How Xanax Works

There are a number of different disorders that are effectively treated with a prescription for Xanax. Patients may benefit from the drug when they are diagnosed with:

A benzodiazepine, the drug has the effect of calming the patient, allowing them to be functional rather than overwhelmed by feelings of stress, depression or anxiety. For many individuals, it can open the door to positive life change. For others, the end result of long-term Xanax use is a debilitating addiction to the pills.

If you are concerned that your loved one is at risk for Xanax addiction or Xanax overdose due to abuse of the drug, we can help. At Axis, we provide an intensive rehabilitation program for those who are unable to stop using substances of abuse like Xanax on their own. Call now for more information about our treatment program.

The Function of Xanax in the Brain

When a patient struggles with anxiety, panic or seizures, his brain is in high alert mode and extremely active. Because the patient is unable to control the level of activity in the brain, he is also unable to manage the physical symptoms that result (e.g., seizure, hyper ventilating, rapid heart rate, sweating, etc.). When the patient experiences these symptoms and takes Xanax, the Xanax works to slow down this activity in the brain. The result is an overall calming effect that is both physical and mental. As the medication works, the patient will experience:

  • Fewer anxious thoughts or fears
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • An ability to turn his attention to other things
  • A feeling of calm and relaxation

For many patients, Xanax is a life-changer. They can take the drug as needed in order to experience its positive effects and return to their life as usual. In others, however, regular use of the drug can lead to a far different place. Rather than achieving a life of balance, they instead develop an addiction that creates far more problems than the anxiety alone.

Tolerance: How Physical Dependence Upon Xanax Develops

Anyone who takes Xanax regularly for more than a few months will develop a physical dependence upon the drug. Defined by tolerance, a physical dependence simply means that the body has adjusted to the dose of Xanax so the original amount is no longer effective. In order to continue to find relief from their symptoms, they will need to increase the dose. It’s a common occurrence with a number of medications that are taken regularly, and it’s not one that is necessarily a problem. When physical dependence is compounded by psychological dependence, however, then it becomes an issue of serious concern.

The Mechanism of Psychological Xanax Addiction

A study done by Dr. Christian Lüscher and his team at the University of Geneva, Switzerland suggests that benzodiazepine addiction begins when dopamine production surges in response to the taking of the medication. When this happens, Dr. Lüscher says that the synaptic plasticity in the brain cells responsible for producing dopamine is altered. This interferes with alpha-1 GABA receptors, stopping them from the release of GABA, which would inhibit the release of dopamine.

In short, a large amount of dopamine floods the brain when benzodiazepines like Xanax are used, creating a “high” or feeling of euphoria in the patient. When that occurs, the patient can become dependent upon that artificial feeling, wanting more and more of the drug, until they feel that they cannot function without it.

Xanax Addiction Treatment Options

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), recent research has proven that benzodiazepines like Xanax trigger addiction in the same way as opiate painkillers and other substances of abuse. They also report that current research is focused upon the creation of a new benzodiazepine that will address the issue of anxiety effectively without causing addiction.

In the meantime, those patients who are currently living with an addiction to Xanax will need to address their addiction as well as their struggle with anxiety and other issues treated by the drug. It is recommended that they find a treatment program that offers them:

  • Treatment for their Xanax dependence
  • Psychotherapy to address anxiety and other underlying mental health issues
  • Holistic management methods to manage anxiety
  • Aftercare services that include long-term support during the transition from rehab back home

Learning how to manage intense anxiety without the use of addictive medications is not easy, but it is possible. If you would like to speak to a counselor about your loved one’s difficulties with Xanax and anxiety, call our number listed above now.