Xanax® is the trade name for alprazolam, a drug most often used to help treat anxiety and panic disorders. A member of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, Xanax is a depressant of the central nervous system. Although it may be used clinically to help treat a variety of symptoms and disorders, alprazolam is highly addictive and can lead to dangerous symptoms of withdrawal. Many people take alprazolam to help with anxiety, and eventually build physical and psychological dependence.
How Does Xanax Work?
When an individual takes alprazolam, the drug reaches the GABA receptors. GABA is the body's main inhibitor of the central nervous system. When you are experiencing anxiety or activation, it's your GABA receptors that act to bring you back down. Alcohol also affects these receptors in the brain, and can produce similar effects and withdrawal symptoms.
With a half-life of about 11.5 hours, Xanax effects generally last 4-6 hours. It is generally detectable in the bloodstream for 4-7 days after the last use, depending on the dose taken. When taking Xanax, tolerance builds quickly. Drug tolerance is the phenomenon by which a user needs to take more of a drug to achieve the same desired effects. As the brain and body become accustomed to Xanax, the individual takes more and more to achieve the effect which they are seeking.
Can You Overdose on Xanax?
Alprazolam is often abused, and you can indeed overdose. The rate of overdoses from benzodiazepine abuse is on the rise over the last decade, and Xanax is one of the most commonly abused drugs in its class. When taken by itself, it's fairly unlikely that an individual will overdose. Although a user may experience a number of unpleasant symptoms from taking too much alprazolam, the risk of death is low when it is taken alone.
How Much is Too Much?
Although not completely impossible, it's highly unlikely that an individual will overdose from Xanax alone. It would take an extremely high amount of the drug to cause symptoms of overdose by itself. However, Xanax overdose becomes a serious risk when it is mixed with other substances. Mixing any benzodiazepine with another depressant is very dangerous, and can result in an unintentional overdose.
Xanax overdose occurs most commonly when it is mixed with alcohol or opioids. When you hear about a Xanax overdose death, it's likely that the individual was taking other central nervous system depressants. Because alcohol and opioids cause the nervous system to relax in different ways, the combination with benzodiazepines can be fatal. The risk of death comes from collapsed lungs, decrease in heart rate, and lack of oxygen and blood to the body.
Symptoms of Xanax Overdose
Xanax overdose symptoms vary from individual to individual, and are dependent upon a variety of factors. These include how much an individual took, how long they have been using Xanax, how much tolerance they have built, if any other drugs were taken, and the individual's weight and general state of health.
Symptoms of Xanax overdose may include:
- Difficulty focusing
- Loss of balance and motor skills
- Uncontrollable trembling
- Muscle weakness or fatigue
- Fainting and loss of consciousness
- Difficulty or labored breathing
You may experience some depression after getting clean due to the brain's process of adapting to less activity at the GABA receptors.
Withdrawal and Detox
Because tolerance and addiction build so quickly, many individuals experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use. Even if taken exactly as prescribed, coming off of alprazolam can be quite uncomfortable and even dangerous without proper medical attention.
Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal may include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Irritability and anger
- Shaking and trembling
- Difficulty concentrating and paying attention
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- Irregular heartbeat
Without proper medical attention, the symptoms of withdrawal can be quite dangerous. At a professional detoxification facility, trained doctors and clinicians will help you to go through the withdrawal process with minimal discomfort and your safety in mind. Whether you have been abusing Xanax or taking it as prescribed, it's crucial to consult with a doctor before coming off of the substance.
Xanax Overdose Treatment
If somebody has overdosed on alprazolam, it's likely they could benefit from some addiction treatment. It's important to find the right kind of treatment for each individual. If there is a co-occurring disorder present, the person will need a dual-diagnosis treatment center. At a treatment center, the individual will learn skills, coping mechanisms, and tools for living a live without benzodiazepines.