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Prescription drug addiction is considered a nationwide epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and benzodiazepines — the class of drugs that Xanax belongs to — are among the most widely abused.
Because of its high potential for dependence, it’s important to be aware of the risks associated with long-term, chronic Xanax use.
Immediate Effects and Adverse Effects of Xanax Use
"While Xanax may be a good medical tool when prescribed and used properly, it can have an array of side effects, some of which may be unpleasant..."
Xanax is a brand-name version of the drug alprazolam, which is a kind of benzodiazepine — a class of drugs often used to treat anxiety.
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Benzodiazepines boost the efficiency of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which can cause nerve cells in the brain to be less excitable. In general, Xanax has a calming or tranquilizing effect.
While Xanax may be a good medical tool when prescribed and used properly, it can have an array of side effects, some of which may be unpleasant. Aside from a decrease in anxiety or excitement, its immediate effects may include:
Increase in talkativeness.
Some people may experience a euphoric “high” from Xanax, but some users may also use it to try and augment a high from another drug.
According to the National Institutes of Health, more severe, although rare, side effects can also include confusion, shortness of breath, hallucinations, speech or memory problems, depression, or other mood changes.
Some of these same symptoms may also present in the case of an overdose, which may make an overdose difficult to recognize. But since overdosing on Xanax can be lethal, it’s important to pay close attention to the signs.
Other symptoms of an overdose could include extreme drowsiness, confusion, loss of coordination, or loss of consciousness.
Long-term Effects of Xanax
"Some studies have suggested that long-term use of Xanax may cause permanent cognitive impairment..."
Xanax may also have some long-term side effects. These can include a change in appetite, weight, or sex drive. And some experts believe it could also have more serious consequences.
Some studies have suggested that long-term use of Xanax may cause permanent cognitive impairment. A meta-analysis of 13 studies showed that long-term benzodiazepine users were more impaired than control groups across a variety of categories, including:
Another recent study indicated that benzodiazepine use was associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. While this may not qualify as conclusive evidence for causation, the apparent correlation indicates that Xanax use is a significant public health concern.Furthermore, Xanax is also
thought to increasethe riskof birth defects, particularly if taken in the first trimester.With prolonged use, Xanax may also become habit-forming, most often when the drug is misused. In these cases, users may develop a dependency on the drug. Here’s a closer look at Xanax addiction and withdrawal:
Cravings generally present as an extreme urge to use the drug, and may be a sign of mental dependence or addiction. Some people may start to experience frequent cravings, which present themselves between doses of Xanax — this can be a sign of building tolerance or physical dependence on the drug.
Dependence can be both physical and mental. Physical dependence is when the body, itself, starts to adapt to the drug.
A physically dependent person might start to need higher and higher doses of Xanax in order to achieve the same effects. This person may also experience withdrawal symptoms if he or she suddenly stops taking the drug.
According to the FDA, there is some risk of physical dependence on Xanax even if the drug is used correctly and taken over a short period.
Mental dependence, on the other hand, is a compulsion to keep taking the drug. This is what’s known as addiction. The likelihood of addiction to Xanax is highest when the drug is misused.
Individuals who take Xanax over a prolonged period may build up a tolerance to its effects, meaning they start to require higher doses of the drug to achieve the same effect.
It’s not clear whether patients develop a tolerance of all of Xanax’s effects, but research does indicate that tolerance to its sedative effects may be common.
When a person stops taking Xanax, a range of withdrawal symptoms may present. These may include:
Since Xanax is often used to treat anxiety in the first place, the onset of anxiety during withdrawal is thought to be a rebound symptom: the return of a symptom the patient experienced before going on the medication. Rebound symptoms can sometimes be more severe than the symptoms the patient had experienced before he or she started using Xanax. It’s a particularly dangerous part of withdrawal because it can sometimes drive patients to go back on the medication in order to relieve their symptoms.
This has the potential to cause, or to reinforce, psychological dependence on the drug.In some cases, withdrawal may also cause seizures, which can be potentially life-threatening. These are more common in people who have been taking higher doses of Xanax and/or for long durations.A period of medical supervision is typically required throughout a detox and withdrawal period in these instances.
If you’ve found yourself needing to take more and more Xanax, and feel helpless to stop, our treatment support team can provide details on Xanax addiction recovery programs that can help.
"People sometimes utilize Xanax or other benzodiazepines to blunt the edge of stimulant withdrawal..."
Xanax has a high rate of abuse in conjunction with other drugs. Some people may use Xanax to try and boost the euphoric effects of another substance, such as alcohol or opiate drugs.
People sometimes utilize Xanax or other benzodiazepines to blunt the edge of stimulant withdrawal.
Consequently, people who become addicted to Xanax may find themselves simultaneously struggling with multiple forms of substance abuse.
Addiction to multiple drugs can be a hefty financial blow, and may also make the treatment process lengthier or more difficult.
Xanax addiction can affect daily life in other ways, too. While research is still needed in this area, it’s thought that Xanax can have long-term consequences on cognitive function.
This means abuse of the drug could cause lasting impairments of memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills. Physical impairment is also a documented side effect, in both short-term and long-term use, and may increase an individual’s risk of accidents or injury.
Xanax use is associated with an increased risk of car accidents, and can also up the odds of falls and personal injuries, especially in the elderly. These effects can have a negative effect on the Xanax user’s quality of life
Personal relationships may also suffer. Xanax abuse has been known to cause a decreased interest in sex, as well as confusion or lethargy, which may affect the user’s relationship with spouse, family, or friends.
There’s also the added stress of the mortality risks associated with benzodiazepine use. Research has shown that hypnotic benzodiazepines, which include Xanax, are associated with an increased risk of death.
Besides the increased risk of accidents or injury, overdose is a major concern. Overdose is a particular risk when Xanax is paired with alcohol or other drugs – a common practice amongst Xanax users.
Xanax Addiction and Mental Health
"Quitting cold turkey can worsen withdrawal, including rebound symptoms..."
Many people who become dependent on Xanax were originally prescribed the drug to help treat a mental health problem, such as anxiety or panic disorder.
This means one of the greatest mental health concerns for Xanax users is a rebound of these disorders once they stop taking the drug.
Rebound anxiety is common during withdrawal. It may come on rapidly, and symptoms may be even worse than they were before the patient started taking the medication.
Additionally, some new psychological symptoms, called central nervous system withdrawal symptoms, may arise during withdrawal.
While often temporary, these symptoms may include insomnia or, in rare cases, psychosis. These issues — particularly the rebound symptoms — can cause some individuals to go back on the medication in an effort to relieve their symptoms, and can reinforce psychological dependence on the drug.
For these reasons, working with doctors or other treatment professionals is important for people who want to discontinue their Xanax use.
Quitting cold turkey can worsen withdrawal, including rebound symptoms. A slower transition process, carefully planned with medical professionals, may make withdrawal symptoms less intense.
To find a Xanax addiction treatment program that includes safe, medically assisted detox and supervised withdrawal.
Issues in the Clinical Use of Benzodiazepines: Potency, Withdrawal, and Rebound
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