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
Author: Justin Mckibben
With drug abuse being a major issue facing the nation, education is extremely important. Any hope of winning the fight against rising overdose rates and the spread of drug-related illness and death starts with making sure we have as much information as possible to make a difference. On that note, explaining prescription drug abuse is critical because prescription drug abuse is a key contributor to the state of the country today.
If we want to help people avoid prescription drug abuse, or recognize the signs and know there is help, it is important to explain the reality and the risks.
What is prescription drug abuse?
Simply put- prescription drug abuse is one of two things.
- When someone takes a medication that is not their prescription
- If someone takes their own prescription in a way not intended by a doctor or for a different reason
When you take prescription drugs properly they are usually safe. It requires a trained health care clinician, such as a doctor or nurse, to determine if the benefits of taking the medication outweigh any risks for side effects. But when abused and taken in different amounts or for different purposes than as prescribed, they affect the brain and body in ways very similar to illicit drugs.
These drugs have a close relation to morphine, or the street drug heroin. Opioids are typically for pain management. Opioid addiction has become one of the biggest problems facing the country today. Drugs such as:
These drugs are also known as “downers”. You can divide the category can be up into:
Drugs such as Zyprexa, Seroquel and Haldol are meant to reduce symptoms of mental illness.
- Benzodiazepines (Benzos)
Prescription drugs like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium and Librium.
Amytal, Numbutal and Seconal are included in a class of depressants intended as sedatives or sleeping pills.
These kinds of prescription drugs are also called “uppers” or “smart drugs” because of the increase alertness, attention and energy. They also increase heart rate and respiration. Many of these medications are used to combat conditions such as ADHD, including:
Prescription drug abuse has become a big health issue because of the various health hazards. This risk is particularly true of abusing prescription pain medications.
Who abuses prescription drugs?
When asking who are most likely to abuse prescription drugs, the answer may vary depending on the substance. Some people end up participating in prescription drug abuse due to an injury or legitimate health reason, but the “high” they can experience may lead to more frequent use and ultimately a physical dependence.
Recent studies have indicated that prescription drug abuse impacts young adults most; specifically age 18 to 25. In regards to teens, after marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most common substances of abuse by Americans age 14 and older.
Prescription drug abuse is present across all demographics, relevant to every social and economic class. Many believe this rise has largely contributed to the heroin addiction epidemic and the overdose outbreak in the past few years.
Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment
The Palm Partners Treatment Program has a design for prescription drug abuse intended to address people of all walks of life who are suffering. Personalized recovery programs are meant to work with each individual’s circumstances and symptoms to create a blueprint for the future.
Some of the signs of addiction range in severity and can affect each people differently, especially depending on the specific prescription drug. Increased tolerance is a clear cut sign of progressive physical dependence. Some indicators of prescription drug addiction may be:
- Excessive sweating
- Swelling in the arms and legs
- Chronic constipation
- Respiratory distress
- Slurred speech
- Poor concentration
- High body temperature
- High blood pressure
Treatment for prescription drug addiction includes a detox period to help combat the uncomfortable symptoms of prescription drug addiction, as well as withdrawal.
For all those who are struggling with prescription drug abuse, or even abusing other drugs or medications, there is a massive community of recovery all over the country to help you get the care you need. Treatment for prescription drug abuse can be the first and most important step, so be sure to step up.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Suboxone is a popularly approved medication to treat opiate withdrawal. It is one of two forms of the medication buprenorphine, which is an opiate agonist originally developed to treat pain problems. Suboxone works by binding to opiate receptors in the brain, which are the same receptors that morphine, heroin and other opiates bind to.
If you are not familiar with Suboxone, you might be more familiar with Methadone. Methadone was an earlier form of harm reduction treatments used to treat heroin addiction. Although Suboxone has treated thousands of patients struggling with opioid addiction, the drug is not without its risks. Critics continue to express concern over the lasting impact of Suboxone use when it comes to increasing dependency.
