Signs of Xanax Addiction
Anxiety is an age-old problem that has plagued humanity for centuries. In earlier times, the only ‘cure’ for the mental ailment was alcohol or simply biting the bullet. Today, in a society that—as you probably know—is heavily medicated, there are various medications available for mitigating anxiety. The name Xanax, as pervasive as the drug has been, is most likely familiar to you. In the off-chance that it isn’t, Xanax is another name for Alprazolam, the most commonly used benzodiazepines for anxiety and panic disorders.
Due mostly to its ingenuous efficacy, within the space of 50 years, the drug increased in volume by 1000% and is prescribed 10 times more today than it was twenty years ago. Yet that efficacy, in all its glory, also accompanied some awful characteristics. While benzodiazepines were widely regarded as a safer alternative to barbiturates in the 60’s and 70’s, due mostly to the pathogens they access, by the 80’s the healthcare industry began to realize that they might have unleashed somewhat of an unsuspecting monster. The world learned quickly that Alprazolam is not only addictive but also terrifyingly dangerous.
Today, over 50 million prescriptions of Xanax are written annually in America alone, which is 20 million more than the 30 million written in 2003. The rate of addiction has scaled with the same rapidity of its production and prescription and now the drug accounts for 1/3 of prescription pill-related deaths in America. Sadly, overdose is now the most common killer of Americans under the age of 50. It takes the throne above gun violence, disease, and car accidents. While it is painkiller abuse and not benzodiazepines (sedatives) that are the main cause of these overdoses, Xanax does not sit too far down the killer-drug totem pole.
Maybe this is news to you, maybe it’s not, but the fact of the matter is that Xanax is overprescribed, extremely pervasive, commonly abused, and finally coming into the spotlight as one of the most dangerous drugs introduced to our society. While it does indeed work wonders for nonfunctional anxiety-disorder victims, it seems to have the same talents in destroying the lives of others as well.
If you’ve landed on this page, it might be that you have witnessed the dark side of the drug, and either you yourself or someone close to you is struggling. The tricky nature of Xanax is that it is both fast and slow in its deadliness. While the drug itself is an instant-release, it can take months of abuse before serious addiction-related symptoms begin to surface. Similar to marijuana, since the drug is a sedative, to the trained-user hiding its effects can require little to no effort and the problem only comes to light once someone has dropped over the threshold.
Still, there are signs of Xanax addiction in both the early and later stages, and if you’re equipped with the knowledge you could potentially save someone’s (or yourselves) life. But before we move forward into the physical and mental complications of Xanax addiction, let’s first take a look at how Alprazolam works with our brain chemistry, so we can better understand the nature of its addictive properties.
How Alprazolam Works
While addiction itself is a disease, it is important to understand the science behind Alprazolam, as its molecular structure and how it interacts with the brain’s neurotransmitters can often breed the addiction by default. The brain, peripheral nerves, and spinal cord make up what is called the central nervous system. Neurons, also known as nerve cells, use neurotransmitters (a natural chemical your brain creates) to transmit messages along this network. Think of neurotransmitters as the messenger telling neurons to relay messages to your body. Some tell your heart to beat. Others tell your lungs to fill and deflate with air. They are by in large the reason your brain is able to communicate with the rest of your body.
Not all neurotransmitters are the same, however, so they’re categorized into two groups; inhibitory neurotransmitters and excitatory neurotransmitters. To explain their full functionality won’t benefit us here, so we’ll focus on the inhibitory neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA for short) which is responsible for stabilizing moods, controlling the mind’s volatility, and instating calmness.
When Xanax is ingested (typically in tablet form) it stimulates GABA, thus harnessing the power of the neurotransmitter responsible for calming you down. This is why it’s a sedative, as the excess of GABA works to override the excitatory neurotransmitters going haywire.
With enough is used, however, the brain can mistake Xanax for GABA entirely. This means when the brain no longer can pull from Alprazolam, the imbalance can spark an anxiety and panic worse than that which initially raised a siren for the drug in the first place. Your brain needs GABA to function properly. If it stops producing its own and doesn’t have Xanax, an addiction can form due to the very nature of the drug. This is important to note, as setting the disease of addiction aside, the drug can cause addiction by design.
Signs of Xanax Addiction
When speaking about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, it is best to separate them into two categories; short-term signs and long-term signs. While there are consistencies throughout both, the two can often differentiate quite a bit. Similar to an alcoholic in their earlier and later stages of alcoholism, a comparison that is reinforced by the fact that both Xanax and alcohol work on the same pathogens, the initial and later phases of addiction change drastically.
As with every drug, the first stage of their addiction usually begins with some form of dependency. Being that Xanax is often considered the ‘miracle drug’ for users that could otherwise not function without it, in its absence life can become horrifying. It’s a vicious cycle. Users take Xanax to curb their anxiety but without Xanax they grow more anxious (because they know the ease of operation beneath the blanket of the drug) which calls once again for more Xanax.
This usually takes the form of having Xanax constantly in their presence, taking it every day simply to mitigate any possibility of anxiety, and upping their dosage. Xanax addiction begins first with knowing what life can be like in the wake of the medication, then chasing that reality until someone does not feel normal unless they are using. If you notice that you or a loved one no longer feels ‘safe’ without Xanax, then that’s one of the first signs of addiction; dependency.
