Xanax belongs to a class of prescription drugs known as benzodiazepines. Like other drugs in this class, this drug carries a significant risk of dependence. Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and overwhelming stress. They can also be used for depression, insomnia, and nausea.

Presently, Xanax is the number one prescribed psychiatric medication in America. More than half of its users are over age sixty, with the vast majority—seventy-three percent—being female.

A Closer Look at Addiction

Every year, thousands of users misuse Xanax, first developing a tolerance and then an addiction. Many of these people never even knew they were at risk.

Benzodiazapenes are powerful, fast-acting drugs, capable of changing brain chemistry in a short amount of time. The longer you take the drug, the higher the dose you need to achieve the same results. When attempting to stop taking the drug, users will experience a harsh return of symptoms. Essentially, the brain becomes reliant on the drug to function.

Normal side effects may include intense feelings of relaxation or drowsiness. However, there are several identifiable changes that indicate possible dependence.

Emotional and Behavioral Changes

Increased doses of the drug can cause a slew of behavioral changes. Mood swings are a common sign of substance dependence. People may feel content one moment, followed by feelings of depression or irritability that seemingly appear out of nowhere. Benzodiazapene abusers also tend to become more secretive, hiding an increased drug use from friends, family, and doctors.

Another sign of drug abuse is missed social opportunities. Work, school, and family priorities tend to get neglected when one begins abusing prescription drugs. Missing out on social functions or lost interest in hobbies or activities that used to bring joy could indicate an issue is present.

Another red flag is mixing medication with alcohol or other drugs. People with substance abuse issues often mix different drugs together to increase their effects. This is an extremely dangerous practice that can lead to overdose, seizure, or death.

In addition to these behavioral changes, there may be noticeable changes in mental health. When a dependence is developed, the drug no longer contributes to improved health and happiness. Instead, it begins to contribute to emotional instability.

Mental health symptoms of benzodiazapene dependence may include:

  • Hostility
  • Cognitive Dysfunction
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Lack of Concentration
  • Hallucinations
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Worsened Anxiety
  • Decreased Motivation
  • Mood Swings
  • Worsened Panic Attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Short-Term Memory Loss

Xanax dependence can significantly inhibit one’s desire or willingness to perform tasks that require mental or physical effort. Those struggling with an addiction may find that all they want to do is sleep or lounge around the house. Remembering to complete daily tasks or chores becomes increasingly difficult, as does holding intelligible conversations.

Prescription drug abuse inevitably takes a toll on both social and professional lives. Friends and family may begin to disassociate as they notice the changes in behavior and attitude. Financial problems can also arise when from buying the drug on the street, as prescriptions are no longer sufficient to satisfy cravings. Failure to show up to work can also result in lost wages or termination.

Physical Changes

This powerful drug slows down respiration, which induces a sense of calm. However, this euphoric feeling is not free. High doses can lead to alarming physical symptoms such as:

  • Weakened Muscles
  • Persistent Drowsiness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Headache
  • Decreased Coordination
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Slurred Speech
  • Vertigo

It is possible to overdose on this medication—and the risk greatly increases when the drug is mixed with alcohol or opiates. Shallow breathing and slowed heartbeat are signs that an overdose is occurring. In the event of a suspected overdose, call 911 immediately.

Prevention and Treatment

Dependence does not discriminate against any person. Anyone can become addicted to prescription drugs at any time. Dependency occurs at every socioeconomic level and does not make exceptions based on gender, race, or income.

The main way to avoid dependence is by understanding the risks. Many people begin taking this drug without realizing what could happen. They falsely assume that medication prescribed by a doctor will only help, and not hurt, them.

If a doctor indicates that they are going to prescribe this drug, be sure to ask for a thorough explanation of the side effects, risks, and proper dosage. If you believe that you or someone you love is at risk of developing an addiction, or exhibiting signs of dependence, don’t wait to seek professional help.

Trying to quit on one’s own or going “cold turkey” is dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms are not only uncomfortable, but they can also lead to serious health complications and death. Most people will need the help of trained professionals to detox safely and learn how to mentally and physically recover from an addiction.

New Vista Behavioral Health is a nationwide family of treatment providers, including primary mental health care. You can find a way to live in healthy, sustainable relationships when you learn the skills necessary to cope with Borderline Personality Disorder. Holding our treatment programs to higher standards, we offer exceptional care along a full continuum of options to provide better outcomes for your recovery.

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