Xanax Long Term Side Effects
The question with newly introduced medication is always this: what sort of implications will it have in the future? While the FDA regulates the process in which a medicine is vetted, rarely are there long-term studies done before the product is released. If it proves to be safe, falls under regulation, and solves a relevant problem, no company is going to study a selected test group for a decade to determine what the long-term effects of the drug at hand are.
Instead, we discover the long-term side effects of medicine by trial. While the molecular structure of these products are often indicative of whether or not they are fit for long-term use (or particularly if they will be more detrimental to the user than beneficial when it comes to extended use), oversights are frequent in the healthcare industry, as made apparent by benzodiazepines (sedatives) and opioids (painkiller). If healthcare professionals and Big Pharma predicted the opioid crisis, we would like to think it would not have plagued us. Sadly, this is not our reality.
One such drug which has both a notorious and excellent reputation is Xanax. Regarded as the ‘miracle drug’ for patients suffering from anxiety or panic disorders, Alprazolam, the generic name of Xanax, was first introduced to America in the 1960’s. At first it was marketed as a non-addictive substitute for barbiturates but was quickly streamlined as a medicine fit specifically for anxiety (it was right in the 1960s when mental illness began to take shape).
What doctors and healthcare professionals failed to recognize was just how addictive Alprazolam would be, and how poorly it mixes with other substances. While the latter should not be integral to an isolated medicine, we always have to remember that addicts which abuse drugs have a higher propensity to mix them with others, too.
Now, for the first time in years, the long-term side effects of Xanax are dancing beneath the spotlight: this dance is a gruesome thing. Xanax was never intended to be a drug used over long periods of time but one to take as needed, specifically during times of mental volatility or panic attacks.
In this article, we’re going to list out the long-term side effects of Xanax and how they affect the user, but first let’s introduce you to Alprazolam and how it works with the brain.
How Does Alprazolam Work?
A part of Alprazolam’s abuse comes from its efficacy. Oddly enough, this is a rare instance where the drug is nearly too dexterous in its pursuits. Some people that suffer from extreme anxiety are able to lead normal lives due to Alprazolam. Anxiety disorders and mental illness, in general, are often directly married to a chemical imbalance in the brain. In a way, Alprazolam balances these chemicals and sets the scale back to even. We’ll explain.
The brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves make up what we know as the central nervous system. Neurons—or brain cells—are responsible for creating a network between the brain and the rest of the body. Neurons use neurotransmitters, or the brain’s natural chemicals, to transmit messages to certain parts of the body. Neurotransmitters are broken into two different categories; inhibitory and excitatory. As you can deduce, one type is stimulation, the other type is sedation. One such inhibitory neurotransmitter is called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and it is responsible for controlling moods, stabilizing the mind, and inducing relaxation. It is thought those with anxiety disorders have an insufficient supply of GABA.
Enter Alprazolam, which basically passes GABA a five hour energy and says, ‘start reproducing!’ Xanax forces your brain to produce and stimulate GABA, which then initiates a sense of calmness and balances the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters.
While this illicit drug abuse can be regarded as a ‘booster pack’ for the neurotransmitter responsible for manifesting calmness, with prolonged use the brain can make a horrible mistake; it forgets to produce its own GABA as it wrongfully identifies Xanax as the chemical itself. This will then offset the brain worse than before Xanax was introduced and cause a slew of problems that have the potential to be permanent. This is one of the key reasons Xanax is not fit for extended use.
The Long Term Side Effects of Xanax
Xanax has proven to be a highly addictive medication. By its nature, it can be a double-edged sword. On one side it works to curb anxiety and help anxiety and panic disorder sufferers find a sense of normalcy but due to its skill in doing so, the user often becomes dependent on the drug for normalcy. It can serve as a band-aid for anxiety without exactly being a cure. In which case without the drug, the anxiety returns, and because the user has seen the grass on the other side of the hill, they continue to use the drug because it makes life ‘normal.’
A recent study showed that if Xanax is used for six weeks, one out of every two users will develop some form of dependency. It is a vicious cycle. Tolerance increases in the months to follow, which then requires the user to take a higher dosage to experience the same sort of ‘normalcy’ prior to the tolerance. Refer back to ‘how does Alprazolam work’ and it becomes a serious problem once the user begins to not only prolong the use, but increase the dosage. A patient can start out taking .5 milligrams per day and wake up six months later needing twenty times as much for the same effect.
Being that Xanax works on the same pathogens as alcohol, the addiction is not only difficult to beat (because the anxiety—which originally had them crawling to the doctor—returns with rage and vigor) but can be fatal. Many people are unaware of the true dangers of prescription drug abuse until it is too late. Xanax is one of the few medications that can kill a user in the Xanax withdrawal stages. Being that the brain mistakes the drug as a natural chemical, in its absence it can forget to create GABA altogether, which then inhibits the brain’s ability to communicate properly. Dying from withdrawals or overdose is the end-all here and the most dangerous part of addiction.
With drugs like Alprazolam, users need to be careful because the medication works to alter the brain. While in some cases it creates balance, inversely the extended use can create an extreme imbalance which poses new problems otherwise dormant or unseen.
