When it comes to abuse of prescription medications, Xanax is a drug that’s particularly dangerous to take too much of. It is a short-acting central nervous system depressant prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax is a type of benzodiazepine (benzo) drug and commonly abused for the feelings of well- being and calm it can provide. It’s meant to be taken only for short periods of time. Xanax works on the brain in such a way that the natural production of the chemicals that the brain uses to calm itself diminishes over time, thereby causing worsening symptoms and ultimately addiction. After a short time, the user must have the medication just to feel normal. This is how Xanax gains its foothold. If a person takes Xanax for more than a few weeks, they’ll almost certainly develop a physical and psychological addiction that’s difficult – and potentially deadly to break.
The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that young adults were the most likely to have ever used alprazolam or the closely related drug lorazepam for non-medical purposes. The rate of abuse for those aged 18-25 (10.3%) was nearly double that for people aged 26 or over (5.7%). Additionally, Alprazolam and other benzodiazepines are frequently combined with other drugs by abusers. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 50% of the nearly 176,000 emergency room visits for benzodiazepines in 2011 also involved alcohol or other drugs.
What Does Xanax Do To The Brain
Xanax is meant to be taken only for a period of two to four weeks. When someone takes Xanax, it changes how messages are transmitted to the brain. Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter in the brain and primarily responsible for calming nerves and brain activity. This neurotransmitter plays a role not only reducing anxiety, but promoting sleepiness and muscle relaxation. When a person ingests Xanax, the GABA in their brain increases, ultimately contributing to the calming effect.
When Xanax is taken long-term, it interferes with the functioning of natural GABA in the brain, and when this happens the user will develop a tolerance and dependence to the drug. When someone is on Xanax, the brain doesn’t produce as much GABA as it should be. This means that if you are taking Xanax for a long period of time, and then stop, you will experience even worse anxiety than you did in the first place.
When someone becomes addicted to the medication, if not taken can develop severe withdrawal. They often become restless, irritable, edgy, and won’t be able to sleep. They may start to have gastric problems, or may feel sweaty. The user will start to lose all of the positive effects of the medication. And because it has a short half-life, they will need to increase it and to take it more frequently.
Additionally, there has been research and evidence that long-term use of Xanax can lead to cognitive impairment. Users who take Xanax long-term can experience brain zaps – an electric shock in the head particularly as the brain is trying to readjust without the presence of drugs. When someone stops using Xanax, they may also experience a feeling of brain fog.
Long-term Xanax use has also been linked to developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as dementia.
Benefits of Quitting Xanax
Xanax can be extremely difficult to quit. If you are in the midst of your addiction there are multiple benefits from quitting. These benefits outweigh the perceived benefits of continuing to use. Some of them can include:
- Improved mental and physical functioning – Long term Xanax abuse can lead to psychological problems including memory loss, depression, confusion and agitation. Quitting can allow you to live life without these symptoms and without having to constantly recover from it’s effects.
- No longer needing it to feel “normal” – Over time, a person addicted to Xanax builds up a tolerance, relying on the drug more to feel the same effects as well as to cope with everyday life. By quitting now you will not have to rely on the drug to cope with everyday life.
- Eliminating long-term consequences – Long-term Xanax abuse can lead to relationship, financial, legal problems, and accidents. Quitting now you can eliminate these risks that accompany addiction.
Short-Term Effects of Xanax
For those who take Xanax, the negative short-term effects of using the drug can be felt within a short time period. A common short-term effect is cognitive impairment and the difficulty to speak and form thought. With increased doses, speech becomes more slurred and people under the influence of Xanax sound like they are drunk. Other short-term effects can include dry mouth, headaches, fatigue, difficulty urinating and constipation, and sexual dysfunction. Additionally, users can experience more serious short-term effects such as skin rashes, seizures, depression and unusual mood swings.
In short, the effects of Xanax can include:
- Loss of coordination
- Impaired judgement
- Memory problems
Lorn-Term Effects of Xanax
The most common side effect of Xanax is sleepiness. When a person takes too much Xanax, they may have trouble concentrating, sexual difficulties, headaches, slurred speech, dizziness, and disorientation. It is also possible to overdose on Xanax. When a person on Xanax drinks alcohol, which is also a depressant, the side effects can be intensified and lead to sedation or even death.
