Alprazolam (Xanax) Addiction And Treatment Options

Xanax AddictionXanax is a prescription sedative that helps people relax and reduce anxiety. It belongs to a family of medications called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are part of an even larger medication family called sedatives, hypnotics and anxiolytics. The scientific name for Xanax is alprazolam, and it is closely related to Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam). Xanax has been used in the treatment of  generalized anxiety disorder, as well as sleep problems and seizures. It is potent and fast-acting, which help make it a highly effective medication when appropriately used. Unfortunately, those same factors that make it effective also allow it to be frequently misused, abused or diverted.

If you’ve used Xanax recently, you’re not alone. One in 20 Americans has used a medication like Xanax in the last month. Over two million Americans have used them in a medically unintended fashion. Benzodiazepines can cause symptoms of physical and psychological dependence when used excessively, and can cause sedation, overdose and even death. Problem usage of Xanax is common and is referred to as a sedative, hypnotic and anxiolytic use disorder. Addiction occurs when you loses control over drug usage and spend more time thinking about it, using it or recovering from it.

If you are concerned that you have been misusing Xanax we are here for you. If you believe that you have a sedative, hypnotic and anxiolytic use disorder, Transformations Treatment Center can support you through our evidence-based substance use disorder treatment program. We will help you effectively confront the disease of addiction, along with its destructive consequences and the unhealthy patterns it fosters.

How Xanax Works Within the Body

Anxiety is an emotion everyone experiences at some point. It is important for survival, because it gives you information about your environment. One component of anxiety is called the “fight, flight or freeze” response. When your brain feels it is no longer in danger, it instructs the body to return to its resting state. To help stop the “fight, flight or freeze” response, the body uses a natural chemical called GABA that acts like a brake for the activity of the nervous system. Xanax and other benzodiazepines create a much more powerful brake.

When people experience anxiety disorders, however, they have excessive amounts of stress, fear, dread or preoccupation. Those feelings continue even when they’re not necessary. Under those circumstances, it’s difficult for the body to return to normal. When Xanax enters your bloodstream, it reduces the number and strength of the messages the nervous system communicated to your body. If you use sedatives long-term or in excess, your nervous system will become tolerant to the drug’s anxiety-reducing properties. That means that it takes more of the drug to create the same braking effect for nerve cells. Therefore, at that point your body has become physically dependent on the drug.

Psychologically, the rapid action and short duration of Xanax can produce euphoria, and over time your brain will remodel itself to try to create as much of this euphoria as it can, even taking over your ability to think and plan. It is at that point and in this state that you are highly vulnerable to addictive behavior, as your brain now views your addiction as the normal state and tries to keep the body in that state.

Overdose Signs

With an overdose of Xanax, the same reduction in communication between nerve cells is also responsible for the slowdown in normal breathing patterns. Xanax overdoses usually aren’t fatal if they are the only drug present.  In those instances, the probability of fatal overdose becomes much higher, and the consequences in non-fatal overdoses much more severe, including coma and long-term nervous system deficits. In some cases, doctors in a hospital will use the medication flumazenil to counteract the effects of Xanax overdoses.

Abruptly stopping or reducing Xanax after becoming physically dependent leads to withdrawal symptoms as your body’s natural abilities to reduce anxiety using GABA are compromised. Since the GABA system that Xanax works on also helps to control heart rate, blood pressure, and nerve cell activity, Xanax and other sedative withdrawal is dangerous and can lead to hallucinations, seizures and death.

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How to Spot Xanax-Related Problems

Certain clues can help you or your loved ones spot problem Xanax usage. Like with all prescribed narcotics, non-prescribed usage is always problematic, and usage beyond the prescribed time or amount also may indicate misuse. Similarly, unsuccessful attempts to stop usage, continued use despite negative consequences, detachment or isolation from social groups, and legal or social problems stemming from use tend to be strong clues for addictive use. Physical and psychological symptoms vary, but may include:

  • Uncontrolled anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Sedation
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Unexplained seizures
  • Rapid changes in mood
  • Unexplained seizures
  • Unexplained blood pressure swings

Treating Xanax Addiction

Due to the potential dangers of unchecked withdrawal, treatment of addiction to Xanax and other benzodiazepines will likely begin with medical detoxification. If withdrawal symptoms are severe, detoxification takes place in a rehabilitation facility or a hospital. Medical personnel monitor vital signs regularly for several days and sometimes prescribe a safe, supervised, long-acting dose of a medication chemically similar to Xanax in decreasing amounts until your body can handle the effects of withdrawal on its own.

Doctors and mental health professionals can help you identify healthy ways to address hidden anxiety disorders, depression or other mental health conditions. Doing this is important—not only to treat those conditions, but to help ensure more effective addiction treatment.

The best psychotherapy option for problematic use of Xanax and other sedatives is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help you change your behavior by showing you how to adapt your emotions and challenge the thought processes that lead to those behaviors. It has been used for many years to treat anxiety disorders, and it is a staple of long-term recovery efforts. Along with adherence to a 12-step based program, CBT reduces or eliminates problems associated with benzodiazepine use.

We provide holistic care and treatment using an individualized approach specifically tailored to your needs. Our goal is to help you lead a healthy, substance-free life with adaptive coping and problem-solving skills.  Contact us today for more information on our certified staff of professionals and first-rate facilities.

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