Xanax is the marketing name for the drug alprazolam, one of the benzodiazepines. It’s usually prescribed to people suffering from panic disorders or anxiety. Alprazolam interacts with a receptor in the brain resulting in an increase in the level of neurochemicals that inhibit brain activity. In this way, it helps to relieve anxiety in the brain. Alprazolam is one of the fast-acting benzodiazepines, so anxiety is usually relieved after only an hour, and the benefit lasts only about six hours. People who abuse the drug are normally interested in the sedative action on the brain. Alprazolam is addictive and anybody who takes large amounts for a long time quickly develops tolerance, addiction, and dependence, all common Xanax addiction signs. In the year 2011 alone, more than 60,000 people sought treatment for addiction to benzodiazepines. Street names for Xanax include xannies, handlebars, blue footballs and benzos.
Keep in mind that not only adults are abusing Xanax. Teenagers may also have a prescription for Xanax and are as likely as adults to develop an addiction. In 2014, the Monitoring the Future survey found that almost 14% of teenagers were abusing prescription drugs. Xanax was apparently very popular among teenagers. Between 2011 and 2014, small decreases in the abuse of prescription drugs by teenagers was noted.
What signs can family and friends look for that might tell them if a loved one is abusing Xanax? Remember that Xanax is a depressant, so the primary signs of addiction or abuse will reflect the sedation caused by its use. The most common physical signs of Xanax addiction or abuse include:
Since Xanax acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, mixing it with alcohol, another depressant, increases the risks and dangers of using Xanax.
Since Xanax is a depressant of the central nervous system, abusing the drug will also result in mental effects. These psychological symptoms may also help a friend or family member recognize that a loved one is abusing Xanax:
Remember that the withdrawal symptoms from Xanax can be serious, even life threatening, so detox from Xanax should be done under medical supervision. People who suddenly stop using on their own may suffer from painful or dangerous symptoms. In the same way that Xanax sedates the central nervous system, the sudden removal of Xanax from the system may leave the brain in a hyper-active state until normal levels of neurochemicals are restored. A person who chooses to detox from Xanax should expect to endure difficult and painful withdrawal symptoms:
If the person who detoxes from Xanax knows to expect the painful symptoms of withdrawal noted above, things are even more difficult for the person who suddenly stops using after having abused the drug for some time. These more severe symptoms help to explain why weaning off of the drug under medical supervision is important:
Symptoms of withdrawal from Xanax will begin only a few hours after the last use of Xanax wears off. It’s during this initial period of withdrawal that the most dangerous effects occur, such as seizures. The exact Xanax withdrawal timeline may differ, depending upon the level of abuse, how long the abuse lasted, and the person’s health.
Usually, during the first 3 days of withdrawal, the person may experience:
During the first week of Xanax withdrawal, the person may also have:
During the second week of withdrawal, some of the symptoms from the first week may continue, especially insomnia and mood swings. On the bright side, the possibility of serious symptoms such as tremors and seizures are much less likely. By the third week, the insomnia should have passed and the physical symptoms of abuse have stopped. Some psychological symptoms may still be a problem, especially for those who used high levels of Xanax.
Medical supervision should always be sought by people who want to stop using the drug. Simply going “cold turkey” from Xanax is dangerous and may result in seizures. The supervising medical staff may develop a plan to wean the user off of Xanax. Intensive outpatient treatment is a good idea for people who choose to detox from Xanax. During this time of treatment, the user should meet several times a week, even daily, with a counselor. They should also receive education in addiction and relapse prevention and participate in group therapy sessions. For people who cannot reside in an inpatient treatment center, it’s important that they check in daily with a treatment professional, receive education in addiction and relapse prevention skills, and participate in group therapy sessions.
Both adults and teenagers may become addicted to central nervous system depressants such as Xanax. The abuse of depressants is particularly risky when mixed with alcohol, another depressant. The symptoms of Xanax abuse effect both the body and the mind. Withdrawal may lead to serious symptoms such as tremors or seizures and should only be done under the supervision of a medical professional. Withdrawal symptoms usually alleviate after a week or two. In the meantime, it’s important for the person who abused Xanax to receive education in addiction and relapse prevention, along with individual and group therapy.
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