When people are dealing with things like anxiety or depression, they’re often prescribed Xanax. Xanax is part of a group of drugs called benzodiazepines, anxiolytics, or antianxiety agents. Xanax is the brand name of the drug alprazolam, and it’s prescribed for people who are dealing with everything from anxiety to panic disorders. It’s also used by people who are dealing with the type of anxiety that comes from depression.
How Xanax Works On the Brain
When taken as directed, Xanax can be a lifesaver. It works by enhancing and increasing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid, also commonly referred to as GABA. GABA is an amino acid that helps promote a relaxed feeling and a sense of wholeness in the brain. With an increase in the effects of GABA, the person taking Xanax feels much more relaxed and calm, and they’re able to deal with difficult or uncomfortable situations.
One of the best things about Xanax is that it works very quickly, so it can help someone deal with a panic attack almost immediately. Many people report feeling the effects of the drug in as little as 5 to 10 minutes after taking it, with everyone feeling relief within the hour. This is especially crucial for people who are dealing with anxiety or panic that needs to be dealt with right away. The effects of the drug in the body reach their peak in about one to two hours.
Xanax is usually prescribed in milligrams. The most common dosages are 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg, or 2 mg. When doctors first give someone Xanax, they usually give them the lowest possible dose. They do this because they want to see how the drug affects the patient first. The idea is that it’s better to start off with small doses and work your way up.
After taking Xanax, most people tend to feel the positive effects of the drug for about two to four hours. Some people may experience lingering effects for a couple of more hours after that. How long the drug effects last in your system depends on things like your age, your metabolism, any other medications that you may be taking, and your weight.
Once Xanax starts to wear off, the user stops feeling the relaxed, calm feeling they got when they first ingested it. For people who took the drug because of a momentary panic attack or a bout of anxiety, they should be fine once the drug wears off. People who are in a continual state of anxiety will have to take the drug more regularly.
Xanax can be an extremely helpful drug for people who are dealing with anxiety or for people who are dealing with unusually stressful events like the death of a loved one or flying on a plane for the first time. The downside is that it also has a major potential for abuse.
How People End Up Misusing Xanax
One of the most serious issues with Xanax is that it’s very easy to build up a tolerance, and this can happen quickly. As the tolerance builds, people notice that it may take them longer to feel the effects of the drug than it did when they first started taking it. They may also notice that the drug’s effects don’t last as long. As the tolerance builds, they’re going to need more Xanax in order to get that same blissful relief. They’ll do anything to get that feeling of relief again, including upping the dosage.
As they continue to up the dosage, the brain becomes more and more dependent on Xanax in order to feel any sense of relief and calmness. Eventually, the brain becomes used to using Xanax to achieve calmness, and it will need the drug to do so. At this point, the body has become dependent on Xanax. The Xanax user will not be able to think of anything except getting more Xanax to find relief.
Once the body is dependent on Xanax, the user will start to experience extremely uncomfortable symptoms when they’re not able to get it. Some of those symptoms include vomiting, convulsions, headache, nausea, and blurred vision. They may also feel achy.
Withdrawal Symptoms Are Signs of a Substance Use Disorder
When people start to feel the above symptoms, they have likely developed a Xanax use disorder. Other signs of addiction could include the Xanax user becoming extremely concerned about their supply, frequently asking their doctors or other medical professionals for additional dosages. When they can’t get more from their doctors, many people turn to the street. If they’re able to get a supply of the drug off of the street, they’re no longer taking it at prescribed doses. They are merely taking the drug to eradicate the withdrawal symptoms and feel some semblance of normalcy.
Xanax is so strong that even people who have been taking it for as little as three to four weeks can become dependent on it.
Should Women Take Xanax When They’re Pregnant?
When someone becomes pregnant, they may be struggling with issues of anxiety they had before the pregnancy. Xanax is prescribed to help people with anxiety and panic disorder, and many women who become pregnant continue to experience those symptoms even after they become pregnant. Simply becoming pregnant causes heightened anxiety in many women as a result of hormonal changes in the body.
They also may be worried about taking care of the baby, their finances, their relationships, and a host of other issues that expectant parents deal with. They may also be concerned with things that have nothing to do with the pregnancy. For whatever reason, people who become pregnant may wish to continue – or start – using anti-anxiety medications like Xanax in order to keep calm.
The issue is that Xanax is not safe to take during pregnancy. It is described as a category D drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA Pregnancy Categories of Drug Risks
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pregnancy category list sorts pharmaceuticals and biological products by their possible risks to pregnant women, fetuses, and nursing mothers. Every drug on the market has this information listed in its packaging or literature. The information is intended to protect women and babies, and the rules have been set in place by the FDA.
