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      Sober Nation

      Putting Recovery On The Map

      09-01-11 | By

      What is Xanax? – How Does It Effect The Body and Brain?

      what is xanax?

      Xanax Street Names

      Bars, Z-bars, Blue Footballs, Benzos, Upjohn, School Bus, Planks, White Boys/Girls

      What Is Xanax?

      Xanax—also known as alprazolam—is an anti-anxiety medication that belongs to a family of drugs called benzodiazepines. Xanax is a highly addictive and commonly prescribed drug. It is relatively easy to get and many doctors prescibe it routinely. These drugs effect the central nervous system and acts on a group of group of brain receptors called gamma-aminobutyric acid-A receptors. Xanax, as with other drugs in the benzodiazepine family, enhances the response and production of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is the brain’s own natural relaxant. With the influx of GABA in the brain, the feelings of nervous tension as the result of anxiety and panic are greatly reduced and users regain mental balance.

      Compared to other substances, Xanax is known for it’s quick action, which is one of the reasons why many people seek treatment for Xanax addiction. If you or a loved one is in the grips of Xanax addiction, you must seek intensive drug treatment and receive the care and support from experience and professional medical personnel. Xanax serves to to slow down the heart-rate, blood pressure, and temperature in the body. It is quickly metabolized by the body and its’ powerful calming effects can be felt by users within 15 to 20 minutes. Initially, Xanax will supplement the amounts of GABA that the brain naturally produces, but within a few days to a few weeks the drug leads to a gradual decrease in the amount of GABA secreted in the brain. Once this effects occurs, users will start taking more Xanax in order to compensate for the lack of the GABA neurotransmitter and users will quickly develop a tolerance to the drug.

      The History of Xanax

      The history of Xanax has its origins in the late 1960’s. Originally created as a sleep aid, Xanax was first developed by Upjohn Laboratories in Kalamazoo, Michigan and was seen as an alternative to the harsher and more toxic antidepressants that were on the market during that time period. Xanax was introduced in the United States in 1981 and by the early 1990’s the drug became one of the most prescribed drugs in the country. When taken as prescribed, Xanax has potent anti-anxiety, anti-consultant, and sedative effects. It is most commonly prescribed for mental health disorders and used to treat:

      • Panic Disorders
      • Social Anxiety Disorder
      • GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
      • Multiple forms of phobias

      Xanax is the most prescribed psychiatric drug in the United States with over 47 million prescriptions written in 2012. According to data compiled in that same year from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 14.7 percent of Americans ages 21 to 34 have taken tranquilizers like Xanax without a prescription or on a recreational basis. Additionally, the number of emergency room visits due to the misuse and abuse of Xanax jumped 172 percent from 2004-2011. Some people start using Xanax because it has been prescribed to them, while others may have discovered it at a party or through friends. Not everyone who takes Xanax will be come addicted but those who use it regularly face the risk of becoming dependent. Of all the prescriptions for Xanax that were written in 2012, approximately two-thirds of those prescriptions were written for women. In 2011 about 45 million Xanax prescriptions were written.

      How Xanax is Administered

      Xanax is most often prescribed in pill form for oral use and it comes in a variety of dosages. For those who use the drug recreationally, they may crush the tablets and snort the drug. By snorting the drug, users can experience a quicker rush of calm, but the effects wear off quicker in comparison to taking the drug in tablet form. Those who abuse Xanax have also been known to smoke the drug, and this route of administration also allows the effects of the drug to be quickly felt. However, if users smoke the drug they will be breathing in the fillers and binders which can irritate the lungs, throat and nasal cavity.


      Side Effects

      Any prescription medication can have side effects. Some side effects may be more serious than others. However, side effects from Xanax can include:

      • Sleep problems
      • Memory problems
      • Dizziness
      • Nausea
      • Dry Mouth
      • Paranoia
      • Strange Dreams
      • Depression

      The 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.

      The Long-Term Effects of Xanax

      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.

      Signs of Xanax Addiction

      Xanax is a highly addictive drug. It can be difficult to spot a Xanax addiction however if you do suspect a loved on is abusing this drug and confront them about it, they may deny their use and become angry. It may be helpful to express concerns, however be prepared for the person to become defensive. Your loved one may be ankle-deep in denial that they don’t even realize they have a problem. Part of the recovery process is someone admitting to themselves that they have a problem and that may take time.

      Signs of Xanax addiction can vary and may include:

      • Mood swings
      • Agitation
      • Depression
      • Neglecting responsibilies
      • Drug-seeking behavior
      • Loss of interest in day-to-day activities
      • Taking more than a prescribed amount
      • Crushing pills to snort so they will work faster


      When Xanax is taken for a long period of time, a person’s tolerance to the drug spikes. When taken for a duration of time, a higher dosage is needed to achieve the same rate of relaxation and euphoria. When this happens, it is called dependence. When an individual is dependent their brain needs drug in order not to feel any withdrawal symptoms.

      As soon as the drug stops being active in the plasma of the blood, usually within 6-12 hours of the last dose, withdrawal symptoms can start. It has been initially agreed upon by professionals that the best and safest way to conduct detoxification is through a combination of therapy and gradual dose tapering. Early benzodiazepine withdrawal lasts anywhere from 1-4 days and may encompass symptoms that the drug may have intended to suppress. After the initial symptoms, acute withdrawal occurs and may last from a few days to an entire month. Withdrawal is unique to any individual like addiction is unique to the person itself.

      Undergoing medical detoxification is a crucial step in achieving an effective, long-term recovery. While the process may be difficult, detox is done to minimize the physical and psychological effects experienced in withdrawal. During this process, detox staff will use a variety of methods (including IV therapy) to safely reduce the amount of Xanax that is in your system and will evaluate you for any co-occurring medical or mental issues that lie at the root of your Xanax addiction. In general, the detox process lasts about a week but can last longer depending on the severity of one’s addiction.

      High stress levels, family or prior history of addiction, mental health issues, underlying medical complications, and environmental factors can also make a difference in how long withdrawal may last for a particular individual and how many side effects are present.

      If one is dependent on Xanax, it should not be stopped suddenly or cold-turkey. Vital signs like blood pressure, heart-rate, and respiration levels should be monitored during it’s removal of the body. Medication assisted detoxes are available to relieve withdrawal symptoms. Xanax withdrawal can be made more comfortable and less dangerous in a medical setting. As side effects of withdrawal from Xanax can be extremely dangerous or even fatal.

      Some side effects from Xanax withdrawal can include:

      • Headache
      • Blurred vision
      • Muscle aches
      • Tingling in arms and legs
      • Sweating and/or fever
      • Seizures
      • Heart Palpatations
      • Sensitivity to light and sound
      • Impaired respiration


      Overdose of Xanax can occur when someone takes more than their prescribed dosage of the drug, takes the prescribed dose on a more rapid schedule, or when somebody has recently started or re-started the use of the substance. The likelihood of overdose on Xanax becomes increased if used in conjunction with other depressant substances including alcohol.

      Signs of Xanax overdose can include:

      • Blurred vision
      • Weakness
      • Slurred speech
      • Respiratory depression
      • Coma

      When you see the signs of an overdose, do not wait. Call 911.

      The Importance of Drug Treatment for Xanax Addiction

      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 From Xanax

      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.

      Call our 24/7 hotline at (866) 207-7436 to speak confidentially with someone who will provide helpful information about recovery options.


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