Anxiety disorders are common among the general population. In fact, they are the most commonly diagnosed mental health condition in the United States. They can be debilitating for many people who struggle through day-to-day life. Individuals with anxiety disorders are likely to seek relief through prescription medications, such as Xanax. Xanax is most commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, but despite the help it can offer, it is a highly dangerous drug. Whether it is abused or used as prescribed, people taking Xanax face a high risk of overdosing.
Xanax is a commonly prescribed medication for a variety of reasons, especially in the field of mental health. This makes it very easy to abuse when a user is seeking out relief from anxiety or frequent panic attacks. This article will bring to light some important risks regarding Xanax as well as how to use it safely. We will also offer some recommendations for further treatment in the case of an overdose or Xanax addiction.
What is Xanax?
Xanax is a benzodiazepine class drug but is also known by its generic name alprazolam. It is used to treat anxiety disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It has also been known to treat sleeplessness, PMS, and even depression. However, extended use of Xanax can be hazardous as the risk of addiction increases.
Benzodiazepines function by enhancing the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) chemical, which induces relaxation in the body. Through extended use, the body will become accustomed to the adjusted levels of GABA causing it to build a tolerance. As a result, the user will need larger and larger doses over the same course of time to have the desired effects.
Is Xanax a controlled substance?
The increasing need for larger doses over time means that there is a high risk of addiction. For this reason, the FDA classifies Xanax as a controlled substance. While the drug is technically legal when prescribed by a physician, the chances of overdosing on Xanax are much higher than most people think.
Can you Overdose on Xanax?
In short, yes. If a user builds a tolerance to the drug it could result in unguided overuse. In turn, it is very easy for a user to fall into a pattern of dependence and addiction. The end result is a high likelihood of an overdose.
While there are many cases in which a user will abuse the drug as a result of deliberate drug abuse, most Xanax overdoses are not the result of purposely misusing the drug. Instead, they are often accidental and often occur when the user is unknowingly taking an additional CNS depressant, such as opioids or alcohol. When Xanax is combined with another central nervous system depressant, the drugs dangerously suppress the central nervous system. Doing this can be fatal, as it impacts a person’s breathing or circulatory system.
How Much Xanax Does it Take to Overdose?
There is no single answer for how much Xanax it takes to overdose as there are many factors involved such as a person’s tolerance, weight, or even genetics.
Mixing Xanax with other substances like alcohol or opioids also influences the likelihood of overdose. There is also the possibility that the user has abused counterfeit Xanax which cannot be regulated like those prescribed by a doctor.
These factors would make the amount required to overdose different depending on each case.
Recognizing Xanax Overdose Symptoms
Since it is possible to overdose without realizing due to unknowingly mixing substances, it is important to notice Xanax overdose symptoms in order to react accordingly.
However, it is common for users to experience a Xanax hangover. A Xanax hangover is another term for Xanax withdrawal. This often happens when the effects of the drug wear off. This can occur for new users, those who abuse it, and those who need an adjusted dosage or have recently adjusted their dosage. Symptoms of a Xanax hangover include:
- Increased pulse, blood pressure, and body temperature
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid breathing
- Blurred vision
- Decreased appetite
- Diarrhea, nausea, or stomach cramps
- Muscle tension and tremors
- Difficulty breathing, concentrating or thinking clearly
- Impaired Memory
- Increased Anxiety
- Thoughts of suicide
Most of these symptoms should decrease or disappear within a day. When physical dependence on Xanax is strong, however, they can last for months — and they can even be fatal.
Signs of Xanax Overdose
While it might be easy to dismiss an overdose as a Xanax Hangover, any symptoms should warrant medical attention. Common signs of a Xanax overdose include but are not limited to:
- Poor coordination
- Blurred Vision
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty breathing
- Respiratory arrest
If you or someone you know are experiencing any of these symptoms or might have also consumed alcohol or other opioids alongside Xanax, it is crucial to seek medical assistance immediately.
If a person collapses, has a seizure, trouble breathing, or appears to be unconscious, do not hesitate to call 911.
Is a Xanax Overdose Deadly?
An overdose of Xanax can result in death if it is combined with other substances, taken in excess, or unregulated by a medical professional. It is important to use Xanax as directed and to practice safe use.
Using Xanax Safely
Since it is classified as a controlled substance because it is so easy to form an addiction, it is important to use Xanax responsibly. Doctors will prescribe the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time to avoid the user developing a dependency. They will also seek to gradually lower dosages when possible as the risks associated with rapid withdrawal can be just as life-threatening as an overdose.
