Long-Term Side Effects of Xanax

Xanax, a brand name of alprazolam, is commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders. A type of benzodiazepine, research has found it to be highly effective in treating the symptoms of some mental illnesses, but unfortunately, it is also a potentially dangerous side.

Xanax is one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the United States. However, it is extremely addictive, and long-term use can induce adverse effects. Despite this, around 5o million prescriptions are given out each year.

This blog will explore how Xanax can be an effective treatment for mental health issues and how this can quickly change when the drug is misused and abused. Read here to find out about the ins and outs of Xanax.

How Does Xanax Work in Treating Anxiety and Panic Disorders?

Xanax was initially developed as a short-term prescription-only drug. Commonly prescribed for up to six weeks, medical professionals typically favor this course of treatment because of its high quality sedating properties and effectiveness in relieving the emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety disorders. As a popular treatment option, the adverse long-term effects of Xanax are often overlooked.

Xanax is a fast-acting drug that reduces the symptoms of anxiety disorders by suppressing the central nervous system. In turn, it reduces brain activity, restlessness, and the pace of breathing. The drug works by targeting and enhancing the brain chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is associated with relaxation.

The enhancement of GABA relaxes muscles, makes many people feel sleepy, and reduces seizure activity. The effects of the medication can transpire as quickly as 10 to 15 minutes after consumption, hence why it is so popular in treating anxiety disorders.

After taking Xanax, many users report feeling a lot calmer. The pleasant feelings it produces act as a quick relief from mental illnesses such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizure Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder

Any prescription drug that elevates mood or creates a feeling of wellness comes with a high risk of addiction. Xanax is intended for short-term use only, so the long-term effects of Xanax abuse can be detrimental.

Xanax Addiction and Dependency

The euphoric and calming effects of Xanax have seen the drug remain a popular option for those seeking fast relief from feelings associated with anxiety. If a person sees vast improvements after taking the drug, they assume larger doses will create a more significant effect, even if not prescribed by a doctor.

As we have mentioned, Xanax is only intended for a short-term prescription. When the drug is misused, it is likely to lead to Xanax dependency. Over time the body eventually develops a tolerance to Xanax, even if it is taken as advised. As a result, larger quantities of the drug will need to be taken to feel the same intensity.

Xanax has a short half-life, which means that the effects of Xanax do not last long. As the effects wear off, mild withdrawal symptoms similar to feelings of anxiety may arise. This encourages a person to take more of the drug to avoid any unpleasant feelings, which often ignites Xanax addiction and dependency.

However, those prescribed Xanax are not the only ones abusing the drug. Many people acquire Xanax illegally to self-medicate any mental health issues or to take advantage of the calming and euphoric effects for intoxication purposes. Due to the accessibility of prescription drugs for young adults and teens, the dependency rates among these groups are high.

Research has found that Xanax abuse among college students has peaked drastically, with those with mental health disorders abusing the prescription drug at a much higher rate than others. This poses new long-term health risks for those who regularly abuse Xanax and potentially damage their bodies and brains from a young age.

Long-Term Effects of Xanax Abuse

Research has found that Xanax can be successful in helping with anxiety disorders. However, if Xanax is taken for an extended period, severe side effects may emerge.

Xanax affects emotional responses, memory, consciousness, and thought processes by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain. If Xanax is abused for a long time and physical dependence arises, the brain slowly starts to forget how to operate efficiently without the drug.

How Does Xanax Affect the Brain?

Xanax affects the central nervous system by enhancing GABA in the brain, which induces feelings of calmness, relaxation, and sedation even when experiencing stressful situations. However, Xanax abuse can alter how the brain operates.

For example, too much Xanax can cause physical and psychological effects that stem from the brain. Those who abuse Xanax may experience physical problems with speech and balance. More seriously, there is a high risk of damaging brain cells.

