Xanax or alprazolam is a type of anxiolytic – an anti-anxiety drug, originally manufactured by Pfizer. Xanax belongs to the benzodiazepine family of drugs which are used to treat anxiety. Other benzodiazepines include Valium, Librium, and Restoril. The primary effect of the drugs in this class is to lessen agitation. Alprazolam and other benzodiazepines are used to treat panic attacks, anxiety and nervousness. When an individual experiences sleep disturbances resulting from anxiety or “racing thoughts” alprazolam may be prescribed for insomnia. Xanax is marketed under its generic name and produced in many different shapes and colors. According to the Food and Drug Administration, Xanax is habit forming and therefore should only be administered under the care of a physician.
What Makes Xanax Addictive?
Xanax is normally recommended for short term or intermittent use though depending on their condition, some patients may use it on a daily basis. Other patients may opt to self-administer Xanax and increase their daily dose without first seeking the advice of their treating physician.
Xanax typically stays in the body for 24 hours and gradually the user will begin to build up a tolerance and addiction to the drug. For patients suffering from anxiety, once becoming addicted to Xanax, they will stop taking the drug in response to anxiety caused by external factors and take it instead for the anxiety caused by not taking Xanax. The same methodology applies for patients taking Xanax to treat insomnia. Addiction can occur quickly and the individual may become dependent on the drug to sleep.
Xanax & Illegal Use
Xanax is illegally used by people without a prescription. Xanax is sold on the streets, online and in clubs to help people “come down” and sleep after partying. Many people are attracted to the state of relaxation produced when taking the drug. Often times, the user will combine Xanax with alcohol or opiates to intensify the high. This is especially dangerous as many deaths have occurred as a result of individuals combining benzodiazepines with alcohol or opiates.
Xanax has been reported as being used as a “date rape drug” because it produces a sudden onset of symptoms, has strong effects when mixed with alcohol and can produce memory loss in the user or victim.
Under a Doctor’s Care: Signs of Xanax Addiction
Because Xanax is a prescribed drug, most of the individuals who become addicted to it start taking it as prescribed medication. Patients may take the drug more frequently than prescribed. Patients who are on the drug for extended periods of time are the most at risk. Determining if the patient has an addiction may be difficult as symptoms shown may be due to an anxiety disorder or a result of not having the drug. Physicians may refuse to prescribe a higher dose or refill frequently. In this case, an addict may turn to “doctor shopping” or seeing multiple doctors to obtain several prescriptions.
Symptoms of Xanax Addiction
- Excessive sleepiness
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Lack of focus
- Memory problems
- Mood or sleep disturbances
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
A common withdrawal symptom is a “rebound” or return or worsening of the problem Xanax was originally prescribed to treat. Common symptoms include insomnia, anxiety, and agitation. Withdrawal symptoms can start as early as 6 hours after the user’s last dose and peak at 24 hours. After 3 days, withdrawal symptoms subside.
At the early stage of withdrawal, the Xanax user will experience strong anxiety, nervousness, trembling and mild headaches. Withdrawal from Xanax when compared to other benzodiazepines is much more likely to result in panic attacks or insomnia in the user. The user may be in a fragile emotional state, feel disconnected, easily startled or have a general sense of unreality. Simple tasks may become difficult.
Severe Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Delusions and hallucination: Patients have reported bizarre thoughts and feelings when ceasing to use the drug. Patients may feel they are “going crazy” or having a nervous breakdown. Delirium: Patients may experience a loss of the sense of person and place. Tonic–clonic motor seizure activity: Patients may experience a full body seizure that if not treated promptly can be fatal.
Xanax Addiction Treatment
Prolonged periods of Xanax use can create a dependency or addiction to the drug. Abrupt stopping of the drug can have serious consequences. Users should gradually reduce the drug over the course of several weeks to avoid most withdrawal symptoms. Often times, patients abusing benzodiazepines have much more difficulty reducing the dosage on their own. Being enrolled in a professional drug rehab programme, will aid the user in becoming clean.
Detox refers to the process of gradually reducing the amount of alprazolam the patients takes over time. Xanax can be quickly and safely eliminated from the body in just a few weeks. One benchmark physicians look for is the onset and severity of withdrawal symptoms during the process. Dosage is adjusted based on the bodies’ reaction.
The doctor may choose to prescribe a less addictive anti-anxiety drug to help reduce the anxiety, panic attacks, or insomnia during the detox process. Klonopin (a less addictive anxiolytic) along with Tegretol (an anti-seizure drug) may be prescribed. During the clinical detox process, the patient will be closely monitored by a physician.
Long term Treatment
Even when the physical symptoms of withdrawal from Xanax have subsided (typically after 72 hours), the patient will still have a psychological dependence on the drug. This is why it is so important to have the user under the care of an addiction rehab programme. Through counselling, the patient can learn how to deal with the stress and insomnia they have without depending on a drug. The 12 step model of addiction therapy along with cognitive behavioral therapy can be used as a foundation for recovery and long term sobriety.
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