Among the most common long-term effects of Xanax misuse is extended periods of sedation and lethargy which can last for 3 to 4 days. Another common long-term effect associated with chronic Xanax use is the impairment of memory, and especially the short-term memory. Long-term users of the drug can also experience bouts of depression and anxiety along with hyperactivity, agitation and periods of rage.
Long-term misuse of Xanax can lead to a host of physical complications such as blurred or double vision, seizures, tremors, jaundice, heart palpitations and tachycardia (or a faster than normal resting heart rate). Using Xanax chronically and over a long period of time has been linking to a greater risk in developing dementia. Additionally, users can experience suicidal thoughts, chest pains, experience flashbacks and uncontrollable muscle twitching and spasms.
When an individual becomes addicted to Xanax, their entire course of life changes with their main purpose to obtain and take these drugs. Symptoms such as:
Inability to stop use: As much as the user would like to cut back, it will be impossible to do so.
Intense focus: Nothing becomes more important than obtaining and ingesting the drug. Friends, families, careers, and hobbies all pale in comparison.
Negative consequences: Things like arrests, loss of family and friends, medical situations or other negative consequences cannot deter use.
Isolation: A user will likely isolate themselves to spend more time getting a “high.” They may keep their addiction in secret so that others will not prevent them from using.
Personal hygiene: They no longer take care of their appearance and cleanliness.
When a person tries to quit Xanax, it can be quite a challenge. You should never quit Xanax abruptly. As your brain becomes addicted to Xanax, it begins to require the drug to function normally and actually changes your brain chemistry. Stopping abruptly can cause seizures, heart arrhythmias, and death. Benzos are particularly dangerous, because they’re the only type of commonly-abused prescription pill for which the act of quitting itself can cause death. If you quit Xanax in a safe manner, you will still experience withdrawal symptoms. They include insomnia, sensitivity to light and sound, sweating or chills, muscle spasms, nightmares, and headaches.
There is a general and basic timeline for Xanax withdrawal, however this can vary from person to person depending on the dosage, frequency and route of administration.
1-4 days – Once the user has stopped taking Xanax between 1 and 4 days, the drug is cleared from their system. Often, the first withdrawal symptoms will appear most commonly looking like insomnia and progressing into other symptoms.
5 days – 28 days – This is where the peak of the physical withdrawal symptoms will occur. For most people, these symptoms can be resolved by the end of a month.These symptoms can include:
- Headaches and joint pains
- Anxiety and panic attacks
Some users can develop prolonged psychological symptoms of Xanax withdrawal that can persist long beyond the period of one month. This can last from six months up to a year. The symptoms can include insomnia, mental impairment, digestive issues, muscle pain, shakiness, and sensory symptoms like tingling extremities, depression or ringing in the ears. This can be improved with medication in a treatment center or fully monitored detox program.
Xanax detox can be painful, when withdrawing it is wise to avoid certain foods like caffeine, artificial sugar, food additives or honey, which can make withdrawal symptoms worse. Additionally, antidepressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, and other medications can often have a negative impact. Even vitamins such as D, B, and magnesium have been known to exacerbate withdrawal symptoms.
The most intense withdrawal symptoms for people who quit Xanax are anxiety and depression. This can be a huge difficulty for people who became addicted to Xanax when taking it to ease their anxiety. The anxiety they feel while quitting is called “rebound anxiety,” and it causes many people to relapse. When they begin to feel the way they did before they took Xanax, they take it again to stop those symptoms. Rebound anxiety represents a big rough patch, because the anxiety felt during withdrawal is usually greater than a person’s normal level of anxiety.
Tips For Quitting
Get A New Phone Number – If you were buying Xanax off the street, get rid of old contacts or switch phone numbers. This can be especially helpful when you are tempted to reach out and have cravings.
Get Professional Help – Quitting Xanax alone can be extremely dangerous. When you have made the decision to help seek out professional help at a treatment center or detox facility.
Attend Support Groups – Some groups may be 12-step based and can help you connect and meet others that are on the same path as yourself.
Practice A Healthy Lifestyle – Eating a balanced diet and exercising daily can lead to reduced cravings and psychological effects from Xanax after you have gone through the withdrawal process. Additionally, it can decrease the risk of relapse.
