Side Effects Of Xanax From Long-Term Use And Abuse
Long-term use and abuse of Xanax can lead to overdose, dependence and addiction, as well as adverse effects on an individual’s mental and physical wellbeing.
Xanax is the brand name of alprazolam, a benzodiazepine drug prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders. This sedative-hypnotic substance targets the brain chemical responsible for relaxation and enhances its effects. Xanax depresses the central nervous system to reduce restlessness, decrease brain activity and slow breathing.
As a result, people with high anxiety feel calmer after taking Xanax. Even those without an anxiety disorder may enjoy the pleasant feeling that Xanax produces. Xanax is a fast-acting drug that provides quick relief, which leads many individuals to abuse it.
Some people may use Xanax for years in order to combat anxiety, whether or not their doctor has approved it. An individual may continue to take Xanax as prescribed, or they may take more, hoping it will have a greater effect. People without a prescription may obtain Xanax from someone who does or purchase it online.
As with any prescription drug, Xanax comes with a risk of adverse side effects that is increased with excessive use and abuse. Side effects of prolonged Xanax use may include:
- dry mouth
- blurred vision
- nausea or vomiting
- weight and appetite changes
- drowsiness or sedation
- difficulty concentrating
- irritability or depression
- skin rash, yellow skin or eyes
- trouble breathing
More serious side effects that can occur with long-term Xanax use affect the way a person thinks and acts. Some individuals may experience:
- visual or auditory hallucinations
- mania (increased energy and talkativeness)
- violent or aggressive behavior
- suicidal thoughts and actions
Perhaps the most deadly side effects of long-term Xanax use and abuse are seizures. This is an intense brain disturbance that may cause the body to spasm. Seizures can result in brain damage or death if they occur repeatedly or for last a long period of time. They are not only a risk of Xanax use, but can also be caused by Xanax withdrawal.
Xanax Dependence And Withdrawal
Even with recommended use, the body develops a tolerance to Xanax (alprazolam). This means that, over time, the effects of the drug become less intense. An individual must take more Xanax to have the same effect.
This is often the first step toward physical dependence, a condition in which the body needs Xanax to function normally. If someone is physically dependent on Xanax, they will experience withdrawal symptoms such as muscle cramps, vomiting, sweating, tremors, convulsions or seizures. Withdrawal from Xanax can be life-threatening.
Xanax has a short half-life, which means that its effects do not last long. The time period between doses of Xanax may cause someone to experience mild withdrawal symptoms. This leads some people to take Xanax more frequently than prescribed in an effort to avoid unpleasant effects. Unfortunately, this is how many people become addicted to Xanax.
Though Xanax is the most popular anti-anxiety medication in the United States, many doctors are hesitant to prescribe it, especially for long periods of time. Some may initially approve Xanax use in individuals with panic attacks then switch them to a drug with a longer-lasting effect for anxiety, hoping to lessen the risk of dependence and addiction.
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If a person takes too much Xanax in a small time frame, they could experience an overdose that results in drowsiness, confusion, impaired coordination, slow reflexes, coma or death.
This does not only result from taking too much Xanax at once. Since benzodiazepines like Xanax are stored in body fat, they can remain in someone’s system for a long time. With repeated Xanax use, the drug can build up in the body and increase the risk of overdose.
Taking Xanax with other central nervous system depressants presents a high overdose risk. Opioids and alcohol produce some of the same effects as Xanax, and when these effects are compounded, they may be fatal. Mixing central nervous system depressants can result in extreme drowsiness, respiratory depression (trouble breathing), coma or death.
Though less common and less effective, some people take Xanax by snorting (insufflating) or injecting it. These methods can also raise the likelihood of overdose, as the drug gets into the bloodstream quicker and it is more difficult to predict its effects.
Effects Of Xanax On The Body And Brain
Since Xanax is a central nervous system depressant, it generally reduces heart rate. However, some people have experienced tachycardia (rapid heart rate) and palpitations (fluttering in the heart) when taking Xanax. These cardiovascular effects may also occur when someone stops taking Xanax, as the body’s reaction to increased anxiety levels.
Some people experience elevated liver enzymes when using Xanax long-term. This may be a sign of liver inflammation, a condition that can lead to or result from damage to liver tissue. Liver damage is even more likely if Xanax is combined with alcohol.
Long-term Xanax use and abuse may also cause cognitive impairment, especially regarding long-term memory. A study in the British Medical Journal found that prolonged Xanax use increases a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive mental disorder indicated by poor memory and thinking skills.
Dangers Of Xanax Addiction
Xanax works by increasing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. The more that Xanax is used, the less the brain regulates this chemical on its own. This causes fluctuating rates of GABA, which is why seizures may occur from either abusing Xanax or abruptly stopping Xanax use.
When a person stops taking Xanax, the brain has to readjust to producing GABA naturally. This can mean a period of time in which brain activity is increased and anxiety is higher because the brain is no longer as efficient at self-regulating. This is what leads people to develop a Xanax addiction.
While physical dependence is the body’s reaction to prolonged Xanax use, an addiction develops in the mind. Changes in brain function can cause a person to crave Xanax and continue taking it even when it no longer makes them feel good.
Addiction is a chronic mental disease that can take over a person’s life. When someone loses control over their drug use, Xanax becomes the most important thing in their life. Their priorities are realigned, and the result is often detrimental to their relationships, productivity, and health.
Find Treatment For Xanax Addiction
Our comprehensive treatment programs for Xanax addiction begin with medically assisted detoxification. Medical professionals monitor each individual through the withdrawal process, watching their vital signs and administering medication if needed. Once Xanax is cleared from a person’s system, they can begin treatment for addiction.
The compassionate staff at Addiction Campuses works with every person to create a unique treatment plan for their needs. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to addiction. A combination of evidence-based treatment methods is the most effective way to ensure a full recovery.
Behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, recreation, nutrition, and art therapy are used in many of our addiction treatment programs. We believe that focusing only on the addiction is not enough. True healing involves the whole person—mind, body, and spirit.
To learn more about Xanax addiction treatment, speak with one of our specialists today.
- CNN — Expert Q&A: What are the long-term brain effects of Xanax?
- thebmj — Benzodiazepine use and risk of Alzheimer’s disease: a case-control study
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: DailyMed — Label: Xanax – Alprazolam Tablet