Alprazolam is a controlled substance that is a benzodiazepine that is prescribed to treat symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders.1 Abuse and addiction with this drug typically occurs with adolescent and young adults who take it to get high. Alprazolam works by reducing the amount of abnormal excitement that occurs in the brain. When taken for a high, a person in an intoxicated state experiences impaired judgment and lowered inhibition. Alprazolam is also referred to by the brand names Xanax, Niravam, and Alprazolam Intensol.
Symptoms and Signs of Abuse
Part of alprazolam addiction is when someone becomes physically dependent on a substance. The symptoms for this type of dependence are seen when the dose must be increased in order to obtain the same level of effectiveness or when those who consume the drug are doing so to relieve withdrawal symptoms. Addiction develops when they continue to take the drug despite having experienced negative effects as a result of that use.2
Other symptoms and signs of alprazolam abuse and addiction include:2
- Inability to cope without the medication.
- Unsuccessful attempts at cutting back or stopping consumption.
- Buildup of higher tolerance to regular dose amounts.
- Withdrawal symptoms when drug is not consumed.
Symptoms of alprazolam overdose include:3
- Loss of consciousness.
- Problems with coordination.
Potential Side Effects
Alprazolam has side effects just like any other type of drug that is available, so it is vital to understand the difference between side effects and the signs of abuse. Some of the common side effects include:3
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weight changes
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sex drive or ability
- Joint pain
- Difficulty urinating
Some of the more serious side effects include:3
- Shortness of breath
- Severe skin rash
- Memory problems
- Yellowing of the eyes or skin
Rehab Centers and Treatment Options
There are different settings for rehab facilities, such as outpatient and inpatient programs. Outpatient programs allow you to visit the facility at specific dates and times, giving you the freedom to go home or to work as needed. Inpatient programs require you to stay on the premises under supervision until you have completed the treatment program.
Centers also employ different philosophies and styles of treating patients, such as incorporating religious activities like prayer and worship services, to help the patients through the treatment. Some centers are based off of the 12 steps philosophy, which has been applied much more widely than simply alcoholism recovery to a wide variety of substance abuse problems.
There are other aspects that are included in the programs at these rehab centers. Group and individual counseling is offered to help find the root cause of the addiction, exploring the underlying issues that contribute to the addiction. You may also participate in group counseling with others who are experiencing the same addiction as you, to get peer support through the process. Other components of rehab programs might include:
- Spiritual care.
- Life preparation for after treatment.
- Healthy food and exercise.
- Relationship encouragement with other recovering patients.
- New healthy habits and diversions.
- Addiction and recovery education.
Getting Clean Through Detox
When a patient stops taking this medication, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, blurred vision, uncontrollable shaking, difficulty concentrating, sweating, irritability, depression, muscle twitching and aggressive behavior. Other withdrawal symptoms may include:4
- Increased light and noise sensitivity. Nervousness.
- Weight loss.
To help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms, supervised detox can offer medication and support to ease you through the process.4
The goal of detox is to allow the body to rid itself of drugs and to allow full cognitive ability to be restored in most cases. Alprazolam detox programs are designed to do this and to get support in dealing with withdrawal symptoms. Like other programs, there are inpatient and outpatient detox programs available for you to choose from. The inpatient programs are ideal for those who need to be monitored during the entire time, which may be necessary due to other health issues or to ensure there is no severe anxiety or panic attacks that occur during the detox process. Inpatient detox centers are also a good choice if your home environment creates stress or anxiety.
Some detox programs provide you with an additional long-acting benzodiazepine medication so that you can stop taking the alprazolam with few symptoms, if any. You have the option of tapering off of the drug while taking the long-acting medication at the same time. If you choose to enroll in an inpatient detox center that is designed to allow you to taper off of the drug, you are given the drug at scheduled times each day until you have successfully stopped taking the alprazolam.
Other Available Treatment Options
In order to be effective, the treatment options must be based on an understanding of the natural history of addiction recovery. Understand that the process is long term, and requires you to make behavioral changes in addition to simply stop taking the drug. In order to increase the level of success in your addiction recovery, you must develop a long-term relationship with your physicians and your family. This is essential in addiction recovery so you have a support group to turn to when life becomes stressful.4
Hospital alprazolam addiction treatment is an option for those who have previously experienced serious withdrawal symptoms, such as psychosis, delirium or seizures. Additionally, if the patient has an extremely high tolerance level for alprazolam, hospital treatment is highly recommended. When admitted into the hospital for addiction treatment, the first two steps include an evaluation and detox. The assessment also includes urine drug tests to discover any additional drugs that are in the system.
Consequences CounselingOnce the drug screenings have been completed and the cognitive ability is restored through the detoxification part of the treatment, the patient is then counseled on the consequences and the risk of relapse.
Once the drug screenings have been completed and the cognitive ability is restored through detox, the patient is counseled about the consequences and the risk of relapse. Any emotional issues are addressed at this point to determine if specialized counseling is needed to help the patient cope. Time is then taken to identify any internal barriers to sobriety that exist, which may include personal resources or the patient’s personality; external barriers might include work and home environments. After hospital treatment, a patient may enter into a longer-term treatment program to improve recovery.4
Pharmacotherapy is another option for alprazolam addiction treatment. Pharmacological treatment has traditionally been limited to dealing with the medical complications and withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction recovery. Due to neuropharmacologic and clinical advances, physicians are now able to combine treatment methods when dealing with addiction recovery.5
The withdrawal symptoms are either reduced or eliminated with this method of detoxification and addiction recovery. The drug that is given to the patient, in this instance, is given in doses that taper gradually. With this drug in particular, the gradual tapering is dependent on the initial dosage amount. This type of alprazolam addiction treatment helps to prevent the occurrence of stage two and three withdrawal while preventing seizures, minimizing drug toxicity and dependency on a new drug. Stage 2 withdrawal symptoms consist of:5
- Body tremors.
- Auditory hallucinations.
- Visual hallucinations.
- Fast pulse.
- High blood pressure.
Stage 3 withdrawal symptoms include:5
- High fever (over 100 degrees F).
- Disorientation to person, place and time.
- Inability to recognize familiar people and objects.
- Global confusion.
Regardless of which setting you get treatment in, finding help for an addiction to alprazolam is extremely important for your long-term sobriety and wellbeing.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Alprazolam.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. American Psychiatric Association Publishing: Arlington, VA.
- Kurtz, S.P., Surratt, H.L., Levi-Minzi, M.A., & Mooss, A. (2012). Benzodiazepine dependence among multidrug users in the club scene. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 119(1-2), 99–105.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
- World Health Organization. (2009). Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Setting.