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:
- 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
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:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Heart palpitations
- Blurred vision
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.
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.