Xanax Symptoms and Warning Signs

Xanax is a commonly abused benzodiazepine known for its sedative effects. Knowing the symptoms and warning signs can help you identify a Xanax addiction in your loved one.

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Signs of Xanax Abuse

xanax abuseXanax is a highly potent benzodiazepine. It is commonly used to treat severe anxiety and panic attacks. Xanax is a highly addictive benzodiazepine that is commonly prescribed for anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. It is a short-acting Benzo with high abuse potential. The majority of its effects are established within an hour of use and continue for up to 6 hours. It is usually prescribed for a short period of time (2-6 weeks) to prevent addiction. Many users who do not abuse Xanax and take it exactly as prescribed may become addicted without realizing it as tolerance can develop quickly. An addiction to Xanax can cause serious consequences that affect all aspects of an individual’s life.

The sedative is very habit-forming and is not recommended for long-term use.

Despite being the most prescribed psychiatric drug in the United States, Xanax is frequently abused due to its short-acting, intense effects.

An individual who abuses Xanax will likely appear extremely tired. They may lack their usual energy and motivation to engage with friends and family. Xanax abusers may also lose interest in normal daily activities.

“Even when I forced myself to go out, I still felt so alone. It’s incredible how lonely the road of addiction can be, especially when you’re surrounded by people who love you. Addicts are always alone on the inside, but perhaps the loneliest part of all is feeling like the drugs are your only friends when your real friends are sitting at your side staring at you and wondering why you won’t say a word. It’s kind of hard to talk when you’re that far gone.”

- Former benzo addict Ashley Zlatopolsky, Salon Magazine, 2015

Signs of Xanax abuse may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Light-headedness
  • Sleeping for extended periods of time
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Sluggishness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Delirium
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizures during withdrawal
  • Vertigo
  • Impaired coordination
  • Weakness
  • No longer engaging in former activities
  • Legal consequences
  • Missing school or work
  • Isolation

Xanax is often abused alongside other drugs, primarily opioids and alcohol. Combining Xanax with other substances can result in serious side effects, like respiratory arrest, coma and even death. Symptoms of abuse will vary by person depending on the combination of drugs taken.

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The Dangers of Xanax

Xanax can be very dangerous when taken in large doses and/or in combination with alcohol or other drugs. When mixed with alcohol, even a small dose of Xanax can be fatal because of the possibility of respiratory failure, serious injury, and coma caused by combining two central nervous system depressants.

Because Xanax is a sedative, there is a risk of automobile or machinery accidents due to decreased alertness and response time. If a large dose of Xanax is consumed, the user may experience severe sedation lasting up to several days. This can put the user in serious danger if they are sedated in a dangerous environment.

Prolonged use of Xanax can cause serious side effects, some of which may be permanent. Dangerous side effects include:

  • Depression
  • Delirium
  • Aggression and impulsivity
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Increased risk of dementia
  • Psychosis

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Recognizing a Xanax Addiction

Xanax can be habit-forming, especially when someone believes they cannot manage the stress in their life without it. Even those who take Xanax as prescribed can develop an addiction. Tolerance to Xanax builds quickly, leading to more frequent and larger dosing.

A person addicted to Xanax will exhibit certain physical, psychological and behavioral symptoms, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Requiring more of the drug to feel its effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Manic type moods
  • Memory problems
  • Concentration problems
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of interest in normal daily activities
  • Strong cravings for the drug
  • Avoiding tasks that require sustained attention
  • Strained relationships with family and friends
  • Financial problems due to excessive spending on the drug
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There is a distinct difference between Xanax abuse and Xanax addiction. With recreational use of Xanax, the drug is typically abused for a particular event, like a party. The individual may combine Xanax with alcohol or other drugs to achieve the desired buzz. Generally, these people can quit taking the drug without severe side effects. People who abuse Xanax recreationally still have some control over their lives and their drug use.

When chronic use of Xanax leads to both a physical and psychological dependence on the drug, that individual has an addiction.

Someone with an addiction to Xanax will need it to function normally. They are no longer in control of their drug use, and that can be seen in nearly all aspects of their life.

I was manipulative, cunning and selfish. I learned how to lie through my teeth so well that lying to get what I wanted (drugs, mostly) became as natural as breathing. I stole from stores and pawned jewelry for drug money. When I disappeared into the deeper holes of my addiction, I told my friends and family I was sick and couldn’t leave the house, but in reality, I had passed out in the bathtub high….How do you know when you’ve hit rock bottom? Maybe it’s the day you finally realize your life is a disaster.

- Former benzo addict Ashley Zlatopolsky, Salon Magazine, 2015

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Intervention and Next Steps

Many people who develop an addiction to Xanax are unaware they have a problem. Others may suspect they are becoming dependent on the drug, but are in denial about the severity of their dependence.

It is important to approach someone about their Xanax addiction carefully, so they will be responsive to your concerns and not become defensive. Xanax can cause aggression, rage and agitation in the user, making it very important that you do not confront them out of anger or while alone.

A successful intervention relies on a calm, professional approach and results in the Xanax user agreeing to get help for their addiction.

It may be best to enlist the services of a professional interventionist who can guide you in the process of confronting a loved one about their drug problem. Interventionists are trained in dealing with the addicted mind. They know the typical responses of addicts, so they can prepare family members for various outcomes. An intervention should be well planned in advance, with the interventionist doing research into the family dynamics to help determine the best course of action.

Rehab for Xanax Addiction

Once someone has a Xanax addiction, they shouldn’t stop taking the drug “cold turkey.” Addiction experts recommend the user be placed on a medically supervised tapering program to slowly wean them off the drug. Quitting the drug abruptly can lead to serious health effects, including seizures. As such, it is always recommended for those overcoming a Xanax addiction to start with a medical detox.

Those with a moderate to severe Xanax addiction will benefit from the high level of care provided in inpatient treatment centers. An outpatient program may be a suitable option for those with mild Xanax addictions.

For help finding a treatment program for Xanax addiction, contact a treatment provider today.

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