Xanax Abuse Symptoms, Withdrawal And Treatment Options

Xanax was not commonly known in the UK until recently, but with the use of the internet more and more individuals are coming into contact with this prescriptive drug. Why is it becoming more common and what is driving its surge in use?

What is Xanax?

Xanax is widely prescribed in the US to treat anxiety. It is not commonly available in the UK but people do obtain it through private prescriptions, and also from the internet.

Xanax is a class C benzodiazepine tranquiliser. The name Xanax is a brand name for the drug, which is actually called alprazolam. It is part of the benzodiazepine group of prescription drugs, which also includes diazepam and lorazepam.

Xanax (alprazolam) is the single most prescribed psychiatric medication in the U.S.

Xanax (alprazolam) is an anti-anxiety medication in the benzodiazepine family, the same family that includes diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), flurazepam (Dalmane), and others.

Xanax is most often prescribed for various anxiety issues such as, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), anxiety associated with depression, and panic disorder.

Xanax works by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain to promote calmness and a relaxed feeling.

Xanax is available in several forms, including tablets, a liquid, disintegrating tablets, and extended-release tablets.

Xanax is often abused for the fast-acting, relaxed sense of euphoria it can give to people who take it, including people without a prescription.

Use and Dosage

Xanax isn’t available on the NHS, but can be obtained on a private prescription in the UK. The dose of Xanax you would be prescribed would depend on which condition you have, whether or not you have any other medication, your age, as well as which form of the medication you use.

Your doctor will likely prescribe taking Xanax two to four times a day. Your doctor may slowly increase your dose to avoid side effects. If you are elderly or have liver problems you may be prescribed a lower dose than usual.

Xanax tablets are available in strengths of 0.25 milligrams (mg), 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg. Alprazolam liquid is also available in a bottle with a calibrated dropper with markings for various doses. Xanax XR, extended release tablets, come in strengths of 0.5 mg, 1 mg, 2 mg, or 3 mg.

Side Effects

There are serious risks associated with using Xanax, or in fact any benzodiazepines, at the same time as using other medications such as opioid analgesics like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Taking opioids and benzodiazepines together can result in extreme sleepiness, slowed or difficult breathing, coma, or even death.

Xanax is addictive, so do not take higher doses of the medication or use it for a longer time than your doctor recommends. Xanax and other benzodiazepines are among the most widely abused drugs available today.

Xanax may cause birth defects, particularly if taken during the first trimester of pregnancy. Taking it later in pregnancy may have other harmful effects on your baby, too. Xanax is not safe to use when breast-feeding.

Common side effects of Xanax include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Memory problems
  • Poor balance or coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Increased sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Blurred vision
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Swelling in your hands or feet
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Stuffy nose
  • Loss of interest in sex

Overdose and Withdrawal

Taking Xanax in larger doses than prescribed, or for longer than is recommended, can lead to overdose or addiction. If you consume Xanax in a way other than as it has been prescribed, such as crushed, chewed or broken during ingestion you are putting yourself at risk of overdose, as the drug will be released into your system too quickly. Signs of an overdose on Xanax may include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Confusion
  • Lightheaded feeling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting
  • Coma

When Xanax is taken in combination with illegal drugs, alcohol, or other medications, overdose symptoms are more likely to occur.

It is vital to seek out immediate medical attention if you are experiencing Xanax overdose symptoms.

Withdrawal

Do not stop taking Xanax without talking to your doctor. Stopping the drug abruptly can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms can take hold within hours of the last dose, and they can peak in severity within 1-4 days. During withdrawal, people can experience:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle pain
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Numb fingers
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures

Withdrawal from Xanax should be done under the supervision of a doctor, and with support. You will likely be prescribed a reducing dose to gradually taper off the drug, to prevent the sudden onset of severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures.

The emotional symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal can be powerful, as anxiety, panic, and paranoia may increase with the drug’s removal from the body. This should normalize with time and with the development of healthy and effective coping mechanisms in place of the drug.

These emotional withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Short-term memory loss.

Support from addiction specialists and professionals can be very helpful during this process, as well as therapy and counselling to increase the chance of ongoing long term recovery.

Treatment Options for Addiction

Benzodiazepine withdrawal may best be tackled in a residential setting where you can benefit from professional support and a safe, controlled environment.

You may benefit from residential rehab, medication, or therapy, or from a combination of all three.

Rehab

Addiction treatment rehabs are staffed by highly skilled, experienced and passionate addiction specialists. As an addict you will benefit from understating and support as you embark on the programme of recovery offered by your choice of rehab. There are various programmes available, that takes in to account your individual requirements, goals and needs.

The programme your chosen rehab offers may include:

  • Medicated and supported detox
  • An introduction to 12 Step work
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Group therapy
  • One-to-one therapy
  • Regular sessions with a key worker
  • Skills workshops
  • Holistic treatments
  • Relapse prevention
  • Group activities
  • Gender Groups
  • Fitness and healthy eating
  • Family Therapy
  • Aftercare

Through engaging with the treatment programme offered by your rehab you can stop your addiction in its tracks and start to heal on all levels. Rehab will equip you with effective self-care tools to use in place of your addictive coping mechanisms.

You will be supported through the detox process and through facing the issues that preceded your addiction to Xanax, or those you have developed as a result of becoming dependent.

Rehab will help you to build resilience, focus on the positive, and to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings. In effective and safe ways.

View our rehab programme for prescription drug addiction.

Medication

Withdrawal from Xanax can be extremely uncomfortable, both physically and mentally. You will likely be prescribed a tapering detox for coming off Xanax. This will mean a gradual tapering dose of Xanax accompanied by other medications to treat the symptoms of detox such as;

  • Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin.
  • Diazepam (short-acting sedative) is used as a substitute for long-active benzodiazepines.
  • Flumazenil is a medication that can prevent some of the benzodiazepine’s withdrawal symptoms; it can also prevent adverse reactions.
  • Anti-diarrheal medication. Like Imodium.
  • Anti-nausea medication, like Dramamine.

 

Detoxing suddenly and without support is very much not recommended. Detox symptoms such as seizures, can be both extremely uncomfortable and dangerous. You should always seek medical support and supervision when considering detoxing from Xanax.

Medically assisted detox is the most effective way to get clean and avoid health complications. Supervised medical detox programmes are designed to keep you comfortable and to minimize the effects of withdrawal. This is the safest method of detox, as doctors are close by in the event that withdrawal symptoms become too uncomfortable or dangerous.

Therapy

Counselling is often given as a treatment for addiction – this can be on an individual basis but can also be given in a group therapy setting, alongside other people with similar issues.
There are various schools of thought that are useful for addressing addiction such as;

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is an effective treatment approach for both substance and behavioral addictions. CBT focuses on exploring, challenging, and changing unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, and behaviour.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): DBT is used to support people in overcoming addiction, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation. DBT offers a blend of acceptance and challenge whilst teaching effective emotional regulation skills. It was originally designed for those suffering with suicidal ideation and borderline personality disorders, but it is very effective in the treatment of addictions.
  • Motivational Interviewing: Motivational Interviewing is designed to enable you to gradually feel more capable of making positive changes your life.
  • Group Therapy: A counsellor and often a second member of staff, will facilitate a small group of peers in discussing either an issue experienced by an individual in the group or a particular subject around addiction recovery. Group therapy is really useful as it allows peers to learn from and help one another as well as allowing for exploration of group dynamics.
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