The Truth About Xanax and Benzodiazepine Addiction
Certified addiction professionals have reviewed and fact-checked all the information on this page.
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by certified addiction professionals.
Searching for help with drug and/or alcohol addiction? Call us now at (800) 643-2108.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax (generic: alprazolam) is a potent and commonly prescribed benzodiazepine, a category of sedative drugs used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and seizures. Xanax bears the boxed warning, the most urgent of any label issued by the Food and Drug Administration.
Like other benzodiazepines, Xanax produces a relaxing, tranquil high even at medicinal doses, and, like other benzodiazepines, its FDA label reads:
Using alprazolam, even as prescribed, can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal if you stop taking the drug suddenly. Withdrawal can be life-threatening. Taking this drug can also lead to misuse and addiction. Misuse of alprazolam increases your risk for overdose and death.
Even with a prescription, people who take Xanax risk developing dependence; that risk is multiplied even further for recreational users who take it without medical supervision.
Despite its highly addictive nature, Xanax is a popular choice for easing the comedown of other drugs, like stimulants, amphetamines, and opioids.
A particularly common and exceptionally volatile practice publicized by certain celebrities is the pairing of Xanax and alcohol, creating a deadly amalgam of interactive depressants that can induce amnesia, acute respiratory failure, unresponsiveness, and death.
Xanax is a benzodiazepine often prescribed by mental health professionals to treat various anxiety disorders, panic disorders, depression, agoraphobia, and premenstrual syndrome. The pill effectively calms down the brain’s hyperactivity or abnormal excitement.
The medicine integrates into the bloodstream, traveling to the brain where it acts on the Central Nervous System to induce a calming effect. In addition, it increases the production of GABA (a neurotransmitter that reduces impulse transmission from body to brain), enhancing the relaxing effect.
Since Xanax is a benzodiazepine, it works as a tranquilizer. Individuals often feel calm, relaxed, sleepy, and peaceful after taking the pill. The unnecessary adrenaline rush in the body or racing thoughts almost immediately end.
Hence, consistent Xanax use is quite addictive and can soon make the user dependent on it for everyday functioning. Considering the risk, the pill is provided in controlled doses. The client is guided and counseled on the risks, the addiction factor, and the side effects of the drug before the prescription is handed over.
The dose may increase with time, considering the positive effect it will have on the individual. Still, in cases of family history of addiction, or the individual’s own tendency to become dependent, the pill is rarely ever administered.
What Does Xanax Look Like?
Xanax is available in the market in different shapes, sizes, and colors. The shape (rectangular, triangle, circle) of the pill is often determined by its strength, which is the milligram of the medicine offered in the drug.
The pills are designed with Xanax written on one end, with the other end having a breakable tab. In some brands, the tablet has an inscribed picture such as a ladder or a bar on one end with the breakable tab on the other.
Xanax provided by the pharmacist often looks like a light blue-colored, oval pill. Many people refer to these pills as “footballs.”
Xanax bars are similar to the general description of the pill. On one end, there is the name of the meditation engraved. On the other, three lines can easily divide the tablet into three equal portions.
Xanax bars are available in green, pink, white, yellow, blue, and peach. Each pill directly indicates how many milligrams of the substance is added to the drug and can be easily recognized as such. For instance, a green Xanax bar means the pill has up to 3 milligrams of medicine, whereas a white one indicates a variance of 0.25mg-2mg.
Oval Xanax Bars:
Oval Xanax bars are similar to the bar design, only in a different shape. The oval bar can be divided into two and is often recognized as a low pill dosage. These are usually blue, yellow, off-white, or light red.
How Has Xanax Risen in Popularity?
Xanax has seen a tremendous prescription and recreational abuse boom over the last decade. During 2015 and 2016, over 5.3 million Americans abused benzodiazepines without a prescription, and nearly 25 million more obtained the drug from a doctor.
Xanax is among the most common prescriptions written in the United States, leading to its relative accessibility for friends and family members of prescription holders. The vast majority of recreational users obtain Xanax from someone they know.
With the increase in prescription rates comes a marked increase in overdose statistics. Xanax overdose claimed over 6,000 Americans in 2016, accounting for nearly one-tenth of drug-related deaths nationwide.
Combining Xanax with alcohol or opiates puts users at particular risk of brain injury, coma, and death, at even small doses.:
Is Xanax a Controlled Substance?
Xanax is classified as a Schedule IV drug, meaning that it is less likely to cause dependence or potential for abuse. In addition, the drug is a controlled substance and is only available on prescription through legal means.
When Xanax is prescribed by a professional, it is ensured that the drug is prescribed in low doses and that all risk factors and addiction tendencies are thoroughly investigated before doing so. The pill is only available after the prescription is shown, but individuals with a dependency have found many other ways of obtaining the drug.
