Xanax Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Xanax is a prescription medication used to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorder, and insomnia. It can be taken responsibly, but it can also lead to dependence and addiction if misused. Xanax is abused in several ways, and the side effects of Xanax addiction can harm both physical and mental health.

Xanax Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options In Massachusetts

Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam, which is a type of benzodiazepine medication for anxiety. It is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine in the United States.

Xanax is considered generally safe as long as it is prescribed by a doctor and used appropriately. Not every person who uses the drug will experience signs of Xanax addiction.

However, Xanax does carry some risks of abuse. Many people who misuse Xanax are at risk of developing an addiction to this medication.

Fortunately, Xanax addiction treatment centers offer recovery support. Keep reading to learn what the medication may be used for, know the signs of misuse, and how to seek treatment.

What Is Xanax Used For?

Many people are familiar with the name “Xanax,” but what does Xanax do? What is Xanax used for?

Xanax is often prescribed for different types of anxiety, especially anxiety that resists other types of treatment.

It is a short-acting medication that has been proven effective for intense forms of anxiety such as panic disorder and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces).

Some doctors prescribe Xanax for single situational uses. For example, a patient with a dental phobia may be prescribed Xanax before a major dental procedure.

In addition to anxiety, the medication is also sometimes used to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy. Others may be prescribed Xanax for insomnia.

How Does Xanax Work?

Xanax and other benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants.

Xanax works by slowing CNS activity. It reduces the intensity of certain brain signals that may otherwise fire too quickly when a person experiences extreme anxiety.

How long does Xanax take to work? It varies slightly depending on the person, but some people notice an effect after as little as one hour. Most can feel a difference within two hours.

Xanax Effects On The Brain

What does Xanax do to the brain? Xanax affects the brain by heightening the brain’s GABA activity.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It lowers excitatory brain signals, allowing the person to achieve a sense of calm.

In light of this effect on the brain, is Xanax addictive? Xanax is somewhat less addictive than other drugs, such as opioids. However, there is still some risk of Xanax addiction.

Part of this risk comes from the possibility of physical dependence. As the body adjusts to the effects of this prescription drug, stopping the drug abruptly may cause Xanax withdrawal.

How Long Does Xanax Affect The Brain?

Xanax is a short-acting medication, which is why it is often prescribed for short-term scenarios.

The effects of Xanax usually last for three or four hours. If somebody takes Xanax for a panic attack or situational anxiety, that amount of time should provide sufficient relief.

For long-term anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may provide more stable, day-to-day relief.

How Do You Responsibly Take Xanax?

It is possible to take Xanax responsibility. Patients should listen to their doctors’ advice when taking the medication.

Responsible Xanax use includes:

  • taking the medication only as directed
  • avoiding using Xanax while pregnant
  • reading the medication guide provided with the prescription
  • avoiding alcohol or other drugs while taking Xanax
  • telling the prescribing physician about any other medications the patient uses
  • telling the prescribing physician if the patient experiences major side effects

Typical Xanax Dosages: How Much Xanax Should I Take?

Responsibly using Xanax means taking only the prescribed dosage. Doctors may prescribe the lowest available dose and gradually increase the dosage based on the patient’s needs.

Xanax pills are available in the following strengths:

  • 0.25 milligrams (mg)
  • 0.5 mg
  • 1 mg
  • 2 mg

Xanax may cause rebound effects and withdrawal symptoms, especially if used for long periods. Abruptly stopping this medication may worsen symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms do not always indicate an addiction, but they do indicate that the brain and body have grown used to the drug’s effects.

Patients who would like to stop taking this medication should ask their doctors how to taper off Xanax safely.

Tapering means reducing the amount of medication gradually rather than stopping the medication immediately.

Types Of Xanax

Recognizing the different types of Xanax by color can help you or a loved one identify Xanax abuse.

Prescription Xanax comes in a variety of colors depending on the dose.

Here is how to identify typical Xanax pills by the dose:

  • White Xanax bars: 0.25 mg (oval) and 2 mg (rectangular)
  • Orange Xanax bars: 0.5 mg (oval)
  • Blue Xanax bars: 1 mg (oval)
  • Green Xanax bars: 2 mg (rectangular)

It’s important to note that not all Xanax bars sold on the street are legitimate pills. Some pills may be manufactured illicitly or even laced with fentanyl.

How Xanax Is Abused

There are several methods of Xanax abuse. Each method carries particular risks.

Some common methods of Xanax abuse are:

  • Snorting Xanax: crushing Xanax tablets and inhaling the powder through the nose
  • Smoking Xanax: heating Xanax and inhaling the resulting smoke
  • Injecting Xanax: mixing crushed Xanax with water and using a needle to insert the mixture into a muscle or vein
  • Plugging Xanax: inserting Xanax rectally

Mixing Xanax With Other Substances

Mixing Xanax with other substances is especially dangerous. Some substances can heighten the side effects and increase the risk of Xanax overdose.

When a person is addicted to another substance in addition to Xanax, treatment for Xanax addiction should include polysubstance abuse recovery approaches.

