Use this guide to learn how to recognize a Xanax addiction and what to consider when looking for a rehab.
Table of Contents
1. What is Xanax and How is it Used?
2. Possible Symptoms of Xanax/Alprazolam Use
3. Xanax Dependence
4. Xanax Addiction
5. Potential Symptoms of Xanax Abuse/Addiction
6. The First Phase of Addiction Recovery
7. Continuation in an Addiction Treatment Program
8. Inpatient Options Vs. Outpatient Options
9. Evidence-Based Options for Treatment and Recovery
10. Choosing Your Destination for Addiction Rehab
If you’re addicted to the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, help from knowledgeable recovery specialists should be number one on your list of immediate goals. However, like many people, you may find it difficult to sort through all of your rehab options and make good decisions about where to seek addiction treatment. This is a critical stage, since appropriate care lays the foundation for your ultimate success in rehabilitation.
Fortunately, there are widely accepted standards for the effective treatment of Xanax-related problems. Any program you choose should meet those rehab standards as a bare minimum for consideration. However, to make the most of your recovery efforts, it’s best to select a program that exceeds the norm and provides a higher level of care.
To choose a superior Xanax rehabilitation option, you must know how your substance abuse affects your health. You must also gain an understanding of the most up-to-date forms of addiction treatment. In addition, you must know how to recognize programs that truly represent the cutting edge of what’s available for successful rehab.
Xanax is a well-known, brand-name prescription drug that contains the benzodiazepine
alprazolam as its active ingredient. Like all benzodiazepines, it falls into a larger group of medications classified as tranquilizers, sedative-hypnotics or anxiolytics (anti-anxiety treatments). Tranquilizers, sedatives and anxiolytics produce their effects by slowing down the normal pace of communication inside your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
This slowdown is triggered because Xanax and other benzodiazepines increase your brain’s supply of a chemical known as GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid. Inside your nervous system, this chemical serves as a kind of braking mechanism to prevent overactivity. When GABA levels rise, the rate of nerve signaling inside your brain and spinal cord drops off. The end result is an increased sense of relaxation, calm or sedation (a medical term for reduced agitation or irritability).
From the standpoint of chemical structure, all benzodiazepines look fairly similar. However, even minor details in their structure can affect how they act inside your body. One of the big differences is the speed with which specific types of these medications reach your bloodstream after you take them. Various benzodiazepines also differ in the time it takes to produce a drug effect inside your brain. In addition, these medications differ in how long it takes your body to break them down and get rid of them.
Finally, individual benzodiazepines are used for different medical purposes. Doctors use some of these medications to treat conditions known as anxiety disorders. Other benzodiazepines are used to treat the symptoms of seizure disorders. Patients may also receive a prescription drug of this type as a treatment for severe insomnia or alcohol withdrawal.
Like all alprazolam-based products, Xanax is prescribed for the treatment of various kinds of anxiety disorders. It’s especially indicated for the treatment of panic disorder, an anxiety-based illness marked by recurring panic attacks. You may also receive the medication as a treatment for premenstrual syndrome or clinical depression.Doctors may prescribe Xanax in the form of a standard tablet or an extended-release tablet. Both the standard and extended-relief formulas come in a range of dosage strengths.
Xanax/alprazolam is classified as a fast-to intermediate-acting benzodiazepine. This means that it has an effect on your system relatively soon once consumed. The medication is also eliminated from your system faster than longer-acting tranquilizers and sedatives.
Besides Xanax, there is no other brand-name medication in the U.S. with alprazolam as an active ingredient. However, generic alprazolam products are available. When sold, obtained or used illegally, Xanax and alprazolam may go by street names that include:
- Xannies (also Zannies)
- Xanbars (or Zanbars)
- Blue Footballs
- Totem Poles
Xanax is one of the world’s most widely prescribed medications. Annual prescriptions in the U.S. alone consistently surpass 20 million. No other benzodiazepine approaches this level of use.
Use of Xanax or other alprazolam products can lead to the onset of a variety of side effects. The most common symptoms include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Painful joints
- Unexplained changes in your weight
- Altered sexual performance or sex drive
- Concentration problems
- An irritable mental state
- Unusual talkativeness
- Urination problems
- Increased or decreased saliva output
- Unexplained alterations in your normal appetite
These symptoms only warrant medical attention if they become intense or persist instead of fading away.
Other possible symptoms of Xanax use are always viewed as medically serious. Potential problems here include:
- Loss of your normal ability to balance or coordinate your movements
- Convulsions or seizures
- A confused mental state
- Unexplained alterations of your normal mood or behavior
- A depressed mental state
- Disrupted memory
- Severe rashes on your skin
- Shortness of breath
- Thoughts of self-harm
- Active suicidal behavior
Immediate attention is needed to address these symptoms.
