Xanax, also known as alprazolam, is in the benzodiazepine class and is a Schedule IV controlled substance used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, seizures, depression, and other conditions. Xanax affects the brain and central nervous system (CNS) by enhancing the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) in the body. Within the benzodiazepine class, Xanax is the most popular. Other commonly known benzodiazepines are diazepam (Valium) and clonazepam (Klonopin).
This drug comes in tablet form and can become seriously addictive if taken in high doses or over a long period of time. If misused, Xanax can create a euphoric high. This is especially true if the drug is crushed and snorted or liquefied and injected. Due to the increased illicit abuse of the drug, tests have been created specifically to detect it in someone’s system.
How Long Does Xanax Stay in the System?
Xanax has an elimination half-life of as little as six hours up to 27 hours and sometimes longer in patients who are obese. The average half-life of the drug in the human body is about 11 hours. Elimination of half-life means that a person of good health will only get rid of half the dose that he or she consumed in the amount of time post use.
For example, if 20 milligrams were taken and six hours have passed, then it is possible the body still has 10 milligrams of the drug present in the system. As with any drug, the amount of time that a drug stays within the system is based on the following:
- How much of the drug is taken
- What other drugs were taken with it
- The type of drug taken
- A person’s weight, height, and age
- A person’s metabolic speed
- A person’s body fat
Why and How Is Xanax Tested?
Testing for Xanax is done for a variety of reasons ranging from employment to legal situations to an order by your healthcare provider to maintain proper levels. Due to the sedative effects of the drug, it can be tested for on the job if sleepiness, comprehension issues, lethargy, and lack of coordination are noticed. Xanax can be tested for via urine, blood, hair, or saliva. Here is each testing method with details of the detection window.
- Urinalysis test – It takes approximately four to seven days for Xanax to give a negative test result or even longer for those who are heavy users. Urine testing is the most common test to be given to detect Xanax in the system. It’s quick, non-invasive, and easy to administer. It is also inexpensive, so employers can test for it on the spot if needed.
- Blood test – Xanax in the blood will only be detectable for up to 24 hours post use. One day post use will give a negative test result.
- Hair test – Follicle analysis for Xanax can detect the drug up to one month post use although it is important to note that it takes much longer for a drug to show up in the hair. Follicle analysis is usually done for someone who has been using Xanax for quite a while. If a test is done too soon, however, it may come back negative.
- Saliva swab – Saliva, like blood, has a small detection window. A saliva test will only work two and a half days after last use.
Xanax Addiction: Signs and Symptoms
Benzodiazepines, also called Benzos, are often referred to as sedatives or mild tranquilizers that can affect the neurotransmitter GABA. These types of drugs are generally safe for short-term use and are not considered long-term solutions. Side effects of using Xanax are:
- Sleepiness or insomnia
- Dry mouth
- Memory problems
Excessive use of the drug will cause excessive drowsiness, blurry vision, deceptive behavior, slurred speech, and the inability to stop taking the medicine, which leads to trying to find ways to obtain it.
When Xanax is used long term, it can lead to cognitive issues that are similar to dementia. Once the drug is stopped, the issues will stop. Prolonged use is sometimes needed to manage anxiety disorders although it is not recommended. It is important to note the prolonged use can lead to a return of anxiety issues once the medicine is stopped. Xanax is best stopped by tapering down doses in order to slowly come off the drug.
Withdrawal symptoms that occur with Xanax can include both emotional and physical effects such as:
- Hallucination and delirium
- Tremors and muscle spasms
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Panic attacks
- Concentration issues
- Rapid heart rate
- Seizures or convulsions
- Feeling detached from reality
Complications of Taking Xanax
The improper use of Xanax involves the risk of overdose and death just like any other drug. Xanax has been associated with suicide due to the fact of its increased effects of depression when trying to stop taking the drug quickly.
It is also noted that the risk of an overdose of Xanax is generally not because of the drug alone. The majority of overdoses from Xanax involve other drugs such as opioids or alcohol. Signs of overdose from Xanax can include:
- Agitated state or aggression
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Poor coordination
- Low blood pressure
- Slurred speech
- Eyes jerking back and forth
The signs of overdose will be notable within three to four hours after the dose is taken. The symptoms of overdose may persist for 12 to 36 hours. Xanax overdose can cause depression to the central nervous system, which then leads to impaired respiration and a slowed heart rate. From this point, a coma can set in or even cardiac arrest. If you suspect someone has overdosed from Xanax, call 911 immediately.
