one fall under one or more of the following categories, strict supervision should be exercised when taking Xanax:
- A history of substance abuse in the family.
- A history of alcohol abuse.
- Suffering from ASPD (antisocial personality disorder).
- Suffering from psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder or depression.
- Age between 18 and 25 years; Young adults who take Xanax tend to also take other illegal drugs (such as marijuana and opioids) and are more likely to suffer from undiagnosed or diagnosed mental conditions.
The reasons why these groups are at greater risk of benzodiazepine addiction are varying.
Some people are more genetically predisposed to substance abuse and addiction, while others are more inclined to addiction due to mental illness.
Symptoms of Xanax Addiction
Before we get into the symptoms of Xanax addiction, you should familiarize yourself with the side effects of regular use of Xanax since the two can easily overlap.
As a sedative, Xanax causes CNS (central nervous system) depression. This means it promotes the brain and nervous system to experience a decline in activity.
The side effects of taking Xanax can be behavioral, psychological, and physical. They include:
- Mood swings
- Loss of sexual appetite
- Erectile dysfunction
- Dry mouth
- Slurred speech
- Shortness of breath
- Memory issues
- Lack of inhibition
- Lack of focus
In addition to these side effects, Xanax can also cause rebound symptoms as we explained earlier.
In the event of Xanax addiction, any of the symptoms mentioned above can appear but will be more intense. Some additional symptoms of Xanax addiction include:
- Excessive drowsiness
- Impaired coordination
- Extremely slurred speech
- Difficulty walking
- Blurry vision
- Frequent seizures
- Sleeping for long periods
- Frequent headaches
- Constant dry mouth
- Impairment of cognitive functions
The risks associated with the misuse of Xanax don’t stop at the symptoms of addiction. There’s also the danger of overdosing, leading to acute benzodiazepine toxicity.
Symptoms of Xanax overdose typically start showing within 4 hours of taking the elevated dose; when the concentration of Alprazolam in the blood reaches its highest levels. The overdose symptoms can last for up to 36 hours and may leave behind permanent damage to the body.
For example, a Xanax overdose can cause pulmonary aspiration, which can develop into aspiration pneumonia or chronic lung disease.
Not to mention, a Xanax overdose can cause increased depression in CNS activity as a direct result of Alprazolam. This depression manifests as a slower heart rate and reduced breath rate, which can develop into a coma or stop heartbeats after a too-high dose.
That said, if any of the following symptoms of Xanax overdose are present, immediately seek medical attention.
- Jerking eyes
- Shallow and slow breathing
- Visual or auditory hallucinations
- Low blood pressure
- Low body temperature
- Aggression or agitation
- Difficulty in speaking
- Impaired coordination
Signs of Xanax Addiction
It’s important to differentiate between abusing Xanax and being addicted to the drug.
Xanax abuse is typically associated with recreational use for a specific event, like getting a buzz during a party. In such a case, the person may take Xanax with alcohol or other drugs.
Usually, people who abuse Xanax can stop taking it without suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms and they still have sufficient control over their drug use and their lives.
Xanax addiction, on the other hand, is when taking the drug becomes a habit that the individual can’t stop. It’s especially likely to develop when the person believes that the drug is the only way they can manage their anxiety and stress.
Xanax addiction occurs when the person is both physically and psychologically dependent on the drug.
Even if you or your loved one has been prescribed Xanax, you can develop an addiction due to the quick build-up of drug tolerance. That’s when the body needs an increasingly higher dose of a drug to achieve the same effect.
As such, Xanax tolerance leads to taking larger and more frequent doses.
When an individual is addicted to Xanax, they’ll show behavioral, physical, and psychological signs as follows:
- A craving or urge to take Xanax is present and so strong that it’s hard to focus on anything else.
- Taking Xanax for a longer duration than originally specified or in increasingly larger or more and more frequent doses.
- Having to take more Xanax to achieve the same effect.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (discussed later on) upon stopping taking Xanax.
- Spending most or all of the day doing activities related to Xanax.
- Spending a significant portion of the time trying to get Xanax, use it, and rebound from its effects.
- Continuously wanting to cut down on or stop taking Xanax but failing to do so.
- Recurrent use of Xanax even though taking the drug comprises your ability to fulfill responsibilities and obligations at home, work, or school.
- Recurrent use of Xanax despite it resulting in interpersonal or social problems.
- Becoming less involved in social activities to take Xanax.
- Giving up hobbies and important activities to take Xanax.
- Continuing to take Xanax despite knowing that the drug causes or worsens physical and psychological issues.
- Continuing to take Xanax even in situations promoting physical harm, like when driving.
If you or a loved one has exhibited 2 or more of these during the past year, consider seeking help.
What Are the Treatment Options for Xanax Addiction?
Selecting the right approach to treat Xanax addiction depends on the severity of the case. The following are the most common treatment options to consider:
Shortened to detox, this process involves gradually decreasing the dose of Xanax for the patient until they stop taking it.
Because the withdrawal symptoms can be very severe with Xanax, detox is often done slowly. The process becomes even longer if the drug had been used for a prolonged time or in high doses.