Xanax/alprazolam does not carry the same elevated overdose risks as longer-acting benzodiazepines, which can accumulate in your system over time. However, overdoses are still possible. Symptoms you may experience during such an episode include a confused mental state, loss of normal body coordination, sleepiness and unconsciousness. A severe Xanax overdose can kill you.
Your risks for overdosing on Xanax rise substantially if you combine alprazolam with alcohol or an opioid drug or medication. That’s true because these substances also slow down your central nervous system. If this activity decline passes a certain point, you can stop breathing or experience other life-threatening symptoms. Xanax and other benzodiazepines play a role in close to one out of every three opioid overdoses.
Even when you take Xanax/alprazolam for a short-period of time at prescribed amounts, you can become dependent on the medication. From a medical perspective, dependence occurs when your brain has accepted a given street drug or prescription drug as a normal part of its chemical makeup. If you stop taking the medication at this point, you will likely experience symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal. Withdrawal can also be triggered if you make significant reductions in your established alprazolam intake. Your risks for dependence generally increase if you take more than 4 mg of this prescription drug for longer than three months.
The most serious potential symptom of Xanax/alprazolam withdrawal is seizures. Chances of developing seizures are greatest in a two- to three-day period following complete stoppage of medication intake. Other symptoms you may experience include:
- Increased sweating
- Muscle tremors
- Muscle cramps or twitches
- Unusual light or sound sensitivity
- Loose stools
- An altered sense of smell
- Concentration problems
- Blurry vision
- A depressed mental state
- Uncharacteristic acts of aggression
- An irritable or nervous state of mind
- Unexplained appetite loss and weight loss
- Abnormal nerve sensations (e.g., burning, tingling, numbness or pain) in your feet or hands
It’s important to know that you can develop Xanax or generic alprazolam dependence and experience withdrawal without being addicted. Dependence differs from addiction because it’s a medically manageable condition. If any problems arise, your doctor can make treatment adjustments that help keep you functional and stable. Proper care will also help you avoid developing any issues with Xanax withdrawal.
Unlike dependence, Xanax addiction is marked by an uncontrolled and clearly damaging pattern of alprazolam use. Some people develop addictions to the drug even when taking it according to their doctor’s orders. However, many others abuse the medication in one way or another.
If you don’t have a prescription for Xanax or its generic equivalent, any amount of intake qualifies as a form of medication abuse. If you have a current prescription, you can abuse alprazolam by taking it in excessive amounts at the same time and/or taking it too often.
Xanax addiction is one of many possible forms of an illness known as sedative, hypnotic or anxiolytic use disorder. Terms for the disorder also cover cases of life-disrupting alprazolam abuse that don’t involve clinical addiction.
There are 11 possible symptoms of this form of Xanax abuse/addiction. To meet the minimal terms for making a diagnosis, at least two of these symptoms must affect you within the space of 365 days. Things that doctors and addiction specialists look for include:
- Recurring consumption of excessive doses of Xanax/alprazolam
- Recurring incidents of overly frequent Xanax/alprazolam intake
- Lack of change in a pattern of prescription drug use that you know to be the source of damaging mental and/or physical alterations
- Lack of change in a pattern of prescription drug use that you know to be the source of damaged personal or social relationships
- A switch to Xanax abuse as a preferred form of leisure or recreation
- The appearance of Xanax cravings while you’re engaged in other activities
- ·Spending large chunks of your day obtaining or taking the prescription drug, or recovering from its effects
- A habit of taking alprazolam in circumstances that put your health or the health of others at physical risk
- Diminishing drug effects (i.e., tolerance) from any habitual dose of the prescription drug
- A level of medication intake that leaves you unable or unwilling to fulfill important responsibilities
- Appearance of the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal if you lower or halt your Xanax intake
Your doctor may categorize your abuse/addiction symptoms as mild, moderate or severe. Mild cases involve no more than three of the diagnosable symptoms, while moderate cases involve four or five symptoms. The number of symptoms in severely affected people can range from six to 11.
The first phase of successful Xanax rehab is detoxification (detox) in a medically supervised center or facility. No matter what kind of substance you abuse, detox is designed to allow you to decrease your intake in a safe manner. This gradual process has no set timeline. However, since alprazolam gets eliminated from your system at a fairly rapid pace, Xanax detox takes less time than it would with a longer-acting benzodiazepine.
Prescription drugs are used to ease the detox-related effects of certain kinds of substance problems. However, this is not the case with alprazolam and other benzodiazepines. Instead, your addiction treatment and rehabilitation will center on the gradual reduction of your medication intake. This gradual approach to Xanax detox helps you steer clear of seizures and other possible withdrawal symptoms. While you go through detox, your doctor may also switch you from Xanax to Valium (diazepam), which is used because it has a relatively small drug effect inside your system.
