Xanax (alprazolam) is a potent benzodiazepine (benzo) that is found in tablet form or as an extended-release capsule. Xanax is among the most prescribed and most often abused benzo drugs in the United States.
When used as directed, it is very effective at relieving various forms of anxiety, preventing seizures, and treating insomnia. All benzos share similar properties, the main differences being the rate of onset and the duration of the effects. Xanax is a prescription depressant that acts rapidly in the central nervous system (CNS), and most of the desired effects occur within an hour.
Short-Term Xanax Effects
When taken as prescribed, short-term Xanax effects can be beneficial to many people. It has the potential to ease physical tension, restlessness, fear, and feelings of unease that are commonly found with anxiety and panic disorders.
As with any medication, adverse side effects may occur. If Xanax is being abused, these effects may be dramatic and include impaired concentration and memory, confusion, and fatigue.
Some of the most common side effects of Xanax include the following:
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Headaches and dizziness
- Impaired concentration
- Changes in libido
- Increased salivation
- Weight changes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Joint pain
- Shortness of breath
- Impaired memory
- Erratic mood changes
Overdose can occur when a person uses more than the recommended dose, takes the prescribed dose too frequently, or combines the drug with other CNS depressants, such as opioids or alcohol. Signs of an overdose related to Xanax may include the following:
- Excessive sleepiness
- Impaired coordination
- Impaired reflexes
- Respiratory depression
Also, the chronic use or abuse of sedatives such as Xanax has been associated with cognitive deficits, psychomotor impairment, tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
The combined effects of multiple depressants compound each other and significantly increase the risk of adverse effects and overdose. For this reason, concurrent use of alcohol or other psychoactive drugs (unless directed by a doctor) is never recommended.
Xanax Tolerance and Dependence
People who use or abuse Xanax for a prolonged period may develop a tolerance to the substance. When this occurs, the body requires a higher dose or an increased frequency of use to achieve the effects once experienced when the drug was first introduced.
Continually using Xanax, especially in large amounts, can contribute to physiological dependence. When this occurs, the body becomes less able to function properly without it. Abusing Xanax increases the risk of dependence, but Xanax has this potential even when used as directed.
Users who are dependent will experience withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to discontinue use. In fact, some users may continue using Xanax primarily to avoid the onset of these unpleasant, potentially life-threatening symptoms. Due to the dangers of Xanax withdrawal, a tapering schedule or a medical detox is required to facilitate abstinence.
Xanax withdrawal symptoms may include the following:
- Blurred vision
- Muscle cramps
- Digestive problems
Physical dependence and tolerance are hallmark signs of addiction, but they do not fully reflect addiction in and of themselves. Addiction is characterized by an overpowering desire to obtain and consume a substance despite the adverse consequences associated with doing so. Like most benzos, Xanax has a significant potential for tolerance, dependence, and addiction when used or abused for an extended period.
Despite its many benefits, long-term Xanax use and misuse can be risky and also result in a myriad of physical, emotional, mental, and social problems. And unfortunately, people who misuse Xanax are at a heightened risk of abusing other prescription drugs and/or alcohol. Polysubstance abuse is far more dangerous than the abuse of one substance alone, and can rapidly result in unpredictable and life-threatening complications.
Treatment for Xanax Addiction
Discontinuing the use of Xanax abruptly or “cold turkey” is not recommended because this can result in life-threatening seizures and a condition similar to that experienced by alcoholics (delirium tremens) who attempt to do the same.
For this reason, most people who are dependent on Xanax undergo a tapering schedule directed by a physician or a medical detox. During a medical detox, a patient is supervised by health or addiction professionals around-the-clock for several days to ensure that life-threatening complications are prevented from occurring.
Midwood Addiction Treatment offers comprehensive treatment programs in both partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. We employ a modern, evidence-based approach to addiction treatment that includes services vital to the recovery process, such as psychotherapy, counseling, group support, health and wellness programs, and aftercare planning.
If you or someone you love is addicted to Xanax, other prescription medications, illicit drugs, or alcohol, please contact us today. Discover how we help people free themselves from the crushing jaws of addiction and begin to experience the healthy and fulfilling lives they deserve!