Xanax Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Effects and Treatment

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Are You Addicted to Xanax?

Xanax (alprazolam) is a central nervous system depressant prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, including generalized and social anxiety disorders as well as panic disorder.


Is Xanax Addictive?

When taken in short-term therapeutic doses under the care of a physician,Xanax has a low risk of addiction or dependence.

However, using the drug long-term, taking high doses and mixing the drug with other depressants can hasten the onset of psychological and physical dependence and increases the risk of experiencing serious and sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.1

Xanax has a high potential for abuse due to its pleasurable, sedating effects on the central nervous system. Even people who use Xanax for a short time and take it as prescribed may be at risk of dependence. People who are prescribed doses greater than 4mg per day and for longer than 12 weeks may be at greater risk of dependence.1

Some people who abuse Xanax may take several pills at once or crush the pills into a powder and snort them to speed the onset of effects. Both of these methods of abuse increase the risk of dependency and addiction.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Repeated, heavy and long-term use causes significant changes in the brain and body. When people develop physical dependence, they may experience a number of withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit or cut back on Xanax use. Because of the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, Xanax can be difficult to quit.1

Some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal can be dangerous. People who have been abusing Xanax heavily for a long period of time should seek medical supervision for detox and withdrawal.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:1

  • Dysphoria, ranging from mild to severe.
  • Loss or decrease of appetite.
  • Heightened sensory perception.
  • Pins and needles sensation on skin.
  • Sweating.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Vomiting.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Impaired concentration.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Rebound anxiety symptoms.
  • Agitation.
  • Muscle twitching.
  • Tremors.
  • Seizures.


How to Tell If You or a Loved One Is Addicted

Some people may not recognize they have a problem because they were prescribed the drug.


Xanax addiction can be challenging for people who abuse the drug. Their use can affect their loved ones as well. Some people may not recognize they have a problem because a physician prescribed them the drug.

If you or someone you love is using Xanax, it is important to be mindful of the signs and symptoms of addiction so you can recognize them and seek treatment if possible.

Common symptoms of Xanax addiction are:1,3

  • Inability to discuss use without becoming defensive.
  • Needing more of the drug to achieve the same effect.
  • Using the drug in a way other than prescribed (i.e., snorting, injecting, mixing with other drugs, etc.).
  • Making excuses to use the drug.
  • Needing the drug to function.
  • Neglecting to eat.
  • Inability to stop or control use even if desired.
  • Failure to maintain personal and professional commitments and responsibilities.
  • Missing important activities due to drug use.
  • Secretive behavior.
  • Continuing to use despite any harm it may cause.

If you or someone you love exhibits any of the above symptoms of Xanax addiction, it is crucial to seek treatment as soon as possible. Do not attempt to quit alone since some withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, can be life-threatening. It is important to detox under the supervision of a medical professional who can safely manage the effects of withdrawal while the drug is slowly tapered off.


Paying for Treatment

The cost of treatment for Xanax addiction can vary considerably depending on several factors, such as:

Person paying doctor for Xanax addiction treatment

  • How long you stay: The average program is 28 to 30 days long, but some programs can last months. You are typically charged on a per diem basis.
  • Whether you are treated at an inpatient or an outpatient facility: Inpatient treatment is frequently more expensive than outpatient and may not be fully covered by insurance.
  • Where you stay: Both the location of the facility and the facility itself can affect your out-of-pocket cost. Cost of treatment varies from state to stateand your insurance coverage may vary for in- and out-of-network providers. Some treatment programs are more expensive than others because they offer private rooms, luxury amenities and other specialty services. Do some research to determine which facility is best suited for your needs and your budget.

Unfortunately, the cost of a Xanax rehab program can be a barrier for many people who need help. Options for financing treatment include:

  • Health insurance: Some rehabs accept insurance as a form of payment. Many insurance plans do not cover 100% of treatment costs, so you may still have out-of-pocket costs. The Affordable Care Act requires that Medicaid plans and those offered on the health insurance marketplace offer coverage for substance abuse disorders. If you are not insured, go to your state insurance website to see if you are eligible for any plans.
  • 4

  • Personal savings: Using some of your savings to pay for treatment can be a good investment. Getting help for addiction can improve the quality of your life and can help you earn and save more money in the long run due to the costs of addiction.
  • Payment plans and sliding scale rates: Many treatment facilities offer payment plans either in-house or through a third-party lender. Contact the facility you are interested in to see if they have installment plans available for funding treatment. Some treatment facilities offer sliding scale rates for those struggling to afford treatment.
  • Loans: Consider taking out a bank loan to help you cover the cost of treatment. Find the lowest interest rate possible and make sure that you can afford the monthly payments.
  • Credit cards: Credit cards are another method of paying for treatment. Again, make sure the interest rates and minimum payments are within your budget.
  • Borrowing: Ask a family member or a friend for a personal loan to help you cover the costs of treatment.
  • Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding sites (i.e., GoFundMe) let you request donations from family, friends and others. You may be surprised at how many people will help support your recovery.
  • Sell assets: You may want to consider selling valuable assets such as vehicles, boats or jewelry to help fund the cost of treatment. You can always purchase more items following treatment.
  • Churches and nonprofit organizations: Many churches and charities offer free or low-cost treatment services for drug addiction.

