Xanax (or alprazolam) is in a class of medications called Benzodiazepines, often referred to as “Benzos.” Besides Xanax, other drugs that fall into the Benzo family include Valium, Klonopin, Restoril, Librium, and Ativan. Restoril is often prescribed to help clients sleep. Xanax and its cousin, Valium, are often prescribed to alleviate anxiety. Ironically, Valium once earned the nickname “Mother’s little helper” after the famous 1966 song by the English rock band, The Rolling Stones. The song, Mother’s Little Helper, which was about prescription pills, is almost like an epitaph for pill addicts. By the end of the song, the “mother” or the woman who pops pills dies, presumably from a drug overdose help.
The song could have been written about the dangers of Xanax.
Like Valium, Xanax is a tranquilizer, and its effects are immediately felt.
How Do People Get Addicted to Xanax?
Psychiatrists and doctors prescribe Xanax to help clients who suffer from intense anxiety, usually on a short-term basis, or help clients with specific fears like those terrified to get on an airplane or those who have agoraphobia. Clients who suffer from long-term anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, often accompanied by depression, are usually prescribed psychotropic medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including Prozac and Celexa. SSRIs often take between four and six weeks to produce an altering effect, and if one psychotropic medication doesn’t work, then the doctor will prescribe another one.
However, a drug like Xanax works almost instantly. Xanax usually removes the intense “fight or flight” feeling that people who suffer from extreme anxiety experience, and many users often equate the calmness they feel from taking a Xanax to drinking a glass of wine.
Effects of Xanax
After taking a Xanax, the individual feels a sense of stillness. This occurs within 15 and 20 minutes from taking a dose. But the Xanax effect only lasts about six hours, and what happens eventually is that the anxiety comes back, and the individual wants to feel calm, and then the addiction kicks in.
Often, the prescribing doctor or psychiatrist might write on a Xanax prescription, as needed, but what does that really mean? Sometimes a person will interpret the doctor’s AS NEEDED into AS DESIRED. Like many other drugs, a tolerance for Xanax develops, and then more plus more Xanax is required to achieve the desired effect.
As The Rolling Stones sing in Mother’s Little Helper, “Doctor, please, some more of these, outside the door, she took four more.”
How Addictive is Xanax?
A person who becomes addicted to Xanax will also go to any lengths to acquire this drug. If their doctor doesn’t prescribe any more refills, they pay a doctor or a mental health clinic visit until they get their precious Xanax. The drug itself, like other benzos, quickly becomes habit-forming. Withdrawing suddenly from Xanax or any other benzo can lead to deadly consequences, including severe depression, muscle twitches, intense anxiety, and seizures.
As Dr. Stuart Gitlow, an addiction psychiatrist and president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine said, in a 2014 article for Self magazine, “Withdrawal from benzos can be more dangerous than withdrawal from heroin.”
To handle a withdrawal, a Xanax user typically needs medical help. Often, another benzo, like Klonipin, will be prescribed to wean the addict off the Xanax. Klonipin works more slowly than Xanax. In other cases, the addict will be gradually tapered off the drug.
What’s scary is that the drug used to treat anxiety ends up causing more than TRIPLE the fear the person had to begin with!
Celebrity Xanax Deaths
Additionally, Xanax, when used in conjunction with another drug or alcohol, can be lethal.
Some celebrities have died from an overdose of Xanax and other chemical substances. Actor Heath Ledger died of a drug overdose that included Xanax and several other prescription drugs. Simultaneously, the singer Whitney Houston is suspected of having died from an alcohol and Xanax overdose.
Heath Ledger, who was only 28 years old at the time of death, was found naked and unconscious on the floor by his bed in his loft in Soho, Manhattan. This young actor whose talent, looks, and charisma commanded the silver screen died an awful death, thanks to the combination of Xanax and other drugs. Instead of more red carpets being laid out for him, he was rolled out in a body bag on top of a gurney.
Toxicology reports confirmed that he had died of a drug overdose and that it was an accident. That probably is true because the reasoning of addicts becomes impaired when they abuse a drug or when they ingest a deadly mixture of narcotics. Chances are, Ledger might have lost consciousness before his death, and then his heart and other vital organs stopped working.
What a way to go.
What a waste.
And it is not just Ledger and Houston and other young talents who died before their time, but what about the other addicts suffering from Xanax addiction today? Chances are they are caught in the throes of their addiction and probably might not even be aware of how dangerous Xanax can be.
Long-Term Side Effects of Xanax
While Xanax is often used to help people with anxiety, the long-term side effects are horrible. Are these drugs worth a possible demise or are there other more life-affirming ways to deal with stress, including phobias and panic attacks?
We live in a society that often demands instant gratification and has no tolerance for discomfort. Instead of trying to find a more grounded way of dealing with anxiety, like yoga or therapy or taking an SSRI, as opposed to a Benzo, many people become easily addicted to drugs like Xanax without really understanding the drug’s true nature.
How to Help Someone Addicted to Xanax
Those addicted to Xanax probably need to get to a safe residential treatment facility that treats drug addiction. Before receiving inpatient care, detox will be provided. Medication-assisted treatment and therapy are offered to help addicts wean off the drug because it is not safe for them to undergo the process or go cold turkey. Xanax addicts are best served by going to a residential treatment facility that provides dual diagnosis support for co-occurring disorders like anxiety and depression.
By dealing with the root of the problem, which is probably the anxiety, these recovering addicts can heal from the damaging effects of their drug addiction and find healthier ways to deal with the stress that got them hooked in the first place.
In the end, taking Xanax is really not worth it.
There are other, healthier ways to deal with anxiety.
If you are suffering from the dangers of Xanax, please call Cycles of Change Recovery Services for help.