Xanax is the brand name of alprazolam, which is in the benzodiazepine class of medications. Xanax is currently the most prescribed psychiatric medication in the U.S., with over 47 million prescriptions written in 2011.
Xanax, like other benzodiazepines, is used primarily in the treatment of anxiety disorders and insomnia. Xanax is a depressant that acts on the central nervous system, causing a swift sedating effect.
Xanax is not intended for long-term use, due to its high profile for dependence and addiction. When taking Xanax for an extended period, the body begins to develop increased tolerance to its effects. This often results in higher dosing, which can lead to chemical dependence.
Xanax can also cause psychological addiction, which happens when the patient no longer believes he or she can manage daily stressors without the drug. Continue reading to learn more about the risks of Xanax.
Is Xanax dangerous?
Xanax is a mild tranquilizer that has been found to be quite effective for helping individuals who experience panic attacks or occasional insomnia. Taking Xanax over time causes the brain to make adaptations. When tolerance to the drug reduces its effects, the patient’s symptoms are no longer managed adequately. In response, the individual may attempt to resolve this problem by increasing the dosage.
Xanax affects the brain and central nervous system, creating a calming effect on the user by boosting a brain chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and effectively slowing down the nerve cell activity in the brain. Effects of the drug include deep relaxation, slurred speech, loss of coordination, disorientation, and decreased heart rate and blood pressure, and can last for 3-4 hours.
Consequences of Xanax
Xanax is very effective in producing relief for individuals who struggle with certain types of anxiety disorders. When used as prescribed, Xanax should be a safe and effective medication. Long-term use, however, even just 4-6 weeks, can increase the risk of dependence. When withdrawal symptoms emerge after the Xanax dose wears off, it is a sign that dependence has developed.
Some of the risks associated with Xanax use disorder include:
- Injuries. Xanax can cause loss of balance and impaired motor control, which may result in accidents or injuries.
- Cognitive Effects. Those who use Xanax may experience memory loss or difficulty concentrating on tasks.
- Psychological Effects. Xanax use may cause an increase in mood swings, impulsive or risky behaviors, aggression, or anxiety.
- Overdose. When Xanax is taken in combination with alcohol, which is also a depressant, there is a significant increase in the risk of an overdose.
Signs of a Xanax Use Disorder
If you or a loved one is concerned about Xanax use, it is helpful to be aware of the common signs of a Xanax use disorder.
In some cases, it might just be a matter of having the dosage adjusted by your doctor. Here are some of the warning signs to take note of:
- Try to cut back on the Xanax but cannot
- Experience excessive drowsiness
- Slurred speech
- Prone to falling or feeling uncoordinated
- Seek out Xanax prescriptions from other doctors (doctor shopping)
- Continue to take the Xanax despite the negative effects
- Experience withdrawal symptoms when the Xanax effects wear off
Breaking free from a Xanax use disorder begins with medically supervised withdrawal management. It is quite unsafe to stop taking Xanax cold turkey, and this should never be attempted. Instead, a tapering schedule will allow the body to slowly adjust to declining amounts of Xanax in the system, thereby reducing the severity of symptoms. Following the medical detox process, a treatment program can provide supportive care to help you learn new coping skills for managing stress in daily life.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle – “everything for recovery” – reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.