Xanax: What You Need to Know

Posted under Drugs, Prescription Drug Addiction on May 28, 2009
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Xanax is a brand name of alprazolam, a quick-acting drug in the benzodiazepine class used to treat moderate to severe anxiety disorders, tension, and panic attacks. It is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance under the Controlled Substance act, as users can become addicted after using for after only eight weeks. Patients with a history of alcoholism and drug abuse are at a particularly high risk for misusing and becoming dependent on Xanax.

Medical Uses
For patients with panic disorder, Xanax is FDA-approved for short-term treatment (no longer than eight weeks). Physicians warn that tolerance may occur after using the drug for more than eight weeks, which can lead to dependence. Similarly, patients with severe acute anxiety should take Xanax for 2 to 4 weeks. The drug is sometimes prescribed for anxiety with associated depression, but the efficacy is questionable. Using Xanax in acute or short-term treatment may have some antidepressant properties, but evidence has shown that up to a third of long-term users of the drug may actually develop depression.

Withdrawal Symptoms
Many patients become addicted to Xanax after their bodies build up a tolerance to the drug, requiring larger and larger doses. When the drug is stopped in these patients, many of them experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, dry mouth, loss of appetite, memory loss, headache, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, chills, lethargy, fatigue, mood swings, and heart palpitations. Less common reactions such as hallucinations, seizures, or fever can also occur.

Recreational Use
Xanax has a high potential for recreational use, and the combination of Xanax and other drugs such as alcohol (especially when the Xanax is injected) can cause a serious and potentially fatal overdose. Xanax is also sometimes used with other recreational drugs to relieve the panic that can occur with taking LSD, and also as a sleep aid for use during the “come-down” period of stimulants. It can also be used with marijuana or heroin to accentuate the relaxing effect.

A government study conducted by SAMHSA found that benzodiazepines like Xanax are, recreationally, the most commonly used prescription drug. The study also found that 35% of drug-related visits to emergency rooms involved benzodiazepines.

It isn’t uncommon for habitual Xanax users to increase their dosage repeatedly to the point of overdosing. In addition, many Xanax addicts will combine other drugs or alcohol with Xanax, often resulting in a trip to the emergency room. Some addicts crush the drug and mix it with a liquid to then inject it into their veins, which is incredibly dangerous as Xanax does not fully dissolve in water as other drugs do.

A study in New Zealand found that alprazolam is almost eight times more likely to result in death in overdose than other sedative drugs. Overdosing on this drug depresses the central nervous system and can result in somnolence (difficulty staying awake), mental confusion, hypotension, impaired motor functions, fainting, respiratory depression, coma, and death. About 50% of the cases of alprazolam-related deaths were attributed to a combination of alprazolam and another drug, most often cocaine and methadone.

Patients who are addicted to Xanax should be weaned off the drug gradually while under medical care, as severe reactions can occur from withdrawing suddenly. Many patients have successfully recovered from Xanax addiction in residential treatment programs such as Promises Treatment Centers. Xanax addiction can take away the most important things in your life—your family, your friends, your happiness, and your health—so contact a treatment center today to get your life back on track.