By now, most people are familiar with the prescription drug Xanax to some extent or another. It has been one of the most popular anti-anxiety medications for many years now, and it has also garnered some infamy throughout our current culture through music and media. Hip-hop artists, like Future in the mainstream or… wait for it… Lil Xan in the underground, have promoted the use of the prescription drug for recreational purposes. Even television shows have made seemingly flippant comments about using the now-notorious medication to take the edge off.
Xanny bars are commonly characterized today as chill-pills, just like amphetamines were promoted in the 60s as “uppers” for the guy or gal on the go. The same can be said about other name brand benzodiazepine medications, such as:
But do people really understand how hard Xanax hits the brain and hurts the body?
Xanax on the Brain and Body
To get caught up to speed, Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam. This is one medication included in a group of drugs known as benzodiazepines, or benzos. Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed for anxiety.
Like all drugs taken orally, it’s absorbed into the body through the stomach. The drug passes through the mucous membrane and enters the liver. Finally, in the bloodstream, it makes its way to the brain. Now for those who don’t know, the blood-brain barrier is a membrane that filters out dangerous substances. It is built in to protect us. However, drugs like benzodiazepines are able to pass through this barrier. That is how they are meant to work.
Benzodiazepines work on parts of the brain known as GABA-A receptors. GABA-A receptors are responsible for producing sedative effects. They are naturally switched on by chemicals used to carry messages around the brain. Those chemicals are called neurotransmitters.
GABA-A receptors are switched on by the GABA neurotransmitter. This is a chemical that creates a calming effect.
Benzodiazepines are agonists, meaning they amplify the GABA-A receptors’ effects. They attach themselves to the GABA-A receptors and increasing the effectiveness of the GABA neurotransmitter. Taking Xanax activates that GABA-A receptor and kicks it into overdrive.
Now none of this is inherently wrong. In fact, doctors typically prescribe Xanax to treat anxiety, which can be caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. In those cases, the effects created by Xanax in the brain actually correct an imbalance. Dr. Cathy Montgomery, reader in psychopharmacology at Liverpool John Moores University, says:
“If somebody’s experiencing high levels of anxiety, they have an increase in chemicals like adrenaline, which would normally make you feel more alert and awake, and a deficiency in GABA. High levels of adrenaline and low levels of GABA have a double impact of increased excitation in the brain, which people experience as anxiety. When they take Xanax, they won’t necessarily get the same type of heavy sedative effect.”
So in essence, Xanax does have a job to do. The issue is, so many people found out what a thorough job it does and decided it could be taken advantage of. Use of Xanax without the imbalance in the brain to cause that heavy sedative effect is what recreational users are looking for. Actually, using Xanax for recreation creates a self-inflicted imbalance in the brain. This creates a lot of issues because the body will try to preserve the balance, which only sets things up to get worse in the long run. Montgomery states:
“Whatever you take, your brain will try to regulate it. It may release adrenaline to try and combat this,”
So while your brain might fight back by releasing adrenaline, you won’t feel it until the effects of the drug wear off. The body takes several days to completely release the drug, even if noticeable effects will wear off after a few hours. The drug first detaches itself from the GABA-A receptors in your brain. Liver enzymes break it down, and eventually, the body gets rid of it.
How It Hurts
The issues can start to take shape once the drug detaches from your brain’s receptors. Like we said before, the effects will start to wear off, and the brain will still be trying to maintain its equilibrium. That self-inflicted imbalance we talked about then suddenly becomes a devastating crash. A sudden increase in brain activity finally breaks through the fog when the Xanax is gone, which can cause feelings of anxiety, agitation, insomnia, even terror.
Xanax use can actually create a cycle of dependency very quickly because while they may not have experienced anxiety before taking the drug, they have created it through the imbalance in the brain that may cause them to seek more of the drug. Before you know it, you are self-medicating to treat these symptoms, which are actually withdrawals created by the drug.
For those who use this medication for sedative effects, another issue presents itself. Benzodiazepines are supposed to be prescribed for a short time. To feel the same effects, people find they have to use larger and larger doses. And taking large doses for sustained periods of time can actually cause the body to stockpile significant withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawals aren’t just painful, they are extremely dangerous.
Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Muscle aches
- Tension in the jaw and/or teeth pain
- Numbness in fingers
- Tingling in limbs
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Alteration in sense of smell
- Loss of appetite
- Heart palpitations
- Impaired respiration
Stopping the use of these drugs abruptly has been known to cause seizures, and detoxing without medical assistance can even be lethal.
