Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in the United States. More prescriptions are handed out every year for pain relievers, anti-depressants, sedatives and more. With this increase in prescriptions has come the increase of abuse and subsequent overdose of these drugs.
Not all the medications abused are well-tracked, either. For example, overdose deaths aren’t always attributed to the drug that caused them. An article by the Houston Chronicle reports that, though opioid overdose deaths are tallied for the state of Texas, overdose numbers for other medications in Texas can be overlooked or even ignored.
Deaths due to prescription drug overdose are not accurately reported in the state of Texas, according to the article. This is unfortunate, as addiction to prescriptions like Xanax is completely treatable. Knowing which specific prescription drugs lead to the most overdose deaths could help target treatment for those in need.
For Texas, Xanax is the most commonly abused benzodiazepine, and is most reported for overdose. Recognizing the effects of abuse, and understanding the consequences that come with it, are key to helping you find hope in treatment, whether for you or someone close to you.
What Is Xanax And How Is It Abused?
Xanax is a brand of the drug alprazolam, which is a sedative mainly used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It belongs to the group of drugs called benzodiazepines.
The U.S. National Library Of Medicine explains Xanax “works by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain.” Benzodiazepines like Xanax are prescribed to provide relief from anxiety, tension, and to produce relaxation and calming effects.
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Because of the sedative effects of the drug, Xanax is highly addictive. It’s available in tablet form, which is short-acting, extended-release (long-acting) and an oral solution. When abused, the tablets are crushed and snorted, or dissolved in water and injected. This is usually done with extended-release versions to force immediate effects.
However, it’s this force of effects that is dangerous. Extended-release tablets are meant to work slowly over time, usually prescribed to take once per day. Forcing release of the drug is dangerous, as it can result in overdose.
Abuse of benzodiazepines can also happen within a short time, especially if you change administration of the drug to get faster effects, take more than the directed dosage or take for a longer period of time than prescribed.
One of the most dangerous parts of addiction is tolerance. If you build tolerance when abusing Xanax, you may no longer feel the effects of the drug. That means you may start taking it more often, or taking more of it to try to feel the effects. In other words, you’re more at risk for overdose, as the body can only process so much of a substance at any given time.
Some who build tolerance may also start abusing Xanax with other substances to try to supplement or enhance the effects of it, such as alcohol or opioids. This is a dangerous combination, as alcohol is also a depressant and taking the two together can produce dangerously enhanced effects, like slowed breathing or heart rate.
Opioids stimulate the central nervous system, which means taking them with Xanax would produce contrasting effects, like decreased breathing rates from Xanax, then increased from opioids, and so on.
Side Effects Of Xanax Addiction
Side effects of Xanax vary according to the type taken, the person taking it and the amount abused. The following are possible side effects, which can be greatly enhanced with abuse:
- Dry mouth
- Impaired thought processes and/or memory
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Respiratory depression
- Slurred speech or stuttering
- Stomach cramps, constipation, loss of appetite
- Vision changes
What Are The Consequences?
In addition to the myriad of side effects, you can experience dependence and addiction to Xanax as well. What is dependence?
Because Xanax is a highly addictive drug, it can cause you to experience physical symptoms when not taking it—symptoms that make you feel ill or uncomfortable, usually causing you to continue taking it.
These symptoms are known as withdrawal, and can include:
- Heart palpitations
- Increase in anxiety and tension
- Memory troubles
- Muscle pain
- Nausea/dry heaves
- Panic attacks
- Sleep troubles
- Tremors of the hand
- Trouble concentrating
- Seizures, psychosis and suicide
Withdrawal is what keeps people going back to addiction. No one wants to experience these symptoms, so when it happens, you’re more likely to keep taking the drug and get caught in a vicious cycle than to try to find help.
Yet addiction, dependence and withdrawal are not the only consequences that go with Xanax abuse. Abusing the drug over time can cause some harmful effects to your health, such as impaired thinking, memory or judgment; disorientation or confusion; slurred speech or muscle weakness and lack of coordination.
Can You Overdose On Xanax?
Unfortunately, you can overdose on Xanax. How do overdoses occur?
The Center For Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) explains, “some benzodiazepines are eliminated from the body slowly. Thus, ingesting multiple doses over long periods of time can lead to significant accumulation in fatty tissues.”
In other words, continued abuse leads to a buildup of Xanax in the system. Our bodies can only process so much of any substance in a given amount of time, and that buildup can cause overdose as a result.
Overdoses are medical emergencies, and should always be treated that way. If you suspect someone you know is suffering overdose from benzodiazepines, seek medical care right away, and look for the following symptoms:
- Coordination troubles
- Extreme drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness (passing out)
- Stopping breathing
Who Abuses Xanax?
Addiction doesn’t discriminate. That means that anyone who first abuses Xanax risks becoming addicted to it. While overdose on Xanax alone typically isn’t life-threatening, people tend not to abuse the drug on its own.
Anyone who is prescribed Xanax should be careful to take the drug as directed. Most side effects associated with Xanax may be mild, but developing tolerance, dependence and addiction, or possibly suffering overdose, are consequences not worth the risk.
Texas Xanax Abuse
If Xanax abuse is high in the United States, it is especially high in Texas. Research published by the National Institute Of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that alprazolam (Xanax) has remained one of the most commonly abused benzodiazepines in the state of Texas.
A report on drug use patterns in 2016 from the University Of Texas At Austin found that, “benzodiazepine indicators have remained fairly stable but the number of deaths has increased.” Alprazolam is the benzodiazepine most reported to poison control centers in the state of Texas.
Prescription drug abuse is a large problem in the United States. People receive medications for an ailment or health condition and fall victim to abuse. Or, people close to those who receive medications are able to get these drugs. For example, teens tend to get prescriptions from a loved one, often without the person even realizing that the medication is missing.
A report from the Dallas Area Drug Prevention Partnership showed that 14.5 percent of high school teens in Dallas County in 2011 had abused prescription drugs without personal access to a prescription. The percent of high school age teens who abused prescription drugs the same year in the state of Texas was 22.1 percent.
In other words, even those who aren’t prescribed a medication like Xanax for personal use, but only have access to it through a friend or family member, are at risk of abuse.
What Treatments Are Available?
Treatment for Xanax addiction may require detoxification. Some people develop dependence, and when tapering off use of the drug can experience light to moderate withdrawal symptoms that may be uncomfortable.
With medication assisted treatment, you’ll be monitored by professional, certified staff who will track your vital signs to ensure they stay at safe levels, manage your pain or discomfort and help you safely taper off use of medication as needed.
If you need detoxification, you’ll complete that process first and then move on to counseling, therapy and other forms of treatment.
At Vertava Health of Texas, we understand that addiction affects more than just what meets the eye. Addiction affects your mind, behavior and emotions as much as your physical health, so treatment must address all these aspects.
We offer an array of treatment modalities integrated into custom, individualized plans that meet your specific treatment needs. Some of our research-supported methods include:
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Co-occurring disorder treatment
- Mindfulness/stress management activities
- Motivational Interviewing
- Aftercare support
Xanax Addiction Treatment At Vertava Health of Texas
In 2011 alone, 49 million prescriptions were written in the United States for alprazolam (Xanax), according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Xanax can be helpful when taken as prescribed, but abuse of it can leave you in a hopeless cycle of addiction.
We’d like to offer you hope and healing at Vertava Health of Texas. If you or a loved one are struggling with Xanax addiction, contact us today at 877-318-2084.