Prescription medications such as Xanax have enabled countless people to live more satisfying and enjoyable lives. But the benefits of any prescription drug will almost always be accompanied by certain risks. In the case of Xanax, the risks include addiction and the distress of withdrawal. When a person becomes addicted, the painful withdrawal symptoms of Xanax can make it extremely difficult for them to stop using the drug.
What is Xanax?
Xanax is the brand name of a prescription medication. The generic term for this drug is alprazolam.
Xanax is usually prescribed to treat people who have been struggling with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or panic disorder. It is usually taken by mouth in pill or capsule form.
Xanax first earned approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1980s. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies this drug as a Schedule IV substance. This means that, in the opinion of the U.S. government, Xanax has a low potential for abuse and a low risk of dependence.
What Type of Drug is Xanax?
Xanax is a benzodiazepine. Frequently referred to as benzos, benzodiazepines are a category of drugs that are often used to treat people whose lives have been disrupted by insomnia, seizures, and anxiety disorders. Benzos are sometimes classified as depressants or sedatives.
Examples of other commonly used benzodiazepines are diazepam (which is marketed as Valium), clonazepam (which is sold as Klonopin), and lorazepam (which is better known as Ativan).
Xanax and other benzodiazepines work by increasing the body’s ability to produce a neurotransmitter called γ-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA. This neurotransmitter reduces the ability of nerve cells to produce, send, or receive certain chemicals. When the level of GABA in a person’s body rises, the excitability of their nerve cells is lowered.
How Addictive is Xanax?
Although the DEA’s classification of Xanax as a Schedule IV drug indicates a low likelihood of abuse and addiction, this does not mean that it can be used without risk. When a person takes Xanax, they may experience pleasurable effects such as:
- Overall sense of serenity
- Diminishment of anxiety
- Easing of muscle tension
- Improved ability to sleep
These effects can be enticing to people who are seeking a recreational high. They can also lead to Xanax misuse among people who have been prescribed the medication for legitimate medical purposes. No matter why a person begins to abuse Xanax, the negative effects of this behavior can include addiction.
When a person develops Xanax addiction, they may feel compelled to use increasingly larger amounts of the drug. This is known as tolerance. Tolerance can increase a person’s risk for both immediate and long-term damage. It can also complicate their efforts to end their Xanax abuse.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Xanax
Withdrawal is one of the classic signs of addiction.
When a person becomes dependent on Xanax or any other drug, their body will adapt to the presence of this substance. If the individual cannot acquire and use the substance, or if they attempt to end or significantly reduce their use, their body may react with a variety of painful symptoms. This experience is known as withdrawal.
The withdrawal symptoms of Xanax include both physical and psychological distress.
The following are examples of common physical withdrawal symptoms of Xanax:
- Powerful cravings for Xanax
- Abdominal cramping
- Muscle pain
- Tics and tremors
- Rapid heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- High body temperature
- Excessive perspiration
- Loss of appetite and resultant weight loss
- Disrupted sleep patterns
People who are in the midst of Xanax withdrawal may also develop a temporary hypersensitivity to stimuli such as touch, sounds, and lights.
Potential psychological symptoms of Xanax withdrawal include the following:
- Memory problems
- Drastic mood swings
- Confusion and disorientation
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Depersonalization (the sense of being detached from your own thoughts and emotions)
The psychological symptoms of Xanax withdrawal may also include thoughts of suicide. This is one of the many reasons why it can be so dangerous to try to complete Xanax withdrawal without proper professional oversight.
The first symptoms of Xanax withdrawal may begin to occur within a few hours after a person’s last dose. By the time 24 hours have passed, the individual will almost surely be experiencing some discomfort. A Xanax detox can help to ease the symptoms of withdrawal safely and effectively.
Xanax withdrawal symptoms are usually at their most severe during the first three days. If the individual tries to complete withdrawal on their own, the intensity of the symptoms they experience during this 72-hour period can push them back into active Xanax abuse. When a person enrolls in a detoxification program, they may receive both medical and therapeutic support to help them manage their symptoms and resist the urge to once again use the drug.
After the withdrawal symptoms peak around the end of the third day, they will begin to ease in severity. Within a week, the most intense symptoms will likely have dissipated. But some symptoms may persist, usually in milder form, for a month or longer after the last time the person used Xanax. It is not uncommon for a person to experience some Xanax withdrawal symptoms for multiple months.
In addition to guiding a person get through the most painful parts of Xanax withdrawal, professional treatment can also help them learn how to manage residual symptoms without relapsing.
Begin Treatment for Xanax Addiction in Southern California
If you or someone that you care about has become trapped in the downward spiral of Xanax addiction, please know that help is available. Ocean Hills Recovery provides personalized care for adults who are dependent on Xanax and other prescription benzodiazepines. Our center serves clients from communities throughout Southern California, including Orange County and Los Angeles. When you’re ready to begin your recovery journey, the Ocean Hills Recovery team is here for you. Contact us today to learn how we can help.