Is Xanax Addictive?

Is Xanax Addictive?

Xanax, or Alprazolam, is classified as a benzodiazepine drug that was first approved to treat panic disorder in the 1970s. Since then, this fast-acting benzodiazepine has also been used to treat a number of mental and physical health issues, including anxiety, depression, and nausea caused by chemotherapy.

Although Xanax is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance, which means it has a low potential for abuse, it is still one of the most addictive benzodiazepine medications available. In fact, according to the 2011 Treatment Episode Data Set Report, 60,200 people entered drug treatment facilities across the United States that year for assistance recovering from an addiction to benzodiazepines like Xanax. This was a dramatic increase from 22,400 people in 1998.

There are two reasons why Xanax is so addictive. First, the drug interacts with receptors in the brain to inhibit brain activity, which produces a calming and sedative effect that many people enjoy. Second, Xanax is a very fast-acting drug. Within one hour of taking it, people can start to feel the effects of the substance. The effect and speed of Xanax can lead to dependency and tolerance, even if someone is taking the drug as prescribed by their doctor.

Not everyone who takes Xanax will become addicted to the drug; however, it is important to understand that the substance can be addictive for some people. By understanding how addictive Xanax is, you can protect yourself and your family from the dangers of addiction to this benzodiazepine medication.

Xanax Addiction

As mentioned above, Xanax is one of the most addictive benzodiazepine drugs, due to its sedative effect and fast-acting nature. However, a number of factors influence whether someone becomes addicted to Xanax.

Xanax addiction most commonly occurs when someone uses the substance for an extended period of time or takes the drug in large quantities. This type of Xanax use can result in tolerance and dependency. Tolerance means that a person needs to take more Xanax over time in order to achieve the original effect. Dependency refers to a situation where someone needs to keep taking a drug in order to prevent the onset of Xanax withdrawal symptoms. Basically, a person who develops a dependency to Xanax needs to keep taking the drug for their body to function normally.

There are two groups of people who become addicted to Xanax. The first group consists of people who are taking Xanax to treat anxiety, depression, or panic disorder. Their Xanax use starts as legitimate, as they take their medication exactly as prescribed. However, at some point, their Xanax use transforms into abuse. The second group are individuals who never had a prescription for Xanax. They somehow gain access to the drug, and they begin taking it solely for recreational purposes. Regardless of how Xanax abuse starts, addiction can be very dangerous.

The Types of Xanax

Xanax has multiple names. In the clinical and pharmaceutical context, Xanax is sometimes also called Alprazolam, the chemical name for the drug, or Niravam, a dissolvable form of the substance. On the street, Xanax has even more names, including bars, handlebars, benzos, blue footballs, Xannies, and Zannies.

In addition to having a number of different names, Xanax also comes in many forms.

White Xanax is a two-milligram dose that comes in a bar form. This is a high dose of Xanax, so it is divided into four pieces that are separated by scores. Often, a doctor will recommend that the patient split the bar into smaller pieces to take a smaller dose.

Yellow Xanax is the generic form of the drug that is available in a two-milligram dose. Like the white Xanax, yellow Xanax comes in bar form that is separated by scores into four different pieces.

Green Xanax is a two-milligram dose in bar form. Just like the white and yellow Xanax, green Xanax is separated by scores to allow patients to take smaller doses.

Blue Xanax is a one-milligram dose of the drug that comes in an oval or elliptical shape. Although it is a smaller dose, it is still very addictive.

Pink or Peach Xanax is a 0.5-milligram dose of the drug that is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Both of these pills are oval in shape.

Liquid Xanax comes in a small bottle, and each milliliter of the drug is equivalent to two milligrams of Xanax. Many people are surprised to learn that Xanax is available in a liquid form.

While it is possible to abuse all forms of Xanax, most people abuse Xanax in pill form, with the bar form of the drug being the most common.

Risk Factors for Xanax Addiction

No one is immune to the dangers of addiction; however, there are certain groups of people who are more prone to developing an addiction to Xanax. One group of people are women, because they are more likely to receive prescriptions for benzodiazepine drugs like Xanax. In fact, two times more women than men use these drugs.

Age is another risk factor for developing a Xanax addiction. In 2008, the National Institutes of Health found that 2.6% of people between the ages of 18 and 35 had a prescription for a benzodiazepine drug, while 8.7% of people between the ages of 65 and 80 had such a prescription. Due to easy access, older people may be more likely to become addicted to Xanax. However, it is important to note that there is also a risk of teenage Xanax abuse, as some teens many gain access to the drug by taking a family member’s prescription medication.

Co-occurring mental disorders can also lead to Xanax abuse. Some people may receive Xanax to treat their anxiety and depression, and they may become addicted to the drug that way. Other people may gain the drug through illicit means in an attempt to self-medicate. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately half of people with a severe mental illness also have a substance abuse problem.

