How Addictive is Xanax and Why

Xanax is a benzodiazepine and is used to treat anxiety-related disorders. This can include panic attacks, general anxiety disorder, and anxiety associated with depression. Xanax is a short-acting medication which can indicate a need to take it more frequently. As a result, many believe that Xanax is addictive.

Xanax is not designed to be a long-term solution for treatment. Doctors prescribe this to act as a sedative so immediate problems can be addressed. They do not recommend taking this drug consistently.

The FDA supports this by advising that Xanax and other benzodiazepines should not be taken daily for more than two weeks. The body develops a tolerance to these drugs, which means more are required to achieve the desired effect. You develop a dependence on the drug and this can be a sign of an addiction.

The first benzodiazepines were developed in the 1930s but were not used as prescriptions until 1957. By the 1980s, benzodiazepines were the most commonly prescribed drug in the United States. This indicates that they are successful in helping with anxiety, but that they also could be addictive.

Addiction or Dependence?

There is a clinical difference between addiction and dependence. Taking a drug for a prescribed amount of time changes your brain chemistry. Your brain alters how neurotransmitters are released and this alters the brain’s need for the drug. A physical dependence develops. This drug is now required to achieve the same neurotransmitter function.

Dependency is a feature of addiction but not the defining feature. Addiction also involves behavioral aspects such as compulsion. Impaired control, social problems, risky use, and tolerance are also part of addiction. There are many people that become dependent on Xanax in order to feel normal. But is this addiction?

Xanax is believed to be addictive for two reasons. It has a rapid onset so the brain immediately flooded with mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. Also, individuals with mental illness are at a greater risk for abusing medications. As Xanax is prescribed for anxiety, the risk of addiction is very high.

How Real is the Addiction?

A decade ago, the majority of emergency room admissions caused by central nervous system depressants were caused by Xanax and other benzodiazepines. Fast forward to a few years ago, and Xanax prescriptions have tripled and fatal overdoses have quadrupled. This trend indicates that the use of Xanax is riskier. Even when prescriptions are decreasing, the rate of overdoses remains high.

The age group most commonly associated with Xanax use is between 18 and 29. This group also involves the most use of alcohol, marijuana, MDMA, and other club drugs. The use of Xanax with these other intoxicating drugs is dangerous.

Younger adolescents seem to be avoiding substance abuse with the exception of Xanax. Studies report that high school students struggle with Xanax addiction despite being able to abstain from other substances. Many in this group also mix Xanax with opioids which is a dangerous combination.

Does Xanax Lead to Addiction?

Xanax works by binding to receptor cells in the brain to manage the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter. GABA manages signals between neurons in the brain. The less GABA there is, the slower faster. Xanax allows more GABA to be present which slows neurons and creates calmness. Alcohol is another substance that acts in this way on the brain.

Drugs that trigger the brain in this way commonly cause addiction. This explains why alcohol is one of the most abused substances in the world. Xanax binds to receptor cells faster than alcohol, which can make it more addictive.

Those struggling with anxiety are looking for peace and this is the sensation they get from Xanax. It can be an addictive feeling. Individuals with anxiety may take it more often so they can feel normal and this can easily develop into drug misuse. When taken specifically to achieve this sensation, the drug is being misused.

Taking Control

Xanax is often mixed with other drugs which makes it more dangerous. It increases the intoxicating effects of other substances. Most commonly, Xanax is mixed with opioids that are taken for pain. This is dangerous and increases the risk of accidental overdose. It is important to discuss other medications with your doctor before taking Xanax.

More than 30 percent of opioid overdoses also involve benzodiazepines. Misuse of these drugs is too common and very harmful. If you notice withdrawal symptoms when you are not taking the drug, you are likely struggling with addiction. The only way to end Xanax addiction is through therapy, detox, and rehabilitation.

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