Xanax Addiction and Abuse: Finding the Right Treatment in Washington State

Xanax abuse and addiction are widespread in Washington State.

It often comes as a surprise when people learn that they should consider detox and rehab in order to recover. This may be due to the fact that people think this is a safe drug because it is available by prescription. But what they often do not realize is that prescription medications like this one can be just as dangerous as street drugs.

Xanax is a benzodiazepine drug, and while it does have its therapeutic uses, this classification of medications is known to be addictive. Taking it produces a euphoric high, even in normal doses. That high can become magnified when this drug is being abused, as it so often is.

The perception of safety is what drives people to continue to abuse Xanax, and many will become addicted to it. More people need to be made aware of the dangers of this drug both in the short and long-term. is important to understand the consequences of Xanax abuse and addiction as well as what types of treatment options are the best.

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What is Xanax?

The generic name for Xanax is alprazolam. It’s a potent benzodiazepine for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

It’s used to treat acute anxiety disorders and seizures for a short amount of time.

It is a prescription sedative and part of the benzodiazepines family. This type of drug was created to replace barbiturates, a highly addictive drug. As a fast-acting benzo, you’ll experience peak effects within one to two hours. You’ll experience a dramatic change in your body and mind quickly. 

This is one of the things that make it one of the most addictive prescriptions. It lasts up to 15 hours in your system being a intermediate-duration drug. It is a regulated schedule IV controlled substance. This indicates that it is addictive and while legal to prescribe, should be done with caution and used for a short time. 

Xanax comes in doses of 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg and 2 mg strengths. 

Xanax Addiction

Xanax Street Names

While Xanax is a legal drug prescribed for medical issues, they are also sold on the streets. By leaving your unfinished prescriptions in the medicine cabinet, there is the potential you’re contributing to the problem. Xanax street names include: 

  • Xannies
  • Zannies
  • Bars
  • Handlebars
  • Blue Footballs
  • Ladders
  • Sticks
  • French fries
  • Benzos
  • Xannies or zannies

Xanax Addiction

Xanax is widely prescribed and extremely addictive. Even if the person with anxiety doesn’t become addicted, leaving the unfinished prescription in the house can cause others to abuse the drug. People are more at risk of addiction when they take 4 mg of Xanax daily for more than 12 weeks. Thousands of people every year get addiction treatment of Xanax. In 2012, there were over 17,000 people admitted into treatment facilities for benzodiazepine addiction. This included Xanax, according to SAMHSA.

It can take just a few weeks for people to develop Xanax addiction. Statistics tell us that daily use of benzos for more than six weeks has resulted in dependency for four out of every 10 people. 

Xanax Addiction Symptoms to Watch out For

When Xanax addiction develops, things you once cared about won’t seem as important. For someone who is involved with an addict, there are some telltale signs that addiction has set in. 

It might be up to you to stage an intervention to get them the help they need. A small percentage of addicts will ask for help. Many times they won’t see it in themselves or they don’t want to admit they have a problem due to stigma against addiction.

There are certain behaviors that you should watch out for if you think someone you love might be an addict. They will start to let go for their responsibilities such as: 

  • Missing work or school.
  • Avoiding functions.
  • They may stay home sick often.
  • They will make excuses as to why they need to take Xanax.
  • They will take more Xanax as time goes on.
  • They will become secretive.
  • They lose interest in things they were once passionate about.
  • They may experience legal issues due to their use of Xanax.
  • They may take more risks like driving while being under the influence.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is when you have a psychological and physical dependency. Some drugs don’t cause this but Xanax does. If you’ve become dependent on the drug, you’ll likely have to taper off the drug. This is especially important with any of the benzo family of drugs. The best rule of thumb is to decrease dosages by 25 percent over the withdrawal process. Xanax usually requires medical detox because fast withdrawal can cause delirium tremens. 

Addiction starts with tolerance where the body needs more of the drug to get the same results as when you began using. With Xanax, tolerance occurs quickly. Some people who become addicted to Xanax will take 20 or even 30 pills per day. When stopping, there will be uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. This can include physical and psychological problems such as anxiety or tremors. If you do experience withdrawal symptoms, it’s likely that you’re physically dependent on Xanax. Tolerance and withdrawal is one of the main indicators of addiction.

When you have a physical addiction to Xanax, you can’t function properly with the drug. Physical addiction with Xanax is indicated by experiencing physical withdrawals when you don’t take it. Some of the withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Extreme sweating
  • Inability to see properly
  • Convulsions
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Numb fingers 

It takes using Xanax chronically over time to develop physical dependence. The body becomes used to the substance and when you don’t have it, it cries out for it. This can come with feelings of achiness throughout the body. Many people that are trying to detox on their own have admitted themselves to the emergency room because the symptoms feel terrifying. Last year alone, there were over 44,000 people who were treated in the ER for medical issues based on benzodiazepine abuse. With Xanax in particular, it’s important to go through professional detox.

