Xanax Addiction in the United States

Xanax Addiction in the United States

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is the brand name of the psychoactive drug Alprazolam, which is marketed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer in the United States. Xanax is but one of many anti-anxiety medications that fall under the category of Benzodiazepines, or “Benzos” for short. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants and are prescribed for their calming, sedating effects to patients with panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, depression and chronic seizures along with others. They are also prescribed for inducing sleep in patients with insomnia.

Benzodiazepines were first discovered accidentally in a pharmaceutical lab in 1955 and began to be mass-marketed in the United States in 1960 and since have become some of the most commonly prescribed drugs. Because of this, they are also the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Of all these Benzodiazepines, Alprazolam aka Xanax has become the most popular anti-anxiety medication in the US.

Is Xanax Addictive?

Currently, Alprazolam is listed as a Schedule IV drug in the United States, which are substances that have a limited potential for addiction and dependence if abused. Though it does have many beneficial medical uses if administered properly, Xanax is by no means harmless if taken by means other than prescribed by a doctor. One of the most common misconceptions people have about prescription drugs is that because they been tested by the government and then prescribed by a doctor, they must be safe.

This assumption is false and the possibility of physical and mental dependence always exists with psychoactive chemicals, even if they are taken exactly as prescribed. For a person who is already struggling with addiction, such as chronic alcohol abuse, the introduction of Xanax into their life could be severely detrimental because benzodiazepine side effects are very similar to the effects produced by excessive alcohol use. For example, it would be easy for chronic drinkers who are attempting sobriety to relapse back to alcohol after they had taken Xanax, legally or illegally, due to the similarity in effects both substances have on the body.

Xanax & Other Drugs

Xanax also heightens the effects of other drugs, especially other central nervous system depressants such as alcohol or opiates, meaning that when taken in combination the effect felt by the user is much greater than if each of the substances were taken on their own. This can lead to addiction to Xanax as drug users become accustomed to the extreme high they feel when taking Xanax along with other drugs, and would feel abnormal if they attempted to refrain from taking the Xanax. In recent years, Xanax has become known as somewhat of a party drug, being found on college campuses nationwide and being used in combination with alcohol and stimulants. The dangers of combining these drugs are immense and will discussed in more detail later, though it should be stressed now that combining any amount of Xanax or any other benzodiazepine with other depressants such as alcohol and heroin is extremely dangerous and can be fatal.

Another important thing to mention when talking about Benzodiazepines is that the likelihood of dependence is very severe because of the heavy toll withdrawals take on the body. Withdrawals of Benzodiazepines are very similar to those of alcohol, and can be fatal. Over an extended period of use, the users body becomes dependent upon the drug, and when that supply is cut the body experiences a myriad of negative effects.

The biggest concern for safety is the risk of seizures, as Xanax is a central nervous system depressant, quitting the drug cold turkey or without any medical supervision can cause the body to be overly stimulated to the point where seizures become a real risk. Other withdrawal side effects include panic, paranoia, anxiety, insomnia and sweating. Dependence can occur in both illicit benzodiazepine use as well as prescribed use, though most people can be taken off the drug without serious side effects if under the care of a professional.

Prevalence in the United States

Between 2006 and 2011, the numbers of people prescribed Alprazolam has gone up from approximately 37 million prescriptions to 47 million prescriptions. That massive increase in a short amount of time means that the drug is more likely to wind up on the streets. This is a huge contributing factor to why more and more people are using Xanax recreationally or are seeking treatment for Xanax addiction. To put it simply, it has become too easily accessible and too frequently prescribed, causing it to flood the illegal drug market all the while making it cheaper to purchase.

As Xanax has made its way through the illegal drug market, more addicts are turning to the drug as a means of getting high, which in turn has spiked the numbers of users seeking treatment for Xanax use. In the same time frame we discussed earlier, 2006 to 2011, admissions of patients in treatment centers seeking relief from addiction to Xanax more than quadrupled, rising from a mere 5,000 cases or so in 2006 to a staggering 29,000 in 2011. This fact alone proves that Xanax along with other Benzodiazepines are being used more and more frequently in an unhealthy, addictive way.

Because of Xanax’s relatively cheap cost (around $5 for one high), easy accessibility and likelihood for physical and mental dependence, it has become a major component in the drug crisis of modern America, and deserves attention and education on a wide scale. Legal by prescription or not, it is a drug that has the potential to ruin lives, split families and cause death and should be treated as such.

Treatment for Xanax Addiction

Luckily, treatment does exist, and Xanax has become more widely recognized in the treatment field as a substance of abuse. Recovery is possible. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to Xanax or other Benzodiazepines it is advised to seek professional medical help.

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