The Dangers of Long Term Use of Xanax
When struggling with the symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks finding relief with the aid of a medication like Xanax can be a godsend. Xanax is a sedative in the benzodiazepine class of drugs that is very popular due to its swift relaxation effects. Unfortunately, it is also a drug with a high abuse potential. Because of the body’s ability to quickly build up tolerance to the effects of Xanax, the drug can often lead to dependence and addiction.
Xanax pills are available in a variety of distinctive shapes and potencies. The Xanax bar is a rectangular shaped version of the drug that is scored to divide the medication into four sections, for a total of 2mg. There has been a steady increase in individuals accessing Xanax bars for recreational use, in addition to anxiety patients who have had to ramp up their prescription potency to accommodate increased tolerance. Both groups risk developing a serious substance use disorder.
Once an individual has acquired a Xanax bar addiction they may mistakenly believe it is safe to just stop using the drug cold turkey. This is a misconception that can rapidly lead to a serious health emergency as the body reacts to the sudden absence of the drug. Instead, it is always advised that Xanax detox and withdrawal involve a medically managed tapering schedule, followed up with a comprehensive addiction recovery program.
About Xanax Bars
Of all the variations of Xanax (alprazolam) available, Xanax bars provide the highest concentration. These 2 mg bars offer the most potent dosage of the medication, which is sought for the treatment of panic attacks or ongoing anxiety disorder symptoms. The bars are scored, allowing them to be broken into .5 mg doses, which allows for the patient to adjust the dosing to the present symptoms they are experiencing. Xanax bars are shaped as a rectangle, are stamped “Xanax” on top and have “2” stamped on the bottom. Xanax bars are blue, yellow, white, and green in color.
Recreational abuse of Xanax bars makes them readily available for sale on the street. Street names for Xanax bars include “planks,” “zanies,” “z-bars,” and “bars.” Individuals who abuse the drug will ingest the large 2mg pills sublingually, allowing them to dissolve under the tongue for the most powerful effect. However, the substance may be administered by snorting a crushed Xanax bar or by injecting the drug.
Effects of Xanax Bars
When someone ingests a full 2mg Xanax bar they will experience an intense euphoric effect. Xanax, like other benzodiazepines, impacts the central nervous system by slowing down respiratory and heart rate functions. The sedating effects of Xanax bars might include:
- Deep relaxation
- Problems with coordination
- Difficulty speaking
- Memory problems
Xanax is a quick-acting drug that can be effective in as soon as 10-15 minutes, but also has a very short half-life of only 30 minutes. This means that the effects are swift and powerful, but then wear off quickly. This is one of the reasons Xanax is so addictive, as it has a reinforcing property that can lead the individual to continue dosing in search of the desired effects.
Dangers of Xanax Bars Abuse and Addiction
Any substance that alters a person’s perceptions is prone to abuse and addiction, and Xanax bars are no exception. Regardless of the dosage of Xanax being consumed, this drug should be approached with caution, as tolerance will increase rapidly.
A recent review of Xanax published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine [Nassima Ait-Daoud, M.D. et al.] entitled “A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal,” delves into the risks associated with Xanax. In the article the authors reference data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that reports Xanax is related to more emergency room visits for drug misuse that other benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam, diazepam, and clonazepam. In addition, the authors cite CDC data, which state that alprazolam had the highest death rate increase of all benzodiazepines and the second highest overall death rate at 234%, compared with 168% for benzodiazepines as a class.
Not only do the pharmacological properties of Xanax bars lend themselves to abuse, but also there is evidence that Xanax causes a significant increase in dopamine unique among the benzodiazepine drug class. This only adds additional support to the belief that, among benzodiazepines, Xanax is the drug of choice among individuals who abuse it.
As a class, benzodiazepines are not intended for long-term use, due to the highly addictive properties of these drugs. Over time, there can be adverse long-term effects, such as cognitive impairment, constant sedation, fatigue, depression, mood swings, sexual dysfunction, sleepwalking, and seizures.
Xanax Bars Overdose
Someone who is not already taking Xanax on a regular basis may find their central nervous system becoming overwhelmed if they ingest a 2 mg Xanax bar. Increasing the risk of a Xanax overdose exponentially are the added affects of taking another central nervous system depressant, such as alcohol, opioids, or other types of benzodiazepines, as these would enhance the effects of both substances. Signs of a Xanax overdose might include:
- Slowed or shallow breathing
- Blue tint to lips or fingernails
- Snoring or gurgling sounds
- Floppy limbs
- Slowed heart rate
- Unresponsive to stimuli
Recently, Xanax bars purchased on the street have been found to contain fentanyl, which can have deadly effects.