Many drug dealers have now found an off-brand version of the pill that is readily available for drug abuse or recreational purposes. The medicine is mixed with other drugs to enjoy a euphoric and relaxing moment or is ingested with alcohol to enjoy a “good night’s sleep.”
Even individuals who genuinely need the medicine prefer to buy the drug through unconventional means since it will reduce medical costs and high prices of pharmacy rates. However, by doing so, they are only further putting their health at risk.
How Do I Spot Fake Xanax?
Xanax use has gradually increased, with many individuals using the pill for recreational purposes. Individuals can easily find the medication in bars, clubs, social gatherings, and even as a street drug. The easy availability makes spotting a fake Xanax a problematic task.
Using unprescribed Xanax in such social situations can lead to heavy addictions and is not condoned. However, you can look out for the following signs to ensure that you are being handed the right pill by pharmacists or any other source of obtaining prescribed medications.
Markings, Logos, And Spellings
One of the most apparent indicators to spot is any alterations made to the pill. Xanax has the brand name stamped in the middle on one side of the tablet. If the name is missing, the medicine is fake.
Similarly, there might be an odd logo on the pill, there might be missing lines that allow the tablet to be broken into half, there might be some misspelling, or you might notice how the logo is the same but with little changes such as a small X or printed on name rather than engraved.
Differences In Weight Or Color Coating
When spotting fake Xanax, you should also look out for the change in weight of the pill. Fake Xanax feels relatively lighter than a real one. You should also notice how faded, or darker the color is. The authentic Xanax pill is finished off with an opaque coating on top of the color which is missing in the fake Xanax.
Features Of The Pill
Fake Xanax does not dissolve in water. An authentic pill is coated with two binding agents, both of which are easily dissolvable in water. However, fake Xanax tends to maintain its solid form.
Similarly, fake Xanax will be far easier to break into a powder since it does not contain any natural binding agents. With only the pressure of your finger, you can crush the pill and will notice a chalky texture.
On the contrary, real Xanax will feel oily and smooth and will be pretty difficult to crush.
What Makes Xanax So Dangerous?
Xanax is a powerful, volatile drug. Even incremental changes in dosage can induce a wide range of negative effects, and even low doses can lead to unintended consequences.
Because recreational use happens without medical supervision or professional guidance, it’s decidedly common for people who abuse Xanax, first-timers and veterans alike, to take too much, combine the drug with even a small amount of alcohol, or in some other way endanger themselves unintentionally.
At low doses, Xanax can cause dizziness, disorientation, headache, memory problems, sudden weight loss or gain, and trouble sleeping. These effects arise even when taken as prescribed, all the more so when abused, and can linger for weeks after the last use.
Xanax use by people with depression or mood disorders has been shown to intensify depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts, a side effect that recreational users do not always know.
At higher doses, or when combined with opiates, alcohol, or other depressives, Xanax abuse can induce overdose relatively quickly.
Overdose can entail respiratory failure, delusion, heart attack, coma, seizure, and death. Swift medical attention is required in the event of overdose or non-responsiveness.
Even if you can safely navigate the negative side effects, you still face the dangers of dependency and withdrawal. The human body and mind develop a rapid tolerance and addiction to Xanax, even at medicinal doses, and attempting to go cold turkey can lead to life-threatening complications.
Professional help is vital to the safety of anyone trying to wean themselves off Xanax or other benzodiazepines.
Does Xanax Make You Black Out?
Blacking out on Xanax is a common side effect of taking the pill. The medication is essentially a tranquilizer, which helps the user relax and slows down their brain activity.
The pill directly works on the brain by increasing GABA production, which results in a slow transmission of messages from the neurotransmitters to the brain. The calming effect is the result of the slowed process.
This slow transmission of messages leads to gaps in memory where the individual’s brain is no longer actively trying to store any current or present happenings. As a result, the brain will be unable to recall anything that happened under the influence of the drug, causing a “blackout.”
Blacking out on Xanax is quite common and causes Anterograde Amnesia, where an individual is unable to form memories when under the influence. The effect of the medication lasts from 2-12 hours, but the amnesia can last from minutes to days.
The amnesia can be Partial or Complete. Partial amnesia is when the individual can remember the overview of the event but not the details or is experiencing specific gaps in memory. Complete amnesia is completely blacking out on Xanax with no memory of what happened.
Does Xanax Make You Forget Things?
As discussed before, Xanax is a benzodiazepine, meaning it works as a sedative or tranquilizer. Such medicines are bound to have some effect on the user, and the most commonly observed consequence is individuals forgetting things on Xanax.
The memory loss may only last when under the influence or after the medication has worn off. Forgetting things on Xanax is often noticed as forgetting where they were, who they were with, and what they did.
The memory loss does not result in a lack of knowledge about the self or the past. But only causes a hindrance in creating new memories or remembering events that occurred when under the influence.
Glamorization of Xanax Use in Culture
The use of drugs and alcohol, in general, has become increasingly popular amongst the new generation. Many TV shows and music genres glamourize drug abuse and make it seem like a norm in the media industry.
