Can You Overdose on Xanax?

Benzodiazepines like Xanax, or alprazolam, were highlighted as the most effective pharmacological treatment for anxiety and panic disorders during the 1980s, according to the Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. At that time, tricyclic antidepressants were the primary course of action when treating these types of disorders, but it was soon found that benzodiazepines worked far more quickly and helped to eliminate the high risk of suicide found in this population.

The concern with regular use of drugs like Xanax, however, was the development of addiction and, potentially, overdose. A number of studies showed that while the development of a physical dependence was common in long-term users of drugs like Xanax, a full-blown addiction was rare unless there was a medical history of chemical dependency. In this population, however, benzodiazepine addiction was and is a serious concern due in part to the increased risk of overdose.

If your loved one is prescribed Xanax or if he is taking Xanax without a prescription and you are concerned about the risk of overdose, contact us at Axis today and speak with a counselor about the types of addiction treatment and therapies that can help your family member avoid overdose and other addiction-related issues.

How Does Xanax Overdose Happen?

When an individual takes Xanax, the drug binds to receptors in the brain and increases the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical known for its calming effects, according to a report published by Williams College. The effect of GABA is to slow the central nervous system, which means a slowing of certain central nervous system functions like breathing rate and heart rate.

Overdose happens when those central nervous system functions are slowed to the point of stopping. If no one is present or recognizes that these processes have stopped and administers CPR, death can occur. Even with appropriate medical intervention, overdose can still be deadly.

Does Xanax Overdose Happen to People Who Have a Prescription?

Overdose can occur in anyone who takes Xanax for any reason. A doctor’s prescription does not decrease the danger associated with the drug. The dose prescribed by a doctor should be based on what your loved one’s body can handle, but there are a number of ways in which your loved one may still experience an overdose including:

  • Drinking alcohol or using other drugs while taking his prescribed dose of Xanax
  • Taking a larger dose of Xanax than prescribed
  • Taking more doses of Xanax in a 24-hour period than recommended
  • Altering the Xanax pill prior to ingesting it

Any of these habits can result in a Xanax overdose, even with a doctor’s prescription.

Can a Xanax Overdose Happen the First Time Someone Takes the Drug?

It’s a possibility, depending upon the circumstances. If an individual has a prescription for a low dose of Xanax and takes the pill exactly as prescribed by the doctor and recommended by the manufacturer and avoids using alcohol and other substances, then it is unlikely that the first use of the medication will result in overdose. However, if the first use is recreational in nature, the patient has no idea how many pills to take and is under the influence of other drugs including alcohol, it increases the chances of overdose.

How Is Xanax Overdose Prevented?

The best way to prevent an overdose on Xanax and other benzodiazepines is to avoid taking the drug at all without a prescription. If your loved one has a prescription for the drug, overdose can be avoided by following that prescription exactly and then attempting to use a non-addictive medication or weaning off the drug entirely, if possible.

If an addiction to Xanax has developed, it may be time to seek professional medical and psychotherapeutic intervention. Thorough treatment with the goal of sobriety is the ultimate prevention against overdose.

Comprehensive Xanax Addiction Treatment

If your loved one is dependent upon Xanax, experiencing both a physical and psychological dependence upon the drug, a comprehensive treatment program is necessary. A medical disorder, addiction to any illicit substance is best addressed through medical treatment, and for Xanax addiction, the kind of comprehensive care necessary to truly heal on all levels will include:

  • Medical detox that addresses withdrawal symptoms
  • Mental health treatment that addresses the underlying disorder that originally caused the need for a Xanax prescription
  • Psychotherapy that addresses other issues that may trigger cravings for the escape or high provided by Xanax abuse
  • Aftercare services that provide for long-term support so the patient can better avoid relapse in recovery

If you are interested in learning more about how a comprehensive Xanax rehab can help your loved one, contact us at Axis today. Find out how your loved one can move closer to a drug-free life that allows them to avoid the daily risk of Xanax overdose.