Last reviewed by Editorial Team on September 4th, 2018.
What does Xanax do?
Xanax is a Brand name for that contains a short-acting benzodiazepine drug named alprazolam as an active ingredient. This drug works by affecting chemicals in the brain that are unbalanced in patients who have anxiety disorder.
Xanax is prescribed for: panic disorders with or without agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder and anxiety linked with depression. It is available in the form of immediate release tablet in following doses: 0.25, 1, 2 and 5 mg and in form of extended release tablet as Xanax XR in doses of 3 and 5 mg.
Other Brand names for products containing alprazolam as an active ingredient that can be found on the market are: Alprox, Niraval, Solanax, Restyl and Esparon.
How does Xanax work in the body?
Alprazolam acts by nonspecifically binding to BNZ1 – benzodiazepine receptors, which are responsible for sleep induce and benzodiazepine receptors BNZ2 – benzodiazepine receptors which are responsible for anticonvulsant activity, memory and motor coordination.
BNZ1 and BNZ2 receptors are coupled GABAA (to gamma-aminobutyric acid-A) receptors, that increases the inhibitory effects of GABA neurotransmitter by increasing the affinity of GABA for its binding sites. After binding to its receptor, GABA opens the chloride channel, which results in a cell membrane hyperpolarization and prevention of further cell excitation.
Xanax and addiction
Is xanax addictive drug? Yes. Xanax has a high potential of causing addiction and abuse, although it is a very commonly prescribed drug. Xanax may cause both physical dependence and mental addiction. Physical dependence can be caused when controlled substance is used for a long-term period.
Body becomes used to this substance which may incorporate into body normal metabolism so the body needs this substance in order to function properly. So, in situations when this drug is no longer in the body, patients may experience different symptoms that can drive them to take more of this drug.
On the other way, mental addictions, especially when it is about anxiolytic drug is very difficult to break. Patients who are mentally addicted to alprazolam are unable to control their panic attacks and other anxiety attacks on their own, and they need to continue with this drug for a long-term use in order to feel them better and safe.
While health professionals are ensuring that patients must have to understand how to properly use their drugs, it is in most cases individual thing for a patient itself to make a proper decision to take their drugs correctly.
The best way to prevent benzodiazepines addiction is to take the drug exactly as it has been directed and prescribe by the doctor and never at higher doses or more frequently. Patients who feel that they are beginning to become addicted to Xanax should speak with their doctors and possibly find another treatment for their issues with less potential for side effects.
Does Xanax cause withdrawal symptoms?
If Xanax is used for a long-term period in high doses it is likely that withdrawal will be caused. Withdrawal symptoms will occur in situations when patients who are physically dependent on Xanax therapy suddenly stop using it. In comparison with other benzodiazepine drugs, Xanax may have very serious withdrawal symptoms.
Alprazolam, the active ingredient of Xanax, is eliminated from the body faster than longer-acting benzodiazepines. This is why Xanax cause sudden and severe symptoms of withdrawal. Even the extended-release form of Xanax – Xanax XR may cause stronger withdrawal symptoms than some immediate release benzodiazepines.
Alprazolam is also very potent drug and it can be more than 10 times potent than drugs of the same class, such as diazepam or clonazepam. This drug hijacks brain reward centers more intensely.
What are Xanax withdrawal symptoms?
Because of high potential of causing addiction and withdrawal symptoms Xanax is only prescribed for short-term use. Some patients may experience withdrawal symptoms after taking Xanax after only few weeks. The most common symptoms of Xanax withdrawal are:
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to noise and light
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Numb fingers
- Muscle cramps and pain
- Loss of appetite
- Heart palpitations
Does Xanax cause rebound symptoms after withdrawal?
Patients who were prescribed Xanax for their panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder or insomnia may experience rebound symptoms if they suddenly stop using a drug. Rebound effects are actually much intensified symptoms of a pre-existing psychological condition and may include anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia. Rebound symptoms often disappear for about a week; however underlying disorder usually requires specialized treatment again.
How long Xanax withdrawal symptoms last?
In general Xanax withdrawal symptoms do not last too long. As a short-acting benzodiazepine, it is faster eliminated from the body than other benzodiazepines. Withdrawal starts as soon as the body and brain stay without drug.
As soon as the drug is abrupt and stops being active usually 6-12 hours of the last dose are needed and withdrawal symptoms of Xanax can start. So, withdrawal symptoms may start after a few hours of Xanax abruption and usually last for little more than a week.
In some rare cases, Xanax withdrawal symptoms may appear up to two years after giving the drug up. This phenomenon is known as PAWS – post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) or protracted withdrawal.
What factors may affect Xanax Withdrawal?
Withdrawal is and individual thing for each person. Different factor may affect addiction and withdrawal. If the body and brain are more dependent to Xanax, more intense and longer withdrawal symptoms are likely to be caused.
Taken doses, method of ingestion, age at first use, combination with other drugs or alcohol, body and mind health, genetic predisposition, frequency and length of time during Xanax therapy or abuse can all affect how quickly dependence is formed and how strong it may be. Predisposed factors may also be: high levels of stress, history of a family or prior addiction, underlying medical complications, and environmental factors.
How long does it take to detox off Xanax? Xanax detox can be a long-term process. Tapering off Xanax includes slowly cutting back on the dosage of the drug over a period of time. Doctor may also recommend moving to a less potent benzodiazepine with a short half-life, like Klonopin or Valium, to taper off use. Detox from Xanax has to be done under the medical professional monitoring.
Medical detox programs are best option for keeping patients comfortable and minimize the effects of withdrawal. This is aslo the safest detox method as doctors are always close to prevent events when withdrawal symptoms become life-threatening.
These programs can help patients on Xanax to exceed their physical dependence while also helping the psychological side of addiction. Getting treatment for Xanax addiction will give you your best chance at a successful recovery.