Xanax Symptoms and Warning Signs

The UK makes up 22% of the global market for anti-anxiety medications on the dark web. It is also the second-largest market for online Xanax sales that cannot be traced. Only the United States, which accounts for 50% of global sales on the dark web, has a larger problem of Xanax abuse than the UK.

More young Brits are taking Xanax than in the past. Addiction experts note that it is an emerging crisis, that must be addressed to prevent a full-scale nationwide problem. Youth workers have stated that most of young people abusing Xanax used the medication to self-medicate for their mental health issues, and found it helpful when they were anxious.

What is Xanax Abuse?

Xanax is a fast-acting benzodiazepine, approved for the treatment of panic disorders, nausea from chemotherapy, depression, anxiety, and other health issues. It is a schedule IV controlled substance in the US, with a low potential for abuse.

Xanax is the trade name for Alprazolam, and is a prescription-only medication that works by producing a sedative effect on the central nervous system and brain. When prescribed, it is taken orally and metabolised in the digestive system. The risk of abuse is low if you follow your doctor’s orders when you take the medication. Still, millions of people are dependent on Xanax to perform their regular daily functions.

You abuse Xanax when you take the medicine in any way not prescribed by your doctor, or for non-medical purposes. This includes crushing the pill to snort, smoke, or inject intramuscularly into your bloodstream.

The Warning Signs of Xanax Abuse

Like other benzos, addiction takes a long time to develop, and most people who use Xanax are unaware of the dangers of self-medicating or increasing their dose when they start to build a tolerance. The number of people receiving treatment for benzodiazepine addiction has more than tripled since 1998, and the problem doesn’t seem to be slowing down even now.

Knowing the warning signs could be the

difference between getting help on time and sliding further into the vicious cycle of Xanax addiction. Warning signs of Xanax abuse include:

Breakdown of relationships and family problems: This includes strained friendships, neglecting family responsibilities, picking a fight with your partner at the slightest provocation, and exhibiting violent behaviour in front of your spouse and/or children.

Poor performance at work: Someone who abuses Xanax will not be able to perform to their fullest potential. Substances that act on the central nervous system slow down brain activity. By abusing Xanax, it will affect your overall ability to function properly. At the height of abuse, you’ll take your pills to work because you won’t be able to go a full working day without using Xanax.

Developing a tolerance to Xanax: After using Xanax for a long time, the original dose will become ineffective. You’ll need higher doses to feel the sedative effect of Xanax.

Other warning signs include:

  • Weight loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Nodding off in the middle of a sentence
  • Sleeping during working hours
  • Obsessively thinking about how to get more Xanax

The Signs of Xanax Abuse

A few signs to look out for in a person who abuses Xanax include:

  • Strong cravings for Xanax
  • Using alternative methods of administering the drug, such as snorting and smoking, to intensify its effect
  • Taking Xanax to feel the euphoric “high”
  • Slower heartbeat than usual
  • Difficulty completing a sentence
  • Finding pill bottles without labels around the house

The Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

The following are all symptoms of Xanax abuse:

  • Doctor shopping to get more prescriptions
  • Loss of interest in activities you enjoyed in the past
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Personality changes, such as making friends with other substance users, and poor hygiene
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Compulsive behaviour
  • Strained relationships with loved ones and work colleagues
  • Convulsions

The Physical Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

Some of the physical symptoms of this type of abuse include:

  • Nausea
  • Sluggishness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeping for longer hours
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of motor coordination
  • Tingling sensation
  • Muscle pain
  • Sleep troubles
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle pain

The Psychological Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

Two of the most common symptoms of abusing Xanax include addiction and physical dependence. These occur when you abuse Xanax for a long time. The brain becomes accustomed to the presence of Xanax, as well as the overflow of dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters. When you stop using, the brain then reacts by producing withdrawal symptoms. Psychological effects include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Nightmares
  • Memory problems
  • Insomnia
  • Psychosis

The Behavioural Signs of Xanax Abuse

Exhibiting risky behaviour: A person who abuses Xanax might drive or operate heavy machinery whilst intoxicated from Xanax. You will be willing to do anything to acquire more drugs, including buying from an illegal online forum, or dangerous street dealers.

Keeping a personal stash: Most addicts have a personal stash. They usually divide the loot and store it in different places, so that they have a backup supply everywhere they go.

Obsessive thoughts of Xanax: In the grip of addiction, your only thought is getting more drugs, and you’re willing to spend all your free time trying to get them.

Experiencing legal woes: As a result of risky behaviour, you might have a problem with law enforcement. Buying prescription drugs online is illegal, and you could be prosecuted if caught. It’s also a criminal offence to drive while inebriated.

Other behavioural signs include denial of the severity of your addiction, and isolating yourself from friends and loved ones.

The Short Term Effects of Abusing Xanax

The short term effects are the immediate effects you’ll feel when you take Xanax. Most people who develop a dependence on Xanax don’t have a history of substance abuse. They originally took Xanax to manage their anxiety, but soon developed a tolerance and found it hard to quit the habit-forming drug. The immediate effects include extreme relaxation, calmness, dizziness, and euphoria. Other effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Skin rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Low sex drive
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Increased salivation
  • Difficulty in sexual performance
  • Rapid weight change
  • Shortness of breath

The Long Term Effects of Xanax Abuse

The risk of abuse, and the habit-forming nature of Xanax, explains why it is not prescribed for long-term use. The doctor usually re-assesses the patient after four months to determine the efficacy of the drug. Therapeutic techniques are often better applied to properly treat anxiety in a patient.

