Although Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed medications, it is also one of the most addictive. Misuse of alprazolam can quickly lead to addiction and physical dependence. Prolonged use of Xanax causes the brain to stop making as much GABA as it naturally produces.
GABA helps regulate brain and central nervous system activity. The body naturally adjusts to the steady stream of benzodiazepine, creating a tolerance for the drug. With time, people taking Xanax may require an increased dosage in order to achieve the same benefits the drug initially provided.
In the meantime, GABA production slows down tremendously, and the body becomes dependent on Xanax instead of itself.
Dependency of Xanax
Xanax addiction and dependency can occur quickly and without warning. According to the National Institutes of Health, Xanax benefits outweigh risks for short term use of 2 to 4 weeks, but prolonged usage beyond that time places an individual at a high risk of dependency and prolonged use.
Common signs of dependence include:
- Needing higher dosages to achieve the same effect that was once available at lower dosages
- Symptoms of withdrawal when they are without Xanax
When an individual stops taking Xanax, he or she may suffer moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms. Physical dependence takes a long time to build up, and it can take a while for the body to return to normal. When Xanax is no longer introduced into the body, GABA levels may remain low, taking a while for the brain to begin producing normal amounts again.
In the meantime, the lack of sedative can allow uncontrolled activity in the brain, which may even cause seizures.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms is often in proportion the extent of Xanax dependency. For example, people who have been taking 2 grams of alprazolam each day for 8 weeks may experience milder withdrawal effects than someone who has been taking 6 grams daily for several months.
People suffering from Xanax withdrawal may experience:
- Disturbances to their sleep
- Extreme anxiety
- Heart palpitations
- Panic attacks
- Weight loss
Withdrawal from Xanax is often ironically similar to the symptoms that caused a person to begin taking Xanax in the first place – only much more severe.
Physical Dependency to Xanax
Anyone who is addicted to Xanax or who may have developed a physical dependency should not attempt to go through withdrawal alone. Dependency can cause withdrawal symptoms to last many weeks or months before the brain’s GABA production and chemical balances return to normal. During this time period, there is a higher chance of relapse.
Furthermore, withdrawal can produce convulsions that, while rare, can be life threatening. Detox and withdrawal should always occur under the close supervision of a medical professional.