In the modern world, where multitasking is common and distractions of all shapes and sizes surround people on a daily basis, a sense of serenity can be hard to find. Some people turn to yoga or tai chi, using Eastern medicine to help them calm their minds and achieve some sense of inner peace. Others, hoping to obtain instant peace with no effort at all, turn to drugs. While some street drugs can cause a feeling of relaxation and calm, prescription medications have also been developed to help calm an overactive mind.
Xanax, a benzodiazepine sold under the generic name alprazolam, is a favorite among drug users who want a mellow, calm experience. These users might get more than they bargained for when they abuse Xanax, however, as the drug is strong and it’s been linked to multiple cases of addiction.
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Compulsive Xanax Use
Xanax is often prescribed for people who have an anxiety disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or panic disorder. The calming effect Xanax provides can help these patients to leave their fears behind and move forward with their lives. If people take Xanax exactly as prescribed, they may develop a dependence on the drug and feel unwell when they’re not taking Xanax, but this state of dependence may not be considered addiction. It’s an important point to stress, according to an article in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, as many people lump Xanax use and dependence in with Xanax addiction. The reality is that dependence and addiction are not interchangeable. Those who are addicted have a compulsive need to take the drug, even though they know they shouldn’t take the drug again. Those who are dependent may feel no such compulsion.
Since compulsion is such an important part of the addiction puzzle, it’s important to understand how that behavior comes about in people who take Xanax. Some studies seem to suggest that the way the drug works in the brains and bodies of people who take it may be to blame. According to a separate study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Xanax enters brain tissue very rapidly, and it leaves the body just as quickly. As a result, a person who takes Xanax feels a rush of symptoms, all at once, and then a crushing sense of withdrawal when the drug is gone. This see-saw effect of Xanax is what might makes the drug so addictive. Users might keep taking the drug in order to remain on an even keel.
Benzodiazepines may seem to wear off in just a few hours, but deep in the brain, the drug keeps working. The chemical reactions the drug sets off are powerful, and the brain may work hard to keep those symptoms from recurring. The brain may turn off receptors, stop producing specific chemicals or otherwise move quickly to keep the brain from reacting so strongly when the drug is reintroduced. Unfortunately, this protective feature of the brain may make an addiction much more likely, as the adjustments prime the brain to work effectively only when Xanax is present. When the drug is missing, the user may feel miserable.
Why Experiment With Xanax?
Since addictions to Xanax are so common, it’s reasonable to wonder why people would choose to try the drugs at all. It’s possible that users begin taking the drug simply because they’re unaware that it is dangerous. A study of adolescent users, published in the Journal of Drug Education makes this point quite clearly. Here, teens reported that it was “normal” to use alprazolam, and that it would be hard to stop using since so many people in the community were also abusing the drug. When abuse becomes normalized in this manner, it can be hard for addicts to understand why the abuse is dangerous, and why they should make it stop.
This mixing is dangerous, as this article will soon make clear, but those who abuse other drugs might also be at higher risk for developing addictions to Xanax, as their brains seem to be more responsive to the changes Xanax can bring about. For example, a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that alcoholics experienced more euphoria when they took Xanax, compared to people who were not alcoholics. More research is needed to determine why other addictions prime the brain for a Xanax addiction, but it’s clear that some sort of link exists. For these people, Xanax might be too tempting to resist, and once they try it, they may quickly be addicted.
The Dangers of Xanax Addiction
While it’s true that Xanax can cause sedation and perhaps euphoria, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration reports that the drug might also cause:
- Disturbing dreams
People who abuse Xanax may behave in ways that are simply unacceptable to outsiders, and they may be injured in the process. They may also experience terrifying “trips,” due to these side effects, and require medical treatment in order to help them return to a more normal level of functioning.
Xanax can also be sedating, causing a person’s breathing to slow or even to stop altogether. People who mix Xanax with other sedating drugs such as heroin, or who mix Xanax with alcohol, could make this sedation all the more pronounced. People may slip into comas by mixing drugs, and they might not survive the episodes.
Since benzodiazepines like Xanax cause persistent chemical changes in the brain, experts recommend that people ask for help before they stop taking the drugs on their own. Some people can develop seizures during the withdrawal process, especially if they’ve taken the drugs for years and they attempt to stop “cold turkey.” People who have bought the drugs exclusively from street dealers might need to visit rehab centers for help, as it’s unlikely they’ll find a doctor who will prescribe the drug in order to help them taper away from an addiction. If you’re in this situation, we’d like to help.
At Axis, we have a world-class treatment program for prescription medication addiction, and provide a continuity of care from detox to rehab to sober living communities. With our comprehensive approach, we feel confident that we can help you overcome your addictions and move forward with your life. Please contact our toll-free, confidential helpline today to get started.