Xanax (generic name: alprazolam) is the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drug in the United States. That’s a testament to the drug’s effectiveness, of course. Unfortunately, this effectiveness can come at a cost: the risk of abuse and addiction. It is important to understand the drug, its uses, and the potential dangers associated with it.
Xanax: What Is It?
Xanax is a benzodiazepine (these drugs are sometimes just called “benzos”). The drug acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, making it an effective treatment option for a variety of anxiety and panic disorders as well as for insomnia or depression with an anxiety component.
Overall brain activity is decreased when a person takes Xanax, and this reduction of activity can bring about a welcome sense of calm or relaxation.
Xanax is a prescription medication. It should only be taken if prescribed by a doctor who is treating you for anxiety or a related condition. Because of its addictive properties and the speed at which tolerance may develop, Xanax is generally prescribed for short periods of time—six weeks at the outside and often for a shorter time period. The drug is frequently available from illicit sources (or “on the street,” as they say), but should never be acquired or ingested from such a source.
What Are the Signs of Xanax Addiction?
A substance use disorder centered on Xanax addiction may result in a variety of symptoms across four broad categories: physical, cognitive, behavioral, and psychological.
Physical symptoms may include:
- Lethargy, fatigue, and/or extreme drowsiness
- Blurred or double vision
- Headaches, dizziness, and/or a stuffy nose
- Swelling in the hands or feet
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Poor coordination or tremors
- Heart palpitations and/or jaundice
- Slurred speech
- Weight gain or loss or change in food consumption levels
- Extreme dryness in the mouth, a decrease in urination, and/or an increase in sweating
Cognitive symptoms may include:
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
- Forgetfulness and/or difficulty thinking coherently
- Nonsensical speech
Behavioral symptoms may include:
- Taking more pills than prescribed or taking them more often
- A tendency to chew, crush, or snort the pills to increase their effect and the shorten the time it takes for them to kick in
- Pursuing prescriptions from multiple physicians or forging prescriptions
- Stealing or borrowing Xanax from others who take the drug
- Buying Xanax from an illicit source
- Decreased inhibitions and/or increased talkativeness
- Thoughts of suicide
- A decrease in sex drive
- Neglecting or losing interest in responsibilities including school, work, family, or social obligations
Psychological symptoms may include:
- Confusion and/or disorientation
- Mood swings including feelings of aggression, agitation, and/or anxiety
- Increased depression or desire to withdraw from others
- Hallucinations and/or delusion
- Feelings of hostility or rage and/or feelings of euphoria or symptoms of mania
Long-term impacts may include:
- Ongoing issues with working memory and verbal memory even after a person has stopped taking Xanax
- Ongoing issues with speed of processing, sensory processing, and verbal speed even after a person has stopped taking Xanax
- Ongoing issues with motor performance even after a person has stopped taking Xanax
- The development of breathing issues, a serious cardiac condition, or liver problems
- Increased risk of falling, being in a motor vehicle accident, or accidentally overdosing
- Increased risk of dangerous (or even fatal) drug interactions
- Increased risk of dementia or psychosis
What to do if You or a Loved One is Addicted to Xanax
If a person is addicted to Xanax it is inadvisable for them to suddenly stop taking the drug. This “cold turkey” approach could have dangerous implications—including the possibility of seizures. As a result, the first step in a person’s recovery should be a medically supervised detoxification.
We Are Ready to Help You Put Xanax Addiction Behind You
At St. Gregory Recovery Center, we are committed to compassionate, personalized treatment for substance use disorders—including those involving Xanax and other benzos. We understand the importance of treating co-occurring disorders—like the anxiety that likely led you to try Xanax in the first place—and of building a foundation for lasting sobriety. If you or a loved one needs help, we are ready to help you regain control and find calm as you begin your recovery journey.