One huge concern of Suboxone use is the potential side effects of mixing other drugs with the substance. Suboxone can have dangerous interactions with other substances which pose an immediate risk to Suboxone users.
How Suboxone Works
In order to better understand the risk of combining drugs with Suboxone, it is important to understand how the drug works. Suboxone is a combination of the drugs buprenorphine and naloxone. It functions as a partial opioid agonist and diminishes cravings as well as prevents other opioids from reacting to the brain’s receptors. In other words, even if you try to get high off opioids, you won’t.
Taking other drugs while on Suboxone can be life threatening. If you are on Suboxone, pay very close attention to the following three substances. Combining these drugs with Suboxone can cause a very dangerous, even fatal interaction.
3 Drugs You Should Never Mix With Suboxone:
- Benzodiazepines (“Benzos”)
Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin) are drugs usually prescribed to alleviate anxiety and treat insomnia. They are depressant drugs, or “downers,” because they sedate the central nervous system, which slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and depresses breathing. Because Suboxone is also a depressant drug, the two together create a double-whammy effect. The combination can cause a severe lack of coordination, impaired judgment, unconsciousness, respiratory failure, and even death.
The effects of Suboxone and cocaine are extremely dangerous because both drugs are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Cocaine is a stimulant, or “upper,” while Suboxone is a depression, or “downer.” When you combine cocaine with Suboxone, it actually reduces the amount of buprenorphine that is in your bloodstream. When you have less buprenorphine in your body, you start to feel opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Combining cocaine with Suboxone increases the risk of a cocaine overdose. Since Suboxone is a depressant, it counteracts the effects of cocaine. This means users end up taking more and more cocaine because they do not feel the effects they normally would on their regular amount. Typically, users start to believe that can handle more cocaine, even when they cannot. The increase in cocaine used can result in an overdose.
Mixing alcohol with any medication is never a good idea, especially Suboxone. Just like benzos, alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol is even more of a problem than benzos because it is so readily available. An uninformed Suboxone user may not even consider the risks of drinking alcohol. However, combining alcohol and Suboxone can produce the same exacerbated effects such as unconsciousness and respiratory failure. These side effects can be dangerous and even fatal.It is so important to know all the risks you are taking with newly prescribed medication. According to statistics, there were 30,135 buprenorphine-related emergency room visits in 2010. It should come as no surprise that 59 percent of these visits involved additional drugs.
As Suboxone’s popularity increases, it is important to understand the dangers of mixing Suboxone with other substances. If you are taking Suboxone or similar drugs, it might be a good idea for you to consider seeking help on going off those drugs completely. Seeking professional treatment can help you not rely on any drugs in your recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
By Cheryl Steinberg
The thing about drug addiction is that it affects all people, across gender, socio-economic, age, and ethnic lines. And that’s becoming more and more apparent as a heroin scourge spreads the nation. First, we wrote about how heroin has become the drug of choice among white, middle-class, suburbia.
But, you might be shocked to find out that the next population being most affected by the heroin epidemic is the Baby Boomers generation, who are now around 45 – 64 years of age.
After all, these are our parents and grandparents. It’s kind of hard to picture ol’ grandma shooting up in the bathroom, don’t you agree?
U.S. Heroin Epidemic Now Rampant Among Baby Boomers
However, this is the reality. In fact, the cases of heroin-related deaths among Baby Boomers have nearly quintupled from 516 in 2000 to 2,459 in 2013, the Times Union reports.
Bottom line: Older Americans are a growing sector in the heroin-addicted population in the U.S.
There are a few theories behind the “emerging epidemic,” or the trend among Baby Boomers who have turned to heroin.
First off, it’s important to know that seniors are prescribed more drugs than any other segment of the total population, and of these prescribed drugs, we’re not just talking heart and cholesterol pills. Of these prescription drugs, the majority are opioid pain relievers and anti-anxiety drugs – mostly benzos, like Xanax and Valium.
