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It may also be used with other drugs to control the nausea associated with chemotherapy. It’s often referred to as a tranquilizer due to its calming and relaxing effects, as it reduces feelings of anxiety and soothes the physical effects of panic.
Xanax, and similar benzos, became popular in the 1980s, as it was advertised as something of a miracle drug for stress, anxiety, and insomnia without the same addictive effects and risk for overdose as barbiturates. However, it soon became apparent that benzos still had the potential to be abused and contained addictive qualities. In 2006, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a warning in which the organization named Xanax as the most abused prescription drug on the US market.
In terms of prescription drugs, abuse is considered to be any use of the medication beyond what is instructed by the doctor or any use by a person who does not have a prescription for that drug.
People may abuse Xanax if they have a prescription but the prescribed dose is no longer effective; they may obtain the drug fraudulently; or they may even simply take it out of another person’s medicine cabinet and use it recreationally.
The standard form of Xanax is in a small tablet to be taken orally. However, those who abuse the drug may crush up the tablets to snort or smoke it, or dissolve it into a solution to be injected with a needle. This is done in order to get an entire dose of the drug to rush to the brain all at once, bypassing the digestive system and producing an intense, euphoric high. It also increases feelings of relaxation and calm, though the effects don’t last as long as they would if ingested orally.
There are a number of risks that come along with these methods of intake in addition to the standard health risks of abusing any substance. This method of abuse increases both the rate of tolerance and the chance of developing an addiction, as well as the potential for overdose. All that Xanax rushing to the brain at once creates an increased depression of the central nervous system, which in turn depresses heart rate and breathing. Victims of overdose can have their breathing rate slowed to the point that they are no longer getting enough oxygen to the brain, risking brain damage and death.
Signs of a Xanax overdose include:ConfusionDizzinessExcessive sleepinessImpaired coordinationSlowed heartbeatDifficulty walking, talking, and/or breathingUnconsciousnessComa
An overdose is considered to be a medical emergency. Any time an overdose is suspected, the individual should be immediately rushed to the emergency room, or emergency services should be called.
There are also health risks associated with snorting, smoking, or injecting any drug. Snorting will wear away at the sinus tissue over time, resulting in chronic runny and/or bloody noses and sinus infections. Eventually, users can even damage the sense of smell or wear holes in their nasal septum. Smoking, of course, is hard on the lungs, no matter what substance is involved. Xanax in particular includes binders and filters that irritate the nasal cavity, throat, and lungs, increasing the chance of infection and, over time, more dangerous conditions like lung cancer.
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Injecting drugs is not only the riskiest in terms of overdose, repeated injection with a needle at the same site can cause infection and collapsed veins. Additionally, the common practice of sharing needles comes with the risk of contracting dangerous diseases like HIV and hepatitis C
Last Updated on October 26, 2021
The editorial staff of American Addiction Centers is made up of credentialed clinical reviewers with hands-on experience in or expert knowledge of addiction treatment.