Xanax is a sedative which means it relaxes the brain. This in turn sends messages to the body to release tension and let go of any anxiety. They were developed to replace barbiturates which were once the ‘go to’ for anxiety and insomnia. Xanax directly affects the central nervous system (CNS). It boosts the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is responsible for slowing down nerve cell activity. When GABA is boosted in the brain, you’ll experience the calm, relaxed feeling. This lets you sleep and anxiety is reduced. 

Xanax affects how your brain produces GABA. If you didn’t have enough GABA before taking Xanax, the drug can worsen the problem. Even if you did have enough GABA, the brain can get lazy and stop producing it properly, becoming dependent on the drug to produce it. Xanax decreases your brain activity. If someone abuses Xanax without having extreme anxiety, they get a greater high from it. This can cause a very fast addiction as it will often be abused often under those circumstances. 

The brain will begin to rely on Xanax to produce GABA. When you stop using it, withdrawal symptoms can include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Insomnia
  • Night terrors
  • Memory loss
  • Psychosis

Dangers of Quitting Xanax “Cold Turkey”

Many people don’t realize the risks of abusing Xanax. They don’t understand how benzos work with your mind. This is one of the drugs that should involve a medical detox and a tapering program.

This is where you slowly decrease the amount of Xanax you take over time. This aids in preventing the dangerous and even deadly delirium tremens. They are a type of seizure that can occur when you stop using Xanax. 

Not only that but when quit “cold turkey,” you can experience severe anxiety. This is because the brain doesn’t naturally create GABA to calm you. It has become to rely on Xanax for that job. It takes time to get the brain back in balance. Until then, this can be a terrifying experience for someone who quits without tapering. 

Here’s why you need support when quitting Xanax: 

  • You can safely taper without experiencing overwhelming withdrawal symptoms.
  • You will have the support to get through whatever discomfort, pain, or dangers arise.
  • You’re less likely to relapse.
  • You’re safeguarded with medical staff who can help you if there are emergencies that arise during the withdrawal process.

Xanax slows down your brain activity, carrying side effects. If someone is abusing it, there will be more side effects. There are interactions between other drugs and even natural herbal supplements mixed with Xanax can cause adverse reactions. Xanax can aggravate any underlying illness, especially mental health issues. This can easily cause a dual diagnosis disorder where you need the drug to keep your anxiety low. 

For those with a substance abuse problem, Xanax isn’t recommended. If you abuse alcohol and take Xanax, you can experience serious health problems. Any benzodiazepine should never be mixed with alcohol. It can become difficult to breathe to the point you fall into a coma or overdose. There is the risk of death. Xanax slows down your reaction time. This can put you at greater risk of accidents, especially if you’re driving while under the influence. The mood swings that can occur while taking Xanax can cause you to think irrationally, leading to behaviors that put you at risk and impact your health. 

Chronically abusing Xanax may indicate you’re trying to put a bandaid on a more serious issue. If you’re relying on Xanax to function everyday, you’re not using the drug for its purpose. Your brain will operate differently. When you stop using it, your brain will have a hard time re-regulating. This is where the withdrawal symptoms occur. Consistent abuse can put you at risk of overdose as you may go to far one day. Drug addiction has often been called a slow suicide. When you abuse Xanax, you risk your life more and more as time goes on. Mixing with other drugs or alcohol put you at greater risk.

When you abuse Xanax long term, there are side effects that can occur. Your long-term memory can be impaired. Medical journals have found that long-term use can increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Any kind of benzo can cause brain damage. You can also experience physical issues such as digestive problems, chronic fatigue, constant headaches, muscle pain, and poor coordination.

Xanax is a central nervous depressant. This means it slows down your heart rate. If you mix Xanax with alcohol is the same effect on the CNS as alcohol and heroin. Drinking while taking Xanax is dangerous. Both alcohol and Xanax are detoxed from the body by the same liver enzymes. As they’re broken down by the same compounds, the body will take longer to detox from the polyabuse of Xanax and alcohol. This causes them to remain in your body for longer. Both drugs are more potent when you use them together. This can cause extreme sedation which can lead to accidents. There may be heart problems or you’ll stop breathing.

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology have found that death from taking Xanax is rare. In the journal they produced, out of 178 postmortem studies, there were 87 deaths caused from mixing Xanax with another substance. There were only 2 deaths caused by Xanax on it’s own. 

