Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam, which is a benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that help temporarily manage stress, anxiety, or insomnia by slowing down the central nervous system.
Benzodiazepine overdose is a significant cause of emergency medical treatment. Between 1999 and 2008, there were over 30,000 cases of benzodiazepine overdoses in the US requiring Emergency Department visits. 25% of these patient-reported intentional suicide attempts or drug abuse.
Benzodiazepines are the third most common prescription drug taken by the public for nonmedical uses after painkillers and stimulants.
The treatment of benzodiazepine addiction involves the gradual reduction of dose as well as the introduction of non-drug-based treatments that promote recovery from benzodiazepine addiction such as psychosocial counseling and attendance at support groups. Medical detox may be required to remove the drug from the person’s body before they start on this recovery program. Benzodiazepine is a psychoactive, potentially addictive drug. Benzodiazepines are most often prescribed for anxiety disorders, but can also be prescribed for insomnia and other conditions. You can read more about Xanax in this research paper overdose deaths tied to antianxiety drugs like Xanax continue to rise.
- 1 Why is Xanax Dangerous?
- 2 Is Xanax Addictive?
- 3 How Does an Overdose on Xanax Happen?
- 4 How Much Xanax Does It Take To Overdose?
- 5 What are the Symptoms of a Xanax Overdose?
- 6 Mixing Xanax with Other Drugs
- 7 Mixing Xanax and Opioids
- 8 How to Stop Taking Xanax Safely
- 9 The Physical and Mental Toll of a Xanax Overdose
- 10 Fighting Addiction and Xanax Overdose
- 11 Support a Loved One During Recovery from Xanax Addiction
Why is Xanax Dangerous?
Xanax is a depressant drug, which means it slows down certain body functions, including:
- Breathing – reducing breathing can lead to a lack of oxygen in the blood and a drop in body temperature, a condition called hypothermia.
– It can also slow your heart rate. This may lead to heart failure or arrest – the heart stops completely.
- Heart – Xanax can slow the rate of your heartbeat until you have a cardiac arrest.
– It may also increase your risk for irregular heartbeats that could lead to sudden death.
- Mood or mental health – Xanax may cause muscle spasms, mood swings, hallucinations, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of detachment
Read More: What Does Suboxone Do?
Is Xanax Addictive?
Xanax is addictive, so it can be hard to stop using.
Who is Most Vulnerable for Xanax Overdose?
- Patients with a history of substance abuse are most vulnerable to benzodiazepine overdose.
– The risk of overdose increases if taken with alcohol or other sedatives, such as sleeping pills. These combinations can be hazardous because they can cause prolonged breathing and even stop your breathing completely.
- Combining Xanax with other drugs that slow your breathing, like muscle relaxants, sleep medicines, and certain antidepressants, can be fatal.
– Taking more than the recommended dose of Xanax increases the risk for overdose. It only takes a few extra pills to become an overdose victim.
How Does an Overdose on Xanax Happen?
A Xanax overdose can happen in one of three ways:
- A person takes more than the recommended dosage of a benzodiazepine medication.
- The person mixes benzo with another drug, such as opioids or alcohol. This is very dangerous because they amplify each other’s effects on the body and lead to serious health complications, including death.
- When an individual uses multiple medications that have similar depressant effects on the central nervous system, it may be possible for them to reach toxic levels in concert with one another when combined.
How Much Xanax Does It Take To Overdose?
People can overdose when they are prescribed an amount higher than 0.5 milligrams per day. It is harder to successfully overdose when taking Xanax because it has a lower toxicity level than other types of benzodiazepines (e.g., diazepam).
However, many people abuse Xanax at high doses or by crushing and snorting the tablets to get an intense high.
The severity of an alprazolam overdose varies depending on whether it is taken with any other drugs or alcohol, how much of the drug was taken, and if the person has underlying medical conditions that might complicate treatment for the overdose.
What are the Symptoms of a Xanax Overdose?
