Xanax is the brand name of alprazolam, a benzodiazepine or “benzo” drug that is prescribed for its calming effect on the central nervous system (CNS).
When used as prescribed, Xanax can help to manage panic attacks and anxiety disorders. But Xanax can also be abused, leading to many negative side effects and mental health concerns.
Side effects of Xanax abuse on the brain vary, but can include symptoms like memory loss, depression, anxiety, and even suicidal tendencies.
How Xanax Affects The Brain
Xanax works by enhancing the effect of a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
GABA has a natural calming effect, which it achieves by blocking certain brain activity that may lead to anxiety or panic.
Higher levels of GABA can also lead to feelings of relaxation and drowsiness.
Xanax has a high potential for abuse because when taken in high doses or in any way other than as prescribed by medical professionals, it can lead to pleasurable effects and trigger the brain’s reward system.
Short-Term Mental Effects Of Xanax Use
When taken according to medical advice, use of Xanax usually decreases anxiety and feelings of panic. If Xanax is abused, the effects of the drug can be different.
Short-term mental effects of Xanax drug abuse may include:
- short-term memory loss/ “blacking out” after taking the drug
- drowsiness and nodding off
- mood swings
Long-Term Effects Of Xanax Abuse On The Brain
Xanax abuse can lead to major issues even after just one occurrence, but long-term Xanax substance abuse has many serious consequences on mental health.
Long-term use of Xanax in any way other than as prescribed by a doctor can lead to the following issues:
Xanax abuse is notorious for causing memory problems. Memory loss usually occurs during the period of time after a person takes Xanax.
Xanax abuse may prevent the formation of new memories during drug abuse. Memory loss from Xanax abuse is one of the most common side effects.
Xanax has a major effect on brain chemistry, especially on the neurotransmitter GABA. Abusing the drug can throw off the delicate balance of brain chemistry and lead to major mood swings.
People who abuse Xanax often report that doing so has a pleasurable effect in the short term.
But long-term abuse of any drug that promotes a temporary feeling of well-being usually leads to the opposite effect over time. Depression can be worsened by Xanax abuse.
As a person abuses Xanax over time, the brain becomes used to heightened levels of GABA. This allows misuse of Xanax to cause anxiety.
This increased GABA threshold means that the person will be more prone to feelings of anxiety and panic whenever that threshold is not artificially met with a drug like Xanax.
Suicidal thoughts are more common in people who have been abusing Xanax. The medication’s effect on brain chemistry may lead to suicidal thoughts.
Xanax abuse is also known to cause erratic and impulsive behavior, making for a dangerous combination when suicide is being considered.
Long-term abuse of Xanax can lead to permanent cognitive impairment, including difficulty concentrating, thinking, and remembering things.
Increased Risk For Alzheimer’s Disease
Some research suggests that long-term use of benzodiazepine drugs may increase the risk of the development of Alzheimer’s disease. New studies suggest a casual relationship and connection between Xanax and dementia.
Do Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms Affect The Brain?
Xanax withdrawal can occur when someone who has been using the drug heavily suddenly stops. A tapering regimen can help curb withdrawal symptoms, but they may still occur.
Many of the withdrawal symptoms from Xanax are psychological.
Such symptoms may include:
- panic attacks
- difficulty concentrating
Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax usually last for a few weeks, although some symptoms may persist for longer.
Treatment Programs For Xanax Addiction
Xanax addiction can happen fast and lead to devastating consequences, including suicidal thoughts and fatal overdoses.
Treatment programs for Xanax addiction can help people get back on their feet with services such as mental and physical healthcare, psychiatry interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy, and more.
Depending on the severity of the addiction and other factors, an inpatient detox program is likely the best place to begin your treatment for Xanax addiction.
Find Substance Use Disorder Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
Bedrock Recovery Center is one of the east coast’s top addiction treatment facilities.
Our state-of-the-art treatment center is located in Canton, MA, where we provide our clients with research-backed services including inpatient detox and rehab programs.
Are you ready to put Xanax addiction behind you? Call our helpline today to speak with an addiction specialist and learn more about our recovery programs.
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.