Concerns of Xanax Abuse

In 2010, 44 percent of those contacted by the American Psychological Association felt as though their stress levels were higher than they had been in years prior. The economy, poor employment prospects and relationship difficulties all played a role, and the triggers made people feel angry, snappish or just tired. At the same time, these stressed-out people said that they just didn’t have the time to deal with the issues that caused their stress. Instead, they tried to live with the misery or find some sort of quick fix that could bring relief.

It’s easy to see how, in this world filled with stress, Xanax can seem like a godsend. This prescription-only medication is designed to soothe electrical activity inside the brain and bring people relief from their worries. Unfortunately, the drug also has a unique chemical makeup that makes it a major player in the field of addiction. While recovery from this type of addiction is certainly possible, people with these issues need to proceed carefully and get help from professionals, so they can heal without feeling worse.

Common Uses

Xanax isn’t designed to help people to deal with day-to-day stress and worries. Instead, this powerful medication was developed to help people who have very serious mental health concerns. People with panic disorders, for example, often find it difficult to move through the day while feeling both healthy and happy. Out of nowhere, they can experience crushing episodes of terror that might involve:

  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty with breathing
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations

xanax abuseIn the midst of these episodes, people can feel as though their lives are coming to an end. They might also be embarrassed about the spectacle they caused during their episode, and as a result, they might refuse to leave their homes. A life like this is stressful, but it’s also isolated and unhealthy. Xanax is perfectly designed to help people like this.

The drug latches to receptors inside the brain that release a soothing chemical known as GABA. It’s often compared to the brakes on a car, slowing down activity to a manageable level before something catastrophic takes place. Studies suggest that it can be a remarkable help for people who have persistent cases of anxiety. For example, in a study in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers found that 82 percent of people with anxiety who took generic Xanax were improved four weeks later, while only 43 percent of people who took a placebo could say the same. It’s reasonable to believe that people who took this medication felt as though it saved their lives. Without this help, they may have struggled to get through each day without feeling crippling symptoms of anxiety.

Unique Characteristics

Xanax can be helpful in correcting an imbalance that can lead to panic, but it also has some special attributes that could make it enjoyable as well as useful. Along with boosting GABA inside the brain, Xanax seems to tinker with the brain’s pleasure pathway, boosting the production or utilization of chemicals that tend to make people feel euphoric and happy. People who take Xanax might feel relaxed, but they might also feel a little boost of joy that keeps them coming back for more.

In addition, Xanax pills are efficiently processed by the body, so they take hold quickly and leave the body just as rapidly. As a result, people who take these medications feel intense changes almost immediately, and their brain cells might call out for more Xanax just hours after the first dose was ingested.

The brain might feel as though more of the drug is required, and people might be compelled to follow the demand with more drugs.

People might quickly escalate their use, taking multiple pills at a time on a rapid schedule, and they might do so much damage in the process that an addiction sets in.

With each dose of Xanax, the brain and body up their responses. The body might learn to metabolize Xanax even faster, and the brain might learn to produce no GABA or pleasure-related chemicals unless the drug is present. A brain like this is primed for drug use and abuse, and nothing else might do the trick to soothe this amended brain. It’s been chemically altered for Xanax, and people might feel as though they simply can’t live without the drug.

Dangerous Consequences

Even though people who have a Xanax addiction think they’re caring for their bodies by providing higher and higher doses of drugs, soothing brain cells that call out for chemicals on a regular basis, the damage people can do as the addiction moves forward can be catastrophic.

Those who take Xanax may feel happy or normal when they’re high, but they might also have severely altered motor skills and reaction times. Things that might have been completed in mere minutes might take hours to finish, and some things might be impossible to do at all. For example, in a study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers found that people who took one milligram of Xanax had a seriously impaired ability to drive, as they swerved around the road with a lowered alertness level. These people might easily get in a car accident, due to their impaired skills, even though they might feel completely capable of driving. The same lack of coordination could also allow people to trip and fall, or suffer some other sort of accident.

In addition to slowing down coordination and thought, Xanax can cause emotional changes in some people.