Learn To Handle Your Anxiety – Avoid people or places that may cause you to use again. Seek out a counselor or therapist to learn how to use healthy coping skills and acquire alternate anxiety reducing skills and tools.
Why Did You Become Addicted? – Why did you become addicted to Xanax in the first place? Maybe to treat your anxiety, or maybe to self-medicate. Whatever the reason at hand is, it is wise to understand and uncover the reasons why you started using. This could potentially prevent relapse.
Can I Quit Cold Turkey?
Few people who abuse Xanax are aware of how dangerous they can be, even when taken as prescribed. One may think it would be logical to just stop taking Xanax altogether – maybe as abruptly as they started taking the drug, however this is extremely dangerous and can have life-threatening effects. It is highly recommended to consider quitting under medical supervision. Seizures can occur during withdrawal, especially for people who quit abruptly or rapidly decrease their dosage. If you are determined to quit on your own, even the most determined can relapse during the withdrawal period due to intense withdrawal symptoms.
How to Quit Xanax
The only way a person should quit Xanax is with medical supervision.
The best place for a person to quit Xanax is in a detox facility. Because Xanax cannot be stopped abruptly, you must gradually reduce your dosage over a period of time, under the guidance of a doctor. In detox, you can safely quit Xanax, and you may also be given medicine to help ease withdrawal symptoms. Again, it is not recommended to quit Xanax on your own. At the very least, you should consult your doctor before stopping or reducing your dosage. After you quit Xanax, you should get some kind of treatment to help you learn to cope without Xanax and hopefully prevent a relapse. A stay at an inpatient rehab center is recommended. Counseling, group therapy, support groups, and outpatient treatment can also help. You will need to learn new behaviors and ways of thinking so that you can deal with your anxiety or your cravings in a healthy way.
The Importance of Xanax Addiction Treatment
Trying to quit Xanax on your own is extremely dangerous and the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal can potentially be life-threatening depending on the presence of other drugs in the body, their concentrations and past medical history. Because Xanax causes normal function in your brain to slow down, your body can try to overcompensate if you come off of the drug too quickly. This can result in your brain racing out of control. Seizures are common among Xanax addicts who quit using the drug abruptly, and rage, hyper alertness and more can also occur with withdrawal.
Once the detox process in completed, formal drug treatment begins and treatment staff will employ a variety of therapeutic methods and programming in order to uncover the underlying social, behavioral and environmental factors that led to your addiction. Detox centers and treatment programs may also include holistic techniques such as yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, and meditation to encourage healing. Additionally, you will be given the life skills, tools and support needed to continue working your plan of recovery once you complete treatment and resume your day-to-day life.
Sobriety Is Possible
If this is your first time attempting sobriety and are nervous to give up alprazolam, ask yourself how badly do you want to get sober? Have you faced consequences from your drug use? Long-term sobriety from Xanax is possible. It can be hard work, but there are many people who have achieved recovery and quit.
Xanax is not the answer to panic attacks, anxiety, and addiction. Do you feel you are caught in the grips of a Xanax addiction? Many people find that 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous or other self-help meetings serve as an alternate route to freedom from benzodiazepines. However, it is wise to seek professional help initially.
If you have questions regarding the dangers of Xanax addiction and the treatment options that are available, Sober Nation provides a comprehensive resource base and treatment directory to help you become more informed and aware. Our experienced staff is available around the clock and can ask any and all questions you may have while treating you with compassion and respect.
If you suffer from a serious medical problem, see a doctor right away. If you feel that you or a loved one may be suffering from a health issue associated with drug abuse or an addiction to Xanax, help is just a phone call away.
If you are struggling with addiction, the experienced staff at Sober Nation are ready to talk you through what is happening in your body and explain the symptoms and sensations that you are experiencing. Medical personnel can also keep your loved ones informed of your status as you go through this process while treating you or your loved one with the compassion and respect they deserve. Some of the expert staff of Sober Nation are recovering from addictions themselves and are an active part of the recovery community around you, so they understand the pain and frustration that you experience. Turn your goal of recovery into reality and call Sober Nation today.
If you feel you or a loved one need help with an addiction, SoberNation provides tools and resources as well as a 24/7 hotline. (866) 317-7050