Xanax detox starts with an assessment of the case, and it should be done under medical supervision to correctly taper off the drug and constantly monitor the effects of withdrawal.
As part of Xanax detox, some medications can be administered by the medical treatment team to ease withdrawal symptoms in more severe cases and/or prevent dangerous complications.
Examples of medications that may be given to help treat Xanax addiction include Diazepam, Clonazepam, and Chlordiazepoxide.
These medications can alleviate anxiety, spasms, insomnia, and other withdrawal symptoms. They all have a longer half-life than Alprazolam, which means they stay in the blood for a longer time.
As such, these drugs are a lot safer than Xanax and less likely to cause dependence.
This aspect of treatment is key to maintaining abstinence and recovery from Xanax addiction.
Behavioral therapy can include various types of therapy, including:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Here, the therapist helps the patient process their thoughts and feelings and understand how they relate to their addiction and negative behavior.
Here, the patient works with the therapist to find motives that can drive them to rectify negative behavior.
Here, the therapist asks the patient questions to help boost their motivation to make a change.
Aftercare is just as essential to Xanax addiction treatment as the detox process because it ensures the patient stays on track with their recovery.
12-step support programs similar to AA (alcoholics anonymous) and NA (narcotics anonymous) that are geared towards benzodiazepines can be of substantial help.
You can also try non-12-step programs such as outpatient therapy, group therapy, counseling, and PHP (partial hospitalization programs).
Challenges of Xanax Addiction Treatment
The biggest issue that can hinder the successful treatment of Xanax addiction is the drug’s withdrawal symptoms, followed by co-occurring mental disorders and relapse risk.
Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that the patient continues to use the drug just to avoid dealing with them. The most common ones include:
- Panic attacks
- Muscle aches and pain
- Irregular heartbeats
- Weight loss
- Suicidal thoughts
- Tingling and numbness in the face, hands, or feet
- Increased sensitivity to sound and light
- Uncontrollable tremors
- Mood swings
Xanax addiction treatment aims to stop long-term use of the drug. Addiction typically develops due to prescription-related misbehavior or fear of withdrawal, and due to the drug’s quick build of tolerance, Xanax is easily misused.
If you or anyone you know shows symptoms/signs of Xanax addiction and needs assistance in their journey to recover from addiction, please don’t hesitate to seek help.
Xanax addiction is treatable but it doesn’t happen overnight. Patience, forgiveness, and support are crucial to recovery, along with behavioral therapy and relapse prevention measures to avoid falling back into the pit.
What is Xanax addiction?
Xanax addiction is a condition that arises when a person becomes dependent on the prescription drug Xanax, which is a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax addiction occurs when a person develops a tolerance to the drug, meaning they need increasingly larger doses to achieve the same effects. Over time, this can lead to physical dependence, which can cause withdrawal symptoms if the person tries to stop using Xanax. Xanax addiction can have a significant impact on a person’s life, leading to problems with work, relationships, and overall health. It is a serious condition that requires professional treatment to overcome.
What are the signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction?
The signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction can vary from person to person, but here are some common ones to look out for:
- Taking larger doses of Xanax than prescribed or using it more frequently than directed
- Difficulty controlling Xanax use or feeling unable to stop using it
- Spending significant amounts of time and money obtaining and using Xanax
- Continuing to use Xanax despite negative consequences, such as relationship or job problems
- Withdrawal symptoms when not using Xanax, including anxiety, tremors, insomnia, and seizures
- Using Xanax to cope with stress or other negative emotions
- Neglecting important obligations and activities in favor of Xanax use
- Hiding Xanax use from friends and family members
- Building up a tolerance to Xanax, meaning more of the drug is needed to achieve the desired effect
- Physical symptoms such as drowsiness, confusion, slurred speech, impaired coordination, and memory problems.
If you suspect that you or someone you know may be struggling with Xanax addiction, it is important to seek professional help.
How does Xanax addiction develop?
Xanax addiction can develop gradually over time. When used as prescribed, Xanax can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders. However, when taken in larger doses or more frequently than prescribed, the drug can create feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and calmness. These effects can be highly addictive, and some people may begin to abuse Xanax in order to experience them more frequently or intensely.
Additionally, Xanax is a fast-acting drug that can produce rapid changes in brain chemistry. It works by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps to regulate anxiety and stress levels. Over time, the brain may become accustomed to the presence of Xanax and require higher doses to achieve the same effects. This can lead to physical dependence, where the body adapts to the presence of the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms when it is not present.
Finally, Xanax addiction can develop when a person uses the drug to cope with underlying mental health issues, such as depression, trauma, or anxiety. Instead of addressing these issues through therapy or other treatments, a person may rely on Xanax as a way to manage their symptoms. This can create a cycle of dependence that can be difficult to break without professional help.
What are the risks of Xanax addiction?
Xanax addiction can have a range of risks and negative consequences for a person’s health and well-being. Here are some potential risks of Xanax addiction:
- Physical dependence: Xanax can be highly addictive and can cause physical dependence, meaning a person’s body adapts to the presence of the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms when it is not present.
