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Is Xanax Addictive? What You Need to Know

Mar 10, 2022

Understanding how any drug can alter brain chemistry is the first clue about its potential for addiction. Xanax is no different. As part of the family of benzodiazepines, Xanax can ease anxiety and panic, but it can also present serious risks. Let’s look at what increases the risk for a Xanax user to develop a substance use disorder

Like any other benzodiazepine, Xanax contains addictive properties that lead to a substance use disorder. It increases dopamine in the brain that becomes the desired result for the person using Xanax. Impaired memory and drowsiness are among the signs of addiction to the drug. Addiction can be both physical and psychological. Treatment for Xanax addiction is available, and the safest form of treatment begins with medical detox to reduce the risk of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. Behavioral therapy may accompany medication if the new drug is not abused. 

Is Xanax addictive?

Yes, but why is Xanax so addictive? Xanax changes brain chemistry by releasing higher amounts of dopamine. This neurotransmitter affects how we feel pleasure. Increased dopamine from Xanax use increases the feeling of reward by the drug’s use. This can intensify a person’s desire to use more often and consume higher amounts each time. 

Two types of Xanax addiction can occur:

  • Physical
    Regular use can make the brain and body adapt to its presence in your system. Without it, you may notice withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Psychological
    Psychological addiction can be related to your fear of quitting the drug, expected withdrawal symptoms, and the belief that you can’t function without Xanax.

Xanax users can assess their relationship with the drug by asking a few simple questions.

  • Have I ever used more Xanax than I wanted to?
  • Have I tried to cut down on my Xanax use but couldn’t?
  • Do I experience intense cravings for the drug?
  • Do I spend a lot of time trying to get more Xanax?
  • Do I put myself in risky situations while using it?
  • Do I use it even when I see it’s negatively impacting my relationships?
  • Have I started to use more to get the same high as before?
  • Have I experienced withdrawal symptoms whenever I stop using Xanax?

Yes, people seek treatment for Xanax.

When used as prescribed, Xanax can safely treat anxiety or panic disorders. If Xanax use interferes with a person’s health, relationships, education, or career, the answer to “Is Xanax addictive?” is clear and addiction treatment is critical. Like any other controlled substance, treatment for Xanax addiction is available.

Available treatment serves different purposes. Someone may go to a detox center to safely withdraw from drug use under the care of medical professionals. This is a recommended first step in responding to drug use due to its potentially dangerous side effects from withdrawal. 

Withdrawal can begin within hours of the last dose. It can increase in severity over several days. A person withdrawing from Xanax use may experience some of the following symptoms: blurred visions, headaches, tremors, muscle pain, insomnia, heart palpitations, and loss of appetite. 

Following a safe medical detox, the choice for treatment may be inpatient or outpatient. Regardless of which treatment option is chosen, it’s helpful to understand why a Xanax dependence began. This understanding can come from recognizing what personal and environmental factors contributed to the addiction. In some cases, the presence of an undiagnosed mental health condition may reveal what led someone to begin misusing a Xanax prescription.

5 Signs You or a Loved One is Addicted to Xanax

  • They doctor-shop to get extra Xanax pills.

This person is actively looking to obtain more Xanax to feed a habit. They may go to different doctor’s offices or clinics, alternating their schedule. They may avoid using health insurance information and pay in cash to avoid a track record of their purchases. 

  • They hunt for Xanax or other pills through personal connections.

This behavior may have them snooping in medicine cabinets at the homes of friends and family. They may repeatedly ask for a sedative from different people to avoid each person discovering what they’re doing. They may look for places or people on the street from which to buy the drug, too.

  • They engage in risky behavior when using Xanax.

Putting themselves and others in harm’s way is one kind of risky behavior. Driving under the influence and acting violently are common examples. But, risky behavior can also involve making choices that lead to other types of severe consequences. Spending money needed for rent on Xanax is an example. Stealing the drug or stealing money from people to acquire the drug can lead to legal consequences or jail time. Going to work high on Xanax could lead to losing their job. 

  • They may show signs of a craving. 

Someone craving Xanax may talk about past use. Seeing any pill bottle may prompt them to talk about Xanax. They may sweat, have trouble paying attention, and show signs of anxiety. Signs of cravings can come as soon as a few hours after their last dose of the drug.

  • They continue to use Xanax AFTER it’s started to affect them negatively.

Someone aware of their Xanax problem yet continues using the drug may not feel quitting is within their reach. They may neglect work responsibilities and ignore family commitments, worsening the overall situation. The negative outcome alone isn’t enough to change their behavior.  

The Best Treatment Options for Xanax Recovery

An optimum treatment resource for Xanax recovery is a facility that offers a medical detox followed by a comprehensive program for substance use and mental health disorders. This dual diagnosis treatment allows a patient to receive holistic care in an environment with integrated services. Through individual counseling and group therapy, a patient with Xanax addiction can learn the skills needed to start a recovery plan. 

As Xanax is typically prescribed for anxiety, the mental health component of dual diagnosis treatment can focus on building new skills to respond to anxiety instead of turning to drug use. These skills may involve meditation and mindfulness strategies or finding replacement behaviors when anxiety builds. Patients in treatment can practice these new strategies to see what works before transitioning out of a program and back to their home life. 

Ideally, a treatment program is only one step in a larger plan for sustaining Xanax use recovery long-term. Continuing care options can help people learn new skills and add to their supportive resources to keep sober living going. Continuing care can involve a hybrid of structured resources, such as outpatient programs and informal care from a mentor, sponsor, or other pieces of a more extensive support system. 

Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.
 
For information on our programs, call us today: 844-501-4673.

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