Xanax addiction is incredibly damaging. The physical and psychological effects quickly begin to destroy a person’s life beyond recognition.
Many use it as a means to self-medicate, to help control mental health problems. There are also those who also use it to get high. Unfortunately, due to its effects on the brain and body, Xanax is incredibly addictive and requires specialist input to treat.
Recovery is possible with the right rehabilitation programme.
What is Xanax?
In the UK, you might have heard of Xanax. It’s often mentioned in U.S-based TV shows. Xanax is, however, a brand name for alprazolam which is a type of medication known as a benzodiazepine.
Xanax is a sedative medication that has tranquilising effects. It works by affecting the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) which is what controls your brain, mind, thoughts, and where bodily movements stem from.
By attaching to GABA receptors, Xanax stimulates a brain chemical called, gamma-aminobutyric acid, which causes a person to relax.
What is Xanax used for?
Xanax is utilised in different ways according to where a person lives. Throughout the U.S Xanax is prescribed for anxiety-related mental health problems such as generalised anxiety, panic, stress, and insomnia. It’s prescribed for anxiety caused by depression. Finally, it can be prescribed to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy.
In the UK, Xanax (or alprazolam) isn’t available on prescription through the NHS due to it’s highly addictive long-term risks. It is, however, available through private practitioners who are able to prescribe it.
After taking Xanax, a person will feel the effects around an hour or two later. This is how long it takes for it to be fully absorbed. It can stay in the system up to fifteen hours, but traces can be found in the hair up to ninety days later.
Xanax tends to be prescribed in smaller amounts. When people take Xanax (alprazolam) illegally (when it hasn’t been prescribed), it can be harder to monitor how much is taken and people tend to take very large doses, especially as more time passes.
Xanax: the side-effects
As with all drugs, there are side effects. When prescribed, Xanax is meant to be swallowed as a pill in whatever dose is recommended.
When taken illegally, Xanax is swallowed in pill form, and can also be snorted or injected. Many users take Xanax with heroin and alcohol (more on this in the risk section below).
Side-effects from taking Xanax include (but aren’t limited to) the following:
- Relaxation – in relation to muscles and anxiety.
- Slowed movement.
- Mood swings and irritability.
- Loss of concentration.
- Impaired memory.
- Lower libido.
- Tiredness and lethargy.
- Dizziness and being unbalanced.
- Sickness and diarrhoea.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Dry mouth.
When people use Xanax recreationally as a high, they report feelings of detachment. This detachment from real-life can also be what people are seeking when they use Xanax as a means of self-medicating.
Self-medicating occurs when people try to manage mental health problems, such as symptoms related to depression and anxiety through using legal and illegal substances. This unsupervised use can often transform into an addiction.
Associated risks when taking Xanax (alprazolam)
There are many risks associated with taking Xanax. Unfortunately, many of these are extremely dangerous. Due to the side-effects of the drug and a user’s likelihood of taking large amounts of Xanax, risks, at their worst, can be fatal.
- Increased risk of accidents, including falling over and car accidents.
- Respiratory failure and death when taken with opioids (such as heroin or methadone).
- Overdose and death, especially when taken with alcohol and/or other medications.
- Risks associated with sharing needles when injected, such as contracting hepatitis or HIV.
If Xanax is prescribed, it’s imperative that you talk through all other medications, including vitamins and supplements that you take with your doctor.
The differences between addiction to and dependence on Xanax
Addiction and dependence are two different conditions. It is very common, though, that the two will be present at the same time.
When a person has an addiction they will feel that they can’t live without the drug. When a person has a dependence, they could physically die without the drug. This is why in the case of dependence a safe detox at a rehabilitation centre is essential.
Xanax is an extremely addictive drug. One of its side-effects is how easy it is to build up a tolerance. Once a person starts taking it, it’s likely that their intake will continually increase. This is especially the case for people who aren’t taking it legally and under careful medical supervision.
Unfortunately, one of the effects of Xanax is that when a person stops using it, the original symptoms it was being used to treat can return at an increased level. This means that a person can be in a worse-off position after treatment from it than they were before.
It’s a dangerous drug. As Xanax is a benzodiazepine, it has similarities to alcohol in its ability to create a physical addiction. This means withdrawal can cause seizures and death. This is due to how the substance affects the brain chemicals and bodily systems.
Symptoms of addiction
When a person is living with addiction there are many ways it can affect a person. If you’re concerned that somebody you love has an addiction to Xanax but aren’t sure what that might look like, there are signs you can look for.
Here is a list of symptoms. The person you care for might…
- Increase the amount of Xanax they’re taking regularly. If prescribed they might not follow the advised amounts.
- Get involved in high-risk behaviours.
- Spend time with new friends.
- Become very moody and irritable.
- Develop insomnia or sleep at strange times of the day.
- Develop signs of depression, such as fatigue, shutting away from you, losing motivation, and self-neglect.
- Worrying about getting more Xanax.
- Personality changes.
- Developing family, social, and financial problems.