- Overdose: Taking too much Xanax can lead to overdose, which can be fatal. Signs of Xanax overdose include slowed breathing, extreme drowsiness, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
- Impaired cognitive function: Xanax can impair a person’s cognitive function, making it difficult to concentrate, remember things, or make decisions.
- Increased risk of accidents: Xanax can impair a person’s coordination and reaction time, increasing the risk of accidents, falls, and other injuries.
- Worsening mental health: Xanax addiction can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression over time, as well as contribute to the development of other mental health conditions.
- Relationship problems: Xanax addiction can strain relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners.
- Legal problems: Using Xanax without a prescription or selling the drug can lead to legal problems, including arrest and incarceration.
It is important to seek professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with Xanax addiction to prevent these negative consequences.
What are the treatment options for Xanax addiction?
The treatment options for Xanax addiction typically include a combination of therapy, medication, treatment centers and support services. Here are some common approaches to Xanax addiction treatment:
- Detoxification: Detoxification is the process of eliminating Xanax from the body and managing withdrawal symptoms. This can be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the severity of the addiction.
- Medication-assisted treatment: Medications such as benzodiazepine agonists, which work similarly to Xanax, can be used to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings during the detoxification process.
- Behavioral therapy: Behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to Xanax use.
- Support groups: Support groups, such as 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous, can provide peer support and encouragement during the recovery process.
- Dual diagnosis treatment: For individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders, dual diagnosis treatment can help address both the Xanax addiction and the underlying mental health issues.
- Inpatient treatment: Inpatient treatment programs provide a structured, supportive environment for individuals in recovery, offering round-the-clock care and support.
- Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment programs allow individuals to continue working and living at home while receiving treatment.
The most effective treatment plan for Xanax addiction will depend on the individual’s specific needs and the severity of the addiction. It is important to work with a qualified healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment.
What is the detox process for Xanax addiction?
The detox process for Xanax addiction typically involves gradually tapering off the drug under medical supervision to minimize withdrawal symptoms. The length and severity of the detox process can vary depending on the person’s level of dependence and the length of time they have been using Xanax.
Here are some common steps in the detox process for Xanax addiction:
- Assessment: A healthcare professional will evaluate the person’s level of dependence and overall health to determine the appropriate course of treatment.
- Tapering: The person will gradually reduce their Xanax dosage over a period of days or weeks to minimize the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms.
- Medication-assisted treatment: Medications such as benzodiazepine agonists may be used to help manage withdrawal symptoms during the detox process.
- Medical monitoring: The person will be closely monitored by healthcare professionals during the detox process to ensure their safety and well-being.
- Emotional support: Emotional support, such as counseling or therapy, can be provided to help the person manage the psychological effects of detoxification.
- Follow-up care: After detoxification, the person may continue with additional treatment, such as behavioral therapy or support group meetings, to maintain their recovery.
It is important to seek medical supervision during the detox process to minimize the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms and ensure a safe and successful recovery.
How long does Xanax addiction treatment last?
The length of Xanax addiction treatment can vary depending on the individual’s needs and the severity of the addiction. Xanax addiction treatment typically involves a combination of therapy, medication, and support services to help individuals overcome their addiction and maintain their recovery. Here are some factors that can influence the length of treatment:
- Severity of addiction: The more severe the addiction, the longer the treatment may take to achieve sustained recovery.
- Co-occurring disorders: If the individual has co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, the length of treatment may be longer to address these underlying issues.
- Type of treatment program: Inpatient treatment programs typically last between 30 and 90 days, while outpatient treatment programs can last several months or more.
- Individual progress: The pace of treatment will depend on the individual’s progress, and treatment length may be adjusted accordingly.
In general, Xanax addiction treatment can last several months to a year or more, depending on the individual’s needs and progress. However, the most important factor is ensuring that the individual receives the appropriate level and duration of care to achieve sustained recovery.
How can I support a loved one who is struggling with Xanax addiction?
Supporting a loved one who is struggling with Xanax addiction can be challenging, but it is important to show your support and encourage them to seek professional help. Here are some tips for supporting a loved one with Xanax addiction:
- Educate yourself: Learn about Xanax addiction and its effects on the body and mind, so you can better understand what your loved one is going through.
- Be non-judgmental: Avoid criticizing or shaming your loved one for their addiction. Instead, offer empathy and support.
- Encourage professional help: Encourage your loved one to seek professional help, such as a doctor, therapist, or addiction specialist.
- Offer emotional support: Let your loved one know that you are there for them and offer emotional support throughout their recovery process.
- Set boundaries: Set clear boundaries with your loved one to protect your own well-being and avoid enabling their addiction.
- Attend support groups: Attend support groups, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, to connect with other people who are also supporting loved ones with addiction.
- Practice self-care: Taking care of your own physical and emotional health is essential for supporting a loved one with addiction. Make sure to prioritize your own self-care needs.
Remember that recovery is a process, and it may take time for your loved one to achieve sustained recovery. Keep showing your support and encouraging them to seek professional help, and be patient and understanding throughout their journey to recovery.