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The anti-anxiety medication Xanax effectively helps patients with anxiety and panic disorders. The drug works quickly, but patients also develop a tolerance to the drug in a short amount of time. Most experts recommend using the benzodiazepine for short periods of time to prevent addiction. Treatment options are available to effectively treat people with an addiction to Xanax.

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    The Dangers of Illegal Xanax Use

    Doctors usually prescribe Xanax for short-term use, because patients quickly develop a tolerance and need higher doses of the drug to experience the same benefit. People who misuse Xanax by taking high doses can overdose and experience severe side effects like respiratory depression or coma. Long-term abuse of Xanax can cause depression, aggressive behavior and psychotic episodes.

    The side effects of Xanax can be amplified when people mix the drug with alcohol or other substances. While the mixture can lead to a short-term “high,” mixing benzodiazepines with other substances also amplifies symptoms of withdrawal and harmful side effects.

    The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration lists Xanax as a Schedule IV controlled substance, meaning it has a lower potential for abuse compared with other addictive drugs. In 2009, Xanax was involved in the majority of the 363,000 emergency department visits involving central nervous system depressants.

    People with a substance abuse disorder involving Xanax need medical treatment to recover, because quitting benzodiazepines abruptly can cause life-threatening side effects. Rehabilitation centers help patients slowly stop taking Xanax while treating withdrawal symptoms and other medical issues.

    Xanax Side Effects

    Benzodiazepines like Xanax don’t cure anxiety or panic disorders, but they effectively treat many symptoms. Xanax can cause more severe side effects when it is taken in high doses or abused.

    Common Xanax side effects include:

    • Appetite changes
    • Loss of sexual desire
    • Constipation
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Dry mouth

    Xanax Abuse

    Many people who abuse Xanax also abuse other substances. They may combine Xanax with alcohol or other drugs, to achieve psychotropic effects. Mixing drugs vastly increases the risk of overdose and death.

    Side Effects of Abusing Xanax
    Slurred speech Shallow breathing Extreme drowsiness
    Confusion Loss of coordination Death
    Side Effects of Abusing Xanax
    Slurred speech
    Shallow breathing
    Extreme drowsiness
    Loss of coordination

    Long-term Side Effects

    Long-term use or abuse of Xanax can lead to dangerous side effects.

    People who use or misuse Xanax for long periods of time can suffer life-changing side effects. The brain physically adapts to the presence of Xanax when it is regularly exposed to the drug over long periods of time.

    As biology changes, so does the person’s lifestyle. People who regularly abuse Xanax forget about things important to most people. Long-term Xanax use also increases the risk of becoming addicted to the drug.

    Lifestyle side effects from long-term Xanax use can include:

    • Loss of friendships
    • Problems keeping a job
    • Loss of familial relations
    • Vagrancy

    Xanax Addiction

    One of Xanax’s strengths is also one of its dangers. Xanax acts quickly, swiftly relieving symptoms of panic and anxiety disorders. It also leads to dependency quickly, increasing addiction risk.

    Xanax abuse commonly occurs among youth and college students seeking what they perceive to be a safe “high.” In 2014, 7.4 percent of high school seniors reported abusing a depressant like Xanax at least once in their lifetime and 4.7 percent abused it in the past year. Benzodiazepines like Xanax account for about 30 percent of annual deaths from prescription drug overdoses.

    People who misuse or abuse Xanax are the most likely to develop an addiction. The brain becomes dependent on Xanax in a very short period of time, so when people addicted to Xanax stop taking it abruptly, the brain reacts negatively.

    The withdrawal symptoms from stopping Xanax can be serious, and experts recommend seeking medical treatment for rehabilitation.

    Withdrawal Symptoms

    When someone quits using Xanax, they experience withdrawal symptoms quickly, because of the short half-life. A half-life is the length of time it takes the body to excrete a substance.

    When Xanax is no longer present in the brain, the body goes into withdrawal. In severe cases, withdrawal symptoms can include fever, seizure, hallucination and death. That’s why it’s important to seek medical help when recovering from addiction.

    Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:





    High blood pressure


    Increased anxiety


    • Headaches
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Lightheadedness
    • High blood pressure
    • Shaking
    • Increased anxiety
    • Insomnia

    Treatment for Xanax Addiction

    Patients undergo slow, supervised detoxification. There isn’t a pharmacological treatment available, so rehabilitation centers help patients feel as comfortable as possible while treating symptoms of withdrawal.

    Behavioral treatments like counseling, group therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy can help patients adjust to life without Xanax. Withdrawal symptoms are typically felt during the first day of detoxification, and the worst of the withdrawal symptoms are felt during the first few days. Depending on the severity of the addiction, it may take weeks or months for a person to fully recover.

    Xanax treatment takes time, but it is effective for patients who seek rehabilitation.

    Xanax’s History

    Pharmaceutical company Upjohn, a subsidiary of Pfizer, introduced Xanax in the U.S. in 1981, almost 20 years after Roche introduced Valium (diazepam). Valium had been the most widely used anxiety medication in the ‘70s, but Upjohn proved Xanax could treat panic attacks, and it became the first drug approved to treat panic disorders.

    As diagnoses of panic attacks rose, so did Xanax’s sales. With more than 50 million prescriptions annually, Xanax is the most popular anti-anxiety drug in the U.S. Unfortunately, increased drug abuse numbers followed the drug’s market success.

    Emergency department visits involving alprazolam more than doubled from 57,149 in 2005 to 124,902 in 2010. Incidents involving patients ages 25-34 tripled from 2005 to 2011, and 81 percent of those cases involved multiple substances of abuse.

    Xanax and Opiods

    One of the most common combinations was with one of the most dangerous substances of abuse. About 36 percent of emergency department visits also involved prescription opioids like oxycodone or hydrocodone. Opioid overdoses account for more deaths than traffic accidents annually.

    prescription pills

    Availability and Rehabilitation

    Xanax is now available in a variety of generic medications, and doctors continue to use it to successfully treat anxiety and panic disorders. But patients prescribed Xanax should use it with caution, talk to their health care provider in-depth about their symptoms and never give it to family or friends.

    Patients who believe they are addicted to Xanax should seek medical treatment. Rehabilitation centers can help people recover from Xanax addiction and return to normal life.

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