Xanax (Alprazolam) addiction
Xanax addiction can be hard to recognise, and misconceptions and stigma surrounding addiction often lead us to hide or deny our problems rather than reach out for help. In reality, however, Xanax addiction is a medical condition that requires support. Here, we discuss everything you need to know about Xanax addiction and what action to take if you recognise it in yourself or a loved one.
What Is Xanax addiction?
Xanax addiction is when you compulsively seek and use Xanax, despite any negative consequences. Xanax addiction is characterised by physical changes in the brain that make it very hard to quit using the substance by yourself. If you’re affected by Xanax addiction, remember that drug addiction is not a life choice but a condition that requires care and support.
How does Xanax addiction develop?
Almost all addictive substances share a common interaction mechanism with the reward pathways in our brains. The reward pathways are an important part of how the brain works, helping us to feel motivated to engage in activities that are good for us.
When we engage in behaviours like eating or exercise, it releases a small number of certain neurotransmitters (such as dopamine and endorphins), which signal to the brain that something good has happened. The release of these chemicals alters neuronal connectivity along the reward pathway, making it more likely that you will repeat the activity.
When you take Xanax, it also interacts with the reward system, often causing much stronger effects than is natural. With repeated use, you can develop strong urges to seek and use the substance (cravings) that are hard to resist without proper support.
While research on the effect of benzodiazepines like Xanax on our reward system is still limited, studies show that they cause lasting changes to dopamine neurons along the reward pathway. These changes are likely to explain the addictive potential of Xanax and other benzodiazepines, at least partially.
How can you recognise Xanax addiction?
If you’re worried about your or a loved one’s Xanax use, it might help to look through some of the signs and symptoms of addiction. Any Xanax misuse is dangerous, and addiction can manifest in unusual and hidden ways. If you have any concerns, speaking to a doctor or mental health professional for expert advice is a good idea.
Some signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction include:
- Xanax becoming the priority in your life
- Neglecting responsibilities and obligations due to Xanax use
- Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to reduce Xanax use
- Trying to control Xanax use but being unable to
- Continuing to use Xanax despite any negative consequences
Sometimes, partners and loved ones can hide their addiction from others, making it harder to identify the signs. In these cases, you may also want to look out for lying or secretive behaviour, unexplained outings, or unexplained financial difficulties. If you decide to talk to your partner about their drug use, remember to come from a place of care and to remain calm and non-judgemental.
How does Xanax affect the brain?
Xanax works by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA’s role is to inhibit the action of other neurotransmitters, slowing down activity in the brain and calming the central nervous system.
This calming effect also contributes to the pleasurable feelings that people experience when taking Xanax. By chasing these feelings, people who abuse this drug risk developing an Xanax addiction. Furthermore, long-term Xanax abuse can lead to the brain becoming dependent on the drug to sustain regular GABA production, causing them cravings when they don’t take it.
How does physical dependence lead to Xanax addiction?
One of the biggest dangers of Xanax misuse is developing physical dependence. Physical dependence on Xanax and other benzodiazepines can build extremely quickly, and it’s possible to become dependent even when following a prescription exactly. However, misusing the substance makes the risk much greater.
Studies suggest that physical dependence on benzos can develop in as little as three weeks. While scientists recommend that prescriptions are limited to one to two weeks, many doctors currently write longer prescriptions.
Physical dependence happens when your brain gets used to the presence of Xanax and adjusts its own functions in response until you become dependent on the drug to feel normal. If you then try to stop using Xanax, you will usually experience withdrawal symptoms as your body readjusts.
Severe benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms are among the most dangerous of any substance, sometimes involving potentially lethal seizures and psychosis. While most people do not experience the most severe symptoms, it’s vital that you don’t try to detox alone. Professional medical support can guide you through the process safely and as comfortably as possible, and medics can intervene in the event of any medical complications.
What Is the scope of Xanax use in the UK?
Previously, Xanax use was much less common in the UK than in countries like the United States. However, in recent years Xanax use has increased, especially among young people. By 2018, the UK accounted for 22% of Xanax sales on the dark web.
Xanax is not available on the NHS, meaning that much of the UK supply is illegally manufactured and sold, often mixed with harmful chemicals with unpredictable potency. Scientists emphasise that benzo use is particularly dangerous when mixed with other central nervous system depressants such as alcohol or opiates.
Overcoming Xanax addiction at Linwood House
Sometimes, seeking help is the hardest part of the recovery journey. For many people, Xanax addiction is not the source of their problems but a consequence or expression of other underlying issues. You may be using Xanax to cope with emotional distress, a mental health disorder, or a past experience of trauma.
At Linwood House, we’re here to empower you or your loved one to overcome addiction. We offer evidence-based treatment and skill training programmes that support long-term recovery. We also have a family programme dedicated to helping the family unit to heal and rebuild strong and stable relationships
.It can be difficult to recognise that you are reliant on Xanax or to accept the need to change, and most people need long-term support to achieve life-long recovery; however, with effective care, anyone can leave Xanax addiction behind – you just need to take the first steps.