Depressants that put you seriously at risk of overdosing when mixed with Xanax include: 

  • Barbiturates
  • Opioid analgesics like OxyContin or morphine
  • Heroin
  • Alcohol
  • Methadone
  • Hypnotic drugs 

Illicit Xanax Pills are Plentiful in Washington State

When it comes to illegal drugs, we tend to think that Washington State is safe from any real problems. But there are people who are pushing illicit Xanax right here in our own hometowns. This problem is not one that is just common elsewhere; it is happening here as well as evidenced by the following news stories.

A 19-year-old man in Puyallup was arrested in 2019 for the possession of Xanax. There were several counties that were involved, including the Kitsap County Sheriff’s office. The arrest was the result of information that was given by the United States Postal Inspection Service. They disclosed that he had been distributing and receiving the pills all throughout the Puget Sound area.

When the SWAT team came to the subject’s home, they found 6,000 pills and more than $60,000. He was booked into Pierce County Jail under several charges, including possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver. These were Class 4 felonies that are punishable by prison time and tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Additional subjects were linked to this investigation as well. 

A man from Washington State has been accused of making pills that are laced with the powerful opioid, Fentanyl. The man was 26 years old at the time his lab was raided. He was charged with two counts of trafficking, manufacturing and transporting opioids, as well as other charges. But what is interesting about this case is the fact that authorities found more than 400 pills that were shaped like Xanax.

In addition, they found a pill press, 10 grams of powdered Fentanyl, and pills that had already been laced with Fentanyl. At the time of his arrest, it was unclear if he had modified the Xanax in any way, but it is believed that this was his intention.

So many people purchase drugs off the street because they cannot get them from their doctors. Xanax is a controlled substance, which means it is often sold by drug dealers. How many of the pills have been altered and could therefore be deadly? 

Korn’s Account of Benzos

The lead singer of Korn, Jonathan Davis speaks candidly about his Xanax addiction. As the lead singer in a heavy rock band, drugs and alcohol were a part of the job. He battled a lot of demons which can be heard in his music. He gave up recreational substances nearly two decades ago. Still, he struggled with debilitating anxiety and depression which caused him to become addicted to prescription drugs. He was prescribed Xanax long ago and said they are the devil. A horrible drug that allows you to feel good for the moment. A great quick fix for a panic attack but not for long term use. 

He started taking Xanax for anxiety with just one piece in the morning and one at night. He talks about the tolerance that quickly built and how he was on them for two years. His song ‘Medicate’ is about needing pills to be happy or sane. Once the song was over, he stopped using Xanax. This would be the first of three tries. He said he experienced shakes when the drug started to leave his body. To the point he couldn’t even talk. He used the tapering method to eventually stop using Xanax because he knew the risks of going “cold turkey.” Today, he is totally clean from drugs. 

Northpoint Seattle Offers Treatment for Xanax Addiction

At Northpoint Seattle, we offer an outpatient program that provides support to people recovering from Xanax addiction. We are have two locations for our clients’ convenience; we have offices in Seattle and Bellevue.

When clients come to us and they are addicted to Xanax, we always recommend detoxing first. It is so important to detox off benzodiazepine drugs because the withdrawal symptoms can quickly become severe. In some cases, benzo withdrawal can even be life-threatening. While we do not offer detox services at our facilities, we do provide referrals for people who need medical detox. Afterward, they return to our program to get additional treatment.

Drug rehabilitation is so important for anyone who is addicted to Xanax. Many people form addictions to this drug without realizing it, but there are those who use it recreationally and get addicted. Either way, understanding the root cause of the problem is critical for recovery.

Many of the clients we work with use Xanax as a way to self-medicate the symptoms of a co-occurring disorder like anxiety. By addressing their mental health issues, it is possible to reduce the risk of relapsing and improve their chances of a positive long-term outcome.

Learn More About Xanax Abuse, Addiction, Detox and Rehab in WA State

At Northpoint Seattle, we have worked with many people who were addicted to Xanax or other benzodiazepine drugs. We know how difficult it can be to recover, and the challenges people face. In fact, many of our staff members are recovered addicts themselves. They have a unique understanding of how hard it is to seek out help. But they also know that it is extremely rewarding.

If you are addicted to Xanax, or you know someone who is, we want to encourage you to get the help you need. You do not need to fight this battle alone, and attempting to recover without professional support can be dangerous. We are here to help you by equipping you with the tools you need to be successful in recovery.

Do you have questions that need to be answered about Xanax addiction and abuse? Would you like to talk with someone about your treatment options in Washington State? Please contact us right away.

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