As uncomfortable as it might be, anxiety is a normal part of everyone’s life. Whether you’re getting ready to go on a first date, take a big test, or give a presentation at work, it’s going to make you feel uncomfortable. As you get through it and exit on the other side, you realize it wasn’t that bad at all, and your nerves go back to normal.
Now, other people have constant anxiety, and it doesn’t return to normal after an event. In some cases, anxiety is so severe that a person is confined to their home in fear of the unknown. Perhaps it’s social anxiety, and it’s hard to be yourself around others, or you’ve developed a fear of leaving home, no matter the cause, it might lead you to seek chemical relief.
Anxiety is considered the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, or 18.1 percent of the population each year. Why is this important? Well, despite how common the condition is, it can be crippling. It’s severe enough to push someone right into a Xanax addiction. Drugs like Xanax are prescribed to treat the worst symptoms, which include irritability, feeling on edge, muscle tension, and sleeplessness, to name a few. When you experience these symptoms daily, it’s understandable why you might seek relief. However, only 36.9 percent of people suffering will get the treatment they need. Anxiety disorders stem from complex risk factors, including brain chemistry, genetics, life events, and personality.
With anxiety so prevalent throughout our society, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that a person needs relief. Imagine being paralyzed in your body and not having any other option, so you turn to drugs. These substances work temporarily and then lose their power because of tolerance and dependence. That’s what happens, and doctors from Yale Medicine have sounded the alarm about a potential benzodiazepine crisis looming, mirroring the current opioid crisis our country faces.
Despite their therapeutic benefits, benzodiazepines like Xanax also present unforeseen risks. They are addictive and can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, including rebound anxiety, which is when your symptoms return and present themselves worse than before.
What has led to this influx of Xanax addiction? One theory some observers point to is pop culture. If you’ve listened to some recent music circulating in the mainstream, it’s hard to dispute that fact. Lyrics normalizing benzodiazepine use are dominated by Xanax mentions. The genre of music known as emo-rap normalizes benzodiazepine use, causing children to experiment with the drug. Although Xanax is highly useful in treating anxiety, many more cases prove its detriment to society.
When you become addicted to Xanax, what can you do? Fortunately, treatment is available to those who need it. Below, we’ll discuss your options and what you can do to treat Xanax addiction.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax is a benzodiazepine that belongs to a broader class of drugs known as central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Physicians and psychologists routinely administer it to treat anxiety disorders. The drug works by suppressing excitability in the nervous system and provides similar functions to barbiturates and alcohol. Benzodiazepines calm the user, which is vital for a person with a chemical imbalance in their brain and overactive nervous system. Other effects include feeling sleepy, relaxed, and anxiety relief. Xanax is typically prescribed to treat panic disorders, anxiety, and social anxiety disorders. Compared to other drugs in this class, it’s short-acting, meaning it’s not ideal as a sleep aid.
Xanax works by binding to GABA receptors, which are naturally occurring neurotransmitters that promote relaxation and sleep. For those with anxiety, they do not produce enough GABA on their own, meaning medication like Xanax will boost production. The medication makes this process more efficient, leading to sedation, muscle relaxation, anxiety suppression, and inhibition loss. An unintended consequence of Xanax use is euphoria and intoxication, similar to that of alcohol. When misused, the user will experience coordination loss, memory loss, respiratory depression, confusion, and slurred speech.
Doctors rarely prescribe Xanax for more than four weeks because of the risk of becoming tolerant, dependent, or addicted. Not everyone who takes Xanax will become addicted, but when it’s misused, taken in higher doses than recommended, or purchased illegally, the odds of developing a substance use disorder (SUD) increase dramatically. Unfortunately, it can lead to long-term or fatal outcomes.
What Are the Signs of Xanax Addiction?
Benzodiazepine addiction provides some unique outward symptoms that are hard to miss. Although in its earliest stages, prescription medication addiction is challenging to pick up because it offers significant relief. However, over time, you will notice the individual seems intoxicated. Those who take Xanax for anxiety relief will not use it enough to get high, whereas someone abusing the drug will take excess amounts and appear they’re drunk.
The first indication a problem could be on the horizon is a growing tolerance. This means the dose that once brought relief isn’t working, which can prompt you to take more and cause a chemical dependency. When you become dependent on Xanax, you’ll experience uncomfortable or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. If you can’t stop and start doing anything to support your habit, such as stealing or purchasing drugs through illicit means, you’ve likely developed a substance use disorder.
Other signs of Xanax addiction include:
- Poor motor coordination
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Inability to reduce one’s Xanax intake
- Doctor shopping to get more Xanax
- Buying Xanax on the street
- Asking your friends, family, or others to get Xanax pills
- Spending a disproportionate amount of time getting, using, or recovering from Xanax
- Engaging in risky behavior as a result of Xanax use, such as driving while intoxicated
If you’ve become addicted to Xanax, it’s OK to admit you need help.
What Is Involved In Xanax Addiction Treatment?
The process of addiction treatment should not be taken lightly. It’s a challenging process that will test you physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, doing so under the guise of medical professionals will make the process easier and much safer. For that reason, committing yourself to a Xanax addiction treatment center can be the difference between life and death.
The first step will be medical detox, where you’ll spend an undetermined amount of time as Xanax leaves your system. You’ll be given all the medication and support necessary to simplify this process. Since Xanax withdrawal is often dangerous and unpredictable, it’s important to participate in this stage.
When the experts deem you medically stable, you’ll move into the next stage of care, which will offer life-saving therapy to help you live with your addiction diagnosis. Depending on the severity of your addiction, it could mean living on-site in a residential facility for a month or two or going through outpatient care. Only a medical professional can make this decision for you. No matter the route you take, you’ll go through therapy to help you understand what led to your addiction, how to manage the lifelong disease, and ways to prevent relapse. If you’re diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health condition, they could prescribe you medication.
How Dangerous Is Xanax Overdose?
If you’ve overdosed on an illicit or prescription drug, it can be extremely dangerous and even fatal. The reason it’s so important to follow the guidelines that your doctor gives you is that they balance the risks by using your weight, age, and history of substance use when prescribing a drug like Xanax. Their objective is to give the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration to avoid an overdose or dependence. If you take too much Xanax, you could experience the following:
- Blurred vision
- Poor coordination
In some cases, a person’s Xanax overdose symptoms can be delayed, while other users experience severe issues, such as coma or death. Those who mix Xanax with other medications or alcohol put themselves at an even higher risk of overdose. In most cases, overdose is unintentional. However, some people may use the drug to intentionally harm themselves.
Xanax Abuse Statistics
- Half (50%) of those who take Xanax will become addicted in four weeks.
- Between 1996 and 2013, the number of benzodiazepine prescriptions increased 67 percent.
- 135 million prescriptions are written each year for benzodiazepines like Xanax.