Xanax is a prescription drug often used as part of a treatment program for anxiety and panic disorders. It belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines or “benzos.” When used as prescribed by a medical or mental health provider, Xanax and other drugs of the same class are highly effective in reducing the severity of specific symptoms. However, like opioids and other medications used to manage many medical or mental health conditions, benzodiazepines like Xanax are highly addictive and frequently misused. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2018 shows the number of overdose deaths linked to benzo abuse rose by more than 800% between 1999 and 2017.

A shelf in a pharmacy stocked with various prescription medications including Alprazolam also known as Xanax.

What is Xanax?

Mental health providers prescribe Xanax to help alleviate the symptoms people experience when struggling with various anxiety disorders and some sleeping disorders. Xanax is typically prescribed for short-term use as long-term use of the drug can lead to addiction and significant challenges when trying to stop taking it. Despite its high risk for addiction and other potential side effects linked to its use, Xanax remains one of America’s most frequently prescribed psychiatric medications.

When used as directed, Xanax provides beneficial sedative and muscle-relaxing properties. Benzodiazepines like Xanax are considered safe for short-term use. Unfortunately, they are also highly addictive drugs and frequently misused, leading to addiction and withdrawal symptoms when trying to reduce or stop using. Once someone has developed a dependency or addiction to Xanax, it is essential to seek help at a professional rehab where supported detox and comprehensive addiction treatment services are available.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction?

Even when used as prescribed, benzodiazepines have a high potential for dependency and addiction. Because benzodiazepines carry an elevated risk for dependence and addiction, they are classified as controlled substances which means they can only be obtained by prescription from a licensed medical provider. It is essential to follow their dosing recommendations and only take them for as long as they were prescribed as part of your treatment program. These drugs are only meant to be used for short-term symptom management, and long-term use increases your risk for dependency and addiction. Additionally, it is essential to taper off or reduce your dose as prescribed by your treatment professional. Suddenly stopping benzodiazepine drugs can lead to severe, potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms.

When someone is addicted to Xanax, they will experience various symptoms. These symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe, and potentially life-threatening depending on the person. Xanax addiction symptoms fall into three categories; physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms. Because addiction affects everyone in varying ways, you or a loved one can experience drastically different symptoms from someone else’s, even when taking the same drug.

Physical and psychological symptoms of Xanax addiction may be short or long-term. There are some indicators of Xanax abuse that will appear shortly after one begins using the drug. However, it is essential to remember that if one is taking Xanax as prescribed, some of the notable symptoms of Xanax abuse may also mimic the drug’s desired effects. This makes determining the presence of a potential Xanax addiction more difficult.

When someone uses Xanax, common physical symptoms of its use include poor coordination, slurred (or incoherent) speech, blurry vision, lethargy (excessive tiredness), and breathing difficulties. As Xanax use escalates, short-term physical symptoms may also include coma and seizures due to the drug’s powerful depressive effects on the body and central nervous system. Xanax also affects the user psychologically. Symptoms such as overwhelming cravings and new or worsening mental health problems.

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 Behaviorally, Xanax abuse can lead to many challenges. Because Xanax is only available by prescription, those who are addicted to it must find alternate ways to obtain the drug when they no longer have a prescription. This often leads to behavioral changes or difficulties focused on getting Xanax at any cost. Examples may include doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions, stealing money or pills from family, losing interest in activities that do not involve taking Xanax, increased risk-taking behavior, ignoring family or work obligations to use Xanax, and increasing legal problems stemming from Xanax addiction.

With long-term Xanax abuse, other challenges can occur. In addition to increasing mental health and cognitive challenges, individuals who have a long-term Xanax addiction may experience nightmares, psychosis, suicidal thoughts, mood swings, depression, anxiety, memory loss, and death due to Xanax overdose. Although many of these long-term symptoms do not occur with Xanax use as part of a prescribed plan, they can occur with chronic abuse or when you begin to withdraw from Xanax. The safest and most effective way to manage potentially dangerous Xanax withdrawal symptoms is to start your sobriety journey with medically-assisted detox at a rehab like Hotel California by the Sea. Under careful medical supervision, you can focus on detox without worrying about managing potential withdrawal side-effects in an unsupported environment.

