Xanax can cause memory loss, especially when abused or taken in any way other than as prescribed by a medical professional.
Memory problems are one of the known mental side effects of Xanax, but as with most prescription drugs, there is a much greater risk for serious side effects when the drug is abused.
Xanax is a benzodiazepine drug, or “benzo” in the same drug class as drugs like Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam).
Benzos are central nervous system (CNS) suppressants, meaning they have a calming effect on the body and mind. Xanax is used to treat panic disorders and anxiety disorders.
Why Xanax Abuse Causes Memory Loss
Xanax abuse causes anterograde amnesia, which means a person may be unable to remember events that happened while they were under the influence of the drug.
Another word for this type of memory loss is “blacking out”.
Changes To The Brain’s GABA Receptors
The use of benzodiazepines like Xanax increases the effect of neurotransmitters in the brain called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a chemical that slows communication between different parts of the brain.
While enhancing GABA can have calming effects, it can also prevent new short-term memories from making it to the part of the brain that is responsible for long-term memory storage.
Alcohol also affects the GABA receptors in the brain, which is why “blacking out” can occur when drinking also. Drinking alcohol and taking Xanax at the same time makes memory loss more likely.
High Doses Of Xanax
People who abuse Xanax often take high doses of the drug, because it can result in a pleasurable “high”.
The higher the dose of Xanax a person takes, the more likely it will be that they will experience a blackout during the period of time that they are under the influence of the drug.
Certain research indicates that Xanax memory loss occurs more often in healthcare environments when the drug is being intravenously administered.
Xanax is sometimes given through an IV for sedation purposes, especially when a person is having a mental health crisis.
People who abuse the medication may also shoot Xanax in order to experience the effects of the drug more quickly.
How Long-Term Use Of Xanax Affects The Memory
Abusing Xanax, or even using it as prescribed by a healthcare provider, for a long period of time can have many negative effects on memory and brain function.
Multiple forms of cognitive impairment can result from long-term use and misuse of Xanax, including difficulty remembering things, trouble concentrating, and thinking impairments.
Increased Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Long-term use of benzodiazepines like Xanax has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a relatively rare condition that affects memory and cognition and usually occurs in older adults.
While dementia is not caused by Xanax abuse directly, abuse of the medication can increase the risk for this condition overall.
Other Effects On The Brain
Xanax abuse can have many devastating effects on mental health.
Some effects of long-term Xanax abuse on the brain include:
- mood swings
- heightened anxiety
- worsened panic attacks
- suicidal thoughts
- lowered inhibition
In addition to these effects, addiction can lead to Xanax withdrawal symptoms, which often include serious mental health concerns.
Is Memory Loss From Xanax Reversible?
Once someone has “blacked out” for a period of time due to Xanax abuse, there is no way to reverse this and suddenly remember what happened during that time.
Similar to anterograde amnesia that occurs from heavy drinking, Xanax-induced memory loss is not reversible.
However, many of the other cognitive effects of long-term Xanax abuse might be avoided by stopping use of the drug.
The longer someone abuses Xanax, the more likely it is that they will develop mental impairments from their drug use.
Treatment Options For Xanax Addiction
Xanax addiction is a serious condition that requires professional care. Treatment for Xanax addiction can help people to regain control of their lives.
Because of the difficult withdrawal symptoms associated with abusing benzos, Xanax treatment often begins with an inpatient detox program.
Once withdrawal symptoms have mostly subsided, an inpatient rehab program is usually the best choice to address the effects and underlying causes of Xanax abuse.
Interventions for Xanax addiction often include behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, and sometimes medications that help manage co-existing health concerns.
Find Substance Use Disorder Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
Bedrock Recovery Center is a substance abuse treatment facility located just outside of Boston in Canton, MA.
Bedrock focuses on using evidence-based treatments, and we always provide our clients with a strong aftercare plan so they can continue their successful recovery after leaving our care.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, now is the time to act. Call our helpline today to chat with an addiction specialist and learn more about our programs.
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.