Cognitive Problems and Psychological Symptoms

Xanax abuse has been known to make people less aware of risks in day-to-day life as it decreases inhibitions and increases risk-taking. Aggression is also a long-term effect of Xanax abuse as it can cause people to become quickly agitated.

Benzodiazepines, including Xanax, can produce cognitive impairment and cause memory issues and a poor attention span. Research has found that the effects of prolonged Xanax use can increase the risk of developing a progressive mental illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Other psychological issues of abusing Xanax may include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Mania
  • Delirium
  • Psychosis

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person takes larger amounts of Xanax regularly, physical dependence will arise, causing the body to rely on the drug to function normally.

The brain will eventually decrease how much GABA it produces and will depend on the presence of Xanax to increase it. This means when the drug is not taken, Xanax withdrawal symptoms may emerge. These include:

  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Heart palpitations
  • Blurred vision

Seizures

As touched on above, Xanax and other benzodiazepines alter GABA levels found in the brain. At a normal level, GABA causes feelings of energy and excitement. At higher levels, panic disorders, anxiety, and seizures can occur.

As long-term substance abuse can cause Xanax addiction or dependency, suddenly trying to stop taking Xanax can induce rebound insomnia, anxiety, and in worse case scenarios, seizures. This is most common for those who take high doses of the drug.

Liver Damage

People who develop a Xanax addiction or a substance use disorder are at high risk of suffering from a liver injury. Those who use the drug long-term may experience elevated liver enzymes, which are a sign of liver inflammation. This is often the result of liver tissue damage which is more likely if consumed with other drugs or alcohol.

Treatment Options for Long-Term Effects of Xanax Abuse

Reading about the long-term effects of Xanax abuse can be scary, but it is important to remember that help is always available. Many of these long-term effects can be avoided when treatment is obtained via a professional treatment provider.

We recommended a medical detox when first seeking addiction treatment. Detoxing from Xanax should not be attempted alone. Yet, with the right care, many people progress through a long-term treatment plan that assists them on their road to recovery.

The combination of substance abuse treatment and medical detox is most successful in reversing the long-term effects of Xanax.

Contact Us Today

Here at NPAC, we offer a range of comprehensive treatment programs facilitated by outstanding healthcare professionals. Our services enable our clients to focus on their recovery process in a safe and comfortable environment to maintain sobriety.

When you are ready to discuss treatment options and how we can support you or a loved one, we are here for you.

Begin the first day of the rest of your life

To find out more contact our team

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Samantha Kelly​

Director of National Business Development & Admissions Coordinator

I am a dedicated and passionate professional with extensive experience in business development Admissions and marketing. I have an incredible passion for showing others that there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel if someone truly wants it.
Being in recovery myself I understand the struggles of addiction and alcoholism. I Started this Career path in 2009. With multiple years of experience, I bring a multi-faceted approach and am always seeking new ways to make a difference in the lives of those I work with.

Kim L. Buckner

Facilitator

As a Substance Abuse Motivational Speaker, Pastor, Peer Advocate, and Facilitator. Kim helps clients avoid relapse by understanding their triggers. Those people, places and things that can cause craving, as well as internal triggers like feelings, thoughts, or emotions. Kim also clients with identifying and building healthy relationships now that they’re clean and sober.

Kim’s background includes extensive experience as a motivational speaker and work in faith-based organizations helping youth and adults alike. He says he is motivated by giving back to the community, understanding, and not judging who she comes into contact with. Kim’s favorite quote is by Dr. Raymond Johnson: “The respect given to others rebounds to the giver to deny the scared in the Other is to deny it in oneself.”

Caty Burns

Clinician

Caty graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and minors in Counseling and History. Throughout her undergrad, she worked at the local CASA program, supporting volunteers advocating for children who had experienced abuse and neglect. Caty worked for seven years at a community mental health center (CMHC), partnering with children, adults, and families.

