know before taking Xanax

An Antidote and a Problem: 11 Things You Need to Know About Xanax

About 5% of American adults suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).  Chronic insomnia, restlessness, irritability, lack of focus and pain from prolonged muscle tension is enough to wear anyone into submission.

If you’re suffering from these symptoms, taking Xanax might seem like a good idea. But, recent scientific findings reveal that Xanax might be worse for your long-term well-being.

In this article, we’ll reveal eleven things you should know about Xanax. We’ll also talk about where you can find relief from addiction.

#11: Xanax Has Short Term Side-Effects

The short-term side effects of Xanax include: decrease or loss of physical coordination, slowed breathing, heart palpitations, stuffy nose, sweating, chest pain, blurred vision, upset stomach, and swelling of hands or feet.

Meanwhile, psychological side effects of Xanax can include irritability, dizziness, loss of focus, sleeping problems, memory loss/difficulty, and fatigue.

These might seem like a fair trade to relieve the symptoms of generalized anxiety. But there’s much more to consider whether Xanax is the best option.

#10: Xanax Can Be Both an Antidote, and a Problem

Taking Xanax People with GAD want to enjoy life again. They want freedom from the creeping worries, the “adrenaline bleed” and the feelings of impending dread. This is perfectly reasonable considering these statistics about Xanax use in America:

  • 77% of Americans regularly experience the physical symptoms of stress.
  • 73% of Americans regularly experience the psychological symptoms of stress.
  • 33% of the American population lives with “extreme stress.”

So, if you’re experiencing extreme stress, you’re not alone. Plenty of people start taking Xanax during a stressful period of their lives, but they stop before the habit becomes an addiction.

But for others, the desire for temporary relief leads to long-term dependency. This is because, while Xanax “turns down the volume,” on GAD symptoms, it doesn’t eliminate the cause.

Instead, it slowly makes your body dependent on the drug, which is the first phase of addiction. The more dependent you become on Xanax, the further you get from learning to cope with the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

In a 2015 study, only 16% of American adults reported that their stress had decreased over the previous year.  Meanwhile, 48% of American adults reported an increase in stress symptoms.

Doctors across America write about 50 million prescriptions for the family of drugs (benzodiazepines, or “benzos”) to which Xanax belongs. Xanax is one of the top ten best-selling (prescription) drugs in America and the 5th most prescribed drug.

Xanax prescriptions have also increased since 2008-averaging about a 9% increase every year. All these statistics reveal two important things about Xanax use in America:

  1. Xanax is becoming more popular.
  2. Stress is becoming more common.

This suggests that Xanax is not the long-term answer to treating America’s growing epidemic of stress and anxiety. But that’s not all.

#9: Xanax Use Has Been Linked to Depression Symptoms

Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults (18 or over) in the United States. That’s 18.1% of the population, making anxiety the most common mental health issue in North America.

What most people don’t know is that nearly half those diagnosed with anxiety disorders are also diagnosed with depression. Xanax is a tranquilizer. On the streets, it would be called a “downer.”

It doesn’t take a medical degree to figure out that downers are the last thing a depressed person needs. Of course, you might be one of the 10% of Americans who suffer from anxiety, but not from depression.

But we’ll explain later how taking Xanax over a long enough time period could change that. For now, you should know that 33% of long-term Xanax users report an increase in depression-like symptoms.

#8: Xanax is Highly Addictive

Alprazolam, a member of the benzodiazepines drug family, is the generic name for Xanax.

Like other benzodiazepines, alprazolam calms your brain and central nervous system by enhancing the effect of a naturally occurring neurotransmitter called “GABA” (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid).

Your body releases GABA to calm you when you’re anxious. GABA then binds to receptors, which transmit a “message” to your central nervous system, sending a wave of calm throughout your body.

The problem is, if your GABA receptors are overloaded, they become less sensitive to these “chill out” messages. This means, your brain has to send more GABA neurotransmitters to get the same message across to the rest of your body.

To put this into perspective, imagine trying to shout instructions at a group of people. Every time you shout for new instructions, the people lose a little bit of their hearing. You have to shout louder, and louder, and louder until you can’t shout any louder.

This is essentially what benzodiazepine addiction does to your brain and nervous system. The more Xanax you take, the more you have to take. This is why people who start taking just a few Xanax a day eventually find themselves swallowing them like tic tacs.

#7: Xanax Addiction Literally Rewires Your Brain

Modern neuroscientists have discovered that your brain can “rewire” itself in response to your behaviors and your environment.

Norman Doidge, M.D. (author of “The Brain that Changes Itself”), writes about stroke patients who regained their power of speech and a woman with literally half a brain who lived a perfectly normal life.

How is this possible? Because the neural networks in your brain are not static. They can reorganize themselves to compensate for brain function lost through injury or disease.

This is called “neuroplasticity,” and the brain can perform this function at any stage of life. But, when it comes to addiction, neuroplasticity has a dark side.

To paraphrase a statement from a 2012 addiction study conducted at the Centre for Neuroscience Research at the University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia:

“Addiction is a long-term and recurring brain disorder where compulsive patterns of drug use and drug seeking eclipse other activities. As the behavior goes from casual to compulsive, the potential for relapse is underpinned by neuroadaptations in brain circuitry, similar to those at work during long-term memory formation.”

In other words, drug addiction “programs” your brain for dependency. While the brain can heal by reprograming itself, it takes time, energy and proper conditioning.

People who go to rehab have a fighting chance at making this change. But, since 95% of people who need specialty substance abuse treatment don’t get it, it’s easy to see why so many people become slaves to addiction.

Thankfully, there is a way out of this tangled web of dependency. But it takes more than willpower. We’ll talk about that later.

