Xanax is the trade name and most common name for the depressant alprazolam. It is a member of the benzodiazepine group, which also includes diazepam, flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), oxazepam and temazepam.
It is a prescription medication that is most often used for various anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia and panic attacks. Xanax is also sometimes prescribed to reduce anxiety related to clinical depression. Finally, it is sometimes used in the treatment of cancer, against nausea related to chemotherapy.
This drug is mostly prescribed in the United States, but it is also often used for recreational and non-medical purposes. It is usually prescribed in tablet form and taken orally.
Like most other benzodiazepines, Xanax (alprazolam) works by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA is a naturally occurring chemical that is essential to the proper functioning of the human body. Its role is to inhibit the functioning of other brain chemicals, which “calms” mental activity, reduces anxiety and excessive alertness, and promotes good sleep cycles. It is often the imbalance of the neurotransmitter GABA that causes anxiety disorders. On the other hand, anxiety caused by other pathologies or by external events may become so strong that the natural production of GABA, the body’s natural calming agent, is not sufficient.
In this case, Xanax can be prescribed to stimulate the natural production of GABA and restore its balance. In effect, the drug reinforces the effects of this neurotransmitter, allowing it to better perform its role of calming brain activity and controlling anxiety.
Other benzodiazepines that act in the same way are used as hypnotics to induce sleep.
Xanax is very effective in treating anxiety disorders and is widely prescribed. However, abuse is also common and the drug can be very addictive if misused.
Some people use it illicitly in the same way as alcohol in order to get drunk, calm down and even become euphoric. In this case, users obtain the drug on the black market, without a prescription, and take it more frequently and in larger quantities than normally prescribed.
People who use it on prescription can also become addicted if they increase the prescribed frequency or dosage to get “high” or in response to a growing tolerance to the drug.
Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, a benzodiazepine depressant. Other brands of the drug include Intensol, Niravam and Apo-Alpraz. It is also available in generic form, under the name alprazolam.
On the street, the product is known by these brand names or various slang names, including downers, footballs, bars, Z-bars, yellow boys, white boys, white girls, handlebars, school buses and bicycle parts. Sometimes these names refer to specific versions of the pills and to their color or appearance.
Xanax is prescribed in tablets of varying strengths, ranging from a low dose of 0.25mg to a relatively high dose of 2mg. Each potency is distinguished by a different colored and looking tablet, which explains these different street names.
As a benzodiazepine, Xanax’s main effect is to reduce brain activity, making the user less anxious and more calm. When used illicitly in very high doses, it is believed to produce a short-lived feeling of euphoria.
Like all benzodiazepines, Xanax has a high abuse potential and can be highly addictive both physically and psychologically. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, benzodiazepines are generally avoided for long periods of time (more than 2 to 4 weeks) because of this addictive potential and the rapid development of tolerance.
When tolerance develops, the drug has less effect than before, forcing the individual to take larger amounts to achieve the same effect or to feel “normal”. This is because the body will gradually react to the effects of Xanax (which enhances GABA) by reducing its production of GABA.
In addition to the increased tolerance to the drug, this creates a chemical dependency: if the user were to stop taking Xanax abruptly, the body would no longer produce enough GABA to properly decrease brain activity. This would lead to significant withdrawal effects, including increased anxiety, insomnia, depression, irritability and a craving for more drugs.
On the other hand, Xanax can be psychologically addictive, in which case the user will crave the state of mind generated by the drug and ignore the obvious adverse effects on their life.
The main side effects of long-term Xanax use are memory loss, mental confusion, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart problems and breathing difficulties.
Xanax is legally produced in laboratories by chemical synthesis. It is mainly produced in the United States, its main market. The largest manufacturer of Xanax is Pharmacia Ltd.
The drug is legally available only by prescription and any other use is considered a crime in the United States and most other countries.
Almost all products sold on the black market come from this legal channel and are obtained in a variety of ways. They may be diverted from the manufacturing site by corrupt employees, often under the influence of members of criminal organizations, or stolen from the manufacturer’s warehouses, pharmacies and other places where the drug is stored.
Xanax (alprazolam) is not generally produced illicitly in clandestine laboratories, as are other drugs. This is due to the complexity and high cost of the processes and equipment used, the low profitability of these activities, and the relative ease with which the drug can be diverted from legitimate channels.
Xanax obtained in this way is then sold on the street with other illicit drugs. In recent years, it has even been marketed through unlicensed online pharmacies. Like all drugs purchased in this way, users are taking a risk, as they do not know exactly what they are buying and counterfeit pills have been found.