Drug Interactions with Xanax
It has been mentioned to not mix Xanax with alcohol or opioids, but there are other medications that can negatively interact with Xanax.
Opioids and other central nervous system (CNS) depressants can cause sedation effects in a user, leading to breathing problems, coma, and even death. These CNS depressants include:
- Psychotropic drugs
Some drugs block specific enzymes, such as Cytochrome P450 3A, that are used to break down Xanax in the body changing the levels present in the blood. Birth control and Fluoxetine are both known for blocking this enzyme.
It is important to take this into consideration when using Xanax. If at all possible inform your doctor or pharmacists about other drugs you are taking to avoid negative side effects. Or consider doing your own research online about possible drug interactions.
Types of Xanax and Common Dosages
Xanax is most commonly prescribed in low dosages from 0.25 to 0.5 mg. Physicians will generally tell clients to administer it 1 to 3 times a day. It can be prescribed as an oral concentrated liquid, orally disintegrating tablet, and as both short and long-acting tablets.
In some cases, dosages might reach up to 4 mg a day for those that need it. For more severe panic disorders, some physicians will prescribe it for up to 10 mg a day. However, 10 mg a day in short-acting Xanax is usually the highest dose of Xanax given.
How Often Can I Take Xanax?
Xanax should be used in conjunction with a doctor’s guidance. In most cases, this means once a day for long-acting doses. Whereas short-acting can be taken more frequently depending on the need, but usually not exceeding 4 times a day.
If you feel as though your current dose is not working well enough, please consider the risks before taking a larger dose without guidance. It may even be beneficial to seek out Xanax alternatives to help cope with anxiety.
If you suffer from anxiety or an anxiety disorder, there may be other options when it comes to managing it. In some cases, the need for prescription drugs can be avoided by using:
- Proper sleep
In other cases, taking drugs may be necessary — but there are many effective alternatives to benzodiazepines with far lower abuse potential. Antidepressants, for instance, may be a viable option. While they do not offer immediate help, they can be suitable for long-term treatment.
As with any medication, there are side effects when using antidepressants, but when compared to benzodiazepines, the risk of addiction is far less.
Seeking Treatment After a Xanax Overdose
If you or someone you know has suffered a Xanax overdose there are a few routes of treatment medical professionals will seek. Most will be through supportive care by monitoring vitals, giving intravenous fluids, and breath support, if the case is severe enough.
In very rare and severe occasions, doctors may choose to administer a Flumazenil injection. Flumazenil will reverse the effects of a Xanax overdose, but it is known to be somewhat controversial. The use of Flumazenil can result in seizures. The medication is best used as a last resort, such as when an individual is in a coma or suffering from other dire conditions.
If a dose is taken within the past 1-2 hours, a doctor may choose to pump the stomach to expel the Xanax.
In cases where Xanax was used as a means of self-harm, such as when it is taken in large quantities or with other substances, a psychiatric evaluation may be conducted. This is done in an effort to offer the best help to the user.
Xanax Addiction Treatment at NuView Treatment Center
Regardless of how an overdose occurs, treatment is not far away. Overcoming a Xanax addiction and regaining your life is possible. Rehabilitation and treatment centers offer many helpful resources to prevent and recover from an addiction.
NuView Treatment Center is one of West Los Angeles’ top treatment facilities. Our state-of-the-art facility offers clients a range of evidence-based treatment modalities and therapeutic approaches. NuView Treatment Center covers every level of outpatient care, including partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient programs, outpatient programs, and aftercare planning. Dual diagnosis clients also benefit from integrated treatment involving simultaneous addiction and mental health treatment. NuView Treatment Center is in-network with the vast majority of health insurance policies.
Our team believes that addiction recovery involves more than just putting down Xanax and other substances. Clients in our outpatient addiction treatment programs, regardless of which program, work daily to rebuild their lives from the ground up. In the process, they build a lasting foundation for long-term sobriety and mental health. Our physicians and masters-level therapists at NuView Treatment Center are highly trained and professional, but above all they emphasize compassion. We are convinced that addiction treatment can never be one-size-fits-all. Instead, our individualized treatment plans are holistic and comprehensive. We work one-on-one with clients to help them address the underlying issues behind their addictions, rebuild their lives in recovery, and develop new coping skills for averting relapse.
If you are ready to escape the vicious cycle of Xanax addiction and begin a new life, reach out to NuView Treatment Center today.