Xanax High | What is Xanax and what does it do?

Xanax is one of the brand names for the drug alprazolam. For many people, Xanax is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It is also sometimes used to treat depression and fear of open spaces.* This works through suppression of an over-excited Central Nervous System (CNS), providing a sense of calm. The Xanax high is a root cause of it’s recreational use.

It is a legal, controlled substance, however it is still frequently abused and used illegally. Furthermore, when people cannot access it legally they often turn to buying Xanax illegally. Often, Xanax obtained this way is not true Xanax, and what people get is more likely counterfeit and much more dangerous. 

Many people using Xanax recreationally, meaning not prescribed, believe they are in control of their use and that quitting will be an easy and simple thing. They do not realize that it does not have to be an everyday thing for them to deal with withdrawal. Xanax has a short half-life, meaning it is processed quickly by the body and leaves quickly. Due to this, your body has less time to adjust without it – which is what can make withdrawal more severe.

xanax high - Reflections Rehab Arizona

What is the Xanax High?

Dopamine is a chemical found naturally in the body. It plays a part in reward and motivation, often providing a sense of happiness and euphoria. Xanax increases levels of dopamine.* For many people, this heightened euphoria, the “Xanax High”, is a big part of why they continue to use Xanax, despite the risks. The Xanax High is not a high like drugs experienced with cocaine or psychedelics, but someone can feel that they are in a calm and peaceful state. For someone suffering from anxiety or panic disorders, this can be incredibly appealing. Even without severe panic or anxiety, this feeling is still something that recreational users want to recreate.

Since Xanax is fast-acting, it leaves the body quickly and users will need more of it soon. The Xanax High itself will not last for very long. They will need to use increasingly high doses to feel the same high they felt in the first place. Chasing after the initial high will leave users more dependent, likely addicted, and at risk for serious withdrawal symptoms. Using Xanax from illicit sources exposes users to other substances, to which they can also become addicted. The high some users feel may actually have more to do with the other illicit substances in the “Xanax”.

Risks and Side Effects of Abuse

With prescribed drugs, most people likely do not know or fully understand the effects and risk of addiction. Xanax is a drug that is meant to be used under close medical supervision and only used short-term, but there is still a high risk for addiction. In an interview with Women’s Health, Dr. Philip R. Muskin, stated that addiction can occur soon after starting and even within the first week of use.* For a lot of people, they never have the intention of abusing or becoming addicted to Xanax, let alone any substance. It’s incredibly important to always communicate with medical professionals and follow their instructions.

As Xanax is a depressant, some common side effects include: 

  • memory or concentration problems 
  • depression, fatigue
  • suicidal ideation
  • trouble breathing
  • nausea
  • joint pain

The negative side effects of Xanax can be stronger and much worse if taken without medical supervision. For people who use Xanax recreationally, they can often cause the problems that Xanax is meant to help. According to Dr. Cathy Montgomery, in an interview with Vice, this can lead to increased brain activity thereby leaving people anxious, agitated, dealing with insomnia, and even fearful.* Under medical supervision, Xanax is meant to help people. However, it is easily abused and the risks associated can be incredibly serious.

Can You Overdose on Xanax?

A Xanax overdose is a possibility with a high enough dosage. It is more likely when polysubstance abuse occurs. Polysubstance abuse is the use of multiple substances within a certain amount of time. This significantly increases the dangers of each substance. 

With Xanax acting as a depressant, the risks of combining use with another depressant are serious. Snorting Xanax is something that people do to increase the effects of the Xanax high. What they do not realize, however, is that snorting Xanax is more likely to cause the negative effects, like what is listed above, as well as physical damage to the nose. Many people will mix alcohol and Xanax, without realizing how dangerous it is. Combinations like Xanax and alcohol can cause respiratory depression. This is when breathing becomes slowed and ineffective. Often, someone with respiratory depression appears to be sleeping, so that others usually miss the signs of overdose.

Xanax and opioids are another dangerous combination that not many people know about. Someone might be using one or both substances illegally, but unfortunately people are also prescribed both at times. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “More than 30 percent of overdoses involving opioids also involve benzodiazepines [the class of drugs to which Xanax belongs]…”* Both drugs act as sedatives, suppress breathing, and impair cognitive functions. Many people see various doctors and prescriptions may not always be cross-checked. Used legally or illegally, this is a dangerous combination; both also carry a high risk for abuse and addiction. 

Xanax Withdrawal

Medical supervision is highly recommended for withdrawal. For many people, especially recreational users, it will be difficult to quit Xanax use on their own. Xanax is a fast-acting drug, which makes it harder for the body to adjust without it. It is recommended only for short-term use. Medical professionals will lower the dosage to help someone taper off.

Even people using a low to normal dosage of Xanax can potentially deal with withdrawal symptoms. A higher dosage is more likely to result in more severe withdrawal. This is particularly a problem for those who are abusing Xanax. Without medical supervision, they are likely using random dosages that are causing issues within their body. There is also the risk that the Xanax they are using is cut with other substances.

