Xanax Addiction and Abuse
 

Xanax Addiction and Abuse

What is Xanax?

Xanax is the brand name for the generic medicine alprazolam. Alprazolam is a prescription medication in the Benzodiazepines class of drugs. Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive medications generally used to calm or sedate a person.1 According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, alprazolam “is approved to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder with or without agoraphobia.1 Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is when excessive anxiety or worry continues for at least six months.

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue (low energy, feeling tired all the time)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night)

Generic Names for Xanax

Although Xanax is the brand name, familiarizing oneself with the several generic terms for Xanax can help prevent overusing the same medication, leading to an overdose.2

Generic – Alprazolam (al-PRAY-zoe-lam)

Common Street Names for Xanax

  • Gold Bars
  • Xannies
  • Benzos
  • Schoolbus
  • X

What Does Xanax Treat?

Xanax treats symptoms of specific forms of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, adjustment disorders, and mild forms of depression.3 Xanax is not a prescription medication for normal anxiety. Normal anxiety is like the feeling you get right before taking a test or speaking in front of a large crowd. Alprazolam, or Xanax, is specifically for anxiety disorders at severe levels.

How is Xanax Abused?

Benzodiazepines such as Xanax are widely prescribed.4The effects produced are almost immediate and are typically a short-term prescription or “as-needed.” Xanax abuse happens due to its sedative effects. This effect and its addictive qualities increase the risk of tolerance, dependence, and addiction.


 

Xanax Statistics

Xanax has, within the past 20 years, become a prescription drug with high addiction potential.5 According to the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services,

 
alprazolam, marketed under the name Xanax, is one of the most popular benzodiazepines available. Initially touted as a safe alternative to diazepam (Valium), this drug has recently come under fire for its potential for addiction and dependence as well as claims of widespread abuse.”3

Xanax is a highly addictive medication that may lead to severe negative consequences. Any benzodiazepines possess the potential for addiction, physical dependence, and abuse. This risk of addiction also includes medications such as:

  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)

Statistics on Benzodiazepines

New England Journal of Medicine

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, between 1996 and 2013, the number of individuals using benzodiazepine drugs increased from eight million to almost 14 million. Although medical professionals are aware of the contraindications of combining painkillers with anti-anxiety medications, Medical professionals gave out combined prescriptions twice as often between 2001 and 2013.3

Montefiore Medical Center

As reported by Montefiore Medical Center, a rise in overdose deaths happened as prescriptions of benzodiazepines increased. From 2002 to 2015, fatal outcomes from overdosing on benzodiazepines quadrupled, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Centers for Disease Control

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than 30 percent of deaths from an opioid overdose between 2010 and 2014 also involved benzodiazepines.

National Institute on Drug Abuse

NIDA warns that individuals are ten times more likely to die from an overdose when taking benzodiazepines with painkillers. Also, benzodiazepine may cause withdrawal symptoms for months and even years after discontinuation. Sudden discontinuation of benzodiazepine drugs could cause seizures and even death.


 

What are Xanax Side Effects?

As with any medication, side effects may occur – yet unwanted side effects are frequently unwelcome. Xanax side effects vary between short- and long-term effects.6

Short-Term Xanax Side Effects

  • Drowsiness
  • Light-headedness
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Talkativeness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dry Mouth
  • Increased salivation
  • Changes In sex drive or ability
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight changes
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Joint pain

Long-Term Xanax Side Effects

  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist (hallucinating)
  • Severe skin rash
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Depression
  • Memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Problems with speech
  • Unusual changes in behavior or mood
  • Thinking about harming or killing yourself or trying to do so
  • Problems with coordination or balance

Signs of Xanax Overdose

Overdosing on Xanax can cause mild to very severe side effects. In the earlier stages of Xanax overdose, it may appear similar to drunkenness.

Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Confusion and impaired coordination
  • Reflex reduction
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Reduced respiratory rate
  • Coma

All overdoses have the chance of ultimately leading to death.


 

Signs of Xanax Withdrawal

The withdrawal of Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, is usually accompanied by various symptoms:7

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Irritability
  • Increased tension and anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Hand tremor
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Dry retching and nausea
  • Some weight loss
  • Palpitations
  • Headache
  • Muscular pain and stiffness

There are also some instances with more severe developments, such as seizures and psychotic reactions.7

Dangerous Drug Interactions

When Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, are used alone, they have a low risk of causing serious harm.4 However, benzodiazepines are often used with other medications and drugs. These drugs can enhance the toxic effects of benzodiazepines. Fatal overdoses often involve the combination of benzodiazepines and alcohol, with or without opiates.

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

It is important to note that Benzodiazepine medication can increase physical dependence with no apparent physical signs.6

Physical and Behavioral Signs

The majority of symptoms and signs of Xanax overdose are neurological. This class of drugs produces a specific sedative-hypnotic toxidrome.8The signs include:

  • Somnolence (drowsy; sleepiness)
  • Emotional lability (exaggerated changes in mood)
  • Confusion
  • Lack of coordination
  • Impaired cognition
  • Ataxia (a degenerative disease of the nervous system)
  • Slurred speech

 

Xanax Addiction Treatment

Treating a Xanax addiction requires support. In some cases, detox includes stabilizing the airway for breathing and circulation, controlling any likely seizures, and managing possible complications.8Activated charcoal is also recommended in some cases if ingestion is within 1 hour of arrival.


Resources

  1. https://nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Alprazolam-(Xanax)
  2. https://consumermedsafety.org/medication-safety-articles/item/411-why-you-need-to-know-your-medicines-brand-and-generic-names
  3. https://mphdegree.usc.edu/blog/the-next-u-s-drug-epidemic-as-of-2019/
  4. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0401/p2121.html
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657308/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846112/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7841856/
  8. https://accessanesthesiology.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?sectionid=143520164&bookid=1944&jumpsectionID=143938061&Resultclick=2