You don’t have to use Xanax for an extended period to experience withdrawals. Some people with prescriptions have even reported to feeling withdrawals between doses. Repeated use can lead to withdrawal symptoms in a very short amount of time. Another issue we find is that GABA-A receptors are concentrated in an area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is important for memory and is believed to be the reason why these drugs can cause blackouts.
Xanax becomes even more dangerous when combined with other substances, such as alcohol or opioids. Not only can combining these drugs be harmful to the body, they can actually be life-threatening. Often overdoses involved benzodiazepines like Xanax occur when the drug is used along with other substances that have a compounding effect, such as alcohol or opioids. The drugs react to one another and cause more severe reactions in the brain and the body.
While anti-anxiety medications can be useful for those who suffer due to an imbalance in the brain, everyone should be aware of the risks associated with Xanax and similar substances. Dependence to this drug can be incredibly hazardous, and discontinuing use should always be done with the utmost caution and with medical assistance. No one should try to stop abruptly without consulting a medical professional, and for those who struggle with substance abuse, there is help.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call Palm Partners Recovery Center toll-free now. You are not alone.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
One of the very real difficulties many families face today is trying to overcome issues with substance use and addiction. With opioid overdose resulting in the deaths of over 33,000 people in 2015, a rate of death that has consistently risen in the past several years, the opioid crisis is a very relevant concern. This issue does not only impact those abusing drugs but drastically impacts their families and loved ones.
Watching someone struggle with substance abuse or dependence can be a devastating experience. When it comes to those we are closest to, it only amplifies the turmoil. It is so hard to know how to be there for someone who is struggling without doing something that could be counter-productive to making their life better.
So can you protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic? Yes. But how?
What are the things that families members and friends need to focus on in order to keep their loved ones safe?
Understand Proper Pain Management
According to the CDC, approximately 20% of patients who visit their doctors for pain receive an opioid prescription.
Another article on Addictions.com talks about how opioid addictions often begin at home. Some people may still assume that drug addiction begins on the illicit market, but what we have seen more and more over the years is that the opioid epidemic has largely been fueled by prescription drugs.
Many people who struggle with opioid addiction began by using opioid-based painkillers due to a doctor’s prescription. These kinds of medication are not all that strange when dealing with pain management. Powerful prescription opioids are used for:
A lot of times these medications are prescribed for short-term use to try and reduce the risk of dependence after extended use. However, even with short-term prescriptions, these potent opioids can develop a physical dependence with uncomfortable or even painful withdrawal symptoms.
Overprescribing has also become an element in the opioid epidemic spreading through prescription drugs. Having an abundance of people prescribed to opioids also adds to the risk of more abuse.
By understanding these risks, people can better protect themselves and each other from developing a serious dependence. If you are aware of what can happen with opioids, even if legitimately prescribed, you can watch for signs and take action to prevent further risk.
Monitor Your Medicine Cabinet
According to a SAMHSA study from 2015, more than 50% of people addicted to painkillers receive the drugs from family members or friends.
Not only are those who receive opioids for medical reasons at some risk of accidentally developing a dependence, those who live with them can also be at risk of abusing opioids and becoming addicted. The overprescribing of opioids has also created stockpiles of opioids in thousands of homes all over the country. Left-over medications are also making a contribution to high rates of opioid misuse.
Some people who receive an opioid prescription may not actually use the entire prescription, but frequently they hold onto the excess supply of their medications. This is often innocent enough, as people will sometimes want to have something on-hand in case of unexpected pain down the road. Sometimes they might even offer these medications to others in an attempt to help manage a friend or loved one’s pain. However, even with the best intentions, this can be very dangerous.
Not only can giving someone a powerful opioid they are not prescribed be dangerous, simply having this kind of drug lying around is dangerous. Your medicine cabinet can be easily accessed by others within your household.
If you want to protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic, make sure that you keep opioid medications under restricted access in your home. Do not play doctor and offer these kinds of drugs to your friends or family.
Also, make sure you properly dispose of any unused medications. You can take excess opioid drugs to a drug drop-off. Find nearby locations, which are often at pharmacies or law enforcement agencies.
Look for Signs of Dependence
Dependence and addiction are two terms that are relatively similar, but not exactly interchangeable.
Opioid dependence refers to how the body builds a tolerance to opioids over time. This process leads to the individual needing increasingly high doses of the drug to receive the same effect. Where addiction is more psychological, dependence is primarily a physical response.