Getting Help for Xanax Dependence or Addiction
According to a study published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors in 2011, up to 44% of those who take Xanax regularly will develop chemical dependence or become addicted to the drug. In fact, in 2012 there were more than 17,000 admissions to addiction treatment for benzodiazepine addiction.
There are often co-occurring mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression that only compound the complexity of the Xanax problem. Going through treatment without addressing the mental health issue will only doom the effort to failure. The underlying mental health disorder must be treated right alongside the Xanax addiction in order to achieve a lasting recovery. To that end, many rehabs now integrate holistic activities into the program that can be beneficial for someone recovering from co-occurring Xanax addiction and anxiety disorder, as these activities help facilitate relaxation while reducing stress levels.
Importance of Medically Managed Detox
Benzodiazepines work by spurring on GABA production, which is an important neurotransmitter involved in the brain’s balancing act. When GABA is continually released through this chemical intervention, versus naturally, the brain will begin to produce less of the GABA naturally. This means that when someone abruptly stops taking the Xanax their body and brain react with intense instability.
Instead, the recommended course of breaking free of a Xanax addiction is through a medically supervised tapering program. The detox specialists understand the dangers of benzodiazepine withdrawal and will design a schedule to incrementally wean the individual off of the drug. Although withdrawal symptoms will still be experienced, they are controlled, due to the tapering and the medical interventions provided by the medical detox team. Detoxing off of Xanax can take anywhere from 7-14 days depending on the length of time the person was addicted to the drug, and what their typical daily dosing was.
Symptoms of withdrawal during Xanax detox may include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Increased anxiety, panic attacks
- Heart palpitations
- Elevated heart rate
- Elevated respiratory rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Shaking hands
- Jerky movements
- Difficulty concentrating
- Grand mal seizures
Throughout the Xanax detox process the individual will be closely monitored. The severity of the symptoms will depend on the accuracy of the tapering dosing, as well as the length of history of the Xanax bars addiction.
Treatment Options for Xanax Addiction
Treatment for overcoming a Xanax addiction is available in either outpatient or residential settings. Which format is chosen is usually determined by the seriousness and length of history of the Xanax problem. Both residential and outpatient programming may last several months, again depending on the severity of the addiction.
Recovery from a Xanax addiction is possible when the individual makes fundamental changes in their ability to cope with stress, when a coexisting anxiety disorder is better managed, and when dysfunctional thought patterns are replaced with healthy ones. To accomplish this, after completing detox the individual will embark in a multi-dimensional recovery program that contains the following basic treatment elements:
- Individual psychotherapy. Evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and motivational interviewing are provided in one-on-one sessions with a psychotherapist. The therapist will also guide the individual towards examining underlying emotional issues, and learn to identify self-defeating thoughts and attitudes that only keep the individual trapped in the addiction cycle.
- Group therapy. A licensed clinician will guide small group meetings, introducing discussion topics and facilitating productive participation among the group. Group sessions encourage open and supportive communication as a source of peer support while engaged in treatment.
- Psychosocial skills. New coping strategies will be introduced and practiced in treatment and become important tools for managing emotions in recovery. Also, individuals will be guided toward creating detailed a relapse prevention plan, which becomes an invaluable tool for managing triggers.
- 12-step groups. Recovery meetings, such as A.A., N.A., or SMART Recovery play an important supportive role in recovery.
- Recreational therapy. Understanding and restoring the mind-body connection is an essential component of Xanax recovery. There are several experiential activities that offer individuals the opportunity to deepen their personal journey. These activities include yoga, art therapy, meditation, and outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, beach walks, or visits to the gym. Physical activity and spending time outdoors is highly encouraged.
When Xanax dependence or addiction has taken over and severely impacted daily life, it is critical to take the proactive steps to get help in overcoming the problem. With patience and commitment, a Xanax or Xanax bars addiction is highly treatable.
LifeSync Provides Customized Dependency Treatment for Xanax Bars Addiction
LifeSync Malibu is a leading addiction and dual diagnosis addiction recovery program in a private estate near Los Angeles in California. LifeSync Malibu sets itself apart by having a physician-led treatment team, ensuring that all treatment measures are evidence-based and tailored specifically to the individual’s unique recovery needs. With the spectacular Malibu setting aiding in the healing process, individuals in recovery from Xanax bars will enjoy a luxury rehab experience. For more information about our innovative program, please contact the team today at (866) 491-4426.