Xanax Addiction and Abuse: The side effects and how to get help

Although certain medications commonly used to combat the symptoms of mental health conditions such as anxiety, panic disorder and depression can be extremely effective, it can often be a double edge sword. 

While it’s true that medication can help to relieve the unpleasant feelings that often accompany anxiety, drugs like Xanax (particularly if medically unsupervised) can lead to all kinds of hidden dangers such as addiction.

What is Xanax and what are the benefits of taking it?

Alprazolam is the medical term used to describe Xanax and is often prescribed by doctors to help patients with severe anxiety, depression and a wide range of panic disorders.

Similar to tranquilisers, Xanax offers relief to those experiencing high levels of anxiety.

While it is a prescribed drug, Xanax is also a controlled drug, making it illegal to take without a prescription.

Since Xanax is classified as a controlled drug, those using it should follow their doctor’s instructions carefully.

Drugs are controlled for a reason, meaning that if used in the wrong way the implications can be severe.

While Xanax offers help and relief for symptoms of depression, it can also be a habit-forming drug, meaning that it can lead to dependency and addiction.

Misuse of the drug can lead to overdose, addiction and even death.

This is why doctors usually prescribe Xanax for short periods and follow up with patients after the review period has ended.

Can anyone take Xanax?

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Xanax is a medically controlled substance and doctors must understand their patient’s medical history very clearly before prescribing it. 

Those with conditions such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), sleep apnea, alcohol or drug problems, kidney or liver disease, depression or suicidal thoughts, and those who suffer seizures should inform their doctor if they have any of the above conditions before being prescribed Xanax.

According to Drugs.com, those who are pregnant should not take Xanax and the same goes for women who are breastfeeding. 

Due to the addictive nature of Xanax, unborn babies are at risk of dependency on the drug.

Xanax can also cause birth defects and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms for babies if the mother takes the drug while pregnant.

The Side Effects of Xanax Abuse

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that self-medicating can be extremely harmful especially when it comes to controlled drugs.

Unfortunately, people often self-medicate by purchasing drugs illegally from street dealers and on the internet. And with the emergence of the dark web – illegal drug purchasing has soared.

There are several dangers associated with Xanax abuse including:

Taking Xanax with other drugs

Combining Xanax with other drugs can lead to several physical side effects such as:

  • Feeling drowsy
  • Disorientation (which often puts people at risk of injury such as falling and having accidents)
  • Being incoherent and clumsy

When taken with other drugs, Xanax suppresses the nervous system, which in turn, can have a serious impact on respiratory and cardiac function. This can compromise a person’s ability to breathe, it can also lead to a loss of consciousness and in some cases, death.

Purchasing Xanax Illegally

Similar to any other drug, buying Xanax from illegal sources often means that the strength of the drug is unknown, there is also the danger of the drug having more lethal strengths, and the potential for it to contain other unknown dangerous substances – all of which can lead to overdose and death.

The lack of knowledge around illegal drugs makes the impact of taking them unpredictable as there is no telling what kind of substance a person is putting into their body.

Xanax when prescribed by a doctor, is managed accordingly and this transparency reduces the dangers of taking it quite significantly.

Snorting Xanax

A good example of prescription drug abuse is when people snort Xanax. When taking a drug (particularly if it’s long-term) the euphoria the person once experienced is no longer as intense.

To get that ‘high’ they crave, people will often increase their drug usage or change the way they take it. In this example, inhaling Xanax through the nose, by first grinding the pill into powder, and then using either a tube or other device to snort through the nose. 

When people snort Xanax, they are abusing the drug in ways that can be extremely dangerous to their health. When snorted, the substance goes straight into a person’s bloodstream and bypasses the digestive system making the drug much more potent and highly addictive.

 Some of the physical problems that can arise out of snorting Xanax include:

  • Sinus Infections
  • Sinus Inflammation
  • Lung Infections
  • Blocked Airways

Xanax and Addiction

Addiction drug

If Xanax is misused in any way, it can result in addiction. Those who use it over longer periods often develop resilience towards the drug and will either increase their usage or abuse the drug to get ‘high’.

Physical and psychological dependence, particularly for those misusing the drug, will eventually lead to some form of dangerous drug addiction. Symptoms of Xanax addiction include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Double vision
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Twitching muscles and pain in the muscles
  • Chest pain and heart palpitations

Getting Help 

Rebirth and recovery

While taking Xanax as a prescribed drug can provide relief for symptoms of anxiety and depression, there is also a wide range of therapies that can help with these unpleasant symptoms.

However, if you feel as though you (or someone you know) is in danger of Xanax addiction (or any other drug addiction) then you must seek help as soon as possible. 

Counselling is also extremely helpful in addressing any underlying psychological issues that might have led to the addiction in the first place such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Psychotherapy. 

There is a wide range of Residential Treatment Programs designed to help people suffering from addiction. These addiction programs help to identify any triggers and self-limiting thoughts and beliefs which allows an individual the chance to understand why they might have turned to addiction in the first place. 

Supervised Medical Detox Services are also extremely beneficial for those needing to get clean from substance abuse. Many rehabilitation centres offer supervised detox programs which include detox management, therapy and aftercare support.

12 Step Programs are designed to combat addiction and are especially helpful when it comes to relapse prevention.

Aftercare Support is important following residential treatment for substance abuse as it can help individuals to manage themselves better and understand what their triggers are. 

David Scourfield

David Scourfield is a Camino Recovery team member since 2017, focused on facilitating communication with Clinical and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive understanding of Camino's program.

Combining his marketing skills and lived experiences, he joined Camino in 2017, contributing to external publications and the Camino website. With a strong belief in solidarity during the recovery process, David helps clients build support networks by connecting them with others in recovery.

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