Table of Contents
Written by Amethyst Recovery
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What is Xanax?
Is Xanax An Opioid?
Xanax is a prescription, brand-name drug used primarily for the short-term treatment of acute symptoms and anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax is classified as a benzodiazepine. Xanax is not an opioid. Opioids are central nervous system depressant, and Xanax is as well, but the two drugs affect brain receptor sites and neurotransmitters differently.
When someone uses a benzodiazepine like Xanax, which has the generic name alprazolam, it affects the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain, primarily. This causes a slowdown in neural activity. Since brain overactivity is treated, Xanax causes feelings of calm, relaxation and drowsiness.
Opioids affect opioid receptor sites. When opioid receptor sites are activated by a substance classified as an opioid, it changes how pain signals are sent to the brain and the emotional response a person has to pain.
While benzodiazepines and opioids are different, both are controlled substances. Both types of drugs do have abuse and addiction potential, and both can lead to fatal overdoses because they slow breathing.
The Effects of Xanax
When someone takes Xanax, it works by increasing the amount of something called GABA in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory naturally-occurring neurotransmitter. If someone’s brain doesn’t naturally make enough GABA, they may experience symptoms such as anxiety, panic or insomnia because of overactivity in the brain. The overall goal of someone taking Xanax, which is a prescription drug, is to help them feel calm and relaxed.
Despite its approved medical uses, some people abuse Xanax because it can create a high. Some people may feel desirable or pleasant feelings such as intense relaxation, or even euphoria. This occurs because Xanax, especially when it’s taken without a prescription or at high doses, can cause dopamine to be released into the brain. Dopamine is characterized as a feel-good neurotransmitter. Most drugs that have the potential for abuse or addiction cause a release of dopamine into the brain.
History of Xanax
The history of Xanax is a fairly long one. Alprazolam, the generic ingredient in Xanax, was developed in the late 1960s in a pharmaceutical laboratory in Michigan. The Upjohn Laboratories company first created alprazolam.
Alprazolam was initially intended as a sleep aid and a muscle relaxant. With later research, it was discovered that alprazolam could be useful as a treatment for anxiety, panic, and other mood disorders.
Upjohn submitted an application to the FDA to approve Xanax as an antidepressant, and the company had committed many trials showing it was safer than other tricyclic antidepressants used at the time.
The company received a patent for Xanax in 1969, but it wasn’t until 1981 that brand-name Xanax became available to the public.
Symptoms of Xanax Abuse
Xanax Side Effects
Whether someone uses Xanax as prescribed, or they recreationally abuse the drug, symptoms are possible.
Xanax abuse is defined as any situation where someone uses this medication without a prescription, or outside of how it’s prescribed. Xanax abuse could include taking a friend or family member’s Xanax or crushing the tablets to snort them and get a more rapid and powerful high.
General Xanax side effects of abuse, or prescription Xanax use, can include:
- Drowsiness or tiredness
- Sleep disturbances such as anxiety
- Memory impairment
- Problems with balance or coordination
- Slurred speech
- Problems concentrating
- Irritability or changes in mood
- Muscle weakness
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of interest in sex and a decline in sex drive
Xanax Long-Term Effects
Xanax is a medication that is intended only to be prescribed for short-term use. It’s not a long-term medication for treating anxiety, panic or insomnia. Typically a doctor wouldn’t prescribe Xanax to someone for more than two to six weeks.
The longer someone uses Xanax, the more significant the negative effects are likely to be. For example, if someone uses Xanax for a longer period than prescribed, they’re at a greater risk for becoming addicted or dependent on it.
Other Xanax long-term effects can include:
- Someone who’s a long-term user of Xanax will often develop a dependence, and their brain will forget how to function without it. This can lead to Xanax withdrawal, which can be severe.
- Xanax can affect many different functions of the brain. Long-term Xanax use can alter someone’s emotional responses, memory, and thought processes.
- The long-term use of Xanax can cause serious mood swings and can lead to violent or aggressive behavior.
- People who are long-term users of Xanax may experience ongoing lethargy, and it can cause weight gain and other accompanying side effects.
- There has been ongoing research looking at the possible links between long-term Xanax use and an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- If someone is a long-term Xanax user and they stop suddenly, they may develop seizure disorders.
How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your Urine and System?
Does Xanax Show Up on a Drug Test?
The half-life of Xanax is considered intermediate. This means that once someone takes Xanax as a pill or tablet, the peak levels of the drug will be found in the blood of the user within one to two hours in most cases. The average half-life for Xanax is 11.2 hours in the blood, for a healthy adult. Half-life refers to the time it takes half the dose of a drug to be eliminated from the urine.
It can take anywhere from five to seven half-lives for Xanax to be fully eliminated from the urine of the user, so yes, Xanax does show up on a drug test. It can take at least four days for it to be fully eliminated from the system of the user in most cases.
In a urine test, the use of Xanax could show up for anywhere from five days to a week after a dose was used. In a blood test, the use of Xanax could show up for around 24 hours after it was used, and in a saliva test, Xanax can be detected for up to 2.5 days.
How to Get Xanax Out of Your System?
If someone has a drug test coming up, they may wonder how to get Xanax out of their system. In some ways, there is very little that can be done to speed up how long it takes Xanax to leave the system. Some of the factors that play a role in how long it takes the body to eliminate a substance like Xanax include:
- General health and underlying health disorders
- Weight and body size
While some factors are individual and can’t be changed if someone were to drink a lot of water, it might help them urinate more, and they might eliminate more Xanax than if they weren’t well-hydrated. Being physically active can also help speed up how long it takes Xanax to leave the system.
