Xanax abuse does have the potential to lead to increased anxiety, despite the fact that the drug is prescribed by medical professionals to treat panic disorders and generalized anxiety disorder.
Xanax is a benzodiazepine or “benzo” drug, in the same class of medications as drugs like Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam).
Benzos are central nervous system (CNS) suppressants, meaning they have a calming and relaxing effect on the body and mind.
The relaxing effects and mild sedation of benzodiazepines make them a popular option for treating mental health issues like anxiety.
However, when abused, these drugs can also produce a pleasurable “high” and be very addictive. Xanax abuse has mental health side effects of its own to be aware of.
How Xanax Abuse Affects Anxiety
Abusing Xanax might lessen short-term anxiety for a few hours while the effects of the drug are present, but symptoms of anxiety tend to come back even stronger afterward.
Changes To Neurotransmitters
Use of Xanax affects many neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain, but perhaps the most important effect is the one it has on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
GABA is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect, which it achieves by blocking certain signals and activity in the brain that might lead to feelings of panic or anxiety.
Xanax enhances GABA’s effects, leading to a sense of calm and well-being.
The problem with long-term use and abuse of Xanax is that the nervous system gets “used to” having GABA’s activity enhanced by Xanax.
Without the drug, symptoms of anxiety might be even more pronounced.
Rebound anxiety occurs when the calming effect of Xanax wears off and anxiety symptoms “rebound” to levels higher than they were before the drug was taken.
This phenomenon is a particularly common withdrawal symptom that occurs when someone addicted to Xanax stops using the drug.
High Doses Of Xanax
People who abuse Xanax are likely to take high doses of the drug because they are trying to achieve a “high”.
High doses of Xanax have potential side effects, including panic and increased anxiety. People who take high doses of Xanax may become disoriented and begin to feel very anxious.
Worsened Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms
Benzodiazepines like Xanax are generally not recommended for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
These drugs have been shown to give no improvement, or even worsen, the symptoms of PTSD.
How Xanax Abuse Affects Anxiety Symptoms
Xanax abuse may affect specific symptoms of anxiety in different ways, often worsening instead of improving them.
People abusing Xanax, especially those facing psychosis or who are predisposed to it, may find that the drug induces psychosis, especially at high doses.
Benzodiazepine-induced psychosis can occur during use of the drugs, or as part of withdrawal syndrome after heavy abuse.
Panic attacks may worsen or begin in people who abuse Xanax. Panic attacks are most likely to occur as part of “rebound anxiety” after a person stops using Xanax.
Agoraphobia is a serious anxiety disorder that involves intense and debilitating fears around certain situations.
People with agoraphobia might be scared of enclosed spaces, crowds, and other situations. They often do not want to leave their house.
Xanax abuse can initiate and/or worsen agoraphobia, especially during periods of rebound anxiety.
Addiction Treatment Programs For Xanax Addiction
Xanax abuse and addiction is serious and can be life-threatening. Addiction treatment is the only viable option for addressing this issue.
Xanax addiction treatment programs usually start with inpatient detox, where healthcare professionals will monitor symptoms of withdrawal and keep clients safe and comfortable.
Once withdrawal symptoms have stabilized, an inpatient rehab program is usually recommended.
Treatment programs for Xanax addiction include different elements of care, including cognitive behavioral therapy, group counseling, and sometimes medications to manage co-existing disorders.
Psychological and physical dependence on Xanax takes time to address and heal from. Inpatient care gives people with Xanax abuse issues time to heal and get back on their feet.
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If you or a loved one has been struggling with drug abuse, now is the time to act. Call our helpline today to chat with a specialist and learn more about our services.
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.