These are stressful times. When we find ourselves feeling chronically anxious it is no surprise that turning to a sedative, like Xanax, may offer some quick relief. Xanax is a fast-acting drug in the benzodiazepine family that is often prescribed for treating anxiety disorder.
Like all benzos, however, Xanax is extremely habit forming. Part of the reason for this is that it offers such fast action that you know in just a few short minutes you will feel less anxious. Another reason for its addictive nature is that the results are short-lived. This can lead people to take the Xanax more often than prescribed, just to continue to experience the relaxation effects.
Over a very short period, someone taking Xanax can find their tolerance to the drug increasing. This means that there is a tendency to further increase dosages to hopefully feel those initial effects. As chemical dependency takes root some may begin to seek higher dosages yet, in the Xanax bar.
Xanax bars, or “Xanny bars,” are rectangular shaped versions of the drug that contain a potency of 2mg., making it nearly the highest dosage of Xanax on the market. Only one version of Xanax is a higher dosage, and that is the triangular shape 3 mg time-released version.
Unfortunately, some people become chemically dependent on Xanax after extended us, while others may recreationally abuse Xanax and seek out Xanny bars on the street. Slang terms for this version of Xanax includes “planks,” “z-bars,” “footballs,” “planks,” and of course “xannie bars.”
Once someone becomes addicted to Xanax his or her brain chemistry has been significantly altered. When it becomes evident that they have developed a serious problem with xannie bars they may wish to stop taking the drug. This could have serious, even fatal, effects, so stopping cold turkey is never recommended. Instead, a professional detox team will step down exposure to the drug incrementally, eventually weaning the person off of this powerful benzodiazepine.
What is Xanax?
Xanax (alprazolam) is the most prescribed psychiatric drug in the U.S. with over 47 million prescriptions written for it in 2011, according to IMS Health. Xanax is a depressant that acts on the central nervous system, and is used to treat a wide range of anxiety disorders. Xanax comes in a range of potencies, the lowest dose being 5mg and the highest at 3mg.
Xanax has become a popular drug for those suffering from panic disorder and other anxiety disorders, and use of the drug has continued to escalate. Xanax is highly addictive because the person becomes psychologically dependent on the drug’s sedating effects. Someone who struggles with chronic stress or anxiety may begin to anticipate their next dosing. They may begin to believe they need the drug to get through the day.
How to Tell if Someone has Xanax Dependency
With daily use, as with all drugs, tolerance to Xanax increases fairly rapidly. This causes the individual to take a higher dose or more frequent dosing in order to obtain the same effects. According to a study published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors in 2011, addiction or dependence takes root in approximately 44% of those using Xanax.
Signs of Xanax dependence or addiction include:
- Poor memory
- Feeling confused
- Taking higher and higher doses
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased libido
- Slurring words or difficulty speaking
- Physical weakness
- Increased salivation
- Poor coordination
- Difficulty making decisions
- Depression symptoms
- Withdrawal symptoms if Xanax not available
As with all benzodiazepines, taking the drug consistently for a period of a few weeks can spark dependency.
Signs of Xanax Overdose
The threat of overdose comes into play when someone combines Xanax with other substances. Common poly-drug combinations include Xanax with cocaine (the sedating effects of Xanax help minimize the jitters associated with cocaine), Xanax and alcohol (to enhance the effect of each of these depressants), and Xanax and opiates (also to enhance the effect of each of the drugs).
Using alcohol with Xanax bars is particularly dangerous. Because Xanax causes the heart rate and respiratory rate to slow, adding another depressant such as alcohol can result in an overdose.
Signs of a Xanax overdose may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling lightheaded
- Extreme drowsiness
- Profound Confusion
- Loss of balance
- Becoming unresponsive
When a Xanax overdose has occurred it is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate intervention. The first responders or hospital emergency staff will assess the individual’s medical status and possibly have to pump the stomach, known as gastric lavage. Fluids may be introduced through an I.V. line, and flumazenil, which is an antidote for Xanax, may be provided.
