Xanax® is the brand name of the drug alprazolam. Like many other prescription drugs, people can become physically dependent upon this medication and develop an addiction. The time it takes to get addicted to Xanax varies from individual to individual, and depends largely on the nature of use. Benzodiazepines like alprazolam are involved in a surprisingly high number of overdose deaths, with benzodiazepine overdose rates climbing in recent years. Although it is most often when another drug is present in the body, Xanax overdose is a very serious issue and often results in fatalities.
Alprazolam and Benzodiazepines
Xanax is a benzodiazepine often used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. The first benzodiazepine, chlordiazepoxide (often known by its brand name Librium®), was created in the mid 1950’s as a safer and less addictive alternative to the tranquilizer medications of the day. Benzodiazepines help treat anxiety and panic by affecting the central nervous system through the GABA receptors, which are the main inhibitors of the CNS in the human body.
Alprazolam is one of many benzodiazepines, and stands out from others because of its relatively quick mechanism of action and shorter half-life than its fellow benzodiazepine medications. Because of these characteristics, Xanax is the most-abused drug out of all the benzodiazepines. Unfortunately, benzodiazepine abuse can be dangerous, and the mispercetion of the drug as safe leads to many people becoming addicted.
Xanax Addiction Timeline – How Dependence Builds
Dependence and addiction take time to build with any drug. When substance dependence develops, individuals experience withdrawal upon cessation of use. This happens when the brain and body become dependent upon the drug in the system in order to function, and varies greatly from substance to substance. With Xanax, individuals can develop dependence relatively quickly.
In order to develop dependence and addiction, individuals must be consuming the substance regularly. With alprazolam dependence, individuals who take it daily are likely to develop dependence on the drug. As the GABA receptors continue to be impacted from the benzodiazepines, the nervous system grows accustomed to functioning with the inhibitory compounds. When the drug begins to leave the system (around 6-8 hours after the last dose), the individual is left with unpleasant feelings and experiences.
Factors for Developing an Addiction
Not everyone becomes addicted to or dependent on Xanax who uses it. There are risk factors in individuals, and patterns of use which many increase the likelihood of developing an addiction. Risk factors for developing an addiction to alprazolam include:
- A family history of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction
- A family history of mental health disorders
- A personal history of mental health disorders
- Trauma and stress in life, especially early stages
- Lack of peer support
- The presence of stress
- Individual body chemistry and metabolism
Of course, there are many other factors which may make somebody more susceptible to developing an addiction, but these are a few big ones. For example, people who spend time with other individuals who are abusing drugs are more likely to consume drugs themselves. There are also patterns of use that may cause dependence. Whether taking Xanax as a doctor prescribed or abusing it, here are a few factors which may impact the development of dependence:
- Age of first use
- Length of use
- Frequency of use
- General dosage
- The abuse of other drugs, or polydrug use
It’s relatively simple to understand that those who use more drugs for a longer period of time are more likely to become addicted than those who try the drug once. Regular use of Xanax, even if taken as prescribed, can result in physical and psychological dependence over time.
How Long Does it Take to Become Addicted?
One of the scary parts about benzodiazepine use is that individuals can become dependent in just three or four weeks of use. Research suggests that tolerance can develop in just a few days, while full physical dependence can arise in a few weeks. This is not true for everyone, and benzodiazepines still hold great clinical value. However, it’s important to know that some people may become addicted to Xanax even when taking it exactly as their doctor prescribed.
If an individual is abusing Xanax by taking it without a prescription or taking more than prescribed, it’s possible that addiction can develop even more quickly. With recreational alprazolam use, it can take just a couple of weeks to become dependent on the drug. Over the coming weeks and months of use, the addiction strengthens, and individuals are likely to begin making drug acquisition a priority.
Xanax Withdrawal and Detox
Along with the relatively quick process of addiction that can develop, benzodiazepines are dangerous because of the withdrawal symptoms. Like alcohol, benzodiazepines like Xanax impact the GABA receptors. This means that the removal of alprazolam from the system causes a severe change in the central nervous system. The withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly painful, uncomfortable, and even fatal.
If you or somebody you know is struggling with a Xanax addiction, it is crucial that you reach out for help. Withdrawing on your own or trying to detox at home can be lethal, and should not even be an option. Without proper medical care, the withdrawal process from benzodiazepines can cause lasting damage, result in relapse, or kill the individual!