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Recreational Use of Xanax
How is Xanax Abused? Xanax High and Addiction
Xanax, despite its medical uses, its also a drug of abuse. It’s possible for someone to get high from the use of Xanax, especially if they use large doses. The high might be milder than with other types of drugs like opioids, but it does exist.
The high can also occur relatively rapidly, which people who use it recreationally may find appealing. It’s also possible to become addicted to Xanax, particularly with repeated use.
Among teens, Xanax recreational abuse is especially common. For example, in 2014 it was estimated that 13.9 percent of teens reported using prescription drugs like Xanax for non-medical purposes in the past year.
While people do abuse Xanax on its own, what’s even more common is polysubstance abuse. People may combine Xanax with other substances to heighten the effects. One example would be combining Xanax with another central nervous system depressant like opioids or alcohol.
Some people might also use Xanax as a way to come down from the effects of a stimulant drug such as cocaine or amphetamine.
Can You Snort Xanax?
Not only is it possible to crush Xanax and snort it, but this is common when people use it recreationally. People snort Xanax as a way to get a faster and stronger high, and this may work with some substances, but it doesn’t work as well with Xanax. Typically Xanax will enter the bloodstream at nearly the same rate and with the same intensity whether it’s used orally or it’s snorted.
There are many risks of snorting Xanax. Snorting drugs can cause damage to the mucous membranes, and it can damage the tissue in the upper respiratory system and the throat. It can also increase the risk of overdosing and can cause infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Can You Smoke Xanax?
Theoretically, it would be possible to recreationally abuse Xanax by smoking it. This allows for the drug to be inhaled into the lungs, and it can cause serious long-term damage including increasing the risk of lung cancer. However, Xanax is not often smoked.
How Much Xanax to Overdose?
An overdose occurs when someone takes so much of a substance that their brain and body can’t process it fast enough. Since Xanax is a central nervous system depressant, if someone takes too high a dose, it can cause their heart rate and breathing to slow to dangerous levels.
It’s difficult to determine how much Xanax it would take an individual to overdose since there are so many different variables that play a role in this. However, it would usually require a high dose of Xanax to overdose.
What’s more common than overdosing on Xanax alone is combining it with another central nervous system depressant like opioids or alcohol. When this happens, it might not even take a particularly large dose of Xanax for an overdose to occur.
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Xanax and Drug/Alcohol Interaction
Alcohol and Xanax
Both alcohol and Xanax are CNS depressants. Both affect GABA, and both can slow essential functions of the central nervous system including breathing and heart rate. If someone combines alcohol and Xanax, they are at a significantly higher risk of overdosing and of the overdose being fatal than if they used either substance on its own.
Even if a person doesn’t overdose, combining alcohol and Xanax can heighten the adverse side effects of both substances since they are similar to one another.
For example, a person combining alcohol and Xanax might be at a higher risk of falling or being in an accident because of severely impaired coordination.
Xanax and Suboxone
Suboxone is a drug that’s prescribed to people to help them stop using other opioids. Suboxone is a partial opioid agonist, meaning that it activates the same receptor sites in the central nervous system as opioids, but in a lesser way. It doesn’t create euphoria.
However, if someone combines Xanax and Suboxone, it can be dangerous. Some people might combine Xanax and Suboxone to try and get more of a high from the Suboxone. That can lead to a fatal overdose since both slow the CNS.
Oxycontin and Xanax
OxyContin is one of the most commonly prescribed and abused opioids. This prescription pain medication contains oxycodone, which is a narcotic. When someone uses OxyContin even on its own, they may overdose. If someone mixes OxyContin and Xanax, this risk is significantly greater.
There is a black box warning that comes with opioid drugs as well as benzodiazepines because of the significant risks of mixing these two drug classes.
Hydrocodone and Xanax
The combination of hydrocodone and Xanax has warnings similar to the combination of OxyContin and Xanax since hydrocodone is also an opioid narcotic.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 30 percent of overdoses that involve an opioid drug also include a benzodiazepine. When someone combines opioids and benzodiazepines, it slows breathing, and can cause significant sedation to the point that it becomes dangerous.
Xanax and Coke
Cocaine, which is also referred to as coke, is a stimulant drug. It acts on the brain and body in a very different way from a depressant drug like Xanax.
Coke speeds up the body’s processes and creates a rush of euphoria, energy, and sociability. Some people use Xanax and coke together as a way to eliminate the negative side effects of using cocaine, and especially the crash that occurs as the effects of cocaine are wearing off.
For example, someone might use Xanax after using coke to help them relax or sleep.
Doing so is dangerous, however. Anytime multiple substances are combined it can increase their toxicity in the system of the user, heightening the potential for an overdose. Someone who combines Xanax and coke is also more likely to develop an addiction and dependence on both substances, which can be more challenging to treat.
Xanax and Percocet
Percocet is a brand-name, prescription drug that combines the opioid oxycodone with acetaminophen. As with other opioids, Percocet should never be combined with Xanax.
Studies have shown that the overdose death rate among patients who are prescribed both an opioid and a benzodiazepine is ten times higher than people who received just an opioid. In overdose deaths in people in Canada who were prescribed opioids for noncancer pain, 60 percent also tested positive for the use of benzodiazepines.
To learn more about Xanax addiction and treatment programs, contact Amethyst Recovery Center today.
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