When you were going through a stressful chapter in life you might have relied on a little medicinal help to weather the storm. Xanax (alprazolam) is a prescription medication in the benzodiazepine family of sedatives that is one of the most prescribed drugs in the U.S., with about 46 million prescriptions written in 2010 alone.
While very effective in relieving anxiety and quieting nerves, Xanax is also extremely addictive. This means that people who use the drug legitimately can become addicted to it after only 4-6 weeks of daily Xanax use. Tolerance increases with regular use, leading to higher and more frequent dosing to enjoy the same relaxing effects. Meanwhile, brain pathways are being altered in response to the consistent dosing, leading to chemical dependency. Understanding how to treat Xanax addiction is the first step in overcoming this serious substance use disorder.
Xanax is a central nervous system depressant that is often prescribed for anxiety and panic disorder. This fast-acting drug can provide relief from tension, nervousness, and anxiety symptoms. Xanax is also used for other issues, such as seizures, muscle spasms, and insomnia. It works by enhancing the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain, which helps control excitability. By boosting the release of the GABA levels in the nervous system, Xanax then produces the sedating effects.
Signs of Xanax Addiction
Xanax addiction can sneak up on the individual. It is a short-acting drug with effects that last only about two hours. This may tempt the individual to exceed the prescribed amount of daily doses in order to extend the effects of the drug. Compounding the problem is using Xanax with another depressant, such as alcohol. There were nearly 130,000 emergency room admissions associated with Xanax in 2011 and half of those involved an additional substance, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Alliance. Mixing Xanax with another drug or with alcohol can have serious consequences.
There are some warning signs that indicate one is becoming addicted to Xanax. These signs might include:
- Taking increasingly higher doses more frequently
- Acquiring the drug through illicit means after prescription is expired, such as doctor shopping or buying the pills online
- Begin to believe you cannot get through the day without the Xanax
- Obsess about obtaining the drug, looking forward to taking the drug
- Experience withdrawal symptoms if drug is discontinued
Dangers of Xanax
The threat of overdose comes into play when someone combines Xanax with other drugs. Common polydrug combinations include Xanax with cocaine (to help minimize the jitters associated with the stimulant, cocaine), Xanax and alcohol (to enhance the effect of each of these substances), and Xanax and opiates (also to enhance the effect of each of the drugs).
How to Treat Xanax Addiction on Outpatient Basis
It is important to understand that quitting Xanax cold turkey is dangerous. Detoxing off of benzodiazepines must be completed in a medically monitored detox environment where health professionals administer a drug-tapering program. Withdrawal symptoms will be carefully managed and treated with various interventions. Withdrawal symptoms can be highly uncomfortable, so the priority of the medical detox team is to successfully enable the client to complete the detox process and then segue into treatment. The detoxification phase of treatment must be completed before the individual can begin to participate in active treatment for the addiction.
Following detox the individual will begin the outpatient program. The intake clinician will determine the level of care needed based on the length of the Xanax history of use, the dosages that were being taken, and whether there is a coexisting mood disorder involved. A customized treatment program will be designed that includes:
- One-on-one therapy sessions with a psychotherapist. These sessions help the therapist understand what underlying issues might be causing anxiety, and then assist the client in making some life changes.
- Group therapy sessions with other clients, led by a therapist, helps the group hash out their struggles with addiction, share stories, and become accountable to the group in the shared desire to remain drug free.
- 12-step meetings provide a meaningful roadmap of benchmarks that incrementally help the client rebuild their lives. The meetings are a good source of social support as well.
- Addiction education, explaining how the brain responds to drugs and the negative impact on brain chemistry
- Planning how to avoid relapsing back to using Xanax by designing a relapse prevention strategy
- Learning stress reduction techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness
- Medication management is involved when the client is prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.
With a strong commitment to rise above the Xanax dependency and sincere engagement in these treatment interventions, Xanax addiction can be overcome.
While the actual outpatient program may last only a month, ongoing counseling after completing the program will help reinforce the things learned in treatment. If there is a mental health disorder, such as anxiety disorder, regular therapy sessions can be very helpful. There are some holistic activities to utilize on a regular basis that will enhance relaxation, including massage therapy, deep breathing exercises, and yoga. In addition, getting regular exercise can help improve sleep quality and reduce stress. A healthy diet is also important in recovery, as well as avoiding caffeinated beverages.
Phoenix Rising Behavioral Experts Know How to Treat Xanax Addiction
Phoenix Rising Behavioral is an intensive outpatient program located in Southern California that specializes in treating Xanax abuse and addiction. Because Xanax abuse is so common, Phoenix Rising offers daytime and evening options for outpatient treatment. Treatment by the top tier clinical team will begin by coordinating a medical detox and withdrawal to launch recovery. Following detox, the program encompasses a comprehensive curriculum of pseudo attachment therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, A.A. programming, and adjunct therapies that are designed to enhance these interventions. For more information about how to treat Xanax addiction and the outpatient program at Phoenix Rising, call us today at (877) 299-5694.