Xanax abuse as a party drug continues to rise each year. Xanax is a prescription medication typically prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax is from a class of similar drugs known as benzodiazepines, which together account for some of the most commonly prescribed medications.
Xanax, however, also has a high potential for abuse due to its calming and euphoric effects, which mimic alcohol.
Like all drugs of abuse, long-term Xanax use comes with several long-term consequences. Here we take a look at some of the long-term consequences of Xanax abuse.
What is Xanax?
Xanax is a brand name for the drug alprazolam. Xanax is a prescription medication that belongs to the benzodiazepine family of drugs. Xanax is a popular drug of abuse for its ability to cause sedation and intoxication at higher doses. Xanax is both physically and physiologically addictive. (1) Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the country, ranking 19th overall in 2016. (2)
One of the most pronounced side effects of Xanax is a phenomenon known as blackouts, or blacking out.
Blackouts are temporary conditions that result in significant memory lapses. They are often characterized by lost time, or an inability to remember certain periods of time. Black outs are most commonly caused by either large amounts of alcohol, benzodiazepines, or a combination of both. Xanax is particularly powerful at causing these lapses in time.
Even worse, those who abuse Xanax over long periods of time may lose memory of entire gaps of their lives, from days to weeks to even months. (3)
Physical and Physiological Dependence
Long-term repeated use of Xanax (and other benzodiazepines) leads to both a physical and physiological dependence on the drug. This means that if an individual who is dependent on Xanax suddenly stops taking it, they will experience a severe withdrawal syndrome.
Constant use of Xanax causes the brain to counteract its effects by shutting off the GABA receptors in which it binds to. This change leads to tolerance; meaning more of the drug is required for the same effect. Over the long-term, this change in the brain chemistry can take quite a while to change back to normal.
Long-term Xanax abusers with benzodiazepine dependence experience a severe withdrawal that can be fatal in some cases. The withdrawal symptoms include severe rebound anxiety, tremors, sleep disturbances, headaches, and seizures that can be life-threatening. Withdrawal from Xanax should be considered a medical emergency. (4)
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
While the most extreme benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms tend to subside within two weeks, a variety of typically less severe general withdrawal symptoms can persist for months at a time. These symptoms, collectively, are known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS for short. While the severity is typically not as troublesome as acute benzodiazepine withdrawal and may not require medical attention, PAWS can be one of the most difficult aspects of early recovery. (5)
Long-term cognitive effects
Long-term Xanax use can cause serious cognitive problems that remain long after the chronic use has stopped.
These include long-term and short-term memory problems, attention problems, and other difficulties. These symptoms may improve in approximately six months, or in some cases remain permanent. (6)
Long-term Xanax abuse and dependence has the ability to cause rebound anxiety. Rebound anxiety refers to the worsening of anxiety symptoms that the individual had prior to using Xanax. This is largely due to the changes in the brain in which Xanax has the ability to cause. (7)
This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.