Xanax is a brand name of alprazolam; a drug belonging to the class of medications known as benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines decrease the level of excitement in the brain and have a calming and sedating effect on the user.
While Xanax is a prescription drug and can be safe to use therapeutically, it is often consumed recreationally or in violation of a prescription. As with other prescription drugs, the potential for abuse is high.
Drugs, like Xanax, affect the brain’s reward system by creating dopamine-induced feelings of pleasure and relaxation. Surges of dopamine reinforce pleasurable behaviours and encourage repetition of that behaviour, even if the activity is unhealthy.
Over time, the brain adapts and the reward system becomes less responsive. This effect is known as tolerance. The initial, pleasurable feeling becomes much less intense with repeated drug use. To recreate it, increasing quantities of Xanax need to be consumed and the body and brain become dependent on its use.
Once someone becomes addicted to Xanax, acquiring and consuming it becomes a priority. Xanax addiction is a complex issue and overcoming it takes far more than willpower alone.
The effects of Xanax are felt almost immediately. The fact that those effects wear off relatively quickly can mean that users are compelled to consume more of the drug. As dosage increases, so too does tolerance. To achieve the initial effects of Xanax, you’ll need to take increasingly greater quantities.
An increase in tolerance is likely to result in cravings and an inability to stop using the drug. Over time, the brain and body become used to Xanax. If usage stops, the body demands the drug by means of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Xanax addiction is very difficult to overcome and many people will end up caught in a cycle of abuse, trying to avoid the unpleasant symptoms and lows of non-use.
Someone addicted to Xanax will compulsively seek it out, irrespective of negative consequences.
As a prescribed drug, Xanax is heavily regulated. Yet, it still has the potential to be abused.
With tolerance, Xanax doesn’t work as effectively. Sufferers may experience a return of symptoms and feel inclined to up their dose to keep them at bay. In this way, the brain becomes increasingly reliant on the drug to feel normal.
Addiction to Xanax develops for a number of reasons and is often the consequence of consistent abuse.
While many cases of Xanax addiction occur as a result of poly-substance abuse, dependence is rising in those without prior history.
There are factors at play however, that may influence the likelihood of becoming addicted to Xanax. Spending time around people who abuse drugs can be a contributing factor. Parental guidance plays a big part in the likelihood of someone developing an addiction. Children who are exposed to drug abuse are more at risk of developing their own problem later in life.
Peer pressure can also result in recreational drug use and teens are especially prone to engaging in risky behaviours, as the areas in their brain that manage judgement and self-control are still developing.
Different psychological factors can increase the risk of substance misuse. When used as intended, Xanax relieves the symptoms of anxiety. However, sufferers can develop a substance misuse disorder from the very medication prescribed to alleviate their problem.
Repeatedly turning to Xanax to ease mental health issues can increase tolerance. Over time, self-medicating in this way can become habitual and co-occur with a mental health disorder.
While some people may be able to use Xanax prescriptively, others will feel a strong impulse to consume it to excess.
Neuroscience has shown that people have varying levels of ability and brain function to control impulsive urges. If these genes are passed down through the generations, family members can be more prone to developing addiction problems.
Changes in Brain Chemistry
Repeated use of Xanax can lead to changes in the brain that challenge self-control.
Over time, the brain’s reward system becomes less responsive to the drug. This effect is known as tolerance. The relief felt initially becomes much less intense and you’ll need to take more of the drug to achieve the same feeling.
Long-term Xanax abuse affects the brain’s chemical systems and functions, resulting in psychological addiction. The mind will compulsively drive the user to return to the drug and use becomes the all-consuming priority in an addict’s life.
Xanax abuse has the power to change the way you look, act and feel. Some of these signs are evident, while others may be hidden or occur gradually.
Addiction tends to get worse over time. If identified and treated early, it may be possible to avoid the major consequences of the disease. Spotting the early warning signs is crucial and can aid intervention.
- Drowsiness and sluggishness
- Sleeping for extended periods of time
- Cognitive impairment
- Slurred speech
- Dry mouth
- Impaired coordination
- Nausea or vomiting
- Avoiding contact with loved ones
- Repeated lying, dishonesty or deceit
- Poor performance at work or school
- Mood swings
- Decreased participation in activities or hobbies
- Self-isolation and secretive behaviour
- Neglecting daily responsibilities
The Difference between Xanax Abuse and Addiction
Any time someone uses Xanax without, or contrary to, a prescription, it is considered to be abuse. The term abuse means you are using Xanax in a dangerous manner and potentially, without even realising.
When using Xanax recreationally, it may be combined with alcohol to achieve the desired buzz for a specific occasion, such as a party. The assumption is that people who abuse Xanax recreationally still have an element of control over their drug use.
While abuse is thought to be less severe than addiction, in reality, long-term abuse of controlled drugs can be equally harmful to your health.
The term addiction usually refers to a physical dependence but it generally means a psychological one too.
An inability to refrain from using Xanax is the first symptom of addiction and sudden withdrawal can be intense and unpleasant.
As drug use takes increasing priority, it jeopardises personal relationships and severely impacts overall wellbeing. Xanax addiction creeps into every area of your life, leaving you with less time for loved ones and unable to meet responsibilities and work commitments.
Xanax addiction can be extremely dangerous. Addicts are often tempted to increase the amount they take. Yet taken in high doses or when consumed with other substances, such as alcohol, the consequences can be catastrophic. When too many tablets are consumed at once, the body can become overwhelmed.
There are various reasons as to why Xanax is so addictive, and why people may become addicted to it completely on accident. Some of these reasons include:
Rapid onset of action: Xanax works quickly to relieve anxiety symptoms, often within 15-30 minutes after taking it. This rapid relief can create a strong psychological incentive for individuals to use the drug whenever they feel anxious or stressed.
Tolerance: Over time, the body can develop tolerance to Xanax, meaning that the same dose no longer produces the same level of relief. This can lead individuals to increase their dose or take Xanax more frequently to achieve the desired effects.
Availability: Xanax may be a prescribed medication, and it can be relatively easy for some individuals to obtain it, whether through a legitimate prescription or by purchasing it illegally.
It's important to note that not everyone who takes Xanax will become addicted to it, and many individuals use it responsibly to manage their anxiety or panic disorders. However, it is crucial to take Xanax only as prescribed by a healthcare professional and to be aware of the potential risks of misuse and addiction associated with the medication. If you or someone you know is struggling with Xanax addiction, it's essential to seek help from a medical professional or addiction specialist.