Opioid users become physically dependent on the drugs when they require certain doses to feel and function “normally,” while also trying to avoid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. All of these effects can contribute to the development of a more serious addiction. Some physical signs to watch for include:
- Constricted pupils
- Reparatory depression
- Loss of consciousness/Nodding off
Withdrawal signs can also indicate dependence, including minor symptoms such as:
Understanding the signs or addiction, including withdrawal, can be a way to protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic. If you can recognize the warning signs, you might be able to intervene before it is too late.
Seek Professional and Effective Help
Education is key to prevention, no matter what the situation or circumstances. Whatever the adversity, arming yourself with information makes you more effective. At the same time, seeking help from those with knowledge and experience with treating addiction is invaluable. Having a safe and effective resource that knows how to help your loved one overcome an opioid dependence or addiction can make all the difference.
It can be overwhelming, and none of us can protect everyone. However, you can be part of the support system that works to keep your family, friends and loved ones safe.
If your loved one is already struggling with opioids, the best thing you can do to protect them is to get them the help they need. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
If there’s anyone who understands the shock of losing a bandmate to suicide, it’s Dave Grohl. Back in 1994, Nirvana’s lead singer Kurt Cobain took his own life in his Seattle home. At the time Grohl was the drummer in the band.
Now, Grohl, lead singer and founder of the band Foo Fighters, is opening up about the untimely death of his musical peers Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) and Chris Cornell (Soundgarden). Grohl says there is a real need for mental health awareness.
Grohl is not the first to speak out. After the tragic death of Bennington and Cornell, fellow musicians from bands like Slipknot, Creed and Limp Bizkit expressed the importance of addressing mental health and the need to reduce the stigma.
Grohl’s explained in a recent interview the difficulty of losing a friend through mental illness.
“When it comes to someone like Chris Cornell or Chester, depression is a disease, and everybody kind of goes through it their own way,” Grohl stated in an interview with New Zealand’s RockFM. “I can’t speak for anybody else’s condition, but the hardest part is when you lose a friend. And I just always immediately think of their families, their bandmates, ’cause going through something like suicide, it’s a long road. And Chris was such a beautiful guy, man—he was the sweetest person, he was so talented, he had so much to offer—that it was a real shock to hear that he had gone.”
“I think that mental health and depression is something that people should really take seriously,” Grohl continued. “And there’s a stigma attached to it, which is unfortunate, because just as you take care of yourselves in every other way, I think it’s important that people really try to take care of themselves in that way too. And it ain’t easy. You know, life’s hard.”
Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins weighed in on the discussion:
“Like [Dave] said, people [think], ‘You’ve got it so together.’ It just goes to show you, it doesn’t matter what’s in your bank account, or how many hits are on your YouTube page, or all that kind of crap—it all goes out the window if, like Dave said, you’re not feeling right.”
“[Soundgarden] were a big inspiration for us as musicians, and Chris Cornell was just the master. So the loss, it’s a bummer, but, like Dave said, that’s a real thing. Look after yourselves, and if it looks like someone’s down, way down, check on ’em.”
Mental Health and Suicide Awareness:
Despite the recent deaths of Bennington and Cornell, there still remains a stigma behind mental illness. The reasons behind suicides remain misunderstood. The stigma of mental illness was evident after these recent deaths. Many people used words like “selfish” to describe these acts.
The reality is depression is a complex disease. Depression is a mental illness that requires treatment. Without treatment, the condition only worsens.
Signs of Depression Include:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in Eating Patterns
- Weight changes
- Thoughts of death
September is National Recovery Month. Recovery includes both substance use disorder and mental illness. It is important that public figures like Dave Grohl are speaking out about this. Recovery IS possible. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
A few weeks ago, my sister told me about an upcoming concert that would celebrate popular acts such as DMX and several others. The event was called the “Ruff Ryders and Friends – Reunion Tour – Past, Present and Future” and would be in Miami on September 7th.
Tickets were cheap so I figured why not. I opened my computer and prepared to purchase the tickets for the show until I read the letters in red: “Canceled.” This was certainly not what I had hoped for.
Why did the show get canceled?
In fact, why did the entire tour get canceled? I could not believe my eyes as I glanced over the list of cancellations. Cancelling an entire tour is practically unheard of. What happened? Sadly, the answer involves drug addiction.
After some careful searching, I discovered a TMZ article which reported back in April that DMX had to cancel his shows due to an “unspecified medical issue.” Sources at a Los Angeles show state the rapper had been drinking heavily.
His history with substance abuse is not anything surprising. In the past, the rapper was open about his journey to addiction recovery. Therefore, when news of his drinking spread, relapse concerns heightened.
It turns out DMX has reportedly sought treatment for drug addiction. Addiction treatment reports surfaced a couple weeks after the rapper was put on house arrest for violating bail conditions.