When the categories were first released in the 1970s,, they were listed as A, B, C, D, and X. The categories were originally put out in 1979, but they were revised in 2015 to make them much more clear for consumers and medical professionals to understand.
Many women are on medications that they need to survive, and many of them must remain on these medications during their pregnancies. This includes medications for illnesses and conditions like diabetes, asthma, or epilepsy. Preventing women from gaining access to these medications during their pregnancies could be dangerous for both the mother and the baby. The old categories were replaced with narrative sections and subsections that helped people make more informed decisions.
Xanax is considered a Category D drug. This category of drugs has been shown to have positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reactions received during human studies, but the benefits of the drug may be helpful to the mother.
Xanax is also considered a Schedule IV drug. According to the DEA, Schedule IV drugs are substances that have a low potential for abuse, but the potential is there. Being both a Schedule IV drug and a Category D drug make Xanax a particularly tricky drug for pregnant women. There have been studies done that have strived to figure out if there’s any way that pregnant women could still take some form of anti-anxiety medication during pregnancy since many of them need it.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, some studies have shown delayed motor skills development or mental retardation in seven out of eight babies whose mothers took benzos like Xanax while pregnant. Babies who were exposed to Xanax in the womb through their mothers’ drug use often exhibited withdrawal symptoms that included sleeplessness or irritability.
A 2017 study that followed over 2,600 women during pregnancy and after childbirth noted that there were some risks associated with pregnancy and benzodiazepines. This study noted that there were increased risks of c-section deliveries when the mothers took benzos like Xanax, and the babies of mothers who did take benzos were more likely to receive extra oxygen or some other sort of respiratory support after birth. Xanax also shows up in breastmilk, making it unsafe for babies. According to one study, a peak amount of 3.7mcg/L of Xanax was found in milk roughly 1.1 hours after eight new moms took one 0.5mg dose.
If someone is dealing with crippling anxiety that could affect their well-being, they need to speak with their doctor about whether or not they should continue taking Xanax during pregnancy. Their doctors may be able to prescribe alternative treatments that help them deal with the anxiety.
The negative effects of long-term Xanax use can be pretty devastating. Withdrawing from Xanax can actually be life-threatening, and staying on it long term can lead to health problems. There have been studies that have shown that people who have taken Xanax for long periods of time have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
When people try to withdraw suddenly from long-term Xanax abuse, they could end up dealing with symptoms like hallucinations, seizures, or death. When people withdraw from benzos like Xanax, the first stage of symptoms is referred to as acute withdrawal, and this period can last for as long as 14 days. Some people have gone through the acute withdrawal process for as long as 28 days. This is usually the case for people who have been misusing Xanax for a long period of time. These people must go through the detox process under medical supervision in order to remain safe. 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.
Struggling with Xanax use disorder can be extremely frustrating and even life-threatening, but there are ways to go about it that can help keep you safe. At Granite Recovery Centers, our goal is to help people get treatment for their substance use disorder so that they can reclaim their lives. We help people at various stages of the process. Whether you’ve tried but failed to stop using Xanax on your own, or you’ve been using Xanax as well as other drugs, we can help.
During the intake process, we will take a look at everything, including your physical, mental, and emotional state. Sometimes, people who’ve been prescribed Xanax have other underlying issues or disorders like bipolar disorder or seizure disorders. Stopping Xanax could interfere with those disorders, so having all of this information on hand is key to ensuring that you detox safely.
Some people even go through something called protracted withdrawal syndrome. These are withdrawal symptoms that last way beyond the initial withdrawal. In worst-case scenarios, these symptoms could last for years, and they include conditions like decreased appetite, anhedonia, lack of appetite, paranoia, psychotic depression, electric shock sensations, and more. These types of symptoms could exist in people who never had a psychiatric history prior to taking benzos.
Kinds of Treatment
Depending on how severe your situation is, we will suggest either inpatient or outpatient treatment. At Granite Recovery Centers, we incorporate MATs, or medication-assisted treatment programs. These are programs that use medications to help people deal with the symptoms of detox and withdrawal.
In the case of benzos like Xanax, SSRIs may be prescribed. SSRIs are non-addictive, so they can help people treat the symptoms of anxiety and depression without creating any sort of dependency. Buspirone is another anxiolytic psychotropic drug that helps with the short-term treatment of anxiety. This drug can be very helpful for people who are struggling to get over Xanax but still need help with managing their anxiety.
If you’re planning on getting pregnant and you’re currently struggling with Xanax dependence, dealing with the substance use disorder now can help prevent serious issues in the future. Call us today for more information.