Xanax Addiction: Side Effects, Withdrawal, and Rehab 

By The Fix staff 01/21/15

Xanax addiction: side effects, withdrawal and rehab

Xanax Addiction

Xanax is a highly addictive, yet commonly prescribed drug. It is relatively easy to get and many doctors prescribe it routinely. The fact that it is so easily prescribed, as well as readily available on the street, is one of the contributing factors to the Xanax addiction problem.

Abuse of this drug has become widespread in the last few years and, while it can affect anyone, it has become particularly popular among young people, with devastating results. Some people start using Xanax because it has been prescribed to them while others may discover it at a party or through friends. Not everyone who tries Xanax will become addicted, but anyone who uses it regularly risks becoming physically dependent on it.

What Is Xanax?

Part of the family of depressants known as benzodiazepines, Xanax was developed in the late 60s as an anti-anxiety drug. It is effective and fast-acting, usually working within 25 minutes and lasting for a few hours. It is routinely prescribed for patients who have panic and anxiety disorders and is typically taken as needed in order to address the sudden onset of severe anxiety. Xanax works by binding to GABA receptors and producing feelings of calmness.

Xanax is highly addictive, both physically and mentally. Even using it as prescribed can be risky. Over time, the user will develop a tolerance to the drug, meaning that it will take more and more of the drug to produce a desired result. In addition, the user may come to crave the euphoric feeling that the drug produces. With continued use, particularly if the use exceeds the recommended dosage, physical dependence can occur.

Taking all these factors into consideration, it is important to be cautious when using this medication, in order to avoid developing tolerance, dependence, and addiction. If you have ever had a problem with drug or alcohol addiction, you should discuss this with your doctor. You and your doctor may decide to use a less addictive medication to address your anxiety.

Xanax must be prescribed by a doctor, but like many prescription drugs, it is often sold by individuals. Teenagers frequently come into contact with the drug at parties and mix it with alcohol and other drugs. This is dangerous and can result in overdose, whether it is mixed or used on its own.

People who are addicted to Xanax will often go to different doctors and emergency rooms seeking the drug. This is known as "drug seeking" or "doctor shopping." Today, physicians and pharmacists are more cautious with dispensing medications that have the potential for abuse, but it still happens. 

Signs Of Xanax Addiction

Because Xanax is such a highly addictive drug, it is a good idea to remain vigilant if it is prescribed to you. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of Xanax addiction can vary and include:

  • Sleepiness or being "out of it" frequently

  • Loss of interest in normal activities

  • Agitation and anger

  • Mood swings

  • Suicidal ideation

  • Craving for the drug

  • Drug seeking behavior, forging prescriptions, doctor shopping, or stealing medication

  • Hostility

  • Neglecting responsibilities, such as work and family

  • Taking more than the prescribed amount

  • Crushing pills to snort or chew so they'll work faster

It may be difficult to spot a Xanax addiction. If you suspect a loved one is using Xanax inappropriately and confront them about it, they may deny the problem or become angry. The person using the drug may be in such deep denial they don't even realize they have a problem. It may be helpful to express your concerns and let them know specifically why you are worried, but be prepared for the person to become defensive. The process of accepting and admitting the problem can take some time and he or she may have to hit bottom before they get help.

If you find yourself making trips to the emergency room or going to one doctor after another until one gives you a prescription, or if you find yourself running out of your prescription before it's time, then you may have a problem with dependence or addiction.

Xanax Addiction Side Effects

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Xanax has a wide range of side effects and can cause severe health issues. If you are taking Xanax as prescribed, then you should keep in contact with your doctor and get medical attention immediately, if you notice any problems. Likewise, if you suspect a family member is using Xanax, you should seek help if you notice symptoms.

MedlinePlus identifies some of the typical effects of Xanax as:

  • Decreased urine output

  • Swelling in hands and feet

  • Tremors

  • Seizures

  • Blurred or double vision

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Memory loss

  • Rapid weight loss

  • Jaundice

  • Stomach problems, constipation, or diarrhea

  • Heart palpitations

Even if you are using Xanax as directed, you may experience side effects, and you may develop tolerance or dependence. If you notice the above symptoms, you should seek medical attention.

The side effects of Xanax use are even more dangerous when mixed with other drugs. Alcohol, marijuana, other prescription medications, and over-the-counter medications can interact with Xanax in a negative or even life-threatening way. It is important that you not consume alcohol when you are taking Xanax, even as prescribed.

In addition to physical symptoms, Xanax may cause a variety of mental and emotional symptoms. For this reason, it is important that you discuss the effects of Xanax with your doctor. It is a psychiatric medication that has a significant effect on brain chemistry and it may not be right for you. Possible mental/emotional effects of Xanax include:

  • Disorientation

  • Confusion

  • Hallucinations

  • Scattered or non-cohesive thoughts

  • Extreme distress

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Agitation

Xanax Addiction Withdrawal

The symptoms of Xanax addiction detox can be severe and you should not attempt to detox from the medication without medical supervision. This is important because serious health problems can occur, including death. If you have become dependent on Xanax, get medical help for a Xanax addiction detox. 

Xanax addiction withdrawal may cause both physical and mental symptoms, severity varying on an individual basis. Factors such as weight, length of time using, amount used and current mental and physical health, all play a part. The following is a typical list of symptoms that may be encountered during detox:

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Blurred vision

  • Chills and sweats

  • Feeling nervous or anxious

  • Aggressive behavior

  • Severe depression

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Seizures

  • Tingling sensation in hands and feet

  • Death as a result of suicide or other health complications

A medical detox will slowly taper the user off of the drug in order to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Quitting "cold turkey" puts the user at risk for a number of health problems. The time it will take to detox depends on how long you have been taking Xanax and at what dosage. The most severe symptoms should dissipate after a few days, but a full detox may take several weeks.

Xanax Addiction Rehab

The first step toward recovering from a Xanax addiction is detox from the drug. Again, this should be done under the supervision of a physician. It is important to get the drug out of your system before beginning on the road to recovery.You may need to be patient with yourself during this time. You will experience some lingering effects such as anxiety and depression. You may have difficulty sleeping and trouble concentrating. These symptoms will ease over time, but know that, especially in the beginning, it may be tempting to seek the temporary relief the drug provides.

One way to give yourself or your loved one the best possible chance at a long-term recovery is to check into a residential rehabilitation center. A Xanax addiction rehab facility will give you a safe place to recover, free from distractions and triggers.

Addiction is a disease. It is not mere dependence. It is not about having more willpower or a strong desire to quit. Many using and recovering addicts have reported that they wanted desperately to quit, that they were no longer enjoying using, but that they just couldn't do it. In these situations, getting outside help is the only solution.

Rehab offers addicts the chance to not only recover from active addiction, but the opportunity to have a rich, full life. Addicts come from all types of backgrounds, but many of them share similar experiences of trauma, distress, depression, and isolation. Rehab addresses these issues and teaches former users to recognize the feelings and triggers that can lead to relapse. It also offers tools and solutions so they don't go back to using.

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