Some common withdrawal symptoms from Xanax High include:*

  • Insomnia
  • Increased anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sweating
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
According to a study by H Pétursson, short-term withdrawal can last 1-4 days, full-blown withdrawal can last 10-14 days, and severe withdrawal can last until another form of treatment is put in place. Someone dealing with polysubstance abuse, struggling with multiple substances, may deal with more severe dependence and thus worse withdrawal. These circumstances are a big part of why people fail to stop using Xanax, and other substances, and why the cycle of addiction continues. It is incredibly important that anyone taking Xanax does not stop without their doctor’s supervision. Likewise, anyone using it recreationally should also seek medical help to stop use.

Treatment for Xanax High, Abuse and Addiction

Recognizing the problem can be difficult for the individual and for their loved ones. We have intervention specialists who follow proven strategies, keeping in mind the safety and health of those struggling with addiction and their families. For those outside of Prescott, Arizona, we can provide resources and referrals local to your area. More than anything, we want any person struggling with addiction to receive the help they need. 

Due to the potential for withdrawal, Reflections will assess each client dealing with Xanax abuse or addiction for the need for detox. We have a 5-day medically supervised detox program. There is the potential to extend for each client as needed. We have medical and non-medical options for detox. Our goal is for the client to feel comfortable and safe with either option; we will proceed with treatment accordingly.

Treatment will be unique and comprehensive for each client. We want to address all of the underlying causes that added to and enabled the addiction. The “Xanax High” provides a temporary feeling that does more harm in the long run. We will work with clients to address why they are using this substance and how to feel better internally and externally, without needing Xanax. Additionally, we provide the opportunity to learn skills and behaviors for continued success following treatment. A relapse prevention plan is fundamental to success. It should help clients build a better life to avoid relapse, but also help them if and when relapse occurs. 

Other Xanax Addiction FAQs

There is a lot to know and understand about Xanax. Browse through the following frequently asked questions to learn even more about the dangers and prevalence of these drugs:

Why Is Xanax So Addictive?

Xanax provides a flood of dopamine, which produces a heightened sense of happiness, calm, and even euphoria for some. This is the Xanax High that many people want. However, Xanax is a fast-acting drug, which means it is processed quickly and leaves the body quickly. This increases the severity of withdrawal symptoms, more so if Xanax is not used under proper medical supervision. The intense withdrawal leads people to continue using Xanax, even if they have to find it illegally. Even under medical supervision, Xanax is only meant to be used short-term as addiction can set it as early as a week for some people.

Is It Dangerous to Mix Xanax with Other Drugs and Alcohol?

Anyone who is prescribed Xanax should talk to their doctor if they are taking any other medicine or substances. Combining Xanax with alcohol or other depressant drugs can lead to severe drowsiness, weakness, fatigue and coordination issues. Xanax and opioids can be incredibly dangerous when mixed, and it is critical that anyone discloses the use of both substances to medical professionals. More than 30 percent of overdoses involving opioids also involve benzodiazepines (which includes Xanax). This greatly increases the risk of being involved in accidents, such as falls and motor vehicle collisions.

Depressant substances that are commonly combined with Xanax include:

  • Opioids (heroin, OxyContin, methadone, Vicodin, etc.)
  • Hypnotic drugs (Ambien)
  • Barbiturates (amobarbital, Nembutal, Seconal)
  • Alcohol

At high doses, combining Xanax with other drugs can lead to:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Organ failure
  • Coma
  • Death

What Are the Long-term Effects of Xanax on the Brain?

While Xanax is not intended for long-term use, some people do use long-term. Since medical professionals should not be keeping patients on it long-term, there is not a lot of published research on Xanax specifically. However, with similar drugs there has been shown to be issues with memory, attention, motor performance, and overall cognitive issues. Further, the severity of issues will depend on whether Xanax was used for a disorder, the severity of the disorder, or if it was used as a recreational substance.

How Many Americans Use Xanax?

Xanax is the number one prescribed benzodiazepine and one of top prescribed drug in the United States. In 2013, there were more than 48 million prescriptions of alprazolam (which Xanax is the brand name for), a number that has increased since then.

Are There Any Alternative Treatments for Anxiety and Depressive Disorders?

Because doctors are increasingly aware of the risks associated with taking Xanax to treat anxiety disorders, many are switching to non-benzo medications as a first choice to treat anxiety and depressive disorders.

These medications include:

  • SSRIs and SNRIs
  • Pregabalin
  • Buspirone
  • Beta blockers

In addition to medication, various forms of psychotherapy and alternative medicine (yoga, acupuncture, supplements, herbal remedies, etc.) have also shown to help patients manage the symptoms of their anxiety disorders.

Xanax Addiction Help at Reflections Recovery Center

At Reflections Recovery Center in Prescott, AZ, we take a different approach to prescription drug addiction rehabilitation. By combining clinical treatment and holistic therapies, we provide our clients with all the tools they’ll need to achieve a life free from addiction.

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