Xanax Memory Loss Recovery

Xanax use can have significant and sometimes long-lasting effects on the brain and brain function. One such impact is that of memory and thinking challenges. Depending on how Xanax impacts you individually, these effects may last well after you stop taking Xanax. In some cases, with excessive or long-term Xanax abuse, memory and other cognitive challenges may be permanent.

Xanax is generally prescribed on a short-term basis. This is because long-term Xanax use can lead to many problems, including challenges stopping use and physical impacts on the body. Studies indicate long-term Xanax use can lead to memory problems. Data from the studies show people who use Xanax for extended periods experience more significant problems with memory and cognition than those who do not.

Memory loss and cognitive problems related to Xanax use are thought to be linked to the brain’s production of a chemical called GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps reduce the speed at which some messages travel in the brain, specifically those linked to anxiety, fear, and stress. When someone takes Xanax, it can affect how and how much GABA the brain produces on its own. In time, one needs higher (more potent) doses of Xanax to achieve symptom relief. Unfortunately, GABA also plays a role in memory and cognition. Some research suggests that GABA levels produced by the brain may not return to normal, even after stopping Xanax. This can lead to ongoing and possible permanent challenges with memory and thinking capabilities for those who struggle with a long-term Xanax addiction.

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Xanax Withdrawal Timeline

Depending on the nature and severity of your addiction, Xanax withdrawal symptoms may be intense and could be dangerous. Some factors that determine the challenges you may encounter during Xanax withdrawal include how long you have been using and how much Xanax you use with each dose. Because withdrawal effects vary widely with each case, detoxing from Xanax “cold turkey” is not recommended. Choosing to detox under supervision in a medically supported detox program offers you high levels of medical and mental health support throughout each stage of detox.

Suddenly stopping Xanax is not recommended as it can immediately lead to overwhelming withdrawal symptoms. When this occurs, you are at a greater risk for overdose because many immediately take another dose of Xanax to stop withdrawal. Sometimes, the amount they take is far higher than usual and can lead to fatal medical complications. Instead, medical providers recommended slowly tapering off Xanax under medical supervision.  

In general, withdrawal timelines are not set in stone. Each person will experience different effects along a different timeline. However, some facts about Xanax make certain aspects of the withdrawal process predictable. Xanax is classified as a short-acting benzodiazepine. This means its effects come on quickly, and the effects of the drug tend to wear off in approximately 11-12 hours. For most, Xanax withdrawal symptoms will begin within six to eight hours after your last dose. The worse and most difficult to manage symptoms typically occur in the first one to four days after you stop taking Xanax.

While most symptoms begin to reduce in intensity during the first week of withdrawal, they can persist for up to two years. These are referred to as post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS. Common symptoms that can occur during Xanax withdrawal are sleeping problems, nausea, shaking, mood changes, hallucinations, anxiety, panic, tremors, seizures, heart palpitations, stress, memory and cognition struggles, elevated blood pressure, and heart rate, and body aches. In addition, depressant withdrawal can have life-threatening symptoms that are best managed under medical supervision in a treatment program at Hotel California by the Sea.

Withdrawing and achieving sobriety from Xanax addiction is possible; however, it can be complex and challenging to manage without the support and guidance of a therapeutic environment. Undergoing detox as part of a medically supported detox program can help reduce the intensity of many of the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that typically accompany Xanax withdrawal. After detox, you can easily transition into a therapeutic program that enables you to learn more about your addiction and the tools you need to prevent relapse in the future. If you would like to learn more about how our programs can help you achieve and maintain lasting sobriety, contact our admissions team today to ask about Xanax addiction treatment programs.