Alprazolam belongs to the group of drugs called benzodiazepines and used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It works in central nervous system slowing down the mind and body to increased relaxation. Doctors prescribed alprazolam to decrease the symptoms of:
- heart palpitation
- physical tension
- worried thoughts.
Even though alprazolam can effectively treat several illnesses it can generate an addiction because of the “high” feeling or euphoric feeling it gives. This sensation can often lead to drug abuse even when the person is following a legitimate medical prescription.
Fast facts about Alprazolam:
In a report published by the Drug Enforcement Administration, it states that:
At least 20 million people used benzodiazepine for a non-medical reason during their lifetime.
In 2010, 650,000 people were rushed into emergency rooms because of benzodiazepines use.
Out of the number mentioned above, alprazolam is also responsible for at least one-third of these ER visits.
Alprazolam is the most prescribed benzodiazepine drug with 49 million prescriptions distributed in 2011.
History of Alprazolam
In 1981, Upjohn (now Pfizer) first released alprazolam and approved as a medication for panic disorder. The drug was initially marketed under the brand name Xanax and instantly become a hit in the United States.
Today, alprazolam is the most prescribed drug and the most abused benzodiazepine in the country. The US Drug Enforcement Administration classified alprazolam as s Schedule IV controlled substance.
Why is Alprazolam abused?
Authorities put strict guidelines for alprazolam, labeling it as a controlled substance in the US. The drug is widely used as a medication for people suffering from panic disorder, anxiety, and insomnia.
As a psychoactive drug, it affects the nervous system and produced hypnotic effects in large doses. Even when users are following a legitimate prescription, the drug can still produce a momentous physical dependence. This can result in several side effects including life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of Alprazolam addiction?
Most of the symptoms can manifest even when the user is taking a prescribed medication. However, when abuse these symptoms can intensify and amplify these effects. Some of the signs and symptoms of alprazolam abuse include:
- Taking alprazolam without a valid medical prescription
- Consuming the drug in higher doses or more frequently than prescribed
- Taking alprazolam for non-medical reasons.
- Users can experience sedation
- Feeling dizzy
- Problems with speech and coordination
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced respiration rate
- Memory and concentration problems
What are the side effects of Alprazolam?
Alprazolam is recognized for its immediate side effects which can take 30 minutes and last for about 6 hours. This characteristic can effectively help people suffering from panic disorders and anxiety as it can quickly act on the central nervous system.
When users take more than prescribed or intentionally consume alprazolam for recreational use they will experience the short-term effects of the drug. These include the feeling of euphoria and act worry free. If taken in higher doses, the drug can cause lapses in memory.
Similarly abusing alprazolam can cause numerous detrimental side effects to the body.
Short-term effects of Alprazolam
- Shortness of breath or Dyspnea
- Dry mouth
- Unnecessary talking
- Decreased enthusiasm
- Decrease sexual activity
- Difficulty in focusing
- Memory problems
- Slurred speech
Long-term Effects of Alprazolam
Prolonged use of the drug can eventually lead to physical dependence, tolerance, and addiction. Over time the body builds tolerance over persistent use. The users need to take more alprazolam to get the same calming effects. This can start a relatively dangerous cycle of compulsive use and lead to addiction. Taking the drug in higher doses increases the chance of drug overdose which can result in death.
Signs and symptoms of alprazolam overdose
- Difficult to wake up from drowsiness
- Syncope /fainting
- Significant muscle weakness
- Uncoordinated motor skills
- Low blood pressure
- Shallow breathing
Within the past years, drug overdose is a common occurrence. Although uncommon, coma and death can still happen because of alprazolam overdose. However, when users mix alprazolam with other substances like alcohol can result in a drug overdose. The combination of the side effects of alcohol and alprazolam can slow breathing which may eventually lead to coma even death.
What are the treatments available for Alprazolam addiction?
The initial step to treating alprazolam addiction is detoxification process. Detox is a process which allows the body to process and excrete the drug from the system. Also, it is an important part of the medical treatment for addiction. The body must get rid all traces of the drug to eliminate dependency in order for it to start the recovery process. It is strongly recommended for the user to undergo a detoxification process on inpatient health care facility. A medical practitioner can monitor the user to ensure safety as users can experience extreme withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms of alprazolam include:
- Inability to sleep/insomnia
Users must also seek an evaluation from a doctor or substance abuse expert before ending the addiction. This is to ensure the best course of action to take for the addiction treatment. Depending on the severity of substance abuse, options for the substance abuse include:
- Detoxification process
- Residential rehabilitation
- Outpatient treatment
- Support groups
After the users undergo detoxification process, experts may refer the user for rehabilitation or outpatient treatment. Rehabilitation treatment can greatly help users with severe addiction. These also include poor support system coming from loved ones, and those living in the unhealthy environment. A residential program can improve the overall health of the user for the duration of the recovery program. Usually, health care facility with a residential rehabilitation has a 30 and 90 days program.
One of the main focus of the rehab program is to teach users new skills to deal with their stressor that cause them to turn to substance addiction and to live a healthy lifestyle.
Alprazolam Withdrawal Timeline
Alprazolam is a short-acting benzodiazepine with an approximate half-life of 11 hours according to the FDA.
Alprazolam Withdrawal Timeline
- 6 to 12 hours
- Users may experience the start of the withdrawal symptoms as the drug stops getting active in the blood plasma.
- 1 to 4 days
- As withdrawal symptoms begins to peak, users may experience cravings for alprazolam.
- 5 to 30 days
- Users may still experience acute withdrawal symptoms which start a few days from the last drug intake and can last up to 30 days. Usually, symptoms peak around two weeks before users can see improvement.
- Months even years from the last drug intake
- Most of the alprazolam addiction co-exists with other psychiatric disorders. It is important to have a professional address these concerns to ensure the user’s total recovery.