Often, people who take this drug report feeling numb and deadened, as though they just can’t respond to things in the normal manner. Events that once caused deep sadness and sorrow might now cause only a brief period of distress. Happy events might pass without notice. People seem to swim through their lives, without really taking note of the things happening around them.

Some people experience even more severe emotional changes due to their drug use, according to a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Here researchers found that eight in 80 patients developed hostility during their treatment with Xanax. People like this might have always been a little aggressive or irritated, but the Xanax pills seemed to release a tidal wave of anger that swept them away. People like this might hurt themselves or others, all because they’re under the influence of drugs.

Caution Required

While Xanax can be dangerous or even deadly, people who have addictions can’t simply wake up one morning and stop taking their drug of choice. The chemical amendments that drove the addiction are still in place, and due to the ongoing abuse, the body is primed for the constant presence of Xanax.

Stopping the use of the drug abruptly could lead to all sorts of terrible side effects, including:

  • Restlessness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate

In serious cases, some people develop seizures during a rapid withdrawal process, as their sleepy brain cells awaken much too rapidly and trigger an electrical storm inside the brain.

In addition, people who originally took Xanax for a serious mental illness might need support during withdrawal. Taking away the therapy that seems to help them could mean plunging them back into a state of anxiety, and that could be so traumatic that it leads to additional addiction concerns. People like this might just transfer their addictive habits to another substance like alcohol or prescription painkillers, and while they’re not taking Xanax, they might still be far from healthy.

Proper Care

Experts suggest that all people with Xanax addictions work closely with a doctor in order to start the healing process. Sometimes, medical professionals design a program in which the person takes smaller and smaller doses of Xanax in a scheduled and controlled manner, achieving sobriety in a series of steps that are closely monitored by a medical professional. In a study of the effectiveness of this kind of program, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers found that no patients on a slow taper had seizures or serious neurological or heart problems. They were a little uncomfortable, but nothing serious happened to their long-term health. This could be the right approach for many people with Xanax addictions.

Some people dislike the idea of taking Xanax for long periods of time during healing, even though that approach might be helpful. They want to get better now, and leave drugs behind them for good. People like this might benefit from switching to a different type of anxiety medication that works on the same receptors but doesn’t get to work as quickly. These medications are just a little less rewarding, so they tend to be associated with less intense forms of addiction. For some, switching medications can mean tapering just a little quicker.

As the medications are managed, people might also need to learn how to handle their cravings for drugs. In individual counseling, they can identify the people, places and things that tend to cause them to crave drugs, and they can use this information to create a checklist for impulse control. When a dangerous situation arises, they can reach into their therapy toolkit for a response that will work. People can hone these skills in group therapy, learning from others who have also dealt with issues of addiction, and they can meet other addicts in support groups and swap stories and share strengths.

Special Considerations

This kind of work could be helpful for almost anyone who has an addiction, but there are some people who need even more intensive help in order to recover. These are the people who have Xanax prescriptions due to anxiety, and they also need to learn how to keep their worries in check in order to handle their addictions over the long-term.

In a Dual Diagnosis program, people like this can find out more about how to handle their mental illness without leaning on illicit substances of abuse.

Those with anxiety, for example, might benefit from exposure therapies, in which they slowly become accustomed to spending time in the presence of something that once filled them with terror. By facing their fears in a controlled environment, they can reduce their inherent anxiety and learn how to function in the world in a healthy, happy manner. Group counseling for anxiety might also be helpful in allowing some people to deal with their anxious feelings.

Good Approaches

Addressing a Xanax addiction isn’t easy, especially for families of people who have anxiety disorders. The solutions aren’t always clear, and untangling the medical cause of the issue can be tricky. A family mediator might help. These professionals can explain how anxiety disorders develop, and how Xanax use can spin out of control. The family can then look for the proper Dual Diagnosis program to provide relief, and they can discuss the issue in a manner that’s both supportive and helpful. If you need Xanax abuse intervention help, please call us. We can help you find just the right person to help your family through this difficult time.