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Xanax Addiction and Abuse: Signs, Effects and Recovery

Last Updated: November 29, 2023

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Benzodiazepines like Xanax (alprazolam) serve a vital medical purpose but are also susceptible to misuse, dependence, and addiction. In the United States alone, over 20 million Xanax prescriptions were issued in 2018, making it one of the most frequently prescribed medications for anxiety. Shockingly, a study discovered that more than 17% of individuals with benzodiazepine prescriptions misuse them.

Given the prevalence of Xanax prescriptions and its potential for misuse, Xanax addiction has become a pressing concern. Thankfully, professional addiction treatment programs offer a lifeline to those in need.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax belongs to the benzodiazepine class of drugs, which interact with GABA receptors in the brain. These receptors induce feelings of relaxation, which is pivotal in calming the body. Xanax is commonly prescribed to alleviate anxiety by stimulating GABA receptors, promoting relaxation.

Street Names for Xanax

Xanax, a potentially addictive substance, can only be legally obtained with a prescription. However, individuals grappling with Xanax addiction may resort to illicit means to acquire the drug.

As a street drug, Xanax goes by various street names within the illicit market. Some of these street names include:

  • Bars
  • Benzos
  • Blue Footballs
  • Bricks
  • Upjohn
  • Zanbars
  • Z-Bars

Xanax Dosages

Xanax is available in several forms and dosages, prescribed based on individual needs and preferences for administration.

Xanax can be found in solid tablet or orally disintegrating tablet forms, with dosages ranging from 0.25 mg to 2 mg. Extended-release formulations gradually release the drug over several hours, with dosages spanning from 0.5 mg to 3 mg. Xanax is also available as a liquid solution, containing 5 mg per teaspoon.

What Does Xanax Look Like?

Manufacturers vary the appearance of Xanax significantly based on factors such as dosage and whether it is in the immediate-release or extended-release form.

You should not have to identify Xanax filled by a pharmacy and should only get Xanax, that a reputable pharmacy provides. While you should not be in a situation where you’re unsure if a pill is Xanax or not, you can use a pill identifier to confirm the authenticity of a pill suspected to be Xanax. Ingesting an unidentified drug can pose significant risks, as illicit substances may be designed to resemble Xanax. When obtaining medication from sources other than a pharmacy, there is a risk of unwittingly consuming a dangerous substance.

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?

Xanax has a half-life of 11.2 hours, meaning it takes 11.2 hours for half of the Xanax in an average person's bloodstream to diminish. Eliminating Xanax from the system entirely requires multiple half-lives.

The duration of Xanax's presence in the system varies among individuals, influenced by factors like gender, age, weight, overall health, and other medications. Extended-release Xanax remains in the bloodstream for a more extended period as it slowly elevates Xanax levels over several hours.

Although the effects of a single Xanax dose wane within hours, it can be detectable in urine for several days and in hair for up to 90 days.

Xanax Addiction

Despite its therapeutic uses, Xanax is susceptible to misuse. Xanax prompts the release of endorphins in the brain, chemicals that serve as rewards to reinforce beneficial behaviors. When chemicals like endorphins are artificially released through chemical means, it can lead to brain alterations that encourage continued behavior, fostering Xanax addiction.

Xanax addiction is dangerous due to the potential for a fatal overdose from excessive use. Overuse of Xanax can induce such profound relaxation that it compromises adequate breathing, resulting in a fatal overdose.

In addition to the dangers associated with Xanax use, withdrawal from the drug can produce severe symptoms, including seizures. Xanax withdrawal is particularly hazardous as it diminishes the brain's ability to suppress seizures, which can be fatal or result in lasting brain damage.

Xanax Addiction Symptoms

Xanax addiction is marked by a mix of general signs of addiction and symptoms specific to Xanax use.

Signs of addiction typically involve behavioral changes and may include:

  • Constant preoccupation with Xanax
  • Deteriorating performance at work, school or home
  • Alterations in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Unexplained behavioral shifts
  • Neglect of personal appearance, hygiene or responsibilities
  • Engagement in secretive or deceptive behaviors
  • Encountering new legal or financial difficulties

Symptoms of Xanax use itself may include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Profound fatigue or excessive drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constricted pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Confusion
  • Cognitive alterations
  • Difficulty maintaining a conversation

Signs of Xanax use may also encompass Xanax withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, flu-like manifestations and seizures. Excessive Xanax use can lead to an overdose, characterized by severe fatigue and impaired breathing. A suspected Xanax overdose should prompt an immediate call to 911.

Xanax and Alcohol

Xanax interacts with GABA receptors. Alcohol, a commonly abused substance, also influences this class of receptor. Although Xanax and alcohol exhibit some variations in their impact on GABA receptors, they share similarities that render their combination hazardous. Each substance can potentiate the effects of the other while slowing the body's capacity to metabolize both. This significantly elevates the risk of overdose and other severe health complications associated with alcohol or Xanax use.

Recovery From Xanax Abuse and Addiction

Xanax addiction does not have to control your life. Numerous treatment options are available to assist individuals in overcoming Xanax addiction. Professional Xanax addiction treatment centers provide detoxification to remove the drug from your system safely. Following detox, rehabilitation programs equip individuals with the tools to lead healthier lives, free from Xanax.

The Recovery Village Kansas City Drug and Alcohol Rehab possesses extensive experience in aiding individuals facing Xanax addiction in achieving enduring sobriety. If you or a loved one is prepared to embark on the path to recovery, reach out to our Recovery Advocates today to explore treatment programs tailored to your specific needs.

Sources

Statista. “Number of alprazolam prescriptions in th[…]S. from 2004 to 2018.” 2021. Accessed November 17, 2023.

American Psychiatric Association. “Study Finds Increasing Use, and Misuse, of Benzodiazepines.” December 17, 2018. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Olsen, Richard W.; DeLorey, Timothy M. “GABA Receptor Physiology and Pharmacology.” Basic Neurochemistry: Molecular, Cellular and Medical Aspects, 1999. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Connecticut State Department of Consumer Protection. “Alprazolam.” 2021. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Medscape. “Alprazolam (Rx).” 2021. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Drugs.com. “Pill Identifier.” 2021. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. “XANAX.” June 2011. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Haldeman-Englert, Chad; Foley, Maryann; Turley, Raymond. “Benzodiazepines (Urine).” University of Rochester Medical Center, 2021. Accessed November 17, 2023.

O’Malley, Gerald; O’Malley, Rika. “Anxiolytics and Sedatives.” Merck Manuals, May 2020. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Hallare, Jericho & Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls. June 20, 2023. Accessed November 22, 2023.