Xanax is a powerful benzodiazepine that is often prescribed to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorders and insomnia. It is extremely addictive when used long-term. Xanax is the number one prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States. Seventy percent of teens with a Xanax addiction get the drug from their family’s medicine cabinet.
Tolerance to Xanax develops quickly, requiring the user to take more of the drug to achieve the desired effects. Someone with a Xanax addiction may take up to 20 to 30 pills per day. If the user decides to stop taking Xanax, they may experience withdrawal effects, such as anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and tremors. The onset of withdrawal symptoms is a sign that a physical dependence has developed. The development of tolerance and withdrawal are indications of addiction.
Once a Xanax addiction has taken hold, daily responsibilities, such as school, work or family, are ignored as energy is redirected towards drug seeking behavior.
Other behavioral signs of Xanax addiction include:
- Continued use of Xanax even though it is contributing to personal difficulties
- Inability to stop using Xanax despite the desire to
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Obsessing about obtaining and using Xanax
- Loss of control over the amount of Xanax being consumed
- Legal problems that are the result of using Xanax
- Risk-taking behaviors, such as driving while under the influence of Xanax
If a user wishes to stop taking Xanax after dependence on the drug has formed, it is not recommended to quit “cold turkey” or without medical supervision. The symptoms of Xanax withdrawal are similar to those of alcohol or barbiturate withdrawal, and the severity of the symptoms can vary. If convulsions occur, withdrawal from Xanax can be deadly.
Normally, the withdrawal process involves slowly reducing the dosage of Xanax and eventually switching the user to a long-acting form of the drug for a period of time. The gradual taper of this drug helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, a prescription sedative in the benzodiazepines family. Benzodiazepines were originally developed as a replacement for barbiturates. Xanax affects the brain and central nervous system (CNS). It boosts a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which slows down the nerve cell activity in the brain. The result is a calm and relaxed feeling.
Because Xanax is a CNS depressant, common effects of the drug include slurred speech, loss of coordination, and anxiety.
Xanax is dispensed in 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg and 2 mg strengths. The pills come in different shapes and colors depending on strength. The 2 mg tablets are white, green, or yellow in color and rectangular in shape. The rest are oval shaped and colored white (0.25 mg), orange (0.5 mg) or blue (1 mg). Xanax is a regulated schedule IV controlled substance.
After taking Xanax, the peak effects of the drug are typically felt within one to two hours. As an intermediate-duration drug, Xanax stays in a person’s system for 12 to 15 hours.
Common street names for Xanax include:
- Xannies or zannies
- Blue footballs
- French fries
Xanax Effects and Abuse
Taking more than the prescribed dosage or using Xanax without a prescription is considered abuse of the drug. However, those who follow a prescription can still become addicted to Xanax.
Xanax may be abused in several ways, including:
- Taking multiple pills
- Injecting it
- Snorting it
- Taking it via blotter paper
- Taking it with other drugs or alcohol
Xanax is typically abused because of the sense of calm and relaxation it causes in the user. Some people abuse Xanax by taking it in higher doses and combining it with other drugs or alcohol in order to achieve the desired high.
They say drugs fill a void, or at least that’s what my therapist thinks. The first time I popped a Xanax was the first time I felt relief from my anxiety disorder…There was something oddly comforting about Xanax—the way it came in many shapes and colors, like peach and blue. I enjoyed looking at the pills. They were a pretty little assortment of happiness I could feel just by holding in my hands. Although Xanax put a temporary stop to my agony, it soon introduced a new kind.
An overdose on Xanax can be fatal, especially if the drug is taken with alcohol or other drugs. Overdose can also occur if the pills are crushed or chewed, as the drug is designed to be time-released into the system. Xanax overdose symptoms include:
- Slowed heart rate
- Extreme drowsiness
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of balance
- Muscle weakness
Treatment for a Xanax overdose will depend on how much of the drug was taken and whether other drugs or alcohol were also taken. In the event of an overdose, medical providers may pump the stomach to remove as much of the unabsorbed Xanax as possible. Medications, such as flumazenil, may also be administered as an antidote. Doctors may insert an IV to provide necessary fluids. It is important for anyone suffering from an overdose to be honest with the emergency medical personnel about exactly what substances were taken and how much.
Common Xanax Drug Combinations
Xanax is commonly used in combination with alcohol or other pills—particularly opiates—to get a better high. Heroin users regularly consume Xanax, as do methadone users. In addition, approximately 40 percent of alcoholics regularly abuse Xanax. Alcohol is particularly dangerous when mixed with Xanax because they are both depressants, which can lead to an overdose and respiratory failure.
Xanax Addiction Treatment
Overcoming an addiction to Xanax isn’t easy, but people do it everyday. Medical detox and a treatment program can give someone addicted to Xanax their best chance at achieving sobriety.