Complete drug abstinence is often the goal of treatment for problems related to addiction. This means that detox continues until the substance in question has completely left your body. However, doctors who treat alprazolam-related problems don’t always view abstinence as their goal. Instead, they may try to return their patients to a controlled, beneficial pattern of benzodiazepine use. This is true because Xanax or other benzodiazepines may still provide the best possible treatment for ongoing anxiety disorders or other health issues.
The standard next step for all people who complete Xanax detox is treatment in a center for addiction rehabilitation. There are important reasons why follow-up rehab is the universal recommendation.
First, when you enter a Xanax rehab program, you reduce the odds that you will relapse back into a pattern of excessive benzodiazepine consumption. That’s due, in part, to lack of availability of a substance quantity that supports abuse. The addiction treatment you receive in a Xanax rehabilitation center also plays a major role in reducing relapse risks. In addition, when you’re enrolled in an addiction program, you have a greater chance of staying away from situations and circumstances that make you more likely to abuse alprazolam.
If you suffer from the worst possible effects of sedative, hypnotic or anxiolytic use disorder, treatment may begin in a hospital setting. However, most people start their active rehab in an outpatient center or an inpatient center. Outpatient treatment does not require you to live at a facility while receiving care. Instead, you can stay at home while making periodic visits to the site of your program. This option is usually reserved for people in recovery from mild Xanax addiction.
Inpatient programs take place at a residential rehab center. Throughout the timeline of this type of active addiction treatment, you will live onsite and participate on a daily, structured basis. A residential approach to care gives doctors and support staff a round-the-clock ability to assess your condition. It also gives them the opportunity to identify any complications and provide immediate help for emergencies. In addition, participation in inpatient Xanax rehabilitation makes it easier for your doctor to fine-tune every aspect of your recovery efforts.
Moderate and severe cases of Xanax addiction are usually best addressed through rehabilitation with the inpatient model of care. The same recommendation also applies to most people who have significant mental health issues in addition to alprazolam-related problems. Even if you only have mild abuse/addiction symptoms, you may do better in inpatient rehab treatment. Reasons for making this choice include inadequate recovery support in your home environment and a desire to avoid daily sources of stress during recovery.
As with benzodiazepine detox, prescription drugs do not play a prominent role in active rehabilitation and recovery from alprazolam abuse. Instead, inpatient and outpatient rehab centers rely on a mixture of basic medical support and behavioral therapy. Therapies in this category get their name because they aim to help you undo damaging behaviors and replace them with alternatives that support your health and well-being.
Three therapy options for benzodiazepine addiction are supported by solid, research-based evidence: motivation-based treatments, psychoeducation and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). Motivation-based approaches like motivational enhancement therapy help you get clear about the reasons for participating in substance rehab. They can also help you maintain your drive for a successful recovery during the inevitable ups and downs of treatment.
In psychoeducation, you and your family members increase your understanding of how addiction and addiction rehab treatment work. This approach also gives you encouragement to act as your own advocate and vent any frustrations about what’s happening to you. In addition, psychoeducation can provide important reinforcement for other forms of rehab and therapy you receive.
CBT is one of the most widely used therapy options for people recovering from substance problems. In its beginning stages, this form of counseling focuses on improving your understanding of how Xanax abuse/addiction became part of your life. As the therapy continues, you will learn effective tools and coping mechanisms for recognizing and avoiding reactions that contribute to you addiction-focused behaviors.
With all this information at your disposal, you can now begin to determine which rehab centers meet your needs for recovery from Xanax addiction. When compiling your list of options, include only those programs that follow the accepted standard of care for benzodiazepine-related problems. That includes medical support and the use of evidence-based behavioral therapy. In all cases, Xanax rehab treatment should be administered by doctors and staff members with provable expertise in addiction care.
When you ask a recovery center how treatment begins, the answer should always be a thorough assessment of your addiction symptoms and your physical and mental health. The understanding gained from such an assessment is crucial to the creation of an appropriate Xanax rehabilitation plan. Without that understanding, treatment would be little more than a guessing game.
In addition to grounding themselves in the accepted basics of effective care, rehab programs on your list may offer other, customized treatment options. Such offerings are most common in holistically oriented centers that see you as a complete person with unique needs. By avoiding cookie-cutter solutions, they can substantially enhance the usefulness of the time you spend in recovery. Stress management and relaxation techniques often form the core of a holistic rehab approach. However, the range of options may be far greater at any given high-quality facility.
Ultimately, you are responsible for your journey to sustainable addiction rehabilitation and recovery. No one else can take that obligation from you. However, by making the best possible choice for Xanax rehab, you lighten your load as much as possible. With so much at stake, it helps to know that you have experts in your corner every step of the way.