Alprazolam, more commonly known by the brand name Xanax, is a prescribed benzodiazepine medication that is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. The drug can also be used to treat depression and other issues. Benzodiazepines are a class of depressant drugs that produce sedation, relieve anxiety and muscles spasms, and reduce seizures. While there are obvious medical benefits that come with Xanax, like many prescription drugs, there is a possibility that the drug can be abused and misused, and, in the case of Xanax, this happens quite often.
According to the Journal of Addiction Medicine, alprazolam is the most widely prescribed and misused benzodiazepine in the United States. Xanax is absorbed quickly after consumption, making it attractive for abuse, because the effects are felt so rapidly. Due to the increasing popularity of the drug, both in the medical and recreational sense, the drug has begun to make its way into the mainstream. It commonly be found on college campuses and being referenced to in popular music.
Most people are aware of Xanax, however, many do not know just how harmful the drug can be. Not only is the drug dangerous for people who abuse it, it can also negatively affect those who take the drug as prescribed. Xanax use can lead to seizures and overdoses, and the problem gets even more serious if users are mixing the drug with other substances such as alcohol. This is a drug that is involved in thousands of American deaths every year. Learning more about the substance can help understand more about the risks associated with it.
Xanax is known to be a habit-forming medication and can cause many health problems if it is taken with alcohol. It should be noted that even patients taking the drug as prescribed experience a dependency on the drug. This is something that the Food and Drug Administration has even acknowledged that “even after relatively short-term use at the doses recommended” there is “some risk of dependency”
The FDA found that the risk of dependence and its severity are greater in patients treated at higher doses and for longer periods. And, because treating panic disorders require higher doses, the risk of dependence among panic disorder patients is higher than other patients.
Regardless if patients are taking the drug as prescribed or abusing the drug, patients are at risk for developing physical or psychological dependence on it.
Physical dependence on any drug can be challenging to deal with and lead to a number of health problems if the issue gets severe enough.
There are a number of health issues related to Xanax use whether it is taken as prescribed or abused. If abused, not only can it lead to users doing things while not fully cognizant, it can lead to some long-term health issues.
For example, seizures are one of the many side effects that comes from Xanax use and withdrawal. While seizures don’t affect everyone, they are still a possibility for anyone who uses the drug. Seizures can prove to be life-threatening and will normally happen after drug use is reduced too quickly or stopped altogether.
Withdrawal symptoms associated with Xanax use include:
- Muscle cramps and twitches
- Blurred vision
- Loss of appetite
- Weight Loss
Overdoses are also a serious risk for people using Xanax. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, benzodiazepines are involved in more than 30 percent of overdoses involving opioids. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that alprazolam was present in over 6200 overdose deaths in 2016, an increase of over 50 percent since 2011. Overdoses due strictly to Xanax is possible but uncommon. Generally, people who overdose will use other drugs or alcohol in addition to Xanax. Alcohol specifically seems to be on the biggest causes of seizure and death when used in addition to Xanax.
Treatment for Xanax
Despite how dangerous and addictive Xanax can be, treatment is still a possibility. Identifying a problem is the first step, either for yourself or a loved one. If a treatment center is needed, the patient will likely have to go through a detoxification program in order to avoid the health risks associated with withdrawals. As mentioned before, some of these risks, including seizures, can be life-threatening. Going through a medically supervised detox will allow patients to safely get through their withdrawal symptoms and will allow patients to focus on other parts of treatment.
During residential treatment, patients will attend individual and group therapy sessions and other activities. Inpatient treatment programs generally take 30 to 90 days.
Following initial residential treatment, many patients will enroll in outpatient therapy to continue on the road to recovery while also learning to live independently. Outpatient also allows patients to be put in contact with other individuals who are going through similar predicaments.
Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery, a growing chain of drug and alcohol rehab centers in Oklahoma and Kentucky. Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree and has worked in the healthcare industry ever since, creating a holistic treatment model that supports patients in the pursuit of achieving lifelong sobriety.