People who use Xanax recreationally may also obtain duplicate prescriptions or even forge some themselves.
FACTS AND STATISTICS
- When taken orally as prescribed, Xanax usually takes about 30 minutes to work.
- If inhaled, its full effects can be felt in 1 to 10 minutes. If left to dissolve in the mouth, the effects will also appear in less than 10 minutes. This faster action greatly increases the psychological addiction since it is more likely that the drug is taken as a “quick fix”.
- The duration of the effects of Xanax varies with the individual, the amount taken and the level of tolerance to the drug. In general, the effects last 4 to 6 hours.
- Xanax tablets contain between 0.25 and 2mg of active ingredient.
- According to a 2009 U.S. government study, 20% of high school students admitted to taking prescription drugs without a prescription.
- In 2008, a U.S. study found that 2.4% of eighth graders had taken illegal tranquilizers such as benzodiazepines in the past year.
- 4.6% of tenth graders admitted to taking tranquilizers without a prescription in the past year.
- However, senior students were the most likely to have used tranquilizers, with 6.2% admitting to unlawful use in the past year.
- According to British medical recommendations, benzodiazepines should not be taken for more than 2 to 4 weeks because of the high risk of abuse.
- In New York City, Xanax is the most commonly used tranquilizer on the street.
SIGNS OF ADDICTION
Xanax, like all benzodiazepines, has a high risk of physical and psychological addiction. And it’s not just illicit users who can become addicted to the drug, but also people who have been prescribed it for legitimate use.
In the latter, several signs of abuse may be visible. The individual may appear to be obsessed with the drug and may be overly focused on the next dose. His or her supply of the drug may be depleted faster than expected because he or she is taking it more frequently than prescribed. He or she may also take larger amounts in ways that are not consistent with legitimate pharmaceutical use (e.g., by inhalation).
When an individual has not taken Xanax for a period of time, he or she may experience a variety of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, including tremors, irritability, anxiety, insomnia and panic. On the other hand, once they have taken a dose, they may seem calm, exhilarated and surprisingly relaxed.
These symptoms apply to illicit users as well. Bottles, boxes or small bags of pills may be found in their belongings. These pills are different colors depending on the dosage (white, blue and orange).
In addition, people who are addicted to Xanax may lose interest in important aspects of their lives and focus only on their next dose. Finally, they may suffer from memory loss, mood swings and act in an unusual way.
Because Xanax is so addictive, both physically and psychologically, professional help is often needed to treat the addiction.
Regular use leads to chemical dependence on the drug, which means that the body becomes accustomed to a certain amount of the drug. In response to the reinforcing action of Xanax on GABA, it reduces its production of the substance. In people who have developed a high tolerance and are taking a particularly high dose, this reduction can be drastic.
When the user stops taking the drug, the neurotransmitter GABA is no longer present in large enough quantities in the body to do its job of calming mental activity and regulating sleep. This triggers a number of withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, aggression and even suicidal thoughts.
Because these withdrawal effects can be severe, it is often recommended that people who have used large amounts over a long period of time enter a detoxification center. However, this is not always necessary and treatment can be administered on an outpatient basis.
Since addiction is both physical and psychological, each of these aspects must be treated as part of a comprehensive approach.
Detoxification from the drug is the first step. In some cases, withdrawal can be immediate but will usually be done under medical supervision. Finally, medication can be prescribed for the most unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, always under the supervision of an experienced professional.
7. Xanax – Treatment
The other method of withdrawal, which is often necessary in cases of severe addiction to Xanax, is the gradual discontinuation of the drug. In this case, the dosage is gradually reduced in a controlled manner and the drug can be temporarily replaced by another medication that acts in a similar way.
The psychological and behavioral aspect of addiction is often treated with various therapies and counseling sessions. These treatments often focus on the underlying reasons for Xanax addiction and how to deal with it in a more constructive and healthy way.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be very effective for various forms of addiction. It can address addictive behaviors and identify their triggers. It can also help the patient adopt healthy alternative behaviors through hands-on, talk-based sessions facilitated by a trained therapist. One of the primary goals of CBT is to help the individual develop personalized techniques for overcoming the craving for Xanax that may occur after withdrawal.
In addition, if the medication had been prescribed for anxiety, other options may need to be found to treat the original pathology, which can eliminate the risk of relapse.
Recovering addicts are often very fragile and emotional support is also an integral part of treatment. Support groups of like-minded individuals can be effective in this regard.