Overdose does not always include all of these symptoms; instead, some people only experience one symptom from this list below. People who have overdosed on alprazolam can experience some symptoms, including:
This is a feeling of extreme drowsiness and lethargy, as well as a lack of motivation.
The hands, eyelids, or lips may be trembling involuntarily.
Words do not come out clearly or are difficult to form into sentences due to the slowed central nervous system associated with benzodiazepines.
People who have overdosed on alprazolam may see things that don’t exist, such as bright colors or hallucinations. The individual might also have trouble distinguishing between objects that are close together or difficulty seeing in general.
Benzodiazepines like alprazolam cause sedation that is often accompanied by a sense of relaxation and calmness.
People who overdose on benzodiazepines such as Xanax may experience low blood pressure, which can cause people to feel faint or dizzy.
People who have overdosed on Xanax can have difficulty staying awake or responding to questions or outside stimulation. This is called the “coma position.”
Benzodiazepine overdose can cause chest pain, which may be caused by inflammation of the lining around the heart from poor circulation. Individuals who have been taking this medication for a long time tend to have more intense withdrawal symptoms, including chest pain.
Long-term Xanax users also have a higher risk of heart attack or stroke because of the harmful effects of long-term use on the cardiovascular system.
Loss of coordination
Overdosing on benzodiazepines can cause loss of coordination or slurred speech.
Abdominal pain is another side effect that people who have overdosed on Xanax are particularly at risk for experiencing because this medication slows down the digestive tract to help treat anxiety, stress, and related physical symptoms. People who have overdosed on Xanax are also more likely to have other harmful effects, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax are known to increase the risk for seizures in some cases. This is especially true if someone has an underlying seizure disorder or takes benzodiazepine medication along with other medications that cause seizures.
Benzodiazepines also have the potential to induce coma if people overdose on them. People who have overdosed on alprazolam are more likely to enter a state of lethal coma than others, so they should seek medical attention immediately in this case. The individual may fall asleep and not be able to be woken up.
Mixing Xanax with Other Drugs
Alprazolam has dangerous drug interactions with other medications, including antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and other benzodiazepines. These drugs have dangerous interactions when combined with alprazolam because they slow down the central nervous system.
This can lead to higher concentrations of the drug in the body, increasing the risk for side effects and overdose. Some people may also be taking benzodiazepines or other drugs that make them more sensitive to alprazolam, a synergistic effect that increases the risk of side effects and overdose.
This combination of medications may cause coma or life-threatening health consequences.
Mixing Xanax and Opioids
Combining benzodiazepines with opioids increases the risk for overdose and death even more. Opioids slow down breathing, heart rate, and brain activity, while benzodiazepines further slow all bodily functions.
How to Stop Taking Xanax Safely
Alprazolam can be addictive even when taken as prescribed, so it should never be stopped abruptly or without medical supervision. Abruptly stopping alprazolam after taking it for a long time is particularly dangerous, which is part of the reason why this medication needs to be tapered under careful medical supervision.
If you are using Xanax and want to stop taking it, talk to your doctor about how to safely discontinue its use before doing so, including tapering the dosage.
The suggested tapering schedule is as follows:
Week One – Take a quarter of the original dose.
Week Two: Take half of the original dose.
Week Three: Take two-thirds of the original dose.
Week Four: Take your normal dose, if possible. If not, take an equivalent dose to what you were taking before the week one schedule.
If you cannot take your normal dose, go back to the week one schedule and continue down the list until you can.
Read More: How Long Do Benzos Stay in Urine?
The Physical and Mental Toll of a Xanax Overdose
After tapering off of this medication, it is important to follow up with a behavioral therapist because benzodiazepines like alprazolam are known to cause psychological dependence and physical dependence.
There is no antidote for an alprazolam overdose, so treatment will focus on supporting life functions and stopping the harmful effects of the drug.
