Some prescription drugs become well known in popular culture, especially drugs related to the treatment of anxiety. Any number of neurotic or anxious characters who appear in comedies—think of any character ever played by Woody Allen, for example—may namecheck a pharmaceutical to get a laugh.
Use and Misuse
Xanax, a drug often prescribed for anxiety, is just such a drug. It is so commonly prescribed that a character can mention it, and the writers can be confident that everyone at home knows just what it is and what it used for. And so everybody—the studio audience, the folks at home on the couch, or (in a pinch) the laugh track—laughs.
But here’s the thing: Xanax (generic name: alprazolam) is no laughing matter. Especially if it is misused. And because it is the most frequently prescribed psychiatric drug in the United States, there are plenty of opportunities for misuse.
Let’s take a closer look at Xanax—both the ways it can help and the ways it can harm.
Xanax Truly Can Help X Out Anxiety
If you have a mental health disorder with an anxiety component, odds are you are all too familiar with a panicky feeling you just cannot shake. It might feel as though your brain is just racing away, following every stray thought and preventing you from calming down. Maybe your sleep is disrupted. Maybe social interactions seem especially difficult. Maybe you feel like your heart is beating twice as fast as it needs to all of the time.
In some circumstances, your doctor may decide that Xanax would provide you with some much-needed relief. Xanax is extremely effective and offers quick relief from those panicky feelings (this, of course, is why it is so often prescribed).
Xanax, which belongs to the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines (or “benzos”), works by slowing the overall amount of activity in your brain. As that activity decreases, a feeling of calm can settle in its place. The drug accomplishes this by working to depress the central nervous system.
All of that said, the use of Xanax is intended as a short-term solution. As a rule, your doctor will limit your prescription to no more than six weeks’ worth of the drug.
But some people are not ready to let go of the calm they experience when they take Xanax. And that can lead to problems in a hurry.
Examples of Xanax Issues
Perhaps the most obvious sign that you are developing a problematic relationship to Xanax is a willingness to go to great lengths to maintain your supply.
If you are “doctor shopping”—that is going from physician to physician hoping to get additional prescriptions for Xanax—or forging prescriptions, it is time to take a good hard look at what is going on. The same is true if you start buying the drug from an illegal source or “borrowing” it from others who have prescriptions.
Other signs that a problem may be brewing include taking more pills at a time than your prescription calls for or crushing, chewing, or snorting Xanax in the hope that it will provide more relief more quickly.
An Extensive List of Xanax Abuse Symptoms
Going to extremes to get Xanax is just one way to identify a developing substance use disorder. The list of potential symptoms of Xanax misuse is long and varied. Symptoms may include:
- Forgetfulness, lack of focus, and/or trouble thinking or speaking in a coherent manner
- Feelings of anxiety, agitation, aggression, hostility, depression, and/or rage
- Periods of mania, confusion, and/or disorientation—or even hallucinations and/or delusions
- Neglecting various responsibilities related to school, work, and/or relationships
- Extreme drowsiness, lethargy, and/or fatigue—and a reduction in libido
Increased talkativeness and/or decreased inhibitions
- Headaches, blurred or double vision, dizziness, a stuffy nose
- Dryness of the mouth, increased sweating, decreased urination, constipation, and/or diarrhea
- Swelling in the hands or feet and/or poor coordination or tremors
- Jaundice and/or heart palpitations
- Weight gain or loss due to changes in food consumption
- Suicidal thoughts
And those are just the more immediate symptoms. A substance use disorder centered on Xanax can lead to a number of long-term issues as well, including:
- Persistent problems related to working and verbal memory as well as with the speed of mental processing, sensory processing, and verbal speed—even after a person is no longer taking Xanax
- Persistent problems with motor performance as well as ongoing breathing issues, development of a serious cardiac condition, or liver problems—even after a person is no longer taking Xanax
- Higher risks of falling, being in a motor vehicle accident, accidentally overdosing, or experiencing dangerous drug interactions that can be fatal as well as higher risks of developing dementia or psychosis
Use Extreme Caution With Xanax—No Sudden Stops
Maybe you have read these lists of symptoms and recognized yourself (or a loved one who may have a problem). And maybe you have decided that the only thing to do is to stop taking Xanax right away. We applaud the idea but strongly caution against employing the “cold turkey” method when it comes to dealing with an addiction to Xanax.
A sudden stop can lead to a variety of serious consequences, including seizures. So again, while it may be tempting to flush your supply and move on, we strongly advise against that. Instead, talk with your doctor or find a treatment center that can provide medically supervised detoxification.
If You’re Struggling with Xanax, We Offer Excellent Care
When you seek help at Bel Aire Recovery Center for a substance use disorder—including addiction to Xanax—you shouldn’t be anxious about encountering a judgmental environment. We’re committed to compassionate, evidence-based, and personalized care. That care includes addressing any co-occurring mental health disorders (after all, an anxiety disorder may have been the origin of your current issues). You can be assured we are here to help.