During those seven years, she taught life and coping skills as well as behavior management, provided case management and peer recovery services, and facilitated treatment teams that included the client, family, providers, and community members. I have also worked at an IOP providing group therapy services. She is currently working towards my Master of Social Work.

In her free time, Caty enjoys reading, especially historical fiction, spending time outdoors and having movie nights with her family. Disney World is her happy place, and she dreams of living among the elephants.

Madison Knowles

Mental Health Therapist

My name is Madison Knowles, I am a Mental health therapist at NPAC. I am a single-mother of two and I have a daughter who is globally delayed and has been diagnosed with autism. I have been in this industry since I was 16 years old, as I was fascinated with human behavior. I obtained my masters in applied behavioral analysis and started off working with people with disabilities. I then found my love for counseling when I worked with juveniles who had mental health and substance use issues. I then decided to go back for my mental health therapy license after that and working in a forensic treatment center. I went on to obtain my therapy credentials and since 2017, I have also been working on my PhD in forensic psychology in which I am currently working on my dissertation. I am inspired by change and how resilient people can be. My favorite inspirational quote is “Some will, Some won’t, So what, NEXT!!!” This quote has inspired me to try, try, and try again no matter how hard life gets, someone will give you a chance eventually. As a therapist at NPAC, I have been given the opportunity to work with diverse populations such as in substance use and mental health and I am known for my work with people on the schizophrenic spectrum as well as with other clients with other severe conditions including personality disorders.

Megan Carmona, LMHC

Lead Therapist

Our Lead Therapist, Megan, is a bilingual Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in working with adults who struggle with addiction, anxiety, depression, and trauma. As Lead Therapist, she provides individual, family, and group therapy sessions to our clients.  Megan says “I am very passionate about therapy, especially about supporting my clients in exploring their strengths and identity. My goal is to provide individuals with the tools that can help them achieve independence in coping with their challenges and facilitating personal development.” In her free time, Megan enjoys watching docu-series and playing video games with her family. Her dream is to own acres of land so she can care for vulnerable animals, especially old dogs, cats, and horses. 

Kristen Bensley

Primary Clinician

As Primary Clinician, Kristen works with all aspects of our clinical team, from case management to primary therapy.  She has broad experience working in the mental health field. Prior to joining our team at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic, Kristen was part of the team awarded the Evernorth Behavioral Health Center of Excellence Designation by Cigna. She says her motivation is to help people rediscover who they are and become excited about the future and all the possibilities life offers. Kristen’s favorite quote is: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Ronn Daigle, MSW

Therapist, Utilization Review Clinician

Ronn Daigle services as a Therapist and Utilization Review Clinician at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has been working in the field of substance use disorder treatment since 2011, with experience in all facility-based levels of care. Ronn earned, both an Associate of Arts in Psychology (2013) and Bachelor of Science in Human Services, with an Addiction Studies Concentration (2015) from Indian River State College. 

Ronn additionally earned a Master of Social Work degree in 2021 and is a current Registered Clinical Social Work Intern working toward licensure (LCSW). He describes himself as detail oriented, and solution focused.

Ronn says: “There is nothing more fulfilling than working with someone who doesn’t believe in himself or herself, and being there in the moment with them when the belief begins. We work with individuals who come to us at a point and time in their respective lives where they do not believe that change for others is possible; let alone for themselves…throughout the process they eventually come to a point where they realize that change is not only possible, but achievable.”

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI

Assistant Clinical Director

Erika Melecio, LMHC, MCAP, CEI is the Assistant Clinical Director at Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic who specializes in the treatment of LGBTQ, addiction, as well as mental health disorders ranging from depression and anxiety, to Bipolar Disorder, trauma, personality disorders, psychotic disorders, and eating disorders. Erika utilizes a number of modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Mindfulness amongst others. Erika has been in practice for close to a decade and has earned her license in Mental Health Counseling, as well as being a Master’s Certified Addiction Professional. Erika has worked with many individuals including couples counseling and family therapy, and is fluent in Spanish.
 