Risk Factors for Xanax
Addiction to Xanax, or any benzodiazepines, can happen to all people. There are certain groups that are at a higher risk for developing an addiction more so than others. Risk factors include:
- Having a personal history of alcohol abuse
- Being aged 18 to 25
- Having a family history of substance abuse
- Having an antisocial personality or psychiatric disorders (BPD, depression, bipolar disorder)
Dependence Upon Xanax
A substance use disorder is characterized by being a condition in which behavioral, cognitive, and physiological symptoms occur and cause a person to use a substance excessively or illicitly in order to seek relief of the symptoms.
Dependence upon a drug will lead someone to use it despite the adverse health or emotional effects it can have on the body and the brain. In order for a person to be diagnosed with a mild substance use disorder, at least two or three of the 11 below must be present. If four or five of the criteria are met, then the disorder is classified as moderate. Six or more of the below list is considered a severe substance use disorder.
- Neglecting duties in order to use the drug
- Using the drug in a harmful way
- Having tolerance to the drug so that needs higher and higher dose to achieve the same effect
- Using increased amounts of the drug
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped or reduced
- Being unable to reduce the drug
- Spending time trying to obtain the drug before or when it runs out
- Having relationship or social problems due to drug use
- Experiencing adverse effects of the drug
- Dealing with cravings
- Giving up normal activities to use drugs
Antidepressants: Benzodiazepine Alternatives
Antidepressants are more helpful in the long-term treatment of anxiety and panic disorders than benzodiazepines. They are less addictive, more effective, and safer. Antidepressants have the distinct advantage of relieving depression as well.
Another alternative to benzodiazepines is treatment without drugs. Psychotherapy of various kinds, yoga, exercise, muscle relaxation training, and hypnosis are a few to name.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which you will learn more about below, is noted in helping with insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. With this therapy, patients learn to examine, record, and analyze their thought and feeling patterns. In many cases, a good CBT regimen can help some mental health issues without the need for drugs to stabilize.
With the help of a therapist, a patient can become aware of his or her triggers and can manage unrealistic or irrational thinking. The individual also learns how to respond to anxiety-provoking situations while also practicing exposure and systematic desensitization techniques.
Treatment Options for Xanax
Detoxification and behavioral therapies are often considered the best way to reach a level of abstinence from Xanax. Some situations may involve harm-reduction strategies as well. Generally, treatment can be done on an outpatient basis after an inpatient detox program. In detox, a person can face severe or even dangerous withdrawal issues. From physical to mental symptoms, stopping Xanax needs to be done in a monitored and gradual way. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
In addition to detox, behavioral therapy, is an important component to recovery from drug addiction. EBT, an evidence-based treatment program, is a type of treatment that is integrated with a comprehensive 12-step curriculum. The purpose of EBT is to teach evidence-based therapies such as:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – a common type of talk therapy focused on changing negative thought patterns by recognizing them and implementing new patterns
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – a therapy that combines strategies such as mindfulness, emotional regulation, and acceptance
- Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy – has a focus on changing behavior that is rooted in irrational thoughts
- Motivational Interviewing – involves questions from a therapist that helps to increase a person’s motivation for change
The above therapies help with changing thought patterns and teaching coping strategies for handling emotional triggers that may occur in the future. EBT may also include therapies for trauma, as well as grief and loss therapy. One or more of the EBT therapies, coupled with a 12-step program, will help maintain abstinence, stabilization, and maintenance for a successful recovery.
Granite Recovery Center
Granite Recovery Center offers a variety of treatment programs for substance use disorders, including Xanax. For over 10 years, we have helped many overcome drug and alcohol addiction. Granite Recovery Center is located in the New Hampshire area and offers the following treatments for addiction to Xanax:
- Medical detox program
- Intensive outpatient program
- Men and women’s specific treatments
- Evidence-based treatment program
- Mental health program
We also offer counseling and aftercare programs either solo or with family to work through issues to create and sustain a healthy recovery. In counseling, you will gain an understanding of how best to handle future issues and resolve them without turning to drugs or alcohol.
Granite Recovery Center has a total of drug rehab facilities across the state of New Hampshire, including two inpatient residential drug rehab programs: Green Mountain Treatment Center (Effingham) and New Freedom Academy (Canterbury). Our very experienced professionals will help you find the best option of treatment based on your needs and goals.