Everyone has heard about Xanax and it’s no wonder when you discover it’s the fifth most prescribed drug in the US today. It is prescribed by doctors for a number of reasons from anxiety to seizures but staying on it for any longer than four weeks can lead to dependency and addiction.
If you have been prescribed Alprazolam or someone in your life has, it’s important to educate yourself on the drug. Being informed can help your decisions and hopefully prevent anyone coming to harm, and lead to more responsible use of the drug. We’ve summed up seven things you need to know about Alprazolam.
How it Was First Used
Alprazolam (the generic name for Xanax) was created in the 1960s while psychiatric doctors searched for ways to treat a variety of mental health issues, including panic disorder.
A patent was filed in 1969 and the Upjohn company released the drug onto the market in 1981after it had been approved for use. The Upjohn company now forms part of Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant.
Eventually the drug was named Xanax was developed primarily as a muscle relaxant and sleep aid, but Dr David Sheehan at Upjohn presented it as a way to treat anxiety and mood disorders, specifically panic, which other benzodiazepines did not. Other drugs were seen as harsher and more addictive whilst Xanax was seen as more effective with fewer side effects.
It is primarily used for those who suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, as it works fast to calm you down. The body has a chemical called GABA, which is found in 80 percent of the brain’s neurotransmitters – it does a lot to control how you feel.
If your brain isn’t releasing enough, this can make you feel unbalanced and lead to anxiety. Alprazolam works on the imbalance, enhancing the effects of GABA, so that you can function normally.
It can make the user feel slightly woozy, like they have had a few drinks. Alprazolamhas a sedative and calming effect, so it is often prescribed for sleep problems as well as muscle spasms. This effect creates a positive feeling throughout the body, which users like, and this leads to abuse of the drug when taken for too long.
How to Spot Addiction to Xanax
As Xanax provides a general feeling of wellbeing, in a relatively short amount of time (most users report around 30 – 45 minutes) it’s ripe for misuse. It’s effects last up to four hours in the body but as time goes on the users brain begins to produce less GABA so more is needed to produce the same effects. Some users may still be receiving it on prescription even though they have developed a dependency on it. If anyone is taking more than their recommended dose, they are abusing Xanax and need to address it. 40 percent of people who take Xanax for longer than six weeks will become addicted.
Some common physical signs of Xanax include:
- dry mouth
- slurred words
It also affects the user psychologically – it can decrease your sex drive, make you more irritable and 33 percent of users actually reported an increase in mental health issues after abusing Xanax.
If you know someone that you think is addicted to Xanax, watch out for him or her being obsessed with the drug. They might be doctor shopping or buying illicitly on the streets.
Poly-drug Abuse with Xanax
It’s very common for Xanax to be used with other drugs, particularly alcohol. This can lead to devastating, even fatal effects. As Xanax is a central nervous system depressant, and so is alcohol, it can literally slow down the body’s function where the users breathing becomes suppressed.
The overdose death rate amongst those who take both opioids and benzodiazepines such as Xanax is ten times higher, according to a study in North Carolina. Even more alarming is that 49 percent of teenagers who take Xanax also take it with another substance. Celebrity deaths such as Heath Ledger and Lil Peep, were from poly-drug use including Xanax.
Side Effects of Withdrawal
Even if you have only been using Xanax for a few months, it’s never recommended that you try and come off it on your own, as the withdrawal can have some complications. Even those using Xanax as prescribed may find themselves experiencing these symptoms, so it is important to monitor your withdrawal and speak to your doctor. Symptoms of withdrawal start around 6 hours after your last dose and include:
- Blurred vision
- Loss of appetite
- Jaw or tooth pain
- Nausea and vomiting
It’s common for users to develop anxiety as a result of coming off Xanax as the brain is producing less GABA. Grand mal seizures and PTSD have been reported in a number of cases so it is vital that you undergo a monitored detox where a medical professional can keep an eye on your vital signs.
If you are taking Xanax as prescribed, it is almost impossible to overdose. Most accidental overdoses happen when alcohol or opioids are brought into the mix – and then it becomes very difficult to know what the lethal amount is. This is why it is considered very dangerous to mix Xanax with any other drugs.
There are several things to look out for if you think someone has overdosed involving Xanax.
Mild symptoms include slow reflexes, rapid heartbeat and uncontrolled muscle movements whilst more severe symptoms you should look for include chest pain, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, seizures and coma.
If you or a loved one have an addiction to Xanax then the first thing to do is recognise the problem and talk about it. Most addicts are in denial and if they continue to deny they are addicted, then they won’t seek help or treatment.
One of the ways that you can confront this issue is by staging an intervention to help the addict see the consequences of their drug use. The aim of the intervention is for the user to get treatment so make sure you have a clear path for this.
Withdrawal and detox should always be under medical supervision, as there are many psychological and physical side effects that the addict will have to conquer in recovery.