Is Xanax Addictive?
Xanax is a branded version of a tranquilizer known as alprazolam. The drug is most commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders, though may also be helpful in the management of extreme PMS, certain phobias, muscle tremors and even IBS. However, as Stanford Medical School points out, owing to its powerful effects and the fact it is potentially addictive, Xanax should not be used to cope with everyday stress.
To understand Xanax symptoms, it is important to understand the effects that this benzodiazepine has on your nervous system. American Family Physician explains that when you take Xanax, it encourages the receptors in nerve cells to bind to a chemical messenger known as GABA, which reduces nerve activity. This explains how alprazolam and other benzodiazepines reduce anxiety. However, with long-term use of Xanax, binding of GABA decreases and tolerance to the drug builds up, so increasing doses are necessary to achieve the same effects. Then if benzodiazepines are discontinued, your body reacts to this, leading to a state of anxiety and hyperactivity, and is sometimes fatal. The high doses of alprazolam taken in addiction increase the risk of withdrawal symptoms, though it is possible to minimize the risks through a supervised Xanax withdrawal program.
Abuse of Xanax can arise even if you are initially prescribed the tranquilizer to manage one of the conditions it is licensed for, as you may start taking the drug more frequently or in higher doses to experience the positive effects it has on you. However, a growing number of people start taking benzodiazepines for purely recreational purposes, which is as much a problem among youngsters as it is among adults. For instance, a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that almost 18% of students in grades 9 to 12 had taken a prescription drug, including Xanax, for non-medical purposes. However, some teens are more susceptible to drug taking. A review of the risk factors for prescription drug abuse suggest that the following make misuse more likely:
- Easy access to medication at home or from peers
- Use of tobacco or alcohol abuse already
- Poor commitment to studies
- Low parental involvement
- Limited knowledge of the dangers of abusing prescription medications
Using Xanax without a prescription is dangerous, as the drug is not suitable for everyone and can result in a range of side-effects. Among the adverse effects of Xanax that you may experience when abusing the drug are drowsiness, poor co-ordination, digestive upset, low mood and altered mental function. With higher doses of tranquilizers you can achieve a high, but this leads to further unwanted effects and you may find that with chronic alprazolam use that you even become anxious due to the development of drug tolerance. This may encourage you to take higher doses still, which puts you at risk of needing medical treatment. Indeed, according to a report by USA Today earlier this year, Xanax misuse accounted for 123,000 attendances at the ER in 2011, which is twice as many as in 2005. With increased use of Xanax, this also makes addiction more likely.
Benzodiazepines like alprazolam are addictive as they raise levels of dopamine in the reward center in your brain, which encourages you to keep taking Xanax. To explain exactly why is Xanax addicting, it is important to consider how it triggers a surge in dopamine. It does this by activating specific GABA receptors on inhibitory interneurons in the brain, which normally tightly regulate dopamine release, allowing the release of extra dopamine. With this signal you seek out more Xanax, but the lasting changes to your brain induced by benzodiazepines also help to perpetuate your habit.
Xanax Addiction Symptoms
When taking high doses of Xanax, you can expect to experience a range of unwanted symptoms, though as a result of the drug̵#8217;s impact on your mental function you may not realize the adverse effects it is having on your body and mind. To your family and friends though, the following symptoms will be clear, and they may draw your attention to the devastating impact your drug habit is having on your health:
- Extreme tiredness
- Poor co-ordination
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
- Breathing difficulties
- Reduced or lost consciousness
The signs of prescription drug addiction are not limited to your physical and mental health though, as NYU Langone highlights there are a range of other signs that indicate you have become reliant on Xanax. For instance, you soon start taking more and more pills, so if you receive a alprazolam prescription you need to visit several doctors to get enough to satisfy your habit. You will also find that you have strong cravings for Xanax, so even if you want to cut back on your benzodiazepine use these make it very difficult to do so. However, if you do manage to reduce your intake of this tranquilizer, you will find that you experience Xanax withdrawal symptoms. Another sign that you are addicted to Xanax is that you put in significant effort to obtain the medication, so you will look to alternative means to get hold of the drug, even if that means taking part in illegal or risky activities. Due to the time you put into getting hold of a supply of alprazolam, this can take its toll on other areas of your life, so you may neglect your academic work or employment, spend less time on the interests you used to enjoy and become distant from those usually close to you. Finally, if you keep abusing Xanax even when you are aware of its destructive effects, this is another sign that the drug has you in its grip.
If these signs sound familiar, it is a clear message that you need to seek help with your addiction. This increases your chance of successfully withdrawing from Xanax and also reduces the risk of any adverse effects associated with a benzodiazepine detox. As some of the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal are potentially life-threatening, such as seizures and suicidal ideation, it is crucial you enroll with a drug recovery center to overcome your habit.
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