Xanax: Everything You Need to Know

Alprazolam, commonly known by the brand names Xanax or Niravam, is the fifth most prescribed drug in the United States. Many providers will prescribe this medication to patients to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, and more. While Xanax can be beneficial when used as prescribed, it is crucial to also know the potential risks of this prescription pill.  

What is Xanax (Alprazolam)?

Xanax (alprazolam) is a prescription medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which work by calming the nervous system. Xanax causes a euphoric effect and helps ease feelings of nervousness, worry, and tension. It also aids in reducing physical symptoms of anxiety like muscle tension, headaches, and dizziness. 

Xanax is federally classified as a Schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which means there is a recognized risk for misuse and dependence. You should only take Xanax when prescribed by licensed healthcare professional as oral tablets. The pills come imprinted with “Xanax”, which appear in different colors and strengths. 

Those who abuse benzodiazepines like Xanax obtain them by getting prescriptions from several doctors, forging prescriptions, or buying counterfeit pills on the street. This can be extremely dangerous as there can be other substances mixed into these substances, such as fentanyl, and increase your risk for overdose.  

What is Xanax Used For?

Xanax is a fast-acting medication, meaning it starts working within minutes and can provide relief for several hours. However, it’s important to note that Xanax is a controlled substance due to its potential for abuse and dependence. It should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor and exactly as prescribed. 

Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive worry and fear that can interfere with daily life. Panic disorder involves sudden attacks of intense fear and discomfort that come on rapidly and reach their peak within minutes (panic attacks). Xanax works by calming the brain activity that underlies these anxious feelings. 

What is the Chemical Composition of Xanax?

Alprazolam is a complex molecule with the chemical formula C17H13ClN4. It belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which have a specific chemical structure with carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, and nitrogen atoms arranged in a particular way.

What is a Common Alprazolam Dosage?

Treating anxiety disorders with Xanax often begins with a low dose, typically between 0.25 and 0.5 milligrams taken three times a day. This starting point allows for adjustments based on how the patient reacts to the medication. To minimize potential dependence and withdrawal symptoms, the daily dosage should not exceed 4 milligrams in most cases. For people struggling with panic disorders, they may start with higher doses (around 0.5 milligrams, three times daily). Regardless of the initial dose, strict adherence to a healthcare professional’s instructions is crucial for safe and effective use.

What Are the Side Effects of Xanax?

While effective for anxiety relief, Xanax can cause uncomfortable side effects including: 

  • Drowsiness 
  • Dizziness 
  • Fatigue 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Memory problems 
  • Slurred speech 

Xanax can be habit-forming, and dependence or addiction can develop with long-term use. More serious side effects are also possible, so it’s crucial to discuss any potential risks with your doctor before taking Xanax.

What Does Xanax Abuse Look Like?

Taking Xanax in ways not prescribed by a doctor is considered abuse. This can look like taking higher doses than prescribed, taking it more frequently, or using it for reasons other than anxiety relief. 

Combining Xanax with other substances is also common. Those who misuse cocaine or other stimulants may also use benzodiazepines to relieve the side effects (e.g., irritability and agitation) when you crash from these substances. Some people use benzodiazepines to elevate alcohol’s effects and reduce any withdrawal symptoms.  

What Are Common Signs of Xanax Addiction?

Knowing the warning signs of Xanax addiction is crucial for getting yourself or someone you care about the help they need as soon as possible. Early intervention can significantly improve the chances of a successful recovery. Some common physical signs of Xanax addiction include: 

  • Agitation 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Mania 
  • Seizures 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Tremors 

If alprazolam is interfering with your daily life, obligations, relationships, and more you may be struggling with a substance use disorder. Some of the behavioral changes may be: 

  • Taking more and more of the drug or taking the drug for longer periods of time than intended.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining the drug, using it, and recovering from its effects.
  • Continuing to use even though use affects your ability to fulfill duties at work, school, or home.
  • Continuing to use despite it causing social or interpersonal problems.
  • Giving up important activities or hobbies to use.

What is Xanax Addiction?

Xanax addiction can develop for a combination of reasons, including factors related to the drug itself, the individual’s biology, and their environment. 

People taking Xanax to quell their anxiety symptoms may come to rely on Xanax every day even when they are not feeling anxious. It may come to a point that each time they encounter a stressful situation, they use the drug to cope. Furthermore, Xanax triggers the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure and motivation. This pleasurable effect can lead to compulsive drug use to recapture that feeling. 

Whether you or a loved one is struggling with Xanax addiction, there is hope to begin the recovery process with an accredited treatment center like Mountainside.  

What Does Xanax Addiction Treatment Look Like?

To combat alprazolam addiction effectively, treatment plans usually incorporate a combination of approaches such as education, medication, counseling, and various behavioral therapies.  

Xanax Detox 

Deciding to quit Xanax is an amazing step in a positive direction. Over time, your body becomes dependent on the prescription pill to function so you can expect unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it. This is why it is recommended for each person to do a medically monitored detox where professionals can help relieve any pain and discomfort.  

Stopping Xanax use “cold turkey” or instantly is not recommended as it can lead to severe side effects like seizures. Tapering off the substance in a hospital setting is much safer.   

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment 

Clinical counseling is typically recommended after Xanax detox to address the mental aspect of your addiction – the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors behind the condition. While each individual’s journey to recovery is unique and requires personalized care, the common treatment options are inpatient and outpatient care.  

  • Inpatient care: Ideal for individuals struggling with Xanax addiction and facing co-occurring mental health issues. Clients can attend educational sessions and participate in intensive individual and group therapy with a focus on behavioral therapy. This helps them understand the root causes of their addiction, develop coping mechanisms for managing triggers and stress, and learn relapse prevention strategies. 
  • Outpatient care: Offers flexibility and allows patients to continue some daily routines while still receiving treatment. However, the intensity and frequency of these sessions are less compared to inpatient programs. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with Xanax use, help is available. Please reach out to one of our compassionate admissions team members to learn about treatment options.   

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