#6: Xanax Abuse Can Lead to Other Types of Drug Abuse

By now, you know that addiction changes your brain and its interaction with your nervous system. But if your neuro-receptors are “numbed” to one neurotransmitter (such as GABA), you can still get a similar effect by switching to a different drug.

Many of the people who come to us for Xanax addiction treatment are combining it with alcohol or other illicit drugs. Also, since Xanax users report an increase in depression symptoms, some of them use stimulants to treat the depression.

In fact, 86% of people who seek assistance for Xanax problems admit to taking Xanax as a secondary drug. Again, this is because addiction changes your brain’s wiring.

Once these changes happen, addiction becomes less about one particular drug and more about the general use of mood-modifying chemicals.

#5: Taking Xanax Puts Others in Your Life at Risk

About one in twelve high-school seniors self-report to having abused Xanax at some point. Seven out of ten of them admit to getting the pills from their parents’ medicine cabinet.

The same sources reported that half of these teens believe that using prescription drugs for recreation is safer than using illegal drugs. But again, addiction changes your brain in a way that makes you highly vulnerable to other types of drug abuse, including illegal drugs.

In 2009, sixteen million Americans over the age of twelve admitted having used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. Nearly half of teens who take Xanax will take it with at least one other drug.

So, if you’re a parent taking Xanax, it’s worth considering whether your teen will become one of these statistics.

#4: Xanax Withdrawal is Physically and Emotionally Stressful

An addict who decides to quit has no choice but to go through withdrawal. Sometimes, the fear and dread of withdrawal is so severe, it stops the addict from getting help.

Friends or family members who call our addiction intervention specialists understand this. They see their loved ones trying to quit, or cut back, only to be beaten into submission by the physical and emotional stress of withdrawal.

Thankfully, Xanax withdrawal is temporary, and there is freedom on the other side. But Xanax detoxification should happen under intense medical supervision.

It’s also best followed up by an intensive drug rehab program to ensure long-term success. But if you, or someone you love, is headed towards Xanax addiction, it’s important to know that Xanax withdrawal can be more stressful than the anxiety it’s supposed to treat.

#3: Xanax Addiction Can Erode Your Relationships

The average person with a Xanax addiction will take between 20 and 30 pills a day. The more Xanax you take, the more likely people are to get worried. If they think you’re losing control, they’ll try to either distance themselves or to help.

In many cases, people who want to help can be the hardest people to deal with. If you have any experience with addiction, you’ve probably heard them say things like:

  • “Why don’t you just stop?”
  • “You’re going to kill yourself.”
  • “You can stop if you really want to.”

If you’re suffering from anxiety and/or depression, you don’t want to be around people who make you feel worse. This is why addicts often distance themselves even from the people who are just trying to help.

People who suffer from depression and anxiety have less frequent social interactions. Considering how hard it is for non-addicts to understand addiction, it’s easy to see why. Addicts also retreat from relationships due to feelings of shame or inadequacy.

#2: Benzodiazepine Related Deaths Are On the Rise in America

Every day, about 115 Americans die from overdosing on opioids. Over 30% of these overdoses involve benzodiazepines. But that’s not all.

Since 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported a consistent rise in opioid deaths involving benzodiazepines.

In 1999, the average death count ranged between 5,000 and 10,000. By 2015, that number had exploded to between 30,000 and 35,000. Other commonly abused benzodiazepines include Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam).

Between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults fulfilling these benzodiazepine prescriptions increased from 8.1 million to 13.5 million. That’s a 67% increase.

Benzodiazepine purchase sizes are also on the rise. The average (out of 100,000 adults) quantity of benzodiazepine obtained has risen from 1.1 kg to 3.6 kg lorazepam-equivalents.

In 2016, the CDC issued new guidelines for opioid prescription in an attempt to slow the rising death toll. The guidelines recommend clinicians to avoid prescribing benzodiazepines along with opioids.

The FDA also issued a “black box” warning to warn of the dangers of using opioids and benzodiazepine together.

However, this growing trend of Xanax addiction and regulatory pressure has also created a black market for Xanax. Underground Xanax dealers sell pills for $1 and $10 a piece (depending on dose size).

This trend has turned Xanax addiction into an expensive habit and Xanax addicts into criminals.

#1: Good News: Xanax Addiction is Treatable

How do you know if your Xanax habit has become an addiction?

The World Health Organization (ICD-10) and the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV), has set six qualification standards for answering that question:

  1. Withdrawal: physical and/or emotional.
  2. Limited control: regrets about dosage size or frequency.
  3. Lifestyle consequences: negative impact on your relationships, career or physical health.
  4. Neglect of activities: putting off or neglecting social, career or recreational activities.
  5. Wasted time and/or energy: excessive time spent hiding or indulging the habit.
  6. The desire to stop: multiple failed attempts to quit or cut back.

If you, or someone you love, meets three or more of these qualifications, it’s time to get help. The good news is that a personalized Xanax addiction treatment plan can be very successful.

The problem is, only one out of ten addicts actually get help. You can make a choice today to escape this grim statistic and find freedom.

Stop Taking Xanax and Start Your Recovery Today

Xanax isn’t the only alternative for treating stress and anxiety. In fact, 90% of patients who take Xanax alternatives claim to do just as well as those taking Xanax.

This is good news. And the sooner you get into a personalized and professional treatment plan, the sooner you can be free of Xanax addiction.

Just call us or fill in our contact form to get started right now.  Our benzodiazepine addiction treatment programs typically start with drug detoxification, followed by intensive inpatient or outpatient rehab programs.  Talking to an intervention specialist is the first step to discovering which program is best for you.

Isn’t it time to break the cycle? Contact us right now, and let’s put you on the road to recovery.

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.