Xanax Abuse and Addiction

Xanax is a commonly used prescription drug belonging to benzodiazepine family. Generically, it is known as alprazolam. It is widely used for the treatment of anxiety, panic disorder and insomnia. It is classified as schedule IV substance by FDA which means it is a legally accepted substance for medical use but it has a potential to develop dependence. Xanax is the most commonly prescribed psychotic medication in United States. When used for medical purposes, the tolerance for the drug is developed fairly quickly leading the patient to the usage of more and more drug. Some Xanax addicts may take up to 20-30 pills per day.

What is Xanax?

Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam which is a drug used for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax was originally developed as a less addictive alternative to barbiturates. It is a central nervous system depressant which means it works by depressing brain activities or by reducing brain excitability. It affects GABA receptors of the brain and produces relaxing effects.

The drug may affect different people differently. Some people are able to feel the effects just after taking a small dose of the drug while the other may need higher doses to feel the effects. At very high doses, some people may even experience euphoric effects.

Xanax is a legal drug in United States to be used for medicinal purposes but it is only available with a valid prescription. Apart from Xanax, alprazolam is sold under a number of other brand names as well. Most of the Xanax addicts start taking it for therapeutic purposes but end up becoming addicted to it. Women are more likely to develop Xanax addiction since they are prescribed the drug more frequently.

A number of street names are given to Xanax by its abusers. If you hear a loved one saying one of these words while talking to someone, look out for the signs of Xanax addiction.

  • Xannies
  • Z bars
  • Bars
  • Zanbars/xanbars
  • Upjohn
  • White boys
  • White girls
  • Yellow boys
  • Bicycle parts
  • School bus
  • Bricks
  • Planks
  • Benzos
  • Blue footballs
  • Handlebars

What are the uses of Xanax?

Xanax is a medically approved drug for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and insomnia. It can also be prescribed for the treatment of various phobias and depression. The relaxing effects produced by the drug can be fairly addictive.

It is also used as a sleep aid by several people. Though it can induce sleep, but the quality of the sleep is lowered. Sometimes, Xanax is prescribed to be used on need basis and not regularly. For example, patients can take the drug when they feel like they are about to have a panic attack. It is a fast acting drug with a short half life so it produces its effects fairly quickly.

Most of the Xanax addicts start taking it for therapeutic purposes but end up becoming addicted to it without even realizing it. Xanax addiction can be difficult to detect since the patient thinks he is taking it to treat his medical condition.

Dosage amounts for Xanax:

Xanax is manufactured in a number of different potencies usually ranging between 0.25 to 2 mg. Doctors start the treatment by prescribing low amounts. Depending upon the progress of the patient, the dose can be further increased. It is recommended to not to exceed a maximum of 4 mg of alprazolam during a 24 hour period. However, up to 10 mgs of the drug can be prescribed to be used per day for the treatment of panic disorder.

For sleep aid, low doses like 0.25 to 0.5 mg are used. With time, tolerance for the drug is developed and the people may need higher doses to induce sleep. The quality of sleep is also affected by the use of Xanax.

It is highly unlikely to overdose on Xanax. Some people have reported taking hundreds of milligrams of Xanax without producing any significant side effects. However, the risk of overdosing is significantly increased when it is combined with another drug such as alcohol with is also a CNS depressant.

Why is Xanax addictive?

Like other benzodiazepines, Xanax is an addictive substance. It causes addiction by stimulating the release of increased amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with the feelings of euphoria and pleasure. It also inhibits the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter that controls the activity of dopamine in brain. So when the drug is used, the user feels happy and relaxed and the feelings of anxiety and stress are gone away. When the dopamine surge is significantly increased, some users may even experience euphoria.

With the regular use, the brain becomes habitual to function in the presence of high amounts of dopamine. When Xanax supply is cut off, such high levels of dopamine are not supplied which results into an inability of the brain to function normally. As a result, a number of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms are experienced by the user.

How long does Xanax stay in the system?

Xanax is a fast acting drug and its peak effects are experienced within 1-2 hours of use. It can stay in the system for a few hours before it is cleared off.

How long do benzodiazepines stay in your system?
Length of actionShort-actingintermediateLong-acting
Time they last for2-4 hours12-15 hours10-30 hours

Common Xanax drug interactions:

Xanax is a safe drug when used exactly as prescribed. The risk of its overdose is significantly increased when it is combined with other substances such as alcohol.

  • Combining Xanax with alcohol can lower down the brain activities to such a level that body fails to perform vital activities such as breathing and pumping blood. It happens because both the drugs are CNS depressants so when combined, their effects are reinforced.
  • Same effects are experienced when it is combined with ibuprofen or Nyquil both of which are CNS depressants.
  • Deadly effects are produced when Xanax interacts with certain drugs. It may result into brain cells death.

It is unlikely to overdose on Xanax alone but when it is combined with another drug, its depressant action maybe amplified to fatal levels.

Facts and figures on Xanax abuse:

Prescription medications are most commonly abused in United States. Among benzodiazepines, Xanax is most frequently prescribed medication.

  • About 70% of teens addicted to Xanax acquire it from their home’s medicine cabinet.
  • In 2013, over 50 million prescriptions were written for alprazolam.
  • In 2010, over 124,000 emergency room visits involved recreational use of Xanax.
  • In 2013, 31% of all the prescription drug overdose cases involved Xanax.