Alprazolam or Xanax is a prescription drug that is increasing in its abuse in the United States, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Xanax belongs to a class of prescription medications known as benzodiazepines or benzos for short. Xanax is known for its high potential for abuse. An estimated 11 to 15 percent of all Americans have at least one prescription for benzodiazepines, according to the APA. While not all people with a prescription suffer from abuse problems, abuse is common.
Doctors prescribe to treat psychological disorders that include panic disorders, anxiety and depression-related anxiety. Xanax works very quickly to relieve anxiety, typically working as fast as one hour or less after taking the medication. This effect can make a person addicted to its effects, which results in its abuse. It works by binding to the brain's GABA receptors, which works to relieve anxiety and slow down thoughts that are quickly flying through a person's head and making him or her anxious.
Street names for Xanax include Xannies, Z-bars, totem poles, blue footballs, Zanbars and yellow boys. Many of the street names have to do with the shape and colors of many different Xanax strengths. Similar drugs to Xanax include Klonopin, Ativan and Valium. Each of these medications have anxiety-relieving effects.
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Benzos have side effects that can be harmful if taken in large amounts. These include dizziness, affect concentration, poor coordination and slowed breathing. However, for many people, these symptoms are preferred to their anxiety and panic attacks. They may abuse Xanax because they fear symptoms associated with a panic disorder and anxiety.
Signs of abuse in a person can include depression, mood swings, agitation, restlessness, taking higher-than-prescribed doses, snorting or chewing pills to speed their absorption and memory problems. Addiction can cause a person to engage in illegal behaviors as a means to obtain more medications. These behaviors can include doctor shopping, violence, stealing others' prescription or purchasing illegal drugs off the street.
Xanax is addictive because it affects the brain's chemistry, which can cause the brain to become accustomed to the sensations achieved when taking the medicine. A person may also become personally attached to how it makes him or her feel when taking it. Dual diagnosis conditions often facilitate abuse of this drug, as patients try to self-medicate their mental illness.
Those who have taken more than prescribed or who are addicted to the drug often require inpatient or outpatient treatments at a drug rehabilitation center as a means to overcome the physical and mental symptoms associated with addiction. While detoxing from Xanax abuse is rarely deadly, it can cause unpleasant symptoms that would lead a person to relapse before successfully withdrawing from the medicine.
Symptoms of withdrawals can include seizures, depression, anxiety, weight loss, depression, blurry vision, difficulty sleeping and even suicidal thoughts. Due to the severity of these symptoms, it is important a person undergo withdrawals with others around.
Xanax may not be the only substance of choice a person may abuse. For example some people take it and drink alcohol. The alcohol can multiply the central nervous system-depressing effects associated with Xanax.
Abuse has both short-term and long-term consequences. These can include financial losses and legal troubles that can cause a person's health to deteriorate because he or she cannot receive proper care. Because Xanax depresses the respiratory system, people are at greater risk for respiratory infections. Other symptoms can include short-term memory loss, decreased libido, depression, chest pain and suicidal thoughts.