Alprazolam, which is available under the brand name Xanax, is a form of benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative, meaning that they help slow down brain and bodily functions. Xanax is prone to misuse, which may lead to addiction.

Xanax is a prescription medication that treats conditions such as anxiety and panic disorder. The generic version, alprazolam, is the most frequently prescribed psychotropic medication in the United States. A psychotropic is a medication that affects how the brain functions.

Although Xanax is a medication, it is prone to misuse. Additionally, people who take it every day may develop physiological dependence, meaning that the body requires the medication to function properly.

Keep reading to learn more about Xanax addiction, how people can treat it, and how to reduce the risk of misusing the medication again in the future.

Xanax can have certain side effects, including:

Common side effects

Rare or serious side effects

Less common but more serious side effects of Xanax include:

If a person experiences any serious side effects when taking Xanax, they should seek immediate medical attention.

Although some people can take benzodiazepines without complications, some individuals may develop dependence, and others may misuse the medication. Drug misuse increases the risk of addiction.

Although people often use the two terms interchangeably, dependence and addiction are not the same.

Dependence

If a person is dependent on Xanax, it means that they require it to function and experience symptoms of withdrawal if they stop taking it. Being dependent on Xanax does not always mean that addiction is also present.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness notes that a person can become physically dependent on Xanax after 2 or more weeks of daily use. Research from 2015 suggests that 20⁠ – 50% of people experience withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing high dosage benzodiazepines.

Addiction

Addiction is a type of brain disease. Having an addiction to a substance, such as Xanax or alcohol, is what experts refer to as a substance use disorder (SUD). If a person has an addiction to Xanax, they are unable to stop taking it, despite negative consequences.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that an SUD can lead to changes in a person’s brain. These changes can last even after a person has stopped taking a substance.

Certain signs can indicate that a person may be experiencing an SUD. These signs can be the same regardless of the substance.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition states that to receive a diagnosis of an SUD, a person must meet two of the following criteria within a period of 12 months:

  • consuming greater amounts of a substance than they intended on a regular basis or using a substance for a longer time than planned
  • attempting to, or stating a desire to, cut down their intake of a substance without actually reducing their consumption
  • spending long periods attempting to get hold of a substance or to recover from using it
  • craving the substance or professing a strong desire to use it
  • failing to fulfill obligations and responsibilities, such as those relating to work, family, or education
  • using a substance regularly in spite of any social, emotional, or personal issues it may be causing or making worse
  • giving up hobbies, passions, or social activities as a result of substance use
  • consuming the substance in places or situations that could cause physical injury
  • continuing to consume a substance despite being aware of any physical or psychological harm it is likely to have caused
  • developing an increased tolerance, making it necessary to consume more of the substance to achieve intoxication
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms – meaning a physical response to not consuming the substance – which might include sweating, shaking, and nausea

An SUD can be a difficult condition for a person to deal with. It can be helpful for a person who has an SUD to know that they have support from their friends and family.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends the following steps when reaching out to a loved one who has an SUD:

  • being open and nonjudgmental, allowing a safe space for a person to share what they are going through
  • expressing any concerns in a loving, gentle way, reassuring the person that help is available
  • discussing any family history of SUD, if relevant
  • being patient and compassionate
  • letting them know that help and support are available and that their condition is treatable
  • helping them locate resources and treatment options

It can be difficult for a person to take the initial step toward addiction treatment. Support from friends, family, or healthcare professionals can be beneficial during this time.

Once a person is ready for treatment, speaking with a doctor can help a person discover what treatments and resources are available to them.

SAMHSA provides a treatment services locator, which can help a person find treatment centers nearby.

Detoxification, or detox, is the process of a substance to leave the body while treating and mitigating allowing any withdrawal symptoms. Detox can involve slowly weaning a person off a drug.

Healthcare professionals can also use medication to help a person detox. Doctors may prescribe this medication to ease the symptoms of withdrawal.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms can include:

It is important to come off Xanax gradually. The immediate discontinuation of Xanax can lead to serious and life threatening withdrawal symptoms.

In some cases, Xanax withdrawal can even be fatal.

Research from 2018 notes that experts consider Xanax withdrawal symptoms more severe than those of other benzodiazepines.

When a person seeks treatment for an addiction, the doctor should listen to them and understand their wants and needs before agreeing on suitable treatment goals. The doctor should work with the person to optimize their safety and wellness during treatment.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any treatments for Xanax addiction, but a doctor can explain the available medication options that can help reduce cravings during and after detox.

Following detox, a doctor may recommend additional treatments, such as therapy. Various forms of therapy can help treat SUD, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can help a person understand why they misuse Xanax and how to avoid triggers.
  • Contingency management: This form of therapy rewards a person for achieving certain goals, such as attending sessions or remaining drug-free.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET): MET helps a person overcome any uncertainties they have about dealing with their SUD.
  • Family therapy: Family therapy involves a person receiving counseling alongside members of their family. The aim is to discuss patterns of addiction, as well as improve overall family functioning.
  • Twelve-step facilitation (TSF): TSF is a set of 12 weekly sessions in a group setting, with other members of the group providing support and encouragement.

It is important for a person to remember that not every treatment works for everyone. Certain treatments work better for some people than others.

A return to misusing Xanax can occur during or after treatment. Reuse can be part of the process of recovery, and a person should not feel disheartened by it. However, they can reduce their likelihood of reusing by:

  • avoiding triggers, such as certain places or people
  • avoiding contact with Xanax or similar drugs
  • continuing with therapy
  • building a support network
  • adopting a healthy lifestyle, such as exercising regularly and eating well-balanced meals

Xanax is a type of sedative that people use to treat conditions such as anxiety and panic disorder. However, this medication is prone to misuse, which can lead to addiction.

A person can quickly become physically dependent on Xanax, so they should only ever take it as a doctor prescribes it.

Xanax can have many side effects, including some serious ones. A person should seek immediate medical help if they experience any serious side effects when taking Xanax.

If a person notices signs of SUD in themselves or others, they should speak with a doctor. A doctor can help a person determine the best course of treatment for them.

It is important for a person to stop taking Xanax gradually. Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be severe and dangerous.

Various treatment options are available for a person with SUD. Once a person has finished treatment, there are different strategies they can use to reduce their risk of reuse.

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