Self Medicating Anxiety With Xanax

Let’s face it, life can just mow us down at times. The high intensity of daily life, with its demands, frustrations, and unrelenting stress, is reflected in our culture’s ever growing anxiety rates. More than 40 million adults, or nearly one-fifth of us, struggle with an anxiety disorder each year, according to statistics provided by the National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety disorders can take one of several forms, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, specific phobia, social anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Anxiety disorders have the potential to cause significant impairment in daily functioning, in both work settings and within relationships. When intense fear consumes someone, it can leas to avoidance and isolating behaviors, which then cause disruption to careers, marriages, and families. In order to rein in the symptoms of anxiety, many will seek out a professional mental health provider for help.

Generally, anxiety is treated with psychotropic drugs, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or sedatives plus psychotherapy. Those who are prescribed sedatives, or benzodiazepines, will experience nearly instant relief of their symptoms of anxiety. Of this class of drugs, the most popular one is Xanax (alprazolam). Xanax provides a swift relaxing sensation that makes it extremely prone to abuse. In fact, self medicating anxiety with Xanax has become a serious health problem, as Xanax addiction and dependency can result.

About the Dual Diagnosis of Anxiety and Xanax Addiction

Dual diagnosis exists when a mental health disorder is co-occurring with a substance use disorder. Whether the mental health condition emerges before the resulting addiction or the other way around makes no difference—mental health disorder plus a drug or alcohol addiction is a dual diagnosis. Diagnosing one can be tricky, as the symptoms of one disorder may overshadow the other, at least initially.

This particular dual diagnosis, anxiety and Xanax, is very common. The drug is widely available, being the top prescribed pharmaceutical for mental health treatment. Addiction to Xanax is also very pervasive, especially psychological addiction. Someone who found immediate relief by popping a Xanax while experiencing anxiety symptoms or intense stress has unknowingly established a pattern in the brain’s reward system. The brain remembers that the effect of the drug was pleasant and sets up a mechanism desiring to repeat that effect. Over time, the individual may feel prompted to reach for a Xanax in anticipation of stress, when it is not really warranted. But they now believe they cannot handle any stress burden without the aid of the Xanax.

How Do You Become Addicted to Xanax?

As with all drugs, the body learns to adapt to the changes in brain chemistry quickly, and begins to demand more of it in order to experience the initial response of immediate relaxation. Individuals may begin to double up on their dose or to take the pills more often than is prescribed. The increase of the drug further impacts neurotransmitters and begins to remap the brain pathways, which culminates in addiction.

Xanax addiction can happen fairly quickly. As with all benzodiazepines, taking the drug consistently for a period of a few weeks can spark dependency. The individual may find that their prescribing doctor stops approving the refills, leading some to obtain the pills by doctor shopping, buying them on the street, or purchasing Xanax on the Internet. Sadly, many of the Xanax product sold online is counterfeit, sometimes containing the deadly drug fentanyl.

Dangers of Self Medicating With Xanax?

When dealing with an anxiety disorder it is important to also receive psychotherapy. Using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a therapist can help the individual learn new coping skills to manage the symptoms of anxiety. By shifting thought patterns away from distorted thinking, such as “No way can I handle going to that work event,” or “I am freaked out about everyone judging me when I have to give the presentation,” which can lead to an auto-reflex behavior of reaching for the drug. CBT empowers the individual so they can replace the self-defeating messaging and replace it with self-affirming, positive messaging, helping them manage the stressful situation without resorting to using the Xanax.

However, too many people ignore their need for therapy and fall back to the path of least resistance, taking the Xanax to achieve immediate relief without bothering with therapy. This is dangerous, as it deprives the person of the ability to function in any challenging life situation without using drugs. Even more so, relying on Xanax to get one through their days will eventually result in addiction.

Signs of Xanax Addiction

There are certain signs that will accompany a developing Xanax addiction. Some may purposely ignore the signs and symptoms of addiction, but this is to their detriment. The earlier a Xanax addiction is confronted and treated, the better the treatment outcome. Some of the possible signs of a Xanax abuse or addiction include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Increased salivation
  • Constipation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Decreased libido
  • Lying about how much Xanax you take
  • Irritable
  • Manic moods
  • Forgetful
  • Apathy
  • Try to stop taking Xanax but can’t
  • Experience withdrawal signs when not taking the drug

Treatment for the Co-Occurring Disorders of Anxiety and Xanax Addiction

Dual diagnosis treatment will begin with a medically supervised detoxification. Benzos, such as Xanax, are quite difficult to withdraw from and require a professional detox specialist who will set up a tapering schedule. By stepping down the dosing over a period of two weeks the withdrawal symptoms will be more manageable, improving the chances the individual will succeed in detoxing and get into treatment.

Treatment should be obtained through a program that is defined as “dual diagnosis.” These programs have the psychiatric expertise available to help safely guide the client through the treatment process in light of potential psychological symptoms that might present themselves along the way. Treatment can be inpatient or outpatient, this determined largely by the severity and history of the Xanax addiction. Clients who stay the course will be rewarded with helpful recovery tools and techniques, and a future that is drug free.

The Treatment Specialist Provides Information About Self Medicating Anxiety With Xanax

The Treatment Specialist is an online resource for individuals seeking information about mental health conditions or substance use disorders. If you are self medicating anxiety with Xanax and need more information about treatment options, please contact The Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911.

About the Author

The Treatment Specialist

The Treatment Specialist offers mental health information and treatment resources for adults, teens, and families. If you or your loved one is suffering and is in need of help, you’re not alone, call to receive guidance and support at 866-644-7911.

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