03 Nov Signs You Have a Xanax Problem
It is becoming more and more of a rarity to meet someone in America unfamiliar with the opioid epidemic. In the last few decades as opioid prescriptions skyrocketed and both addiction-rates and overdoses followed, it evolved into a problem impossible to ignore. The cold blooded truth is that overdoses—above everything else—are the number one killer for Americans under 50. They take the throne over car accidents, gun violence, and even disease. Opioids lead those overdoses.
In the wake of such a vicious cancer in our society, other medicine-related problems we are currently facing can easily be swept under the rug. Nonetheless, it is paramount we address them, as other epidemics can surface from the maelstrom of ‘bigger’ problems. One example is the issue we are currently facing with benzodiazepines, the generic name for anti anxiety and panic disorder drugs.
The most popular of these drugs is called Alprazolam, but it is most commonly known as Xanax. Having been in circulation for less than a century, in regards to anti anxiety medication, Xanax proved to be the horse to bet on. Rising well past its competitors, the drug’s efficacy immediately spawned widespread popularity. Then in two decades the production and prescription-rate of the drug quadrupled, leading to an entirely new group of addicts. Twenty years ago there was not but a couple thousand addicts battling Xanax addiction in treatment homes. Now that number is over 30,000.
You have probably heard it referenced, know someone that takes it, or have a prescription yourself; Xanax has become somewhat iconic in today’s culture. Yet despite its effectiveness, due to its poor pairing with other drugs, it sits right behind opioids on the leaderboard of prescription-pill-related overdoses.
If you have landed on this page it might be that you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction. Problem is: a Xanax addiction—particularly in the earlier phases—can be incredibly easy to hide. The signs can be subtle, misinterpreted, and altogether absent. This is until the addiction spirals out of control.
As benzodiazepines continue to turn out addicts and cause fatalities, it is important to spread awareness of the darker side of Xanax, and highlight the signs of addiction. If any of these apply to you, then it is paramount you seek help, as this addiction is not only difficult to curb but can be fatal in its pursuits.
The Signs of Xanax Addiction
Before we highlight the signs of Xanax addiction, if you are currently trying to distinguish whether or not this is an actual problem then it is important to take a step back and compare the before to now. While some of these signs are ubiquitous to any form of addiction (cravings, withdrawals, tolerance, etc.), it is important to truly evaluate what your life was like before having been introduced or prescribed Xanax… and what it is like now.
Being that Xanax is a medicine used to help people suffering from anxiety or panic disorders, perhaps the most important question to ask is: has it been more beneficial or detrimental to your life? Beyond that, are you currently happy? Have your standings in your work/relationship/family life improved or worsened? If Xanax were to be completely removed from your life, could you handle it?
Then it is also important to know that even if Xanax creates regularity in your life, or even evokes a higher sense of productiveness, you can still be addicted. Remember that Xanax is a band aid and not a cure. It aids sufferers in their current condition but is ubiquitously thought to be ineffective and to that extent harmful as a long term solution.
The issue with Xanax is often thought that the drug is too dexterous in fulfilling its thesis. A user who suffers from anxiety will use the drug to instill more normalcy and control in their lives, relish in the effectiveness, and then find themselves unwilling or too fearful to live a life without it. In the case that their supply diminishes, they grow once again anxious. This means it is a drug that curbs the very problem it can create. This vicious cycle has been documented time and time again as the catalyst for Xanax addiction.
What creates dependency? Let us first address tolerance. A tolerance to Xanax can evolve rapidly. There are cases where a user first began by taking .25mg tablets once a day and in two months needing 2-4mg to achieve the same desired effect. Professionals constantly ask addicts or forthcoming addicts to dissect their timeline. What first occurred when you started taking Xanax? If you found it was incredibly beneficial to the quality of your life, did you have to up your dosage to keep a hold on that feeling?
Then as tolerance builds so too does dependency. The brain begins to draw from the Xanax would it should naturally draw from a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutryic acid—the chemical in your brain responsible for calmness, governing moods, and responding to excitatory chemicals that tend to induce mania or anxiety). For Xanax the addiction is typically psychological but if the use extends long enough it can become physical as well.
Taking Xanax for Normality
As stated before Xanax is to be used as a band aid not a cure for anxiety-related conditions. Thus it is important to assess whether you can still feel yourself without Xanax? If you are going to attend an event, work productively, or do anything that has a propensity to create stress and evoke anxiety, do you need to take Xanax in order to feel ‘normal?’
If the answer to that question is yes, then you are absolutely not alone. The sensation of fear and abnormality were probably the cause of you taking Xanax in the first place, and once you saw the grass on the other side of the hill it is difficult to picture life without the drug. This can create a sense of dependency spawned simply from the drug’s efficacy.
Whereas you should be taking Xanax in the most turbulent times, the problem with the drug is users take it as insurance for not allowing any negative feelings to arise at all. This means an anxiety sufferer not suffering from anxiety will take Xanax simply to keep the ‘normality’ present. By this logic, it is possible a user takes Xanax daily simply because they perceive it to keep their condition from affecting them.
The physical signs of Xanax tend to arise later down the line of addiction. Whereas some addictions show physical symptoms immediately, with Xanax it is a slow burn. Due to the fact that Alprazolam acts as a tranquilizer (also the reason it can be prescribed to help mitigate muscle spasms and seizures), it sedates the mind.
