As the brand for Alprazolam, Xanax belongs to a category of medications known as benzodiazepines which are psychoactive medications. Xanax is a short acting medication, meaning that its effects don’t last as long as other benzodiazepines.
When abused or taken for long periods of time, Xanax and other benzodiazepines build tolerance, cause physical dependence, and may lead to addiction. Tolerance occurs when increased amounts of the drug are needed to achieve therapeutic levels in the individual or to produce the desired effects when abused.
Dependence is a physical need of the body for a chemical. When the drug is removed, the user will experience physical withdrawal symptoms, including intense anxiety, insomnia, tension, tremors, and fatigue. Dependence may occur slowly over time, and users may not recognize, or may refuse to acknowledge, the signs and symptoms that can eventually lead to addiction.
Psychological addiction involves an obsessive-compulsive component, causing a life style change. Obtaining and taking the drug, then recovering from its use, become the most important aspects of a person’s life. Addiction is a form of insanity, where nothing and no one is more important than the chemical the mind and body craves.
Obtaining Xanax can be difficult because of legal restrictions. The physically and psychologically addicted initiate a variety of methods for supplying their habit, including stealing medicine from a family member or close friend. Some visit different doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions (called doctor-swapping), and still others buy directly from illegal drug dealers.
Xanax is listed on the Federal Drug Administration’s Pregnancy Risk List as Category D, meaning it poses a high risk for birth defects in unborn babies. Nursing mothers should not take Xanax since it passes into breast milk, and can cause sedation and deep sleep in nursing babies.
Older people can be extra-sensitive to the sedative-hypnotic effects of benzodiazepines. An increase in falls, already a source of injury for the elderly, has been contributed to enzodiazepine use. In addition, taking Xanax in combination with other central nervous system depressants, particularly alcohol, amplifies the effects of both, increasing the danger of toxicity and dangerous, or even deadly, side effects is increased.
Open communication between patient and physician is vital when mood and mind altering drugs are involved. Physicians make informed decisions based on current and correct information provided by the patient, the patient’s family, and/or the caregiver. Recognizing therapeutic responses to Xanax (and other drugs), what happens when the dosage is too low, and the signs and symptoms of overdose can aid the doctor in choosing the correct drug and dose for that individual.
No drug is without risk, but the risks of taking benzodiazepines are minimal when compared to positive benefits. Xanax is and continues to be a safe and effective method for improving the quality of life for millions of people afflicted with anxiety disorders.
How to Treat Xanax Addiction
Treating Xanax addiction can be a challenging task. Many factors must be considered in order to determine if taking a person off Xanax is even a good idea. Like any drug, people take Xanax for a reason; usually to control panic or anxiety attacks. Panic disorder and certain anxiety disorders are well documented and are serious medical conditions. If someone is taking Xanax for legitimate reasons such as these, it is probably best not to stop the usage. As long as the dosages are strictly adhered to, this person isn’t really addicted to Xanax. They just need it.
Anxiety and panic sufferers will usually be taking 2 to 4 milligrams of Xanax daily. These amounts will most likely cause chemical dependency, but that isn’t the same as addiction. Taking a medical patient off Xanax will almost certainly require some type of replacement to continue treating the underlying medical condition. Many patients find Xanax’s short duration of effectiveness inconvenient and opt for a longer acting benzo such as Valium or Klonopin. These transitions are usually well tolerated because benzodiazepines all basically do the same thing.
If a patient wished to simply quit Xanax, then switching to a longer acting benzo like Valium is recommended, followed by a slow taper over a period of months to avoid a withdrawal syndrome. The same method is used for people who abuse and are addicted to Xanax; however, as with any other drug addict, additional therapy is usually required. These people use drugs for entirely different reasons. Medical necessity isn’t one of them. In high enough doses, Xanax can produce a euphoric feeling that can be compared to being drunk and stoned at the same time. This is an escape from reality for a drug addict and, even though you may be able to successfully wean them off the drug, they will need long term psychological treatment for this desire to escape.
Xanax is one of the most dangerous drugs in the world to withdraw from. Someone who is chemically dependent on Xanax is likely to have life threatening seizures if the drug is removed abruptly. They will also experience extreme anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal depression, and probably total insomnia. That is if they survive the seizures. It is simply a bad idea to force someone to quit Xanax cold turkey.
Professor Heather Ashton at the University of Newcastle in the U.K. wrote a very clear and complete guide for tapering addicts and patients off of benzodiazepines like Xanax. It is commonly referred to as the “Ashton Manual”. Following this manual strictly is by far the best method for detoxing from benzos.
One thing to consider is that benzodiazepines are fat soluble, which means their metabolites get stuck in fatty tissues and can remain there for long periods of time. If the person in detox is overweight, an exercise regimen will likely be required in order to completely clear all metabolites of the drug from the body.