The amount and length of Xanax use can also influence the risk of becoming addicted to the substance. The risk of becoming addicted to Xanax tends to be higher for individuals who take doses of four milligrams a day for 12 weeks or longer. However, it is possible to become addicted to Xanax in an even shorter period of time or with a smaller dose. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, using benzodiazepines every day for six weeks or more results in dependency in four out of 10 people.

The Physical and Mental Effects of Xanax Abuse

Xanax abuse and addiction cause a number of mental and physical changes in the body. The first sign of a Xanax addiction is tolerance, which means that the drug no longer works as well as it used to. People who started taking Xanax as a prescription drug to treat anxiety might find that their original symptoms have returned, despite taking the same dose of the medication. Additionally, people taking the drug for illicit purposes may find that they no longer get the same high from the same amount of Xanax. In both of these cases, the person may feel tempted to increase their dose of the drug. Over time, this process makes the brain more dependent on the substance in order to feel good.

On the mental side of Xanax addiction, the drug becomes a fixation for the person taking it. The Xanax user might spend a great deal of time thinking about the drug, including how to acquire it and when they can take it again. Xanax slowly becomes the user’s primary focus in life, completely consuming their waking hours.

Once a person is addicted to Xanax, a number of physical and mental symptoms begin to appear, ranging from drowsiness and forgetfulness to nausea and headaches. Although not everyone will experience exactly the same symptoms of Xanax abuse, the following are some of the most common.

  • Depleted Motivation
  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive Sleeping
  • Forgetfulness
  • Headaches
  • Inattentiveness
  • Lack of Interest
  • Lethargy
  • Light-Headedness
  • Memory Problems
  • Nausea
  • Poor Concentration

People who are addicted to Xanax also face numerous problems in their personal and professional lives, as well as with their finances. People who abuse Xanax tend to have strained relationships with their friends and family, and marital problems are also common. They may also have problems in their professional lives, because absent-mindedness, inattentiveness, and lethargy can cause people to lose their jobs due to poor work performance. These problems at work, when combined with the money going towards buying Xanax, also tend to wreak havoc on a person’s finances.

Xanax addiction is just like addiction to any other substance in many ways. For example, the red flags that signal a Xanax addiction are the same as the warning signs that indicate any other addiction.

The most common warning signs of Xanax addiction include:

  • The presence of withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using Xanax.
  • Developing tolerance that causes someone to increase their dose.
  • Avoiding friends, family, hobbies, and responsibilities to use Xanax.
  • Thinking and worrying about one’s drug supply and the next opportunity for drug use.
  • Continuing to use Xanax, even though it causes problems.
  • Being unable to control drug use.

If you observe these warning signs in someone you know, they likely have a Xanax addiction and they could benefit from treatment.

Treating a Xanax Addiction

Over time, a Xanax addiction can take over a person’s life. They find that their mind is unable to stop thinking about the drug and their body is unable to function normally without it. When combined with the unpleasant Xanax withdrawal symptoms, it can be difficult to stop taking the drug without professional help. Thankfully, there are a wealth of resources available to help people recover from a Xanax addiction.

There are inpatient and outpatient drug treatment programs available for people who are struggling with a Xanax addiction. Although outpatient treatment can be effective, inpatient drug rehab treatment is best if the person has strong withdrawal symptoms or if they have unsuccessfully tried to stop taking Xanax in the past. Regardless of the setting, all treatment programs share many common features, including medical detoxification, or detox, and psychological counseling.

All drug treatment programs begin with detox, which is the process of ridding the body of the addictive substance. The best approach to detox involves slowly reducing a patient’s dose of Xanax. This approach tends to lessen the severity and intensity of withdrawal symptoms like depression, insomnia, and irritability. If these symptoms are still a problem, medical professionals can provide medications to treat the individual symptoms.

After completing the detox process, patients can begin to undergo individual and group therapy. The purpose of therapy is to identify the underlying causes of addiction and to learn new stress management skills and coping strategies to replace the role of drug use. The treatment plan will also include drug abuse education and information about relapse prevention to ensure success after the initial treatment phase. Part of relapse prevention includes the recommendation to attend support groups on an ongoing basis.

Recovering from a Xanax addiction is difficult, and it is not always a straight path. Patients may face trials and temptation on their journey, and they may sometimes even relapse. When obstacles appear on the road to recovery, patients may need someone to remind them why they are striving for long-term sobriety. Friends and loved ones can provide this reminder. They can also offer the support that is needed to help someone recover from a Xanax addiction.

HARP specializes in treating addiction to many substances, including Xanax and other benzodiazepines. Our caring and compassionate medical professionals and addiction treatment specialists offer medically-supervised detox, comprehensive counseling, support services, and long-term recovery resources to help each client have a comfortable and productive stay at our state-of-the-art treatment drug rehab center before they reenter their life – clean and sober. With the right help and support, recovery from Xanax addiction is possible.

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