Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Patricia Sullivan, MD MPH
Thanks to its popularity among certain celebrities, many people ask: can you get addicted to Xanax? In short, the answer is yes. Xanax is a brand name for the drug alprazolam. It is a tranquilizer in the benzodiazepine family (also known as benzos). Benzo’s can make the brain less sensitive to stimulation, generally producing a calming sensation. So, just how addictive is Xanax?
The answer varies from person to person. Some patients experience euphoria, which increases their risk of forming a habit. People using the drug for chronic anxiety also face this risk. Xanax can induce physical and mental relaxation by slowing down the nervous system, and for some users, this state can be immensely pleasurable. However, this sensation can lead to dependence. With repeated use, anyone can develop psychological and physical dependencies on Xanax.
If you or a loved one have developed an addiction to Xanax or a similar drug, you should know you are not alone. Recovery is possible with the right treatment, and our professionals are standing by to help at 385-327-7418.
Continue reading to find out how Xanax and other benzos work on the nervous system. Also, find out Xanax addiction signs.
Xanax Works Quickly
In some cases, the drug can kick in as little as 15 minutes after being taken. Fast-acting medications tend to have a higher potential for abuse.
Other drugs in the benzo family include Valium (or diazepam), Klonopin (or clonazepam), and Ativan (or lorazepam). Doctors commonly prescribe these drugs to help treat panic, anxiety, and insomnia and even help calm you before major surgery. But primarily, Xanax is used to treat anxiety disorders. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists several types of anxiety disorders that might require Xanax, for example:
- Generalized anxiety disorder. An illness where unrealistic worries and fears plague patients.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A disorder where patients experience unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors.
- Panic disorder. This is a disorder where patients go through episodes of intense fear. It sometimes includes physical symptoms like chest pain, restlessness, or lack of concentration.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder. This disease is linked to past trauma that affects the patient long after.
- Social phobia disorder. An illness where patients have over-powering anxiety in typical social situations.
All of these are illnesses for which doctors prescribe Xanax. But even those who have a prescription for the drug can become addicted.
Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction
The way Xanax works are similar to other addictive drugs in that it can change the way our brain functions. By messing with our brain’s neurotransmitters, these drugs can create dependencies. Neurotransmitters are how the brain sends “messages” to different body parts. They are also responsible for changes in mood and our overall state of mind.
In addition, this change in our state of mind often feels good. Especially if you are stressed, a relaxed state could be very pleasurable. But drugs like Xanax can upset how the brain regulates neurotransmitter activity, making it harder to feel good when not taking the drug.
Therefore, quitting Xanax can make users feel depressed. Those asking “how addictive is Xanax” should note that unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can be a significant motivation to keep using. Users often fall into a physical or psychological addiction simply because it is difficult to stop.
However, sometimes this is true even for people who have been prescribed the medication. But that’s why knowing the signs of Xanax addiction is essential. For example, this is what it might look like if you or someone you know has an addiction to Xanax:
- Dramatic changes in emotional health
- Taking more of the drug to get high
- Avoiding responsibilities
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Not feeling like yourself when not taking it
- Ignoring family or friends
- Taking the drug for longer than prescribed
- Difficulty relaxing without it
- Lying to a doctor to get more of it
Moreover, if several of these symptoms apply to you, don’t feel ashamed. Addiction is a disease. It is something that happens to you. But the important thing is to start thinking about recovery. Call our professionals today if you need more information about addiction treatment.
Short-Term Effects of Taking Xanax
There are many side effects to taking Xanax and other forms of benzodiazepine. Many of these side effects are unpleasant. When you take Xanax, for example, you might experience any number of the following:
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty urinating
- Hard time concentrating
- Soreness in your joints
- Becoming more talkative
You might also get a pleasurable high when taking the drug. Some people experience this as a form of happiness. This euphoria takes a little more time, but more short-term effects can be severe. For example:
- Shortness of breath
- Speech problems
- Difficulty remembering things
- Mood changes
It is also important to note that you can overdose on Xanax. Furthermore, if you are experiencing an overdose, some of the more severe symptoms above will likely go with it. Since these do not always imply an overdose, it is crucial to track your symptoms. In addition, to the above side effects, an overdose will often include extreme sleepiness, confusion, a loss of coordination, and possibly a loss of consciousness.
In short, overdosing on Xanax can result in death. Many addicts take higher doses of Xanax than people prescribed the medication by doctors. However, sometimes, they combine Xanax with other drugs. Doing either of these can increase the chance of suffering an overdose.
Long-Term Effects of Taking Xanax
Addiction is terrible enough on its own. But there are many other good reasons to avoid an addiction to Xanax or other benzos. There is a long list of adverse side effects of using Xanax over a long period.
Moreover, the side effects of Xanax vary greatly depending on who uses it. The changes might include a difference in your appetite or weight. It might even include changes in a person’s sex drive. However, some studies have also suggested that Xanax could result in permanent cognitive impairment. From an analysis of 13 studies, long-term benzo users showed mental impairment in several categories. These categories included:
- Visuospatial skills
- Motor control
- General intelligence
In addition, some studies even suggest that taking Xanax may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, the drug can cause serious problems for pregnant women. Scientists have linked it to an increased possibility of congenital disabilities. If a woman becomes pregnant while addicted to the drug, quitting could be incredibly challenging.
Like many other addictions, the price is often high. Addicts engage in poor behavior to get their drug of choice. While this is not entirely the addict’s fault, it can strain relationships and create other problems. For example, you might fight with a loved one, get in trouble with the law, or spend thousands of dollars to get more pills.
However, avoiding these long-term issues is never easy, but it can be simple. Starting recovery is just one choice away. Call us today and start your recovery journey tomorrow.
Benzodiazepine Use Among Teens
Within the U.S., the number of people overdosing on benzos has risen dramatically. Child and teenage overdoses increased by 54% between 2000 and 2015. The increase in these numbers seems to be related to the rise in medical prescriptions of Xanax. According to one study, some doctors have even begun handing them out as a substitute for opioids.
In addition, one study found several surprising results. For example, between 2000 and 2015, 297 thousand overdose cases were reported to poison control centers. The number of cases rose from 17.7% (per 100 thousand) children to 29.3% in 2009. In 2015, the number was 27.3%.
However, approximately half of the cases occur in kids who take the drugs to get high or attempt suicide. In 2015, for example, 48% of reported cases were from teenagers using these pills intentionally. While only a few of them end up dying, many go on to suffer serious health problems. In 2015, 24% of overdose cases had ongoing health issues.
In addition, many people have extra pills left over after finishing a prescription. Teenagers then steal drugs from their parents and use them recreationally.
What You Can Do for Treatment
Now that we know all of the details, it is easy to see that our answer to “is Xanax addictive” is a resounding yes. Also, the drug can be hazardous if misused. The bottom line is clear: Xanax can be highly addictive. And if it is misused, it has the potential to lead to permanent impairment or even death.
To summarize, if you or someone you know is abusing Xanax (or any other benzodiazepine), you are not alone. There are dozens of treatments available. In fact, science-based therapy has a proven track record of helping people recover from addictions.
There are several different forms of therapy. Counseling can help you understand how addiction happens and how to manage urges. Inpatient and outpatient rehab clinics can get you on the right track if recovery is especially tricky. All of these have their place, and you can find one to suit your needs.
However, no matter what your reason is for reading this article, help is available whenever you need it. If you have any questions or want to talk more about Xanax, please give us a call. We would be more than happy to assist you with whatever you need.
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