Xanax And Alcohol

Xanax should never be mixed with alcohol. Like Xanax, alcohol is a CNS depressant. As such, it shares several side effects with Xanax, including confusion, memory loss, and drowsiness.

Combining Xanax and alcohol can compound the side effects of these two substances, creating a potentially fatal reaction.

Recognizing Xanax Laced With Fentanyl

When buying street Xanax, one of the most prominent dangers people face is taking Xanax laced with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid drug that can cause an overdose in much smaller amounts than any other opioid currently on the market.

When people consume fentanyl unknowingly, they often consume enough of the drug to cause a dangerous or fatal reaction.

Some fentanyl-laced Xanax pills may be yellow, while pharmaceutical Xanax is always white.

However, even if street Xanax is white, the color does not guarantee that it has not been contaminated or counterfeited.

As a result, some people who enter rehab for Xanax addiction may require opioid addiction treatment as well.

What A Xanax High Feels Like

A Xanax high may not feel the same as a high from some other drugs. For example, it does not include a euphoric “rush” like the high caused by stimulant drugs.

Instead, Xanax may create intense feelings of sleepiness and relaxation.

Xanax Addiction Symptoms

Long-acting drugs take several weeks or more to produce a significant effect. Short-acting drugs, however, create a quick and often powerful effect.

Because Xanax works for a short period, people may begin craving its effects after the medication stops working.

For some, Xanax can result in an addiction, especially if they have a history of substance abuse or use the drug recreationally.

People who develop a substance use disorder may show several signs of Xanax addiction and Xanax abuse symptoms.

Some Xanax addiction signs include:

  • taking Xanax without a prescription
  • taking larger amounts than prescribed
  • persistent thoughts about taking Xanax
  • continuing to take the drug despite negative consequences
  • experiencing cravings for Xanax
  • taking Xanax for non-medical reasons
  • combining Xanax with other types of drug use

What Are The Negative Effects Of Taking Xanax?

In addition to Xanax addiction symptoms, it may produce several side effects. Effective treatments for Xanax addiction should address these side effects.

Xanax’s side effects can be mild to severe, depending on the person.

For someone with a Xanax addiction, signs of that addiction may include experiencing more severe side effects than average.

Severe side effects are rare, but it is important to discuss possible side effects with the prescribing physician.

The negative effects of Xanax can become especially dangerous in people who abuse the drug.

Memory Loss And Xanax Addiction

Some people experience memory loss from Xanax. This type of memory loss is called ante retrograde amnesia, which prevents the formation of new memories.

Rather than forgetting memories from the past, a person with ante retrograde amnesia may struggle to remember recent conversations, names, and similar information.

This form of memory loss usually only lasts for a few hours.

However, because abusing a medication can worsen its effects, people who misuse Xanax may experience significant memory loss.

Mental Health Effects Of Xanax Abuse

Xanax abuse symptoms can include profound effects on mental health. For instance, it can worsen symptoms in people who deal with certain mental illnesses.

Therefore, treatment for Xanax addiction should always consider potential co-occurring mental health issues.

Studies on Xanax and bipolar disorder have shown particular concerns. Bipolar disorder is a condition that causes alternating periods of mania and depression.

Researchers have found instances of Xanax-induced mania and hypomania (mild mania).

Researchers have also found that Xanax can make anxiety worse when the drug is misused.

As the brain comes to expect the drug’s anxiety-reducing effects, it may experience rebound anxiety when the person stops using the drug.

Physical Effects Of Xanax Misuse

Xanax misuse can produce many physical symptoms as well, and these symptoms may accompany other Xanax addiction signs.

Some of the physical symptoms of Xanax abuse include:

  • stomach discomfort (“benzo belly”)
  • clumsiness
  • slurred speech
  • appetite loss or weight gain
  • sleepiness
  • trembling
  • yellowing eyes (“Xanax eyes”)
  • blurred vision

Research on Xanax and sex also shows that this drug may cause or worsen sexual dysfunction.

Treatment for Xanax addiction, especially detox for withdrawal symptoms, can address the physical discomfort often caused by the symptoms of Xanax abuse.

Xanax Alternatives

If Xanax proves ineffective for a person, or if the person is concerned about substance abuse, they can ask their doctor about using a Xanax alternative.

Some people in Xanax addiction treatment may be prescribed an alternative, such as benzodiazepines or SSRIs, to facilitate the treatment process and manage symptoms of anxiety.

Here’s what you need to know about Xanax alternatives:

  • Ativan vs. Xanax: Ativan is a benzodiazepine that leaves the system more quickly than Xanax.
  • Trazodone vs. Xanax: Trazodone is an SSRI.
  • Klonopin vs. Xanax: Klonopin is a long-acting benzodiazepine.
  • Halcion vs. Xanax: Halcion is a benzodiazepine prescribed for insomnia.
  • Zoloft vs. Xanax: Zoloft is an SSRI.

Common Slang Terms For Xanax

Xanax has several street names that people may use to refer to the drug.