Why Outpatient Rehab is Not the Best Treatment Option For Xanax Addiction or Dependency
Outpatient treatment is an excellent option for those who have a fairly recent substance issue. However, for someone who has become addicted or dependent on Xanax, especially the high potency xannie bars, a more supervised and structured setting is a better option. Some reasons why outpatient rehab is not ideal for a Xanax addiction include:
- Xanax detox and withdrawal should be supervised, and residential programs offer on-site detox services.
- Would remain living in a potentially stress-inducing home environment.
- Would have a lot of freedom to possibly relapse.
- Residential programs are staffed with physician, therapists, and clinicians offering round the clock support.
- Mental health issues, such as anxiety, can be treated along with the Xanax addiction.
Medical Detox for Xanax Dependency
Just like with alcohol detox, Xanax detox can present a serious health emergency if not medically monitored. For this reason, detoxing from Xanax in hospitals or a residential rehab is always advised, as these addiction professionals can monitor withdrawals and quickly intervene with emergency measures if necessary.
Detoxing from Xanax requires a step-down tapering process, versus stopping the drug abruptly. The detox professional will dictate the individual’s tapering schedule based on the history of the addiction and the levels of drug use. The detox process may take 2-4 weeks in all.
Depending on how long the individual was misusing the Xanax, and how high the daily dosing was, withdrawal symptoms can range from moderate to severe in intensity.
Potential withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Blurred vision
- Rapid heart rate
- Aching, twitching muscles
- Increased blood pressure
- Impaired breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Sensitivity to light and sound
During the Xanax detox, the withdrawal symptoms can be intense. Generally, symptoms begin about 6-12 hours after the last Xanax dose. The medically trained detox team can assist with mitigating the physical and psychological discomfort by providing relief through various interventions. Once the detox phase is complete, you then enter residential addiction treatment that will provide the support and education to help them sustain their recovery.
Residential Rehab for Xanax Recovery
Recovery from a Xanax addiction is possible when you make fundamental changes in their ability to cope with stress. Once the coexisting anxiety disorder is better managed, and when dysfunctional thought patterns are replaced with healthy ones. To accomplish this, you will embark in a multi-dimensional recovery program that contains the following basic treatment elements:
- Psychotherapy. Individual psychotherapy is central to changing addictive behaviors associated with Xanax. A therapist will guide you towards examining underlying emotional issues that could be contributing to the anxiety. In addition, CBT skills can help you develop healthy thought patterns.
- Group support. Small groups will gather to discuss topics related to addiction recovery. Group sessions encourage supportive communication and peer support during rehab.
- Education and coping skills. Recovery skills are central to navigating life after rehab. New coping strategies are introduced and practiced in treatment, such as better emotion regulation and stress management.
- 12-step programming. Rehabs integrate 12-step themes into the program and often include recovery meetings, such as A.A., N.A., or SMART Recovery.
- Holistic therapy. Xanax recovery is enhanced in treatment when relaxation techniques are used. These help you relax while in rehab, and also can give you important recovery skills to access after discharge.
When Xanax dependence or addiction has taken over and severely impacted your daily life, it is critical to take the steps to get help in overcoming the problem. With patience and commitment, Xanax dependency or addiction is treatable.
Relaxation Methods that Help Reduce Stress in Recovery
In most cases, Xanax is prescribed to reduce symptoms of an anxiety disorder. An important part of Xanax addiction recovery is learning how to relax without having to rely on medication. Once you learn how to incorporate the relaxation practices into daily life you will be equipped to manage feelings of anxiety without turning to Xanax.
One of the most helpful aspects of addiction treatment in recent years is how rehabs now integrate stress-reducing practices right into the programming. This makes sense, as stress is one of the common triggers for relapse. Learning relaxation activities is essential in recovery. Some of the relaxation methods include:
- Deep breathing techniques
- Practicing yoga
- Mindfulness meditation
- Guided imagery meditation
- Regular exercise, especially cardio
Mastering these skills can provide daily tools for managing stress and avoiding Xanax relapse. Most of the activities can be easily found on YouTube videos, phone apps, and podcasts, making them especially accessible during the lockdown era.
The Treatment Specialist Provides Valuable Information About Xanax Treatment and Recovery
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