Xanax Symptoms & Effects

Alprazolam, more commonly known by its brand name, Xanax, is a medication designed to help treat anxiety. It belongs to a family of medications knows as benzodiazepines, or benzos. Xanax, and benzos as a whole, are called depressants, though not because they make users emotionally depressed. Rather, these drugs “depress” or reduce the activity of the central nervous system, helping to calm people down during anxious episodes.

While benzos can be very effective at treating anxiety, they also have the potential for abuse. People can become addicted to Xanax’s relaxing effects, and the danger of Xanax abuse is multiplied when people use it in conjunction with other substances, such as alcohol. In these instances, the multiple depressants work together and, when taken in sufficient doses, can depress a person’s physiology to such a degree that his or her body can shut down altogether.

While the risks of Xanax abuse are very real, it is possible to overcome a substance abuse problem of this kind should it develop. With proper care from a dedicated team of treatment professionals, it is possible to overcome a Xanax addiction.

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Statistics

Xanax abuse is a widespread problem, and some research suggests it is becoming worse. Data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) found that over 89,000 emergency room visits in 2014 were linked with the benzodiazepine family of drugs. This is nearly double the 47,000 benzo-related emergency room visits in 2005 less than ten years earlier. The study also found that people between 12 and 34 years old and people between 45 and 64 years old were the most at risk for a benzo-related emergency room visit. According to a 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) report, 10% of the 1.2 million people who sought medical attention for prescription drug abuse that year were seeking treatment for a Xanax addiction. It is imperative to seek treatment if you or someone you love is battling an addiction to Xanax.

Causes and Risk Factors for Xanax Abuse

Research suggests people who become addicted to Xanax do so as a result of a complex web of genetic vulnerabilities, environmental influences, and other risk factors. Some of these include:

Genetic: Research into substance abuse has conclusively found that a person’s risk of substance abuse is higher if that person’s family members, especially parents and siblings, struggle with substance abuse as well. In addition, Xanax is used to treat anxiety disorders, and mental health disorders like anxiety also tend to run in families. In other words, not only can a person inherit a genetic vulnerability to substance abuse, but that person can also inherit a genetic vulnerability to a mental health disorder that might require drugs like Xanax for effective treatment, thus further increasing one’s risk of developing a Xanax addiction.

Environmental: While a person’s genetic vulnerabilities to drug addiction are present or absent from birth, a person’s environment can influence whether or not an addiction to Xanax develops. Environmental factors that may increase a person’s chance of developing a Xanax addiction include having peers who abuse Xanax, living through severe chronic stress, suffering emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, and experiencing a severe traumatic event.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal history of mental illness or other substance abuse
  • Family history of mental illness or substance abuse
  • Lack of effective coping skills
  • Experiencing assault, abuse, or neglect
  • Living a high-stress lifestyle
  • Being a young or middle-aged adult
  • Easy access to Xanax
  • Having difficulty managing anxiety
  • Social pressure to abuse Xanax

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

While people who abuse Xanax often work hard to hide their struggles with drug abuse, they can show a number of signs and symptoms that may indicate their difficulties. These signs and symptoms can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Seeking out appointments with multiple physicians for prescriptions for Xanax
  • Lying or deceptiveness about one’s whereabouts or activities
  • Stealing money or others’ possessions in order to pay for Xanax
  • Visiting websites that supply drugs illegally
  • Behaving with reduced inhibitions

Physical symptoms:

  • Drowsiness or sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle tremors, twitches, or tics
  • Difficulty walking
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Dry mouth or throat

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor memory
  • Lapses in attention
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Poor judgment
  • Visual-spatial problems

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Withdrawal from family or friends
  • Mood swings
  • Angry outbursts
  • Irritability
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Intense focus on acquiring drugs
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Xanax Abuse

While Xanax, when abused alone, does not have the same lethality as other drugs like heroin or alcohol, it is by no means a harmless drug to abuse. Xanax abuse can result in significant negative consequences, possibly including:

  • Poor job performance
  • Job loss
  • Strain on relationships
  • Divorce
  • Loss of child custody
  • Addiction to other substances
  • Social isolation
  • Financial difficulties
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Organ damage
  • Negative consequences resulting from risky or impulsive behaviors
  • Worsening of mental illness symptoms

Co-Occurring Disorders

Xanax is a medication prescribed to treat anxiety, and as such, the vast majority of people who are exposed to it enough to risk developing an addiction are already struggling with anxiety symptoms. In addition to anxiety, people who are battling a Xanax addiction may also meet criteria for some of the following co-occurring mental health disorders:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Other substance use disorders

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Xanax withdrawal: If a person abuses Xanax for a period of time and then attempts to stop using it, he or she may experience the following effects:

  • Nausea or queasiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Tremors, spasms, or shaking
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite

Effects of overdose: A Xanax overdose can be dangerous or even fatal. If someone who uses Xanax is experiencing the following symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention immediately:

  • Severe drowsiness
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Slowed breathing and heartbeat
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
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