Xanax Abuse Treatment

As one of the most commonly prescribed tranquilizers in the country, Xanax, or alprazolam, has helped many individuals overcome the symptoms of anxiety disorders. But this medication, which belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, has a high abuse potential when it’s not taken as directed. The problem of Xanax abuse has escalated in recent years. The University of Texas at Austin has compiled some disturbing statistics about benzodiazepine addiction in the United States:

  • In the state of Georgia, prescription benzodiazepines accounted for more overdose deaths than any other drug except cocaine in 2005.
  • In the city of Los Angeles, Xanax and other benzodiazepines were the third most common drugs mentioned in telephone calls to emergency centers.
  • In the city of Philadelphia, Xanax was the most widely abused benzodiazepine.
  • In South Florida, the abuse of benzodiazepines was described as being “out of control.”

Xanax is a central nervous system depressant that slows down the brain activity that causes anxiety and tension. But Xanax also suppresses vital functions like breathing and heart rate, which may lead to respiratory depression, heart failure, coma or death if you take too much of the medication. When Xanax is combined with other central nervous system depressants, like alcohol, the drug is especially dangerous. If you are using Xanax for non-medical reasons, getting into treatment could literally save your life.

How Is Xanax Abused?

xanax pillsAccording to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Xanax is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance. The drug is usually prescribed on a short-term or as-needed basis to manage the symptoms of anxiety, panic disorder, muscle spasms or seizure disorders. After you take Xanax, the drug begins to work very quickly, relieving symptoms like anxiety, panic or agitation. But tolerance to the drug can also develop quickly, and if you take Xanax on a regular basis, you may develop a physical and psychological dependence on the drug.

Abuse of the drug may begin with a legitimate need for anti-anxiety medication, which then evolves into a physical dependence and addiction. Addiction can also begin when you use benzodiazepines for recreational purposes. Xanax is often abused by combining the drug with other prescription medications or illicit drugs. It may also be abused by taking doses larger than the prescribed dose, or by taking the drug more frequently than prescribed.

Once you get used to taking Xanax, you can develop a tolerance, or the need for higher doses to get the same relaxing effects. If you find yourself taking more of the medication just to get the same sense of calm and tranquility, you may be in danger of becoming chemically dependent. Dependency can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking Xanax abruptly. The journal Addiction cautions that you may experience the following symptoms if you withdraw too quickly from benzodiazepines:

  • Extreme anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle pain

Long-term benzodiazepine users may experience more severe side effects from withdrawal, like seizures. The safest, most effective way to stop Xanax abuse is to enter an addiction treatment program where you can be tapered off the drug with the help and supervision of a qualified medical staff.

How Do I Know if I Need Treatment?

If you’ve come to rely on Xanax to relieve anxiety or stop a panic attack, the thought of quitting the drug may be frightening. You may be reluctant to admit that you have a problem, because you don’t have any other way to relax when you’re stressed or agitated. But if you’ve experienced any of the following signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine addiction, you may need treatment to break free from the trap of dependence:

  • You often run out of your medication before your prescription is due to be refilled.
  • You’ve lied about losing your meds or having them stolen so you could get a refill early.
  • You’ve seen more than one doctor in order to get more Xanax.
  • You can’t concentrate or maintain your emotional stability without Xanax.
  • You feel sick, experience muscle spasms or sweat heavily when you try to stop using the drug.
  • You feel remorseful, guilty or worried about your drug use, but you can’t seem to stop.
  • You’ve had problems with personal relationships because of your drug abuse.
  • You’ve lost a job, had financial difficulties or had legal problems because of drug abuse.

Xanax can play an important role in the treatment of anxiety or panic disorder. If you have a mental heath condition that requires medication therapy, your rehab program must address your psychiatric disorder as well as your chemical dependence. Rehab for co-occurring disorders integrates treatment for anxiety and substance abuse, so you can achieve a true recovery on all levels.

What Can I Expect From Rehab?

group therapyThe first stage of the recovery process is a complete evaluation by an addiction counselor or medical professional. When you enroll in an addiction treatment center, an intake specialist will ask you questions about your history of Xanax abuse, whether you are taking any other drugs and whether you have any medical or psychological conditions that require treatment. Detox monitored at an inpatient treatment center is often recommended if you meet the criteria listed below:

  • You have a long history of heavy Xanax abuse.
  • You are using other drugs, like alcohol, prescription narcotics or designer drugs.
  • You have medical concerns, such as a seizure disorder, a heart condition or pregnancy, that may cause complications during the detox process.
  • You have a psychiatric disorder, such as anxiety or depression, that requires monitoring.
  • You’ve tried to go through rehab before but you continue to relapse.

Outpatient detox can be an effective alternative to intensive residential care if you’re medically stable or you’re in the early stages of drug addiction. At an outpatient facility, you can go through detox and attend counseling sessions during business hours, then return home to take care of family obligations or work responsibilities.

According to outpatient treatment protocols developed by theNational Community Detoxification Steering Group, community-based benzodiazepine detox is appropriate for individuals who have no serious medical conditions, who don’t suffer from co-existing opiate addictions or who haven’t experienced seizures during detox in the past.

Benzodiazepine detox involves gradually weaning you off Xanax, so that your body has the opportunity to adjust to lower doses of the drug. As the Xanax leaves your system, you’ll be clinically monitored by consulting physicians for the signs and symptoms of withdrawal. Meanwhile, you’ll be prepared for the next phase of rehab, which includes the following components:

The Next Phase:

  • Individual counseling, with an emphasis on positive cognitive changes and behavioral modification
  • Group counseling with other addicts who are also struggling with benzodiazepine addiction
  • Family therapy with your significant other and/or your children
  • Psychiatric treatment, if necessary, to address any co-occurring conditions
  • Pharmacological therapy to reduce withdrawal symptoms
  • Holistic treatments, such as acupuncture or massage, to facilitate your recovery
  • Aftercare services, such as counseling, 12-step programs, job placement assistance or transitional sober housing, to support your recovery

Unlike heroin, meth or crack, Xanax can be found in medicine cabinets across the country. Many users mistakenly believe that because the drug is manufactured under carefully controlled circumstances, and because it’s prescribed by doctors, that Xanax is safer than street drugs. In fact, misusing Xanax can be dangerous to your health, or even fatal. In rehab, you and your loved ones will learn about the dangers of prescription drug addiction as you develop healthy new ways to cope with the triggers and stressors of your daily lives.

Getting Into Treatment

Admitting that you have a problem with Xanax is the first step in your recovery journey; asking for help is the second. Once you’ve decided that you need to regain control over your life, we’re here to answer your questions and help you make important decisions about Xanax abuse treatment. At The Oaks at La Paloma, we specialize in providing integrated treatment for Xanax abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders. Our dedicated staff will assess your needs before developing an individualized Xanax treatment plan just for you. We encourage you to take those first steps toward recovery by contacting us to start the healing process.