Slang may be used to build camaraderie among people using the drug, or to evade parents, loved ones, or law enforcement who may be suspicious of its abuse.

Some of the most common Xanax slang terms include:

  • bars
  • benzos
  • bricks
  • z-bars
  • zannies
  • bicycle parts
  • footballs/blue footballs
  • yellow school bus
  • handlebars
  • planks
  • upjohns

Street Cost Of Xanax

Xanax’s street price depends on the location. In some areas, Xanax is sold for up to $20 per tablet.

However, in most places, Xanax is available much more cheaply. People can buy street Xanax for $1 to $5 in many areas, according to the United States Drug Intelligence Center.

Xanax Substance Abuse Treatment

There are several treatment options for Xanax misuse. Whether you’re looking for peer support and accountability or a professional treatment program, there is something that can work for you.

Inpatient Treatment For Xanax Use

If you or a loved one have dealt with some of the signs of dependence mentioned above — cravings, taking larger doses than prescribed, obsessive thoughts about taking Xanax — inpatient treatment may be needed for a full recovery.

At an inpatient or residential addiction treatment center, you will be removed from all substances and be able to recover in a safe, stable environment among other peers in recovery.

Many inpatient drug rehab centers provide a range of support groups, masters-level clinical psychologists, medical care, detox services, and more to ensure a safe recovery process.

Dual Diagnosis Care For Xanax Misuse

People who are addicted to Xanax may also be living with comorbid mental health disorders.

Because Xanax is a medication typically used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, it’s possible that a person entering treatment may also have an anxiety-related disorder.

In dual diagnosis care, your treatment team will curate a recovery plan that’s aimed at addressing both the substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health condition.

Find more options for Xanax addiction treatment.

FAQs About Xanax Use

Many people have questions about Xanax, how to use it safely, and what constitutes a Xanax addiction.

Here you’ll find some of the most commonly asked questions about Xanax and Xanax addiction treatment centers.

Is Xanax An Opioid?

Xanax is not an opioid. It belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. However, Xanax and opioids may produce similar calming effects.

How Much Xanax Is Habit-Forming?

Any amount of Xanax can become habit-forming. However, smaller doses of Xanax carry a lower risk of drug addiction than higher doses.

What Can I Expect From Xanax Addiction Rehab?

Xanax addiction rehab centers may tailor the treatment to each person’s needs.

People who enter rehab for Xanax addiction may receive detox treatments, various types of therapy, and support group options.

Does Xanax Cause Weight Gain?

Both weight gain and weight loss are potential side effects of Xanax. Because Xanax causes drowsiness, it can alter a person’s appetite and ability to perform physical tasks.

Is 1 Mg Of Xanax A Lot?

The ideal Xanax dosage depends on the patient. Many people are prescribed Xanax in 1 mg doses.

However, doctors generally start by prescribing smaller doses and gradually increasing the amount to suit the patient’s needs.

This gradual approach may lower the risk of Xanax addiction symptoms.

Is Xanax A Benzodiazepine?

Yes; Xanax is a benzodiazepine, which is a type of drug used to treat anxiety and insomnia.

How Many Days Can You Take Xanax In A Row?

Xanax is intended for short-term use. Many healthcare providers do not prescribe Xanax for more than six weeks in a row, as doing so can increase Xanax withdrawal symptoms.

For long-term anxiety, one alternative to Xanax is taking an SSRI, which is a type of medicine designed to be taken for longer periods of time.

Is Xanax A Controlled Substance?

Xanax is a controlled substance. It is a Schedule IV drug, which means that it has some risk of dependence, but that risk is not as high as the risk for drugs in schedules I through III.

Why Do People Abuse Xanax?

Xanax produces a calming effect. In some people, the brain begins to depend on Xanax, and as they become less sensitive to the medication, they may take larger and larger amounts of the drug.

Others may abuse Xanax to enhance recreational experiences.

In both cases, people may benefit from Xanax addiction rehab and other types of treatment, such as holistic therapy or evidence-based substance abuse therapies.

What Is The Half-Life Of Xanax?

Xanax has a half-life of roughly 11 hours, which means that the body eliminates half of the medication during that time frame.

However, several factors can influence a medication’s half-life, including the person’s age, weight, and metabolism.

Is Alprazolam The Same As Xanax?

Yes; Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam. Alprazolam is also available in generic form.

Is Xanax An SSRI?

Xanax is not an SSRI. While Xanax affects a neurotransmitter called GABA, SSRIs affect serotonin, a different neurotransmitter.

Recover From Xanax Addiction And Drug Abuse

Xanax addiction is a challenging mental health condition, but it is possible to recover. There are several available treatment options, including Xanax addiction rehab centers.

The right treatment options can help people with an addiction to Xanax take control of their health and wellness.

Spring Hill Recovery Center is a treatment facility that offers several types of addiction care, including both inpatient and outpatient addiction services.

If you or a loved one may need help, contact Spring Hill today to learn about our comprehensive treatment options.

Written by Spring Hill Editorial Team

Published on: September 23, 2020 | Edited on: September 29, 2022

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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