Throughout my years of practice, one of the things I enjoy helping people find is inner peace. Whether you are in the deepest parts of depression, overrun by your anxiety, controlled by your addiction, or there are certain issues in your life that are negatively impacting your ability to function, and have a happy, healthy life, maybe now is the time to talk about it. I am a big believer in empowerment, working hard in therapy, and utilizing different techniques to help you regain that inner peace that may have been lost along the way. I want to work with you as a team because with two people, absolutely everything is possible. I want to be there as a therapist, to help build you up, support you, but also help you be honest with yourself and accountable. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, my biggest goal for you is going to be simple….for you to no longer need my services. Why? Because if you no longer need my services, it means that you have regained your peace, you have regained your strength, you have regained your confidence. It means that you now have the tools to address any issues that try to derail you, and best of all, you will have the insight to overcome and thrive. So let’s begin this journey together, and get you to the place you want to be, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and in your sobriety.

Aurelio Ayuso, MSW, LCSW, CAP, ICADC

Clinical Director

Aurelio has worked with those that suffer from the disease of addiction in adults and juveniles alike for over 10 years, beginning in the United States Navy where he proudly served for 20 years, working with those that were succumbed by addiction due to trauma and continuing his passion for helping those in need locally in Central Florida.

He specializes in both Addictions and Trauma, he has worked first as a therapist then as the clinical supervisor to both the Juvenile and Adult Drug Court programs in Brevard County. Aurelio has been instrumental in developing substance abuse treatment programs directly tailored to help those that also suffer from complex trauma due to their addiction. He has been recognized by several organizations for his forward thinking and ability to tailor treatment to individuals in the most restrictive environments.

Mr. Ayuso received his Graduate Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker as well as Certified Addictions Professional in the State of Florida, and Internationally Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor. Aurelio specializes in the treatment of Addiction, Trauma, and Abandonment using strength based strategies deeply rooted in Solution Focused, and Mindfulness Therapies. At the Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic he passionately develops holistic curriculums that foster the belief that through addressing the mind, body, and spirit together, the Disease of Addiction can be addressed successfully.

Robert Lehmann, MHSA

Chief Operating Officer

Bob Lehmann is the Chief Operating Officer at the Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Services Administration with a concentration in Mental Health Administration and over twenty-five years of experience as a senior executive at addiction and mental health treatment facilities.

One of the reasons for his commitment to excellence in addiction treatment was his experience related to family members who suffered from the disease of addiction. Bob has been actively involved in community organizations throughout his career. Recently he was one of the founders of the Florida Addiction Treatment Coalition (FATC) and is its present Vice President. FATC was designed to bring together treatment executives in Florida to advocate on behalf of treatment facilities and the clients they serve adhering to a foundation of integrity and service excellence.

Jose R. Toledo, M.D.

Medical Director

A well-rounded and accomplished individual, Jose R. Toledo, M.D., is the Medical Director of Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a neurologist with 25 years of experience and has been in private practice since 1991 on the Treasure Coast of Florida. He completed his neurology training at the State University of New York and his Fellowship training at the University of Pittsburgh in Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology.

He also completed 24 months of acute inpatient psychiatry at the Western Missouri Mental Health Center, University of Missouri in Kansas City. In 2008, Dr. Toledo participated in and was certified in the continuing medical education activity entitled “Buprenorphine and Office-Based Treatment of Opioid Dependence” from The Medical University of South Carolina during which began his quest to found and head Neuropsychiatric Addiction Clinic.

Dr. Toledo is a brain specialist with particular competence in addiction medicine and out-patient detoxification treatment and integrates the fields seamlessly. He is certified to prescribe Buprenorphine (Suboxone). He incorporates his background in neurology into the addiction field. Dr. Toledo is member/fellow of The American Medical Association, The Florida Medical Association and The American Society of Addiction Medicine