Cravings are often mutually exclusive to dependency, being that dependency begets cravings. Be it mental or physical, they’re often a telltale sign of dependency. This is usually the vehicle that drives tolerance forward, upping the intake of the drug as the user now depends on it for normality.
They can start as nothing more than an amplified desire throughout the day, to the first thing the user covets in the morning. Outside of the fear and anxiety that the absence of Xanax harvests for an addict, cravings can be the sole the reason they continue to abuse the drug (either medically or illicitly). This again manifests in the user constantly having Xanax on hand or transforming into a daily user rather than using it as necessary.
As with all drugs, the more they’re used, the more tolerance is built. Now the user requires a higher dosage to obtain the same desired effect. Xanax—as it’s commonly agreed upon in the field of medicine—is best used as a short-term solution to manage anxiety or panic disorders. Prolonged Xanax use is known for being more detrimental than beneficial for the user, with the risk of addiction increasing each day that passes.
Tolerance is often witnessed by doctors whose patients return to their offices in search of a higher dosage prescription. Now that their tolerance has raised, they will continue to pursue more Xanax to have the same desired effect, as what once curbed their anxiety is now not enough to medicate them properly. If they successfully up their dosage, then the risk for addiction increases tenfold.
In the aforementioned signs, we’ve spoken largely about the internal signs of Xanax addiction. These can often go unnoticed, as the user can cleverly hide their dependency issues, keep their Xanax out of sight, and only ingest them in privacy. Our point: they’re not transparent. But in the early stages of Xanax addiction, there are crystal clear signs that can be symptoms of addiction.
Note: these are also the natural effects of the drug, so we mean to say when they are consistent in occurrence.
Drowsiness and lethargy. Xanax is a sedative. It induces a state of relaxation often foreign to the user. When an addiction is first forming and tolerance is building, the user can often remain in a constant bout of drowsiness. This lethargy often inhibits their motivations.
Xanax is sometimes thought of as the personality-killer, as it tranquilizes users into a quieter, lazier state. In the initial phase of Xanax addiction, it is not abnormal to notice that the user is constantly sleepy, irritable, or a bit loopy. Often a lack of ambition or drive is noticed, as the user is more comfortable in their stagnancy due to the constant consumption of Alprazolam.
While some of these signs can certainly spill over into the short-term list, they’re usually exclusive to using high dosages of the drug for an extended period of time.
Withdrawals can also be intertwined with cravings and vary in severity. From a slight stomachache that can be easily excused as something unrelated to addiction, to muscle cramps and vomiting if the user does not immediately take Xanax, their power is often used as a measurement for the degree of the addiction.
Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle cramps
- Difficult sleeping (can lead to insomnia)
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Rebound anxiety (worse anxiety than what first brought the patient into the doctor’s office)
- Mental instability
Serious withdrawals are horrible, but with a drug like Xanax, they can be a killer. Benzodiazepines—the family in which Xanax originates—are one of the few substances that can actually kill the user during the Xanax withdrawal timeline (as stated before, the brain can use the drug as a substitute for GABA, thus when going cold turkey it can fail). Late-stage Xanax addicts often require medication to curb withdrawals and stabilize the body.
If you or anyone around you is suffering from the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal, it is paramount to seek professional help. Similar to late-stage alcoholism, withdrawals are dangerous and they need to be treated professionally.
Decline in Mental Health
Often attributed solely to long-term use and addiction, due to Xanax’s effect on the brain, serious mental illness can arise. While many of these issues take place during withdrawals, they can also come forth while the user is using. Xanax can impair cognitive function, cause severe memory loss, and harpoon concentration. Substance abuse signs and symptoms will arise in the form of a general lack of awareness, difficulty holding a conversation, difficulty speaking, and difficulty recalling recent or past events. Sometimes the user will begin to speak slower due to a decrease in cognitive function, and the words will have more of a slur to them.
Once the ‘high’ is nearly stifled due to tolerance, depression can ensue too. There are many cases in which a Xanax addict feels lifeless and devoid of purpose. In rarer cases, these emotional bouts can manifest into psychosis (which often occurs during rebound anxiety with withdrawals). If these are symptoms you are witnessing or experiencing, it’s imperative that a professional is sought out. At this point, the brain is saturated with Alprazolam, and instead of operating properly, its functionality begins to wane. This decline in mental health from prolonged use can cause permanent damage.
Xanax addiction can be ruthless; one side of the blade slices through anxiety and the other opens a wound called dependence. Without Xanax, anxiety can increase, furthering the need for the drug which also worsens the overt problem.
Due to the nature of addicts, they often will abuse Xanax with other substances, and because the drug is a sedative it pairs horribly. Most overdoses occur when Xanax is mixed with another substance, particularly alcohol. Not only are Xanax addicts at a huge health risk, but overdoses are all-too-common at the hands of this drug.
The point we are trying to get across is Xanax is one of those addictions that can be deadly. If abused or mixed with the wrong thing, it can claim lives… something it has proven to be more dexterous at in recent years. If you or someone you know has fallen into the above categories, it’s important that you seek help. You do not want this type of addiction to spiral out of control. Remember—there are thousands of others facing the same issue and you are not alone.
The best thing you can do at this stage is to seek help. At Luminance Recovery, our Orange County rehab center is a safe and positive environment that can help you through the battle of your addiction. Contact us today for a new beginning at a cleaner life.
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