When you use Xanax for longer periods than prescribed for, your brain forgets how to operate normally without the presence of Xanax. The drug controls your thought process, emotional response, memory, muscular coordination, and consciousness. Long-term use also makes it difficult to reverse the effects of Xanax abuse in treatment, as Xanax continues to bind more strongly to GABA receptors with each use.

Xanax can cause you to lose your appetite for food, which leads to binge eating or weight loss. You’ll feel lethargic because of the over-stimulation in your neurotransmitters, and will become increasingly forgetful. Other long term effects include:

  • Aggression and hostility
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Depression
  • Delusions
  • Learning difficulties
  • Hallucinations
  • Coma
  • Depersonalisation
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The Effects of Xanax on the Brain

Xanax can affect coordination in the brain, and make it difficult to maintain balance or speak properly. You’ll find it harder to complete simple tasks, such as doing the dishes or laundry. The effect mostly occurs over a long period of time, during which important brain cells that control cognition are damaged. Xanax abuse also changes the functions of the brain, by lowering inhibitions that open you up to displaying risky behaviour.

Xanax creates a feeling of sedation and calmness by affecting the communication between the nerves, particularly GABA receptors. GABA suppresses neuron activity, and regulates how you feel, think, and function. So, proper GABA regulation means well-balanced emotions for those who suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, and convulsions.

A danger of long-term abuse, that also happens to ex-addicts, is what is known as “brain zaps”. This means feel a type of electric shock in your brain as it tries to readjust to the absence of Xanax.

The Dangers of Abusing Xanax

Some patients assume that because of the lower classification of Xanax, it will take a long time to develop dependency if they abuse it. However, research has proven that some individuals can go from tolerance to dependence within a period of only two weeks. If you develop dependence on Xanax, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to quit the drug.

Most of the more severe cases of abuse or fatalities from overdose occur when users combine Xanax with alcohol to increase its sedative effect. Combining both substances intensifies the symptoms, and accelerates the timeline to addiction. It also increases the risk of accidental injury from impaired judgment, driving under the influence of Xanax and alcohol, depression and suicide, intense withdrawal symptoms, overdose, and death.

Both substances are CNS depressants, which means cardiac and respiratory functions are suppressed, and the brain, therefore, doesn’t receive sufficient oxygen to function properly. This can lead to seizures, heart attack, shallow breathing, and coma.

The Symptoms of Xanax Overdose

The threat of overdose is very real with benzodiazepines. In 2013, they were involved in 31% of all drug-related overdose fatalities. Everyone has a different reaction to drugs. One individual can take large quantities and never overdose, while another could suffer severe side effects from accidentally taking a dose of Xanax. To help your loved one, who is suffering from substance abuse, it’s important you know the signs to look out for.

Symptoms of overdose include:

  • Weakness, lacking muscle strength
  • Inability to form coherent sentences
  • Shallow or laboured breathing
  • Thoughts and words that don’t make sense
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling dizzy even when they are not moving
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Call your local emergency number if your loved one exhibits any of these symptoms. They’ve likely taken a large dose of Xanax, and may die if they don’t receive emergency medical attention.

The Withdrawal Symptoms of Xanax

You will experience withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly quit using Xanax. Symptoms peak within 1-4 days after your last dose.

The physical withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Panic attacks
  • Sweating
  • Numb fingers
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Heart palpitations
  • Diarrhoea
  • Tremors
  • Muscle pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Impaired respiration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Body pain
  • Insomnia
  • Tensed jaw and teeth

The psychological symptoms

The emotional withdrawal from Xanax is often more painful than the physical withdrawal symptoms, because Xanax acts on mood regulation, reward, and the motivation areas of the brain. You might experience panic attacks, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, nightmares, hallucinations, depression, and paranoia when you quit benzo abuse.

To properly address these symptoms, you’ll need to meet with a psychotherapist whilst in detox, who will help to treat all the psychological side effects of withdrawal, and ensure you remain safe.

Can Alcohol and Xanax Abuse Be Treated?

If you have abused Xanax and alcohol concurrently, you’ll need polydrug use treatment. Withdrawal is best handled at a medical detoxification centre, where addiction experts ensure you remain safe. During detox, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms for both substances. Doctors use the tapering process to reduce your dose until all traces of alcohol and Xanax have left your system. They’ll also provide withdrawal medications to ease the pain and treat each symptom as it comes.

What is The Treatment For Xanax Addiction?

The goal of treatment for Xanax addiction is to help you withdraw safely from Xanax, and help you gain control over your life without needing to abuse the drug.

Behavioural therapies are used to treat mental health disorders, which are usually an underlying cause of Xanax abuse. The principle of therapy is that addictive behaviour is learned from those around us and our environment. It can be unlearned and substituted with positive behaviour that encourages sobriety.

Therapy approaches for Xanax addiction include Motivational Interviewing, Contingency Management, and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. There will also be psychotherapy sessions with your family to help restore the relationships destroyed by addiction. Skills training and education classes are at the core of substance rehabilitation. They prepare you for life after rehab, and equip you with skills to help you function on the outside.

You can receive treatment either as an inpatient at a residential rehab facility, or as an outpatient. Both programmes are effective, but inpatient rehabilitation programmes increase your chances of lifelong abstinence from drugs, through the provision of a therapeutic environment and 24/7 medical care that supports and enhances healing.

Where Can I Find Help for Xanax Addiction?

Your body can develop dependence on Xanax within a few weeks of continuously taking large doses or snorting the crushed substance. There are support groups throughout the UK for Xanax addicts. The best support group is Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. Many churches and charities also run rehabilitation programs.

To get started, call a drug addiction helpline and a drug counsellor will use research-backed techniques to recommend the best treatment option for you, that fully caters to your addiction needs.

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