Xanax Addiction & Treatment

What is Xanax?

Benzodiazepines (benzos) are a type of drug prescribed for anxiety, which is chronic worrying that never seems to stop. Most people experience anxiety in their lives, but when people experience three of the following symptoms at the same time, it might be too hard to handle without counseling or drug therapies:

  • Excess anxiety for at six months
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension

Xanax, which has the name brand of “alprazolam,” was patented in 1971 and approved for medical use in the United States ten years later. Since then, it has become the most popular benzodiazepine in the United States with 27 million prescriptions written in 2016 alone.

It is also one of the most addictive.

Drugs in the benzodiazepine family, like Xanax, suppress the release of neurotransmitters in the brain that signal fear, which results in a calming effect. They also enhance the naturally occurring chemical known as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which reduces the excitability of the nervous system.

Taken properly, Xanax can help treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and anxiety that’s caused by depression. It’s also sometimes prescribed for “off label” uses like irritable bowel syndrome, essential tremor, tinnitus, agoraphobia, and premenstrual syndrome.

As a central nervous system depressant (CNS) Xanax has a calming, sedating effect. Many people find it incredibly useful, but only when taken as prescribed. When people seek it out for reasons outside its intended use, Xanax poses a great deal of risk for abuse and addiction.

Xanax Abuse is On the Rise

Xanax use – and abuse – is on the rise. Between 2005 and 2013, Xanax was the most prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States.

But not everyone who has a valid prescription takes it properly.According to a 2018 report published by the online journal Psychiatric Services, one in five people who take a benzodiazepine class drug are misusing it, putting them at risk for addiction and even death. This misuse accounts for 17 percent of total, overall use. The study also found that adults between 50 and 64 have become the largest Xanax users in the United States. Of course, this is not the only age group prone to abusing the drug. Troublingly, Xanax addiction among teens in the United States is also on the rise. It might sound shocking, but 10 percent of adolescents ages 18 to 25 have abused Xanax.

Death from Benzos

 Each year, thousands of people die from benzodiazepines like Xanax.

  • 9,000 people died as a result of benzo-related deaths in 2015. 
  • Since 2006, benzos prescriptions have risen 17 percent to nearly 94 million a year.
  • 10 to 25 percent of longtime users are dependent.
  • Benzos are particularly lethal when combined with opioids, accounting for 8,000 of the 9,000 benzo-related deaths in 2015.

Benzo Health Risks

anax abuse has even been linked to the current opioid crises – nearly one in three opioid overdoses also involved a benzo like Xanax. Even taken on its own, chronic Xanax use can cause:

  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety

    Xanax Addiction Symptoms

    Xanax is highly addictive. In fact, it is one of the most addictive of all the benzos.

    Even when taken properly, you can develop a dependence on Xanax. But dependence, which happens for longer-term users who build up a tolerance to it, is not the same thing as addiction, which is incredibly destructive. 

    People who take Xanax properly and benefit from it may be dependent and not experience any negative consequences.

     However, those who misuse Xanax typically exhibit several tell-tale signs. Physically, they might slur their speech, experience a loss of coordination, have headaches, dizziness, and feel nauseous. Psychologically, people addicted to Xanax can be easily annoyed, more talkative, lose enthusiasm for daily life, display sudden irritability, go into manic states, and even have trouble remembering things.

    It might even seem like a loved one is on “auto pilot” and behaving in a zombie-like fashion. They might display severe memory problems and have trouble putting together a cohesive sentence.

    Another Xanax addiction symptom is developing a preoccupation with the drug. Like any other kind of drug or alcohol dependence, a person might think about Xanax nonstop, to the exclusion of everything else, which can cause severe problems throughout all aspects of their lives. In fact, people addicted to Xanax may even go “doctor shopping” to find several doctors willing to write them prescriptions.

    Taken over prolonged time, Xanax can also cause a myriad of long-term side effects, such as:

    • Depression
    • Delirium
    • Aggression and impulsivity
    • Memory loss
    • Increased risk of Dementia
    • Psychosis
    • Loss of sex drive


    If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.

    Withdrawing from Xanax Safely

    You should not quit taking Xanax “cold turkey”. This is crucial. 

    If you are addicted to Xanax, you will need to taper off slowly – quitting all at once can lead to uncontrollable side effects and even death. At least one instance as cited by the National Institutes of Health.

    It’s vital that you consult a detox doctor before tapering off Xanax. She will provide a program that gradually reduces your dose over time to avoid the worst of the withdrawal symptoms. A doctor may even prescribe a longer-acting benzo to help smooth over withdrawal symptoms that may occur even when slowly going off the drug.

    Tapering Will Require Patience

    Getting off of Xanax may take 14 days or longer and will involve gradually decreasing your dosage over time. Not going slow enough – or worse, going cold turkey – results in many unpleasant withdrawal symptoms

    • Aches and pains
    • Aggression
    • Anxiety
    • Blurred vision and dizziness
    • Headaches
    • Hypersensitivity to light and sound
    • Insomnia
    • Irritability and mood swings
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, or face
    • Tremors
    • Muscle tension
    • Extremely vivid dreams and nightmares
    • Depression
    • Paranoia
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Difficulty breathing


    Other Treatment Considerations

    If you or a loved one has an issue with Xanax, you might need professional help to overcome your problem.


    Many rehab centers offer specific programs for benzo addiction.

    Programs for overcoming Xanax addiction are similar to those for other drugs. After a medically supervised detox, individuals will receive therapy to better understand the reasons that lead to their addiction in the first place. Therapy might come in a variety of forms, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, and Holistic Therapy.

    To be successful, it’s usually recommended to seek treatment at an inpatient facility or intensive outpatient program(IOP). If you’re unfamiliar with IOP programs, clients usually receive treatment three to five days a week and for three to four hours per session. It’s more intensive than typical outpatient care, but doesn’t require the patient to live at a center during the full course of their rehab. 

    Once a program is completely, patients are usually advised to follow through with an aftercare regimen to help avoid the risk of relapse. Aftercare programs may include a “sober mentor,” group meetings, and community events.

    What Happens to Your brain After Xanax Addiction?

    Some studies done in the 1980s found that chronic abuse of benzos can lead to permanent brain damage and result in dementia and cognitive decline. However, more recent research indicates that this may not be the case. But what happens to your brain after Xanax addiction is still an ongoing area of study. Still, it’s worth noting that a 2016 study published by the National Institutes of Health found “no causal association between benzodiazepine use and dementia.”

    Just because Xanax is a legal drug doesn’t mean it’s harmless. With its great potential for abuse and addictive properties, Xanax has caused untold harm to millions of people. If you or a loved one are among them, please contact Nexus for a free and confidential consultation.

    If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

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