People who have overdosed on Xanax are also in danger of developing other conditions related to their overdose, including aspiration pneumonia because they stopped breathing while unconscious after taking too much of this medication or aspirated vomit into their lungs. This can lead to bacterial infection that spreads throughout the body.
This condition develops when stomach acid enters the respiratory tract through vomiting or inhaling medications in pill form. Bacterial infection from aspiration pneumonia can lead to abscesses in the lungs, which are pockets of pus that develop due to infection.
Mental and Psychological Effects
People who suffer from addiction or substance abuse disorders may be at a higher risk for developing overdose and dependence because they take more alprazolam than prescribed. The brain changes that occur with benzodiazepine use make it difficult for people to stop using it without medical help.
When it comes to the psychological effects of Xanax overdose, some people have delusions or hallucinations, while others experience delirium.
- Delusion is a false belief that something real or imagined has occurred despite evidence to the contrary.
- Hallucinations are seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, or feeling things that are not there in reality.
- Delirium is confusion accompanied by an inability to stay aware of time and place and changes in mood and behavior caused by brain dysfunction.
People experiencing this condition may become combative or withdrawn. They may also suffer from memory problems, speech difficulties, sleep disturbances, withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, and inability to process information normally.
Fighting Addiction and Xanax Overdose
If you or someone you know abuses benzodiazepines like alprazolam, immediately seek treatment from a psychiatrist specializing in addiction. These doctors prescribe medications to treat withdrawal symptoms and support behavioral therapy, allowing individuals to recover from drug addiction.
Several medications help to minimize withdrawal symptoms, making the process more manageable and less likely to trigger a relapse of Xanax abuse. Such as:
Valium (diazepam) – This benzodiazepine is similar to alprazolam because both of these drugs attach to GABA receptors in the brain to reduce anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. Some studies show that diazepam is more effective in treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms because it helps control delirium tremens, which occur when an individual stops drinking alcohol abruptly after long-term use.
Klonopin (clonazepam) – This medication is used to treat seizure disorders and panic attacks.
Although people addicted to benzodiazepines may not show obvious signs of addiction, they should seek treatment if unable to reduce the dosage on their own or if they start using more than intended. This can be a sign of dependency.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, treatment options for Xanax addiction include:
– A detoxification program under medical supervision
Medications such as antidepressants and other medications to treat anxiety help reduce withdrawal symptoms and support recovery from Xanax addiction.
Once people who have been abusing this medication start taking a lower dose of the drug regularly, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms. During this period, the person may also start to use benzodiazepines again due to unpleasant symptoms such as:
– Anxiety – This is a problematic condition that causes feelings of intense fear and dread accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating or rapid heartbeat. These feelings can be so intense that they interfere with daily life.
Insomnia is one of the most common withdrawal symptoms because alprazolam helps reduce muscle tension, which relaxes a person and enables him or her to fall asleep. Without Xanax, a person may experience severe insomnia that lasts for several days after stopping this medication.
– Depression – People who abuse this medication may also develop depression after they stop taking the drug, another condition that can interfere with everyday life.
– Stress – Xanax helps reduce stress by decreasing muscle tension and blood pressure, but stopping the drug without the benefit of medications or behavioral therapy to support recovery can trigger an individual’s fight-or-flight response, which is the body’s automatic reaction to stress. Increased stress can lead to more anxiety and depression, as well as cravings for benzodiazepines.
Support a Loved One During Recovery from Xanax Addiction
When a person decides to get help for addiction to benzodiazepines like alprazolam, the people around them can provide support by learning about the drug’s side effects and how it might affect their loved one’s behavior. It is also beneficial for individuals who live with an addict to become educated about addiction and the options available to help them recover. Learning about these issues can enable families to talk more comfortably about drug abuse.
Furthermore, supporting a loved one who is recovering from Xanax addiction also includes understanding that he or she may use drugs again due to triggers. These events, people, places, or emotions make a person want to use Xanax again. An example is returning to the same bar where the person used alprazolam for the first time or attending parties where individuals use drugs at social gatherings.