If you are uninsured and concerned about financing your addiction treatment, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 24/7 national helpline for assistance and information at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).


Getting Treatment and Starting Recovery

When you’re ready to get help for Xanax addiction, you’ll want to consider the many different treatment options available. Each person is unique and may have developed an addiction to Xanax for different reasons. Finding the right program that meets your needs and budget is crucial.

Typical treatment options for Xanax addiction include:2,5

  • Inpatient treatment:Inpatient treatment occurs in a 24-hour residential facility. Treatment programs are highly structured and designed to provide maximum support for recovery. Treatment ranges from 30 to 90 days and may be longer in severe cases. Inpatient treatment for Xanax addiction usually includes some combination of medically supervised detox, counseling, therapy, 12-step or other support groups, relapse prevention and aftercare planning.
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient rehab programs usually have the same type of treatment approaches as inpatient facilities, but care takes place in an outpatient facility on a part-time basis and usually scheduled a few times per week.
  • 12-step programs: Twelve-step programs provide support and structure through a step-by-step process toward recoverywith the support of peers and mentors.
  • Teen treatment: Xanax abuse is a problem in teenagers as well as adults.Specialized teen treatment programs address the unique issues teenagers with addiction face.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment: Dual diagnosis is a common form of treatment for Xanax addiction because many people are taking the drug (whether through prescription or self-medication) as a way of coping with anxiety and panic disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment can help patients address any comorbid mental health disorders such as anxiety that are contributing to their use.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, combined with medically assisted tapering, can help users slowly taper off of Xanax, manage unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse due to psychological or physical cravings.2

Other things you’ll want to consider when choosing an addiction treatment center are:

  • Program philosophy: Look for a treatment center whose philosophy and values are in alignment with your own. If you don’t believe in the center’s approach to addiction and treatment, it could hinder your chance of recovery. For example, if you are a Christian, a bible-based treatment center may be best suited for you. On the other hand, if you don’t hold any religious beliefs, you would likely be better suited for a secular treatment center instead of a faith-based one.
  • Program accreditation: Research and learn about the accreditation of the treatment facility you want to attend. Accreditation holds facilities accountable to certain standards and state licensing requirements that help ensure you receive quality care.
  • Qualifications of staff: Choose a facility with a highly qualified staff that includes psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, counselors, recovery coaches and other professionals you may need, such as spiritual leaders, massage therapists and acupuncturists.
  • Location: Consider the location of the facility as well. Do you want to be close to home so that friends and family can visit or would you benefit from a facility far from home? You will also want to consider whether your insurance covers treatment in that state as well.

Short- and Long-Term Side Effects of Xanax Dependency

Common side effects of Xanax abuse are due to the drug’s effect on gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows activity throughout the brain. Xanax increases the activity of GABA, which slows nerve impulses.9

Short-term side effects of Xanax abuse include:1

  • Drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Poor coordination.
  • Irritability.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Dry mouth or increased saliva.
  • Confusion.
  • Memory problems.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Loss of libido.
  • Blurred and double vision.
  • Tremors.
  • Unsteady gait.
  • Slowed reaction time.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Fainting.

More serious potential long-term effects of Xanax abuse that may occur include: 6,7,8,9

  • Depression.
  • Physical dependence, tolerance and withdrawal.
  • Cognitive impairments.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Slurred speech.

Find a Treatment Program for Xanax Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with Xanax addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. For assistance finding a treatment program that suits your needs, call one of our recovery support specialists at 1-888-319-2606 Who Answers? .

Sources

[1]. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2011). Xanax: Reference Guide.

[2]. NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014).Treating Addiction to CNS Depressants.

[3]. Berger, F. (2014). Substance Use Disorder. U.S. National Library of Medicine.

[4]. The White House: Office of National Drug Control Policy. Substance Abuse and the Affordable Care Act.

[5]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide. Behavioral Therapies.

[6]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). What are the possible consequences of CNS depressant use and abuse?

[7]. Tata PR, Rollings J, Collins M, Pickering A, Jacobson RR. (1994). Lack of cognitive recovery following withdrawal from long-term benzodiazepine use. Psychological Medicine 24(1):203-13.

[8]. Mathew VM, Dursun SM, Reveley MA. (2000). Increased aggressive, violent, and impulsive behaviour in patients during chronic-prolonged benzodiazepine use. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 45(1):89-90.

[9]. University of Maryland Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Benzodiazepines.

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