According to speculations, the 46-year old is undergoing treatment in the Nashua, New Hampshire area or is living in a sober home. The Nashua Telegraph reported that DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, was spotted at a local Buffalo Wild Wings, a Shaw’s supermarket, and a Walmart.
Along with addiction troubles, Simmons is facing charges that he allegedly owes $1.7 million in back taxes dating back to 2000. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges and was freed on $500,000 bail, according to Billboard. Still, while he was on bail, the rapper failed drug test four times. These test found cocaine, opiates, and pot in his system. Because of these results, Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rakoff put him under house confinement on August 11.
During the hearing, the judge stated that Simmons had violated bail “probably more times than I can remember,” according to Court House News. He chose not to send the rapper to jail, although he described Simmons’s drug addiction as “gross.” He said that his past run-ins with the law exemplified that he’s had “more than a passing acquaintance with illegal drugs.”
After that hearing, DMX told a reporter, “When God is for you, who can be against you?”
The judge reportedly lifted Simmons’s house arrest on the condition that he enter a sober program and travel with a sober coach around the clock. According to court documents reviewed by TMZ, the rapper would need permission to leave New York State.
According to his lawyer Murray Richman, the rapper has decided to go to rehab on his own.
“This is a voluntary move on his part,” Richman said.
It is clear that DMX has struggled on and off with drug addiction. We wish him the best as he seeks a life free from the grips of substance abuse. Recovery is possible, and it is the answer out of this cycle. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol dependency, please call now. We are here to help. Do not wait.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
The early stages of recovery can be a tumultuous time. After all, you are entering a new way of living. One challenge those in recovery face is making new friends. Sometimes the only friends a person has are the friends they used drugs with. Those friends are certainly not ideal.
The first advice most people offer is to find friends in 12-step meetings. While fellowships like A.A. and N.A are great places to meet people, one should not be limited to meetings to make new friends.
There are hosts of places where sober people can socialize and meet well-rounded people. Making friends as an adult is challenging, and sobriety intensifies that challenge. However, there is hope.
Other than 12-step meetings, there are a plethora of resources available to make new friends. You do not have to go bar hopping to meet friends like you used to.
Here are five ways to make new friends in sobriety other than meetings:
Check Out Local Meetups.
Meetup.com is a great way to track people who are interested in similar things as you. You can find people to play ultimate Frisbee on a weekly basis, or you can find an art group. There are so many sober activities on Meetup. Nowadays, there is an increasing trend of individuals trying to find activities to do that do not include drinking. Take advantage of this.
Meetups are run by independent organizers, and they range tremendously. Everyone can find something they are interested in on Meetup. If you do not find something that interests you, then create your own Meetup! You’ll be surprised by who could possibly show up, and it’s a great way to develop your leadership skills.
Go to the Gym.
It can be difficult to work out, especially in early recovery, but going to the gym is a great way to make new friends. Fitness classes and exercise groups are great ways to make friends with people who care about their health. Even if they are not sober, people who workout are usually more conscious of what they put in their bodies. Plus, working out is good for you, so it is a win-win.
Reconnect with existing friends.
Another way to make friends is to connect to people you already know. For example, if you are in a new area, ask around and see if there are friends-of-friends around that you can connect with. Contact your existing friends and see if they know anyone that they can introduce you to. Maybe one of your friends knows someone in your area who loves art or writing as much as you do. Network and build your circle using these types of strategies.
Tap into your Facebook Network.
Facebook has nearly 2 billion active users, and it has the tools to help you connect with tons of potential friends. There are a variety of groups you can join on Facebook to meet people with similar interests. For example, there are travel groups with hundreds of thousands of members in them. People connect through groups like this all of the time. Join Facebook groups based on your interests and track people in your area to connect with. Like any scenario, be safe and always meet in a public place.
If you are an introvert, it can be difficult to open yourself up while doing day to day activities. However, this is an excellent way to meet new people. Whether you are running errands or going to work, everyday ventures are an opportunity to connect with people. The more you talk to people, the more people you will meet. I hate small talk as much as the next guy, but I have to admit, those who do more of it reap the benefits of having more connections with people.
You can meet people while shopping for a new blouse or getting your hair washed. Put yourself out there and open yourself to new friendships. You’ll be surprised at the results!
Overall, recovery is a great time of reinvention and with the reinvention comes the opportunity to build your social network. Creating a solid group of friends is an excellent way to maintain your sobriety. You will begin to learn a variety of ways to have fun without the use of drugs and alcohol. You do not have to meet friends only in meetings. The world is your oyster. If you are currently struggling with substance abuse, call now. Do not wait.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135