Are you Addicted to Xanax?

Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan and Valium are some of the most popularly prescribed benzodiazepines in the U.S. In fact, Xanax is the number one psychiatric medication prescribed by medical providers. In 2013, Xanax accounted for more than 48 million prescriptions filled. This benzo is often prescribed to help treat symptoms of anxiety, panic disorder and sleep disorders. Xanax is a short-acting benzos that works quickly in the body to reduce distressing symptoms and can be very effective with short-term use. Why is Xanax so addictive? And how do I know if I am addicted to Xanax?

What is Xanax?

Xanax is often prescribed for short-term use to help those who suffer from extreme forms of stress, anxiety, panic disorders and even sleep disorders. It promotes a sense of calm and relaxation. It is considered a sedative-hypnotic. Its characteristics include rapid absorption into the bloodstream, making it effective almost immediately; high potency, making it highly addictive; and greater risk of severe withdrawal symptoms that can occur after even short-term use.

A pharmacy shelf with three different bottles of Alprazolam represents the potential to be addicted to Xanax.

Symptoms and Side Effects of Xanax

  • Intense relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • Shifts in mood or irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor sense of coordination
  • Development of seizures
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors
  • Inability to focus
  • Confusion and memory impairment
  • Lack of inhibition

Like many types of benzos, Xanax also comes with a black box label warning due to its highly addictive properties. However, using benzos even as prescribed by a medical physician can also run the risk of developing a dependency and addiction. Many believe because it has been authorized and approved by a doctor, it cannot be harmful. Unfortunately, it can become highly addictive both physically and psychologically.

An infograph describing the different signs to know if a person is addicted to xanax.

Why is Xanax so Addictive?

Benzos addiction such as an addiction to Xanax is an often less recognized drug problem. More and more anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications are being grossly overprescribed. This is especially common in our society today, in the post covid-19 pandemic era. The effects of the disease have not only caused physical harm to the public, but also caused a whole new generation of psychological damage to an even wider population of people including the elderly and young people.

Because it is now being more widely prescribed, it makes substances such as Xanax even more accessible and affordable to the public. Potent benzos like Xanax should be used temporarily in addition to other types of treatments. However, medical providers and physicians are now allowing patients to use them over longer periods of time. Which only increases the risk of developing an addiction.

Xanax works by attaching to the GABA receptors in your brain. It increases the amount of GABA receptors, which promotes feelings of calm and relaxation. Once the medication enters the body, it can begin working to relieve symptoms within 1 to 2 hours. However, because it is a short-acting benzos, the effects of the medication wear off as quickly as they started. Making the user feel the need to use more and more in order to achieve a sense of calm. When using more drugs over a longer period of time in an attempt to achieve the same sensation, leaves the brain and body at risk for dependency. The brain is no longer able to naturally produce relaxing feelings without the help of drugs. Taking high doses of Xanax over a longer period of time can lead to addiction.

How do I know if I am Addicted to Xanax?

  • You have urges and cravings for Xanax that are so intense it is difficult to focus on anything else
  • You need to take more Xanax in order to feel and achieve the same desired effects
  • You begin taking more Xanax for longer periods of time than prescribed and intended
  • You spend a lot of time to obtaining Xanax and recovering from its effects
  • You continue to use it even though it affects your ability at work and your personal life
  • You continuing to use Xanax despite professional, personal and social problems that arise due to usage
  • You give up important activities or hobbies you once enjoyed
  • You continue to use Xanax in harm-promoting situations
  • You continue to use Xanax despite it causing physical and psychological problems
  • You lack the ability to stop using Xanax without the assistance of professional intervention
  • You experience intense symptoms of withdrawal, which include impairing the ability to sleep (rebound insomnia), once you stop using Xanax

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What is the difference between Xanax and Ativan?

Both Xanax and Ativan are benzos medications used to treat a variety of anxiety, sleep and panic disorders. They are very similar in many ways but also have distinct differences. Xanax often works quickly to relieve symptoms. Whereas Ativan can take up to two hours to be effective. Because Xanax begins to work quickly in the body, its effects do not last for very long. Ativan’s effects tend to have a longer shelf life and allow for a longer duration of relief in symptoms.

Ativan is generally considered a safer type of benzo medication due to its delayed properties and ability to last longer in the body. This makes it less addictive compared to Xanax.

Some of the side effects of both medications can also slightly differ. Xanax users usually experience slurred speech, mood changes and appetite changes. Whereas, in Ativan, these symptoms are much less common. When using either of these medications, it is best to use them only as prescribed by a physician and for short-term treatments only.

Ways you can help manage your Anxiety

  • Exercise: Exercising regularly and moving your body can not only help promote physical health, but it can also promote better mental health. Physical activities often help increase the production of mood-enhancing hormones called endorphins. This will help you feel less stressed and have a more positive outlook.
  • Nutrition: Maintaining a healthy food diet with nutrient-dense meals can help fight off physical and psychological ailments. The macronutrients and micronutrients you receive from foods help to regulate and reduce symptoms of stress and depression.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety. Deep breathing and muscle relaxation can help ease the mind which can help turn negative thoughts into positive affirmations.
  • Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol intake: Caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant. When too much of these substances are added into our bodies, it can create an imbalance either causing too much brain activity or too little brain activity.
  • Develop better sleeping habits: Sleep is an important part of healing both the mind and body. Creating a better sleep routine can help you sleep faster, sleep longer and sleep more deeply. This results in lower anxiety, lower stress and overall better physical health. Your brain and body are able to repair and reset during your sleep.
  • Get help and support: If you are finding that your symptoms are beyond what you can control and handle, finding help and the right support will help you successfully learn to treat your symptoms. Therapists and other behavioral health specialists can assist in treating your anxiety.

Reach out to Hotel California by the Sea

We specialize in treating addiction and other co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Our Admissions specialists are available to walk you through the best options for treating your addiction.

Research has found that benzos such as Xanax have been involved in about one-third of all deaths related to prescription drug overdoses. They are often combined with other prescription medications such as opioids. This can lead to a deadly combination resulting in overdose and death. Professional behavioral healthcare providers such as Hotel California by the Sea, provide the experience, knowledge and care needed to help people who may be struggling with a benzos addiction.

The benzos addiction treatment program provides a wide range of treatment options. This includes all levels of care such as medical detox, residential treatment, partial hospitalization programming and intensive outpatient programming. Throughout each level of care, clients will receive options for medication management and intensive therapies. Unique therapies such as CBT, DBT and EMDR therapy have produced evidenced-based results in helping people with their addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Hotel California by the Sea specializes in creating individualized treatment plans for each client based on their needs.