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How Long Does Addiction Take When Using Xanax?

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The most-prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States is Xanax (brand name for alprazolam), a common type of prescription benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines (also known as “benzos”) are tranquilizers. They are frequently prescribed to help treat conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, and seizures. They are also administered as an anesthetic before surgery. 

Xanax and other benzodiazepines act on the central nervous system to produce a strong sensation of calm and relaxation. Because Xanax causes these powerful sedative effects and is easy to obtain, it tends to be highly abused. 

Xanax and Addiction

It’s important to follow the dosage prescribed by your doctor. Xanax can be habit-forming if it’s not taken as directed. In fact, it’s estimated that four out of 10 people who take Xanax daily for six weeks or more will develop a dependency. In 2012, more than 17,000 people sought addiction treatment for abuse of Xanax as either the sole or primary substance they were abusing.  

Abusing or using Xanax recreationally is more likely to lead to addiction.  

Xanax can also interact with other medications and drugs, potentially with dangerous if not life-threatening results. Speak with your doctor or health care professional about any other medications, drugs, or supplements you are taking to make sure there is no risk of drug interactions.

Signs & Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

Addiction to Xanax and other benzodiazepines may cause certain signs and symptoms.

If you or someone you know has become addicted to Xanax, you may observe some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty sleeping or changes in quality of sleep
  • Tremors
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Dysphoria or feeling a sense of unreality
  • Movement problems
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pain
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Numbness 
  • Sensitivity to smells, touch, sound, and light
  • Hallucinations

Treatment for Xanax Addiction

It can be difficult to stop taking Xanax once a dependency or addiction occurs. Trying to stop can result in uncomfortable benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. Quitting “cold turkey” without tapering off the drug under medical guidance can seem like a good idea, but it can actually be extremely difficult and even dangerous.

Because the physical symptoms can be so uncomfortable, it can be very challenging to withdraw on your own without professional medical help. It’s important to find a professional, medical detox program to help ensure that you are supported and clinically monitored while you go through Xanax withdrawal. 

Entering an addiction treatment program also helps to set you up for a better chance at lasting recovery given the structured medical and emotional support you will receive.

Different programs offer different levels of care. The ideal treatment program follows what’s known as a full continuum of care. Following a full continuum of care means that you begin with the most intense level of care during the detox phase and then progress through less intense levels of treatment. These progressive stages usually include detox/inpatient, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and alumni or aftercare.

Medical Detox

Medical detox is the first stage of Xanax addiction treatment. The goal during this stage is medical stabilization. The medical team, including doctors, nurses, and support staff, will give you a complete medical assessment when you arrive. This assessment helps to determine your level of addiction plus any other medical needs you may have. The assessment will include a medical exam as well as urine or blood tests to screen for drugs. 

Depending on your test results, your doctor may also require some additional testing. These other tests may include additional blood tests, such as a CBC (complete blood count), chest X-ray, EKG (electrocardiogram), and possibly testing for other diseases.

A detox plan will be created for you after your doctor reviews your test results. Then you start the medical detox process under the care of your medical team. As part of your Xanax medical detox, you may also be given doses of other prescription medications such as Valium to help ease the withdrawal symptoms. 

Another key piece of your addiction treatment plan is emotional support because many people also experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological challenges while they detox.  

Partial Hospitalization

Sometimes a patient will continue with inpatient treatment for a while after completing the detox stage. This is most likely to be recommended if you have a co-occurring condition or dual diagnosis or addiction to and additional substance. If this is not the case, the next stage is usually to continue your treatment in what’s known as a partial hospitalization program. 

During partial hospitalization, you will stay at a transitional living facility while you participate in a structured yet supportive treatment program each day, five days a week for six hours each day. Depending on your needs, you will participate in a combination of individual, group, and family therapy programs to help address your emotional and psychological needs. 

Your focus during these sessions will be on learning positive life skills, coping mechanisms, and techniques to help prevent relapse and better prepare you for long-term recovery. 

Outpatient

As you move through each stage of the full continuum of care, you slowly transition back to your life outside the rehab facility while you simultaneously build the skills and resources you will need to cope with this adjustment to avoid relapse. After you complete the inpatient and/or partial hospitalization program, you will then transition into the outpatient stage. 

Outpatient treatment is sometimes used as stand-alone addiction therapy. It is also an important part of a full continuum of treatment. At this stage, your therapy sessions won’t be as often, and the program will be more flexible. However, you will still participate in intensive therapy sessions and continue with medication management if necessary. 

At this stage of treatment, you will continue to be accountable for your recovery. There will also be periodic weekly testing. 

Alumni and Aftercare

After you complete the formal stages of the treatment program, you will be able to join other treatment center alumni for social events and weekly support groups. Opportunities like these will allow you to meet other program graduates and potentially develop new friendships. You can build a social network with others who also understand firsthand what it’s like to be in recovery. Your new support network can help you grow as you stay focused on your recovery and adjust to your new life after completing the treatment.  

Conclusion

Xanax is a prescription benzodiazepine that is often prescribed to help manage anxiety and panic attacks. It can be easy to become dependent on Xanax, so it’s important to follow your doctor’s dosing instructions carefully. Using Xanax recreationally can be dangerous and lead to addiction. If you have developed an addiction to Xanax, it’s important to get professional addiction treatment to guide you safely through the medical detox process. 

Sources

Ait-Daoud, Nassima, Hamby, Allan.S, Sharma, Shana, and Blevins, Derek. (2018, March 12) A Review of Alprazalom Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal. Journal of Addiction Medicine. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Benzodiazepine Abuse. from www.webmd.com

Benzodiazepines. from https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/

Reinberg, Steven (2016, February 19) Fatal Overdoses Rising from Sedatives Like Valium, Xanax. from https://www.chicagotribune.com

Jaffe, Adi (2010, January 13) Alcohol, Benzos, and Opiates—Withdrawal That Might Kill You. from https://www.psychologytoday.com

Nichols, Hannah (2017, December 7) What You Need to Know about Xanax. from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/

(2014, July) Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) 2002–2012, National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services. from https://www.samhsa.gov/

Xanax. from https://www.webmd.com/

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