A famous HBO release called “Euphoria” is a TV show that revolves around high-school teenagers, with one of the most prominent characters being heavily addicted to benzodiazepines and other forms of drugs.
While the show highlights the recovery process of the character, they also clearly promote the culture of teenage parties led by alcohol, drugs, and underage activities.
Similarly, rap music was once considered the voice of the helpless. It is used to highlight the social injustice of the minorities and the difficulties they face in life. However, now every rap song revolves around drug abuse, earning money, and getting rich through the illegal sale of drugs, sex, and illicit weapons.
The glamorization of being intimidated or living life to the fullest through such harmful means leads to the more significant usage of the substances by the younger generation.
We also have many idols of the younger generation that openly promote drug abuse on their social media accounts, and some who have also died, overdosing on Xanax or such drugs.
Celebrities’ hectic and stressful lives often lead to their dependence on drugs that cause a calming effect. Unfortunately, however, it leads to overdoses and the loss of great life such as Lil Peep, Mac Miller, Taylor Hawkins, and many more.
Celebrities that Have Died from Using Xanax
The glamorization of drugs in Hollywood is quite common. People automatically assume that partying means getting high or drunk since the media has reinforced this idea in our minds through TV shows, songs, and movies.
With no fundamental knowledge or restriction on drug abuse, many celebrities have fallen prey to the dependence on substance abuse. A recent study showed that many celebrities between the ages of 25-40 died due to overdose on prescription pills. 75% of these deaths were of male stars, raising the question of mental health and its role in addictions.
Another research showed that Xanax is the 13th most prescribed controlled substance in America. Since most celebrities end up suffering from anxiety and panic issues due to their stressful routines, they are likely to turn to benzodiazepines to help.
A famous 21-year-old rapper called Lil Peep was found dead in his tour bus. After an autopsy, it was revealed that many drugs, including Xanax, were found in his system, and his death was labeled an overdose.
Similarly, many other celebrities such as Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Taylor Hawkins, Mike Star, and Whitney Houston lost their lives to such a powerless substance.
How to Know if You have a Problem With Xanax
Even if you are using Xanax on prescription, it is essential to keep a check on your dependence on the drug.
Some of the common indicators of Xanax dependency are:
1. Excessive Use
You notice that you are taking a higher dose than the medical practitioner prescribed. You might be underplaying the increase by saying that it is best for you or that you need additional support.
2. Blacking Out
Blacking out on Xanax or losing chunks of memory.
3. Forgetting Things
Forgetting the events that happened or not being able to recall an occasion when you were under the influence.
4. Injuring Yourself:
Noticing increased injuries, especially during your blackouts or while under the influence. This can include minor cuts and bruises to even broken bones and sprains.
5. Seeking It Out:
When you run out of your prescription, you actively try to find more ways of obtaining the drug and cannot spend a day without it. This might even result in a lack of daily functioning.
6. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms:
When you do not take the pill, you experience withdrawal symptoms. These include chills or feeling too hot, excessive pain in the body, vomiting, nausea, or lack of appetite, among a few.
7. Gaining Weight On Xanax:
Xanax addiction can either result in the user sleeping a lot which results in increased weight, or the individual completely losing their desire to eat, which results in losing weight.
Effectively Combating Xanax Abuse and Addiction
Addiction happens when your body has become accustomed to the presence of a drug, and withdrawal occurs in its absence.
Xanax withdrawal has many negative symptoms for the body and mind, including vomiting, spasms, hallucinations, mood swings, memory loss, panic, and delirium. These symptoms can appear hours after your last use.
Many people experience lingering symptoms, or Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, for months after ceasing their use.
Because of its highly addictive nature, Xanax withdrawal should always happen under the care of medical experts.
Attempting to break an addiction all at once can immediately have drastic side effects; seek professional help to taper off your habit and control withdrawal symptoms.
Comprehensive care will include tools and resources for managing post-acute side effects and helping you get back on your feet psychologically and physically after breaking the cycle of dependency on this formidable drug.
Its increasing popularity and widespread accessibility make Xanax a uniquely insidious drug for well-intentioned prescription holders and recreational users alike.
Despite the feelings of relaxation and euphoria it produces, even low levels of Xanax abuse can result in dangerous withdrawal symptoms and rapid physical and psychological addiction formation.
How to Get Help for Xanax Addiction
If you or a loved one are struggling with Xanax or another benzodiazepine addiction, don’t wait for things to get worse. Reach out to Cornerstone Healing Center. Our welcoming facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, is home to a good group of staff who bring compassion and expertise to every new face that comes to us for help.
We provide evidence-based treatments and therapies in a comfortable setting that will keep you grounded and focused on becoming the version of yourself that you want to be. Find your place within our supportive community and overcome addiction for good. Call (800) 643-2108 to learn more.
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