When you think of drug addiction, you might not immediately jump to prescription medication as a likely suspect. But according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, prescription drugs fall third in most illegally abused substances with cocaine being first and marijuana second.

Of those who misuse prescription medication, two million suffer from addiction, including those prescribed Xanax. Although Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed medications and is effective in treating anxiety and panic disorders, it comes with a high risk of abuse. 

What is Xanax? 

Xanax belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines (including Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan) which work to enhance the calming effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a natural chemical found in the body. As a central nervous system depressant, Xanax helps to reduce the severity of symptoms connected to stress, anxiety and panic disorders.

Is Xanax addictive?

Because Xanax is a prescription medication, many overlook the risk of addiction Xanax presents. Xanax was not manufactured to be taken over a long period of time, however, those who use the medication for extended periods are more likely to find their tolerance increases; in other words, they will need to take a larger dose to feel the same calming effects. 

As tolerance grows, the risk for addiction also increases. 

According to the American Addiction Centers, “Xanax is a fast-acting benzodiazepine medication. That means it brings about a big change in the brain in a short period of time. As a result, it is considered one of the most addictive benzodiazepine medications on the market today.”

Signs of addiction may include: 

  • An inability to focus on work, school or other responsibilities
  • A hyper-fixation on acquiring or using the drug
  • Taking a larger dosage or using for a longer period of time than prescribed
  • Using or buying someone else’s prescription pills
  • Continuing to use even when it starts interfering with daily life
  • Strong cravings for the drug
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when usage stops

One of the most conclusive signs of addiction to Xanax is the physical withdrawal symptoms that manifest when usage stops or tolerance increases. 

Xanax withdrawal signs

If you have been using Xanax and choose to quit “cold turkey” or without tapering off the dosage, it’s likely you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms as the body adjusts to the absence of the drug’s chemicals. The appearance of withdrawal symptoms is often a sign of the body’s dependence on Xanax, which may indicate addiction. 

Common withdrawal signs include: 

  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Insomnia/trouble sleeping
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures and/or tremors
  • A return of symptoms Xanax was used to treat, including panic and anxiety 
  • Sweating
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Nausea/vomiting/diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing 

In order to safely stop Xanax usage, it is best to consult a medical professional, such as your physician or a detox treatment center, to make sure detox occurs safely and thoroughly. 

Am I at risk for Xanax addiction?

Because of the way benzodiazepines work on the body, there is always a risk for addiction. Certain factors, however, may mean some individuals are more at risk than others for developing an addiction. 

These factors include: 

  • A history of addiction in the family—genetics plays a large role in determining whether you will become addicted to substance use
  • A pre-existing mental health condition which may lead to a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis
  • Environmental factors like peer pressure, availability of the substance and the social environment around you
  • Early exposure—the younger the age at which one is exposed to addictive substances, the greater the risk for developing an addiction as an adult
  • Method of use—when Xanax is used as prescribed, risk of addiction is lower, but when it’s snorted, smoked or injected, and the chemicals go straight into the bloodstream, risk significantly increases

If you have been prescribed Xanax, you don’t need to be alarmed or immediately fear the risk of addiction. However, learning about the potential risks of addiction, knowing the side effects of Xanax and using the prescription medication only as prescribed can help significantly lower risks. 

Xanax addiction treatment

If you believe that you or a family member is at risk for Xanax addiction, help is available. Treatment programs, like those offered at Silvermist Recovery, offer holistic, personalized treatment plans to offer relief and recovery to all. 

To learn more, or to speak with a counselor today, contact Silvermist Recovery by calling 724-268-4858.