Withdrawal effects from dependence
When Xanax begins to leave the system in a person who is physically dependent, there will be withdrawal effects, This can be extremely uncomfortable and distressing to experience. This is often why a person becomes dependent. When the body is unable to function without Xanax in the system it makes the person need more of the substance to function “normally”.
Some withdrawal effects from Xanax dependence include:
- Increased anxiety, panic, restlessness, and restless legs
- Sense of tingling
- Feeling hot
- Muscle cramps
- Weight fluctuation
- Nausea and diarrhoea
- Hallucinations and psychosis
- Thoughts of self-harm and ending one’s own life.*
Xanax withdrawal, like alcohol withdrawal, is extremely dangerous and can lead to seizures. This is why a medically supervised detox is essential. There are many treatment centres in the UK which provide a medical detox overseen by doctors and clinical nurses. This ensures a person’s detox is safe and is as comfortable as possible.
OK Rehab can guide you through the comprehensive list of rehabilitation options in your local area.
How to approach a person you care for who you think has an addiction
At this point, it’s incredibly important to bear in mind how a severe Xanax (alprazolam) addiction alters the structure and functioning of the brain. As well as the shape of the brain-altering, its chemicals become unbalanced, this has a knock-on effect to all the bodily systems and functioning.
This is why when you approach someone you care for about the problem, you must be compassionate and understanding of the fact that they won’t simply be able to “just stop”.
In the first instance, it’s advisable to get some advice around how to keep your loved one safe. A call with one of the OK Rehab advisors can give you support around this.
Is an intervention needed and how do I stage one?
An intervention can be difficult to navigate and although it might make your loved one realise they have a problem, it can just as easily cause difficulties and make them choose to avoid you thereafter.
The most effective approach is to be open, compassionate, and caring. When you speak with your loved one, be kind and give them the space to be open and honest. Keep any frustrations, judgements, or desire to beg them to yourself.
Remember, also, that you might think it’s time for your loved one to access treatment, but they might not be ready. They also might not admit that they have a problem. The majority of people with addictions go through a phase of denial.
When your loved one is ready to access treatment, there will be local treatment options. If you’re unsure where to start, the OK Rehab team can advise.
Rehabilitation for Xanax addiction
In order for a person to recover from Xanax addiction, they will need support from a highly trained team of addiction specialists. This will include doctors, nurses, therapists, alternative practitioners, and drug and alcohol workers.
Addiction and dependency are extremely complex conditions and as such require a holistic approach that covers all areas of a person’s mental and physical health and life. This might be a daunting prospect, but around the world thousands of people enter treatment for Xanax addiction and recover.
With a tailored rehabilitation programme and specialist support, a life of abstinence is possible.
What does detox from Xanax involve?
In the UK, a residential stay at a rehab clinic begins with a detox. This is imperative for those living with a dependency. Due to the dangerous risks involved during withdrawal, Xanax needs to be tapered off by slowly reducing the amount taken and substituting with a half-life benzodiazepine. Doctors and nurses are required to prescribe meds and oversee this process to ensure the patient is safe.
Withdrawal symptoms reach their highest point around the second week and will start to reduce thereafter. Although, without professional help towards abstinence, withdrawal effects can last much longer.
Due to the length of time it can take for a tapering detox to unfold, psychological therapies begin after the initial phase of the detox.
Evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy are proven to be extremely effective in treating the psychology behind addiction.
A person will be supported through these therapies to understand the causes of and triggers that maintain the addiction. Practical techniques and strategies are provided so that people become aware of and learn how to manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
Dual diagnosis treatment
Addiction specialists commonly accept that mental health problems and addiction are highly associated. They often come hand-in-hand.
Many people start abusing substances after having spent time trying to self-medicate around low mood, stress, and anxiety. For others, the substance created those feelings.The majority of the time it’s near impossible to identify which came first.
Private rehab clinics provide a team that works collaboratively in order to support all aspects of mental health and addiction. The professionals recognise the importance of treating residents in both areas.
With an immersive approach to treatment, a life of sobriety can begin.
Aftercare and relapse prevention
A stay at a rehab centre comes to an end with a solid aftercare plan in place. It outlines what treatments are available to attend at the clinic on a more casual basis. Usually, residents will still have access to groups and some one-to-one support depending on what’s required. It includes advice around what to do in the case of relapse.
An action plan will also be established outlining advisable steps in relation to lifestyle changes. This is in order to support abstinence in the long term.
Xanax (alprazolam) is an incredibly addictive medication. Although it’s not available through NHS prescriptions, it is available through private practitioners as well as being available illegally.
Despite being used to treat anxiety-related disorders, it can make anxiety issues much worse once it starts to leave the body. This, along with how quickly a person builds a tolerance means people become addicted quickly.
A medically overseen detox is essential in order for a person to safely come off Xanax. There are many Xanax treatment options throughout the UK. Contact OK Rehab to find out what’s available in your local area.
* If you’re having thoughts about ending your own life, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123.