Alprazolam, or Xanax, is listed on Schedule IV of the federal government’s schedules of controlled substances. This means that the drug presents a low risk of being abused, but this assessment appears to be questionable.
From 1996 to 2013, 8 million people were using benzodiazepines, and this increased to nearly 14 million. Between 2001 and 2013, physicians were increasingly prescribing the same patient benzodiazepines and opioids at the same time. Xanax is a benzodiazepine.
As more prescriptions were being written for benzodiazepines, deaths from overdoses also increased. From 2002 to 2015, the number of people dying from benzodiazepine overdoses quadrupled. In addition to that, more than 30% of people who died from an overdose of opioids between 2010 and 2014 also had benzodiazepines in their systems.
The Beginning of the Crisis
Benzodiazepines appeared on the market in 1960. These drugs helped a lot of people because they are hypnotics that are anticonvulsants, sedatives and are relaxing to the muscles. They are also anxiolytic, which means that they are anti-anxiety drugs because they depress the activity of the brain. Because of this, they are often called “depressants.”
The Safety of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are safer than barbiturates, which were previously prescribed for the same conditions, because they do not cause a person’s breathing to slow down, and they are more difficult to overdose on, but this safety only seems to be related to short-term use of benzos. When people are taking benzodiazepines for long periods of time, they begin to develop a dependence on the drug that creates even more issues about safety.
Anyone can feel anxious at any point in time during their lives. A time when this occurs is right before they need to take an important test; it may also happen when they need to give a presentation at work. These represent temporary times of worry, but people experiencing anxiety disorders have a type of anxiety that isn’t relieved when a situation passes, so the anxiety never goes away.
Benzodiazepines were created to treat the anxiety experienced by those with anxiety disorders. Anxiety can interfere with people’s everyday functioning, and without these medications, some of these patients wouldn’t be able to go to work, take care of their families as they need to do, or even leave their homes.
Sometimes, these people do not visit a professional to obtain help for their problems with anxiety; they choose to medicate themselves instead. Approximately 50% of the people diagnosed with mental health disorders also have substance use disorders. People experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder tend to have high instances of substance use disorders as well.
The Misuse of Xanax in the United States
The people most likely to misuse benzodiazepines are those aged 18 to 25, and 5.2% of this group admitted to misusing the substance in the past year. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that overdoses related to benzodiazepines rose from 1,135 to 8,791 from 1999 to 2015. According to research, 5.3 million people stated that they used benzodiazepines in a manner which their physicians did not prescribe.
Many of the people in the younger demographic stated that they were using benzodiazepines to ease symptoms of anxiety. According to the National Institutes of Health, only 2.6% of young adults received a prescription for benzodiazepines. In contrast, 8.7% of older adults received these prescriptions.
This may be because young adults tend not to have health insurance and don’t have primary care physicians; as a result, young people will also opt to self-medicate their anxiety. They may also believe that medical therapies are not only costly but that they also take up too much time. They grew up during a time when there was always a pill that will take care of every ill.
When younger adults do obtain benzodiazepines legally, they are largely under the impression that they cannot misuse these medications because they were prescribed by a physician. They tend to believe that a prescribed medication is safer than one that isn’t, but this is not the case.
According to a University of Michigan study, benzodiazepines do not treat anxiety, insomnia, and panic disorders very well at all, and cognitive-behavioral therapy outperforms treatment with benzodiazepines. He has even stated that benzodiazepines actually interfere with the treatment of substance use disorders.
People become dependent on Xanax when they start to increase their doses without their doctors’ knowledge or begin to take more than the recommended dose. Even if someone sticks to the prescription, a substance use disorder will develop if the patient begins to use another drug at the same time. The U.S. National Institute on Drug Use stated that approximately 1 in 3 opioid overdoses was also related to benzodiazepines.
When people use other substances in addition to Xanax, opioids, for example, will intensify the effects that people receive from Xanax. This increases the user’s chances of becoming addicted to these substances.
People don’t have to take Xanax illegally to become addicted to the drug. Even when it has been prescribed for people, they can still develop a dependence on it. When the addiction begins, it starts with tolerance.
