Xanax, also known as alprazolam, belongs to a group of  CNS (central nervous depressants) called benzodiazepines. This group of medicine includes sedatives, tranquilizers, and hypnotics.  These medicines are often prescribed to treat sleep disorders, anxiety, panic, acute stress reactions due to their capacity to slow down brain activity. Other benzodiazepines in this class are Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Halcion (triazolam) and ProSom (estazolam).

These prescription drugs work well and are safe if used as prescribed. However, if they are misused and even used for a long time as prescribed, they may lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Medical professionals may prescribe Xanax or other benzodiazepines, for the following conditions:

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  • seizures
  • insomnia
  • muscle relaxers
  • anxiety
  • alcohol withdrawals
  • administered before anesthetics before surgery
  • administered for amnesia induced uncomfortable procedures

This medicine is a white, oval, scored, tablet imprinted with "XANAX 0.25".

How Xanax affects the brain

The drug acts on the brain by producing GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) a chemical that inhibits brain activity and causing drowsiness and calming effects.  This action makes the medication ideal for anxiety and insomnia. Some of the effects produced by Xanax may include:

  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • loss of concentration
  • memory loss
  • low blood pressure
  • shallow breathing
  • speech problems
  • movement restrictions

Repeated and continues the use of this CNS depressant may lead to tolerance, where the person may need to use larger dosages to get desired effects. Withdrawal effects can manifest if the person stops using the drug abruptly, therefore showing the signs of dependence to benzodiazepine More severe withdrawal effects may result in seizures and even death.

Xanax or other CNS depressants overdose may occur if the drug is taken either intentionally or unintentionally, as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse,  and it happens when a person takes an abnormal amount of drug to produce life-threatening effects and cause death.  The most adverse effect of overdose is the condition called hypoxia. This condition demonstrated in slow breathing, which reduces the amount of oxygen released into the brain, and causes permanent brain damage and coma.

Xanax and Addiction

Misuse of CNS depressants may lead to a condition known as Substance Use Disorder, also known as addiction. Prolonged use of Xanax, even if prescribed by a medical professional, may lead to the development of tolerance. Tolerance occurs when a person needs to take more drugs and in higher dosages to receive the same therapeutic effects.  A sign of substance use disorder involves continues use of drugs, compulsive seeking of drugs, damaging health consequences of using the drugs, neglecting daily responsibilities, such as school, work or job,  engaging in risky activities, doctors shopping with a purpose to get multiple prescriptions, isolation due to drug use, and finally the inability to stop using drugs.

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Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Individuals who exhibit the signs of drug addiction, and who make attempts to stop using drugs abruptly may experience often painful withdrawal symptoms:

  • tremors
  • anxiety
  • agitation
  • insomnia
  • twitching
  • seizures
  • rapid heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • fever
  • sweating
  • hallucinations
  • severe cravings

At this addiction level, it is not recommended to stop using the drug on your own, due to potentially life-threatening conditions. It is critical to seek help from a certified recovery specialist to get immediate medical help.

Xanax Detox and Treatment

People addicted to Xanax similar to other benzodiazepines must undergo medically supervised detoxification, where the dosage may be tapered gradually. Some patients with acute benzodiazepine toxicity may require in-patient hospital evaluation. It will depend on how much drugs were taken. Chronic abuse of benzodiazepines may require treatment at a drug rehab center with a gradual reduction of drugs to prevent withdrawal symptoms. For some patients, this option may be more effective vs undergoing a drug-free phase. Once the patient is stabilized medically, it is very important to continue the treatment with counseling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy centered around altering a person’s behaviors, thinking, and expectations about drug use, teaching to cope with life’s stress without using drugs, learning to manage triggers and prevent relapse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has helped tremendously recovering individuals to stop using benzodiazepines and adapt a drug-free life.  If a person misused alcohol or other opioids along with Xanax, the treatment should also include therapy for these additional addictions. A person who undergoes full addiction treatment must also undergo mental health evaluation to address any additional mental health disorder, known as co-occurring disorders.

Group counseling may help patients to be challenged and supported by other peers who are also completing their drug addiction treatment. Individual therapy may help patients with depression, bipolar disorder, and any other serious mental health conditions besides the addiction to benzodiazepines.