Essentially it overloads the brain with that neurotransmitter we talked about called GABA. GABA pushes back against all the other excitatory chemicals and rolls all functionality to a slower pace. While the mind relaxes and marinates in calmness (thus beating anxiety), the body follows suit. Heartbeat wanes, the respiratory system starts to crawl, and synonymous to alcohol—cognitive function decreases.
The permanent and extended use of Xanax can then pull a blanket over the brain for a longer period of time. As an addict this sedation can remain throughout their addiction. These symptoms typically manifest in the way you would expect someone sedated to act.
In the later stage of addiction an addict’s speech will begin to slur. A general sense of lethargy and drowsiness will coat their day-to-day lives. Their motor skills will wane and their bodies can grow weaker. Blurry vision and dizziness are also symptoms of an overload of Xanax. In some cases memory is impaired, most often being short-term that is most affected. While these sound redundant, in essence an addict will reach a point where their brain is oversaturated with the onslaught of chemical ‘fabrication’ brought about by Xanax and they will literally move slower.
Long bouts of sleepiness can be witnessed in this stage of the addiction as well (no surprise here, as Xanax is also prescribed for insomnia). If you are currently experiencing these symptoms, or if you feel that you are constantly in a haze (or simply depleted of energy for that matter), this could be a sign that your addiction has escalated to a place where your brain chemistry is being manipulated. It is imperative that if these lasting symptoms do not change that you find help. If your brain adapts to Xanax and mistakes it for a natural chemical, the results can be fatal. Read below and we will explain this further.
The telltale sign of most addictions, it is accurate to assume you have heard of withdrawals. Did you know that certain withdrawals can cause fatalities? Sadly, Xanax falls under that criteria. In an oversimplified explanation, as the extended use of Xanax prolongs, the brain can misidentify the drug as a natural chemical necessary for its functionality.
In the absence of Xanax the brain panics and in this chaos it can forget to communicate to certain organs. This why some users suffering from extreme Xanax withdrawals are at risk for respiratory system failure and why this type of detox is typically closely monitored by healthcare professionals. If you are facing Xanax withdrawals, we cannot warn you enough that professional help should be sought. These are among the most dangerous of withdrawals. They take precedence over opioids despite painkillers being the #1 overdose-related drug.
Withdrawals from Xanax take the same form as most addictions with the exception that they are not too physical. They range from carvings to a loss of appetite, stomachaches to sleeping trouble, nausea to unnatural sweating, depression and mania, and at worse psychosis or death.
Rebound anxiety is, however, a symptom exclusive to Xanax. While users often feel anxiety without the drug responsible for mitigating the disorder, rebound anxiety is a more severe condition that originally brought them crawling into the doctor’s office in the first place. It is basically the original condition on steroids and often the detriment to sobriety (addicts decide facing the anxiety is simply not worth it in comparison to upholding their addiction).
If you feel withdrawal symptoms when you do not use Xanax, it is time to face the cold reality that you might have a problem. More so with this type of addiction than any other (save for alcohol) as while some withdrawals are torturous, few are fatal. Xanax is one of the latter.
A Decline in Life Quality
This should be obvious but if you are watching the world burn around you, it should be indicative that there is a bigger problem at hand. An addict’s first response is to defend their addiction and place blame on others. Thus it is important once again to evaluate where Xanax has taken you. Are your relationships still intact? Does your family still interact with you the same way? Do you have the same job, or are you in a worse position (both in terms of monetary value and your own ambitions) than before you started taking Xanax? Has the use of Xanax seemed to alienate you from others?
But even more so, all those aspirations that you had—which were possibly inhibited due to your anxiety disorder—are they feasible now? Has the use of Xanax brought a new stability to your life that is sending you reeling in the direction you always wanted to go, or are you stagnating and dependent on it now?
If people in your life have cut ties, reached out, or exposed your addiction, then there is a strong possibility it has spiraled out of your control. Perhaps one of the most important questions to ask yourself is could you ever stop taking Xanax? Studies have proved that the long-term use is more detrimental than beneficial to the user, in which case there is going to come a day where you have to stop. What would the ramifications be tomorrow if that day was today?
Xanax addiction is a tricky one. It can create an addict out of someone that does not have a predisposition for addiction and desires only to live a life free of anxiety. It can kill its victim who desires only to quit. And it is relentless in its addictive properties, as its startling efficacy paints a false reality for anxiety sufferers. It is dangerous, pervasive, and incredibly hard to beat.
If you are currently facing issues with Xanax addiction know that you are not alone. There tens of thousands in the same position as you, and tens of thousands that—like you—are going to beat their addiction back and lead normal lives. With a drug like Xanax, if you or someone you know is facing an addiction, seek professional support, be honest with yourself, and act quickly.
“Xanax Abuse.” Drugabuse.com. 13 Mar. 2019. https://drugabuse.com/xanax/
“Xanax Symptoms and Warning Signs.” Addiction Center. 13 Mar. 2019. https://www.addictioncenter.com/benzodiazepines/xanax/symptoms-signs/
“Xanax Addiction: Symptoms and Signs of Abuse” American Addiction Centers. 13 Mar. 2019. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/xanax-treatment/symptoms-and-signs