Xanax is commonly used as a treatment for panic disorders and anxiety. It makes you feel calmer, more relaxed, and sedated. However, while the medication can help relieve your symptoms, it’s also highly addictive. In fact, American Addiction Centers notes that the drug is a fast-acting benzodiazepine--meaning that it produces rapid, significant alterations in the brain. This characteristic makes it one of the most addictive medications on the market today. If you suspect your Xanax use is becoming a problem, read on to learn more about 7 important Xanax addiction signs.
1. You have become more withdrawn, even from your loved ones.
What are the emotional. effects of Xanax? According to a 2021 study published in Addictive Behaviors, people dealing with substance abuse, dependency, and addiction often feel guilty and ashamed. Research also suggests that shame can result in anti-social reactions, such as:
- A desire to withdraw from relationships with others
- Increased aggression meant to deflect blame regarding shameful events
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) also notes that drug addiction affects your relationship with your family.
If you feel negative emotions toward your Xanax use or arguments and fights have become more common between you and your family members, especially if the topic is related to your Xanax use, it may be time to seek professional help.
2. You often find yourself preoccupied with thoughts about Xanax.
Xanax helps control panic attacks and extreme anxiety, but it can also be habit-forming.
If you notice that your craving for the medication has increased or you have a preoccupation with your Xanax use, this could be a sign that you've become addicted to Xanax. Sometimes, these cravings can be so intense that they command your entire focus.
“The signs of Xanax dependence are pretty well defined,” Allen Masry, MD, psychiatrist and medical director at All In Solutions Counseling Center, tells WedMD Connect to Care. “Signs of an addiction to Xanax are more often behavioral. If you are spending more time thinking about whether or not you have enough, how to get more, or how to alter your lifestyle to accommodate your Xanax use, these are all signs of a developing addiction."
3. You’re experiencing financial troubles.
So what's it like to be addicted to Xanax? It may surprise you that substance abuse doesn't only affect your physical or mental health. In fact, one sign of Xanax addiction is increasing financial troubles. Cleveland Clinic even notes “issues with money” as a symptom of substance use disorder.
An addiction to Xanax costs money. You need to have a steady supply of Xanax, which can quickly take a toll on your finances.
Anton Bizzell, MD, substance abuse expert at The Bizzell Group, tells WebMD Connect to Care to watch out for these symptoms: "Maintaining a supply of the drug on hand, mixing with alcohol or other drugs, and developing dangerous behaviors to obtain the prescription, including stealing or getting it from the streets."
If you have these Xanax addiction signs, it’s important to locate help immediately. And if you recognize these signs in someone you love, reach out and help them get the professional assistance they need.
4. You need to take more Xanax than you used to.
When you begin taking Xanax you feel calm, your muscles relax, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease, and it is easier to sleep. However, after taking the drug regularly for a few weeks you may notice that your anxiety and sleep difficulties start to reappear. Eventually, these become bothersome enough to prompt you to talk to your doctor about increasing your dosage, or you may feel tempted to take more Xanax than was initially prescribed to you.
The body adapts after frequent exposure to a drug and begins to rely on Xanax to function normally, in a process called tolerance. Tolerance is one of the first signs of Xanax addiction that appears. According to American Addiction Centers, Xanax causes feelings of relaxation by slowing down certain pathways in the central nervous system. Withe, the brain adapts to the effects of Xanax and the medication becomes less effective at the current dose. This may cause you to need to take more Xanax than you used to, in order to get the same effect.
So how much Xanax is a lot of Xanax? The answer to this question depends on things like which type and dosage of the drug you're taking, as well as the other substances or conditions that may be at play. Taking any amount beyond your prescription can be dangerous, and even following prescribing instructions doesn't completely remove the risk of addiction. If you feel that your Xanax intake has gotten out of hand, it's best to talk to your doctor or a qualified addiction professional right away.
5. You experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop taking Xanax or cut back.
When you try to stop taking it or cut back on how much you take, the body sends you demand for the drug in the form of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are often ones that drove you to begin taking the drug in the first place, like anxiety or insomnia. In fact, you may experience rebound symptoms, which are "a rapid return of the primary symptoms, usually at a greater intensity than before treatment"—accprding to a 2020 article published by the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.
According to American Addiction Centers, there is an increased risk of severe withdrawal in patients who take more than 4 mg of Xanax per day for 12 weeks or more, but withdrawal symptoms can be present even when taking taking low doses of the drug.
“Xanax is deeply addictive and many people become dependent on it because they feel they cannot control their stress without it. The tolerance to Xanax builds very quickly, so they start taking more and more of it. In the long run, Xanax addiction may cause depression, delirium, and aggression.” Dr. Ryan C. Warner tells WebMD Care to Connect.
According to American Addiction Centers, the desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms is one reason people continue to use Xanax. Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Panic attack symptoms (shortness of breath, trembling, chest pain, and excessive fear)
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Muscle pain
- Feeling agitated and restless
Quitting Xanax abruptly or “cold turkey” can be dangerous because of the severity of withdrawal symptoms. It is important to discuss quitting with your doctor who can help you taper down the amount of Xanax you are taking or refer you to a detox program.
6. Your emotions are all over the place.
Can Xanax make you angry? The short answer to this question is yes. “Another sign of Xanax abuse is often emotional instability. Individuals who are using this drug will often have emotional swings in which they can go from joyous to tearful in a matter of moments. Due to this volatility they can often find themselves in a confused or frustrated state which, in turn, will trigger anger and aggression.” Joseph Gorordo, LCDC tells WebMD Care to Connect.
In addition to emotional instability, you may also feel depressed—especially if you abruptly stop or cut back your Xanax use once you realize that there may be a problem with your use. According to American Addiction Centers, even though Xanax is used as a frontline treatment for depression, those who regularly take Xanax, and then try to stop, can experience rebound depression as a withdrawal symptom. The associated discomfort can serve as a powerful motivator to continue misusing the medication. This is why it is vitally important to locate profesional help if you want to withdraw and remove the medication from your life safely and effectively.
Additionally, the likelihood that you will experience mood disturbances like depression increases if you use Xanax with other substances, like alcohol. Alcohol intensifies the depressant effects of benzodiazepines and puts you more at risk for overdose. Emotional side effects of Xanax addiction that you may experience include:
- Mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts
“While under the influence of the drug, a person could feel completely happy, calm, and relaxed. They could act like there is not a care in the world. When this intoxication ends, though, they could experience a rebound of anxiety, stress, fear, and worry. They could be sad and depressed, guilty and ashamed of themselves.” Eric Patterson, LPC tells WebMD Care to Connect.
7. You feel ashamed.
Spending time preoccupied with Xanax, having issues in your relationships, the presence of withdrawal symptoms, experiencing cravings, and being unable to cut back on how much Xanax you are taking can all lead you to feel deeply ashamed of yourself. Struggling with addiction impacts our self-esteem and causes us to feel inferior. According to American Addiction Centers, shame is one of the most common barriers to getting treatment. Shame and stigma prevents people from seeking out help because they are worried about people’s perception of them.
Studies have found that feelings of shame are significantly linked to substance abuse problems. According to Psychology Today, working with a psychotherapist either individually or in group therapy can help you address the link between shame and addiction. If you feel ashamed of the amount of Xanax you are taking or your inability to cut back, then this is a sign of Xanax addiction that you shouldn’t ignore.
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If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.