Xanax Drug Abuse: What to Know

xanax, benzodiazepines, prescription drugs

What Is Xanax?

You may have questions about Xanax drug abuse. Xanax drug abuse has become a growing a problem as the number of prescriptions written has also grown each year.

Xanax is a prescription drug that is used to treat panic and anxiety disorders. It is the brand name for alprazolam, which is classified as a benzodiazepine. According to many medical sources, Xanax is the most prescribed psychiatric medication in the country.

It does its job by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter, in the brain to promote calmness and to lead to a relaxed feeling. When the drug is taken as prescribed and correctly, it is an effective and safe drug for those suffering from anxiety and panic disorders.

By decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain, Xanax was approved in 1981 by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). The drug slows down the movement of unbalanced brain chemicals, which reduces anxiety and nervous tension. While it has therapeutic benefits, what should you know about the potential for Xanax drug abuse to occur?

Xanax Drug Abuse Warnings and Risk Factors 

There are several safety precautions issued for those who are taking Xanax. Some warnings are related to the potential for Xanax drug abuse to develop. Other warnings include the following:

  • Xanax isn’t recommended for use during pregnancy. You need to tell your physician if you are pregnant or think you may become pregnant while taking Xanax.
  • Your doctor should be made aware of alcohol consumption or any other medications you are currently taking, including anything you take over-the-counter. You should not use alcohol when taking benzodiazepines.
  • If you are breastfeeding, tell your physician.
  • Don’t operate heavy equipment or dangerous machinery or drive a car until you know how Xanax affects you.
  • Even if you don’t think the medicine is working properly for you, don’t increase your dosage until you consult with your doctor. Even when taken as prescribed, benzodiazepines can lead to emotional and physical dependence.
  • You should never stop taking this medication abruptly or decrease the prescribed dosage without first talking with your doctor because you can suffer symptoms of withdrawal.

Some people should not take Xanax at all, this includes those who:

  • Have narrow-angle glaucoma.
  • Are taking Nizoral or Sporonax.
  • Those who are allergic to benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Serax, Ativan, Tranxene, Librium, or Xanax.

Smokers may have Xanax concentrations in their bodies reduced by as much as 50% when compared to non-smokers. If a patient is severely depressed or suicidal, there are specific precautions that must be taken for those who are prescribed the drug. There have been reported episodes of mania and hypomania in patients who suffer from depression.

Why Does Xanax Abuse Occur?

People tend to wonder how Xanax drug abuse occurs and why, especially if someone uses it as prescribed.

Because of the fast-acting results it gives those who take it and how they feel “high” right away, Xanax is a commonly abused drug. From 1998 to 2008, the number of people seeking treatment for abuse of benzodiazepine almost tripled, according to the Treatment Episode Data Set. Addiction and long-term abuse of the drug are associated with impulsive behavior, depression, aggressive behavior, and/or psychotic experiences.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that in 2011 there were more than 1.2 million visits to emergency rooms because of the non-medical use of prescription medications, with Xanax accounting for 10% of those ER visits. From 2005 to 2010, the number of ER visits involving Xanax for non-medical use doubled from 57,419 visits to 124,902 visits. During 2011, the number had stabilized with 123,733 visits. Physicians reported the most common drug combinations found in patients are alcohol and Xanax or Xanax taken with prescription opiates, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone.

How Should Xanax Be Used?

If someone is prescribed this drug, to avoid Xanax drug abuse they should take it exactly as prescribed.

Xanax is effective when used for the short-term relief of anxiety and to manage anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder involves the excessive or unrealistic anxiety or worry about two or more circumstances of life for six months or longer, during which timeframe the individual has been bothered more days than not by these personal concerns.

These patients have at least six of the following symptoms:

  • Vigilance and scanning – feeling on edge, difficulty staying asleep or falling asleep, difficulty concentrating, mind goes blank, suffering an exaggerated startled response
  • Motor tension – easily tired, trembling, restlessness, twitching, muscle tension, soreness, aches, shaky feeling
  • Autonomic hyperactivity – difficulty swallowing, heart rate accelerated, lump in throat, diarrhea, flushes, chills, light-headed, dizziness, dry mouth, cold clammy hands, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, palpitations, frequent urination, abdominal distress

The medication can also treat panic disorder, which means the individual suffers regular panic attacks for relatively short periods of discomfort or intense fear where symptoms develop suddenly and peak within about 10 minutes. Symptoms might include abdominal distress, shaking or trembling, sweating, chest discomfort or pain, dizziness, light-headedness, derealization, pounding heart or palpitations, fear of death, numbness or tingling sensation, feeling of loss of control, hot flushes, or cold chills.

If you are prescribed this medication and you have concerns about abuse or you have a history of substance abuse, speak with your health care provider.


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