Xanax, among the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines, is a potent sedative used to treat things like generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, seizures, social phobia and panic disorder. Alprazolam, the generic name for the drug, isn’t just a regularly prescribed benzo, it’s the most prescribed psychotropic drug, period, in the United States. In 2013 alone there were 48 million prescriptions filled.
As a central nervous system depressant, Xanax works by increasing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that inhibits brain activity. This action causes the drowsy and calming effects that make the medicine effective for anxiety and sleep disorders.
That’s the basic science, what makes it so addictive though?
Why Xanax Is Addictive
The sedation and calm that washes over a user is a powerful feeling. For someone struggling with panic or anxiety especially, an intense wave of comparative relaxation becomes hard to give up and the same goes for anyone taking Xanax recreationally.
Sedatives extremely swiftly create a sort of “new normal”, to the point that a person will quickly start to feel like they need Xanax to function.
Aside from the high risk of addiction, Xanax presents other unique hazards. The dangers of mixing it with alcohol are profound as both are depressants and they amplify the effect of the other which means taking them together can have very real and very life-threatening consequences.
Additionally, over 30% of overdoses involving opioids also involve benzos like Xanax according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Signs of a Xanax Addiction
For any user, when the use becomes problematic, the question becomes “how do I know if I am addicted to Xanax?”.
When does using as directed or recreationally turn into something different? When does dependency transform and shift into a full-blown addiction?
The symptoms of an addiction to Xanax, or another benzo for that matter, can manifest in these ways:
- Developing a tolerance and needing to take ever-larger doses to achieve the same feeling or high
- Inability to control the amount or how often you take Xanax
- Visiting multiple doctors to obtain additional prescriptions
- Spending an inordinate amount of time getting, taking and recovering from Xanax
- Purchasing it illegally on the street
- Financial problems
- Slurred speech
- Memory problems
- Borrowing or stealing Xanax from a friend or loved one
- Unable to maintain responsibilities at work, home or school
- Strained relationships
- Avoiding or losing interest in activities, events or people you once enjoyed spending time with in order to take the drug
- Continuing to use despite clear negative consequences
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not taking Xanax
The Best Way to Get Help With Addiction
After recognizing that you need help, the first step in overcoming an addiction is safely dealing with the withdrawal symptoms. With respect to Xanax and other central nervous system depressants, they can start within just a few hours after the last dose and as NIDA notes, “people addicted to prescription CNS depressants should not attempt to stop taking them on their own. Withdrawal symptoms from these drugs can be severe and—in the case of certain medications-potentially life-threatening”.
Given that, it’s critical to detox under the watchful supervision of medical professionals who can guide you through the entire process while mitigating discomfort as much as possible.
After the physical addiction is broken, the important work on the mental side of addiction can truly get underway. Whether residential inpatient treatment or outpatient care is better for you is full dependent on the severity of your personal addiction to Xanax. At All American Detox, we offer both as well aftercare services because support doesn’t end when the rehab does.
The critical thing to know is that recovery is a process and a journey, not a destination. Reach out to us if you or a loved one is ready to start theirs.