Cognitive deficiencies are not uncommon as a long-term side effect. The user will have slower reflexes, a slower respiratory and cardiovascular system, and a general sense of lethargy that makes day-to-day life difficult. While they may no longer experience anxiety, their productivity plummets. This is counterintuitive and often a huge warning sign of Xanax addiction.
that the user has been taking Xanax for too long. Within this bracket, there are also a decent number of long-term users that develop speech problems.
Memory loss and concentration deficiencies are not uncommon either. Xanax—known at times as the ‘blackout’ drug—can severely impair memory. Being that the user is constantly in a lowered state of consciousness, retaining memory becomes increasingly difficult and at times complete memory loss occurs (this happens mostly when other substances are introduced). Then concentration becomes a problem. One of the chief symptoms of heroin is nodding off and Xanax, while less powerful and effective, induces a nearly undetectable type of nodding off within the user. The user may not physically nod off but their brain activity is impaired by the prolonged use of the drug, making it incredibly difficult to stay alert, which depletes their sense of focus.
Long-term users of Xanax also complain about ‘the haze.’ Imagine your brain stuck in a cloud. Every interaction thought, and motor skill is dulled by this white noise that seems to muffle everything. It is commonly explained as a permanent hangover. If you are an adult, it is appropriate to assume that once or twice in your life you drank a bit too much and awoke feeling awful. The idea of doing anything productive or necessary of mental focus during this time is foreign and unappealing. For long-term Xanax users, that very feeling becomes their every day. Sadly, there are some cases where the haze takes years to wear off. In rare cases it is permanent.
Extreme mood swings. We already stated that Alprazolam works to stimulate GABA, the neurotransmitter responsible for controlling a person’s moods. The long-term use of the drug, while needing a higher dosage to be effective, can also lose its effectiveness entirely. This means Xanax no longer helps regulate the full gamut of GABA’s responsibilities, and the user can experience extreme mood swings. From mania, extreme elation and depression, to complete lethargy, these moods can change day-to-day dependent on the severity of the case.
Long-term Xanax use can cause psychosis. We want to note here that these cases are rare and often specific to withdrawals. In the absence of the crutch your brain used for stability, it can run haywire, driving the user to madness. There are cases where users experienced hallucinations and delusions, extreme depression or anxiety, insomnia, and more often than we wish to share, fall victim to suicidal thoughts. This, of course, outside of addiction is perhaps the worst long-term side effect that can ensue from the extended use of Alprazolam.
While overdose is typically an offshoot of addiction, the long-term use of the drug increases the risk of it. Xanax on its own is a fairly difficult drug to overdose on. Those that overdose from Xanax—with no other substances in their system—often fell victim to tolerance and addiction, or had a predisposition for a certain respiratory or cardiovascular problem.
This issue here is how poorly Xanax mixes with other drugs; most particularly alcohol. Today, it is right to assume that an adult frequenting Xanax is not abstaining from alcohol due to their usage. In fact, the Xanax and alcohol mix is one teens rave about and a popular joke in pop culture. A recent celebrity we won’t name here said her ‘flights to wherever are usually as long as two glasses of wine and a Xanax.’ This implies that the effect of Xanax and alcohol are desirable.
This is completely backward. Xanax and alcohol are a fatal mix, one that has killed thousands. Being that alcohol also works with GABA and is a heavy-hitting depressant, introducing Xanax vastly slows the body down, and the most common cause of death is the brain, in its heavy sedation, forgets to tell the respiratory system to breathe. This often happens once the user is in the REM phase of their sleep cycle.
What we are trying to get across is the extended use of Xanax, even outside of its habit-forming tendencies, means the more likely a user is to mix it with alcohol. This, as it has been proved, can lead to death.
Long-Term Use Is Usually Addiction
The fact that Xanax loses its functionality over time and becomes detrimental to the user’s health is not foreign knowledge; doctors are fully aware it is not a medication intended for prolonged use. In the rare instances where an anxiety or panic disorder is severe enough, long-term use, when monitored, can mitigate the condition’s symptoms and add value to the user’s life.
More often than not, this isn’t the case. There is no reason to consistently take Xanax for long periods of time, and unscrupulous doctors hear Big Pharma’s sirens and have no problem writing an abundance of prescriptions. Their patients come back—wide-eyed and amazed at the drug’s effectiveness—and they are given more medication. As statistics show us—with the rate of Xanax addicts enrolling in treatment programs increasing by 1000% in the last decade—addiction and not genuine need is what creates long-term Xanax use.
This is not a drug you want to be addicted to, nor is it one that should be regarded as a daily remedy. Until we shoehorn this idea into the healthcare industry, we, unfortunately, are not going to witness a decrease in prescriptions, addicts, or overdoses. The facts are here: this drug can be a wonderful short-term solution for a serious problem but becomes a serious problem itself if taken too often.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a Xanax addiction, please seek help before it’s too late. Our Orange County rehab center deals with prescription drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and many other life-threatening dependencies. Contact us today and let us help you down the road to recovery.
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