As someone takes Xanax on a regular basis, the effects aren’t as strong after a certain amount of time has passed. Tolerance to the drug begins at this point, and the user needs to increase Xanax consumption to continue to feel the desired effects. At this time, the person’s anxiety symptoms may be coming back, and this is a great motivator to increase the dose of Xanax. At the same time, the user’s brain is dependent upon the drug, so the user needs to continue to take it, even if the prescription has run out.
You can also be psychologically addicted to Xanax. With a psychological addiction, you are thinking about Xanax all of the time. With your mind on procuring Xanax, it can be impossible to begin the detoxification and healing processes.
If someone tries to withdraw from using Xanax without help, the person will experience some symptoms. These may include irritability, paranoia, depression, and insomnia. The person may find these symptoms too unbearable to tolerate and will seek the drug again to relieve them.
Withdrawing from Xanax causes the body to experience several unpleasant side effects. These include the following:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Panic attacks
- Excessive sweating
- Vomiting or dry heaving
When people are experiencing a physical dependence on Xanax, it is in their best interests to enter into a treatment center. If they do not, they will begin to feel pain in every part of their bodies. This is what occurs when the body is metabolizing the Xanax and removing it from the system. You can treat this symptom with over-the-counter medications, but many people end up in the emergency room when this is occurring.
How Do You Know When Someone Is Addicted to Xanax?
When people are addicted to substances, they begin to experience many of the same symptoms, and this includes the following:
- Inability to stop using the drug, even if they want to
- Continuing to Xanax despite the serious consequences of doing so
- Obsessing about how much Xanax they have left and when they can take another dose
- Isolating themselves from family and friends because they would rather spend their time using
- Continuing to increase their dose to keep up with their increasing tolerance
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they stop using
The Drug Detoxification Process
It is unnecessary for you or your loved one to undergo the detoxification process alone. At Granite Recovery Centers, we can place you or your loved one in our drug detox program with doctors and nurses attending to your needs at all times. If you are experiencing any discomfort, our staff will be there to readjust your medications. Only once your system has been cleansed of the drug can the healing begin.
What Is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?
People will receive a dual diagnosis if they have a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder at the same time. This requires that professionals take a specialized approach to treatment because the conditions often interact with each other and cause both of them to get worse.
To give the person the best chance of recovering from a substance use disorder, medical professionals must treat both conditions at the same time. In order to be successful with your mental health treatment, you need to be sober. At Granite Recovery Centers, our medical professionals may diagnose you or a loved one with a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, and they have the training and the expertise to treat both disorders. Understanding how the disorders interact with each other is the key to keeping them both under control.
Join Us at Granite Recovery Centers
At Granite Recovery Centers, we are prepared to treat you if you have a mental health disorder that has never been diagnosed. We offer a dual diagnosis treatment program that will treat your mental health condition along with your substance use disorder. Our professionals are trained in both areas, and they are educated and knowledgeable about treating people with mental health disorders and substance use disorders.
If you or your loved one need to enter into our drug detox program, you will be welcome to do so. We can offer you a medication-assisted treatment program that will ensure that you can comfortably go through detox without having to experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms. The medications that our medical personnel will give you will ease these symptoms so that you or your loved one can get through the process without wanting to return to the drug use.
After the drug detox program is over, you or your loved one may enter into our treatment program so that we can address your psychological addiction to Xanax. Many people find the greatest success with our inpatient treatment program. While you’re staying at our facility, you will take advantage of one-on-one therapy, group sessions, and healing activities like yoga and meditation.
Because of family or work obligations, some people will need to enroll in our intensive outpatient program. This program will provide you with the tools that you need to stay sober while engaging in your daily life. At Granite Recovery Centers, we use the proven 12-step approach to recovery, and we even offer resources for when you’re out in the world, like our recovery blog.
Once you’ve completed treatment, you can take advantage of our aftercare programs that can help you stay sober. Our alumni programs provide support on your journey to sobriety, and our alumni program can help you connect with others who are going through the same things as you are.
If you are ready to take your life back, call us at the Granite Recovery Centers, and we will help you decide on a treatment program that suits your needs.