It is an unfortunate truth that most people underestimate the potential danger of prescription drugs. Overdose and other detrimental effects of drugs are generally associated with street drugs such as crack, meth, or heroin, but more problems are actually caused by medications that were prescribed by doctors. Xanax, a prescription drug used to treat a number of psychiatric conditions, is linked not only to overdose requiring emergency room care, but also to the death of the user in some cases. The generic name for Xanax is Alprazolam, and it is actually the most abused drug in its classification.
What Is Xanax Used For?
People in the United States appear to be among the most anxious and stressed out on the planet. This is reflected in the number of people seeking treatment for depression, panic attacks, and anxiety; over 40 million Americans have been diagnosed with conditions associated with anxiety. One of the medications used to treat these conditions is Xanax, which is a member of the benzodiazepine (bennies) family of drugs. These drugs are considered psychoactive medications, meaning that they are not only able to pass through the blood/brain barrier, but also alter mood and behavior.
Xanax is a depressant, which may sound like a contradiction as it is used to treat depression, and is used to moderate or slow the chemical reactions in the brain that are causing panic attacks or anxiety. This drug works by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA is our body’s own tranquillizer, and by causing the release of more of this, the activity of the excited brain is calmed. The effects of Xanax are generally felt in under half an hour. Xanax is prescribed as a time-release medication, and breaking or crushing the tablet can lead to overdose. Xanax comes in a variety of dosage sizes to reduce the need for breaking the tablet.
In addition to alleviating stress and anxiety, Xanax will also produce a ‘high’. Even people who have no mental problems will use Xanax just to experience a feeling of euphoria. However, those who have been prescribed the drug will often use it for recreational purposes, too.
Is Xanax Safe?
Although Xanax is considered to be safe if not abused and used properly, even this can lead to some physical and mental side effects, some of which can be serious:
- Although a rare side effect, Xanax can sometimes cause feelings of rage or suicidal impulses in those who take it.
- Damage to the liver can occur, and this will show itself as yellowing of the eyes or skin (jaundice).
- Xanax can also cause damage to the central nervous system, resulting in muscular weakness, difficulty in maintaining balance, slurred speech, and seizures.
Less serious side effects include dry mouth, constipation, irritability, sleepiness or insomnia, and lessened libido.
Women who are planning on becoming pregnant and are already using Xanax should stop before conceiving as the drug will be delivered to the fetus via the placenta. Mothers who take Xanax during pregnancy have the possibility of delivering a baby who is addicted to the drug and will experience withdrawal symptoms. Nursing mothers should also avoid Xanax.
Because Xanax has the possibility of causing addiction, patients should be aware that they can become addicted to Xanax in as little as 3 or 4 weeks. Higher dosages, 2 mg and more, will be more likely to cause addiction in a short period of time, but even lower dosages can do so. As with most addictions, Xanax use will increase as the effects of the drug lessen over time, raising the possibility of overdose as the patient self-medicates. Those seeking treatment from Xanax addiction have to taper off the drug gradually to prevent withdrawal discomfort and the increased chance of returning to use simply to ameliorate the symptoms of withdrawal.
Xanax Can Kill
While Xanax is considered to be a relative safe mood-altering drug, a safe upper dose limit will vary from individual to individual. For those suffering from anxiety, the doctor will generally prescribe an initial dose of ¼ to ½ mg, increasing the dose as needed, up to 4 mg. people who are being treated for panic attacks begin at a dosage as high as 5 mg, with an upper dosage limit of 10 mg. Doctors who begin their patients at a higher dosage will usually try to taper them down within a few weeks.
Xanax overdoses have occurred at the 5 to 10 mg level, and many doctors recommend that dosages above 2 mg are inappropriate. Xanax overdose and death can occur solely from ingesting a large dose of the drug, such as 30 mg, but problems are more likely to occur when Xanax is combined with another intoxicant such as alcohol, cocaine, or meth (a common practice when Xanax is used purely as an intoxicant).
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