And, in this pill-popping society where everyone’s just looking for that magic bullet to solve their problems, the medical community reflects this in their overall mentality of ‘medicate-first,’ which only serves to make matters worse.
“What initially becomes a way of managing that pain can, over time, lead them to needing more of the painkiller,” Nicole MacFarland, executive director of Senior Hope, a nonprofit outpatient clinic in Albany for people 50 years and older, told the Times Union. “Their body develops a tolerance and, lo and behold, they wind up becoming very addicted.”
The rise in heroin use can also be attributed to the pill mill crackdowns and other strategies governments have been enacting in order to address the painkiller abuse sweeping the land. In an unfortunate twist (although foreseeable in this writer’s eyes), the tighter regulation on narcotic painkillers led to a revival of heroin use. We’ve seen it among the affluent, suburbia, and now the elderly.
The problem is that there was this nationwide crackdown on painkillers yet there was no plan in place as to how to deal with all the people who had become dependent on and even addicted to painkillers.
And just as we have seen with other “surprising populations” that have turned to heroin, older adults are also turning to heroin when the painkillers they are getting just aren’t enough to treat their pain. For example, the number of patients at Senior Hope whose main addiction was heroin increased from six patients in 2012 to 17 in 2014, out of 155 patients.
An issue specific to the Baby Boomer population when it comes to drug abuse is that weaning older adults from an opiate addiction can be complicated, since they need often need pain medication for other ailments such as chronic pain.
Again, substance abuse, misuse, and addiction are non-discriminating medical situations, meaning that anyone can be affected at any time. So, although it might be hard to picture certain people using heroin or other drugs, it’s just as likely as for anybody else to be using. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
By Cheryl Steinberg
Benzodiazepines, or more commonly “benzos” are part of a class of drugs known as anxiolytics (also antipanic or antianxiety agent), which are medications that inhibit or ease anxiety. You know them as Valium, Xanax, Librium, Ativan, and Klonopin.
Benzos have been around for quite a while but, it wasn’t until the 1970s when vast numbers of people began taking them for stress and anxiety, leading to concerns about the adverse effects of this group of drugs.
Benzos continue to be popular. For example, between 2002 and 2007, the number of U.S. prescriptions for them grew from 69 million to 83 million. Their popularity waned in the 1980s and ’90s, when SSRI antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and others outsold them. But benzo use and popularity is back on the rise, mainly due to Big Pharma practices and tactics such as the highly successful marketing strategy used to boost Xanax sales, which was done by marketing it for more than just Panic Disorder.
This is Your Brain on Drugs: Benzos
As with most other drugs, benzos can lead to dependence, both physical and psychological, as well as to addiction for some. There are significant risks to physical and mental health associated with the long-term use of benzodiazepines.
The cognitive effects of long-term benzodiazepine use include impaired concentration and memory, and disinhibition, which is the inability to restrain yourself and shows up as a disregard for social conventions, impulsivity, and poor risk assessment. Users may also experience a generalized impairment of cognition, meaning difficulty with paying attention, struggles with verbal learning and memory. Benzos are the most common cause of drug induced dementia, which affects over 10% of patients who are often misdiagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease.
A benzo user’s mood is also deeply affected by long-term use, even undergoing noticeable personality changes and showing signs of aggression. Users experience what’s called emotional clouding, which can best be described as being overly sensitive and not being able to think rationally because their emotions cloud their judgment. Also, continued use of benzos can cause depression as well as the other mental health conditions, and benzo use can actually make those conditions worse. This includes anxiety, which is what this class of drugs is supposed to treat.
When someone uses benzos for an extended period of time, they develop benzodiazepine dependence. This condition is associated with possible adverse effects on sleep, including the causing and/or worsening of sleep disordered breathing.
People who become benzo dependent also experience physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, irritability, lethargy, and sexual dysfunction.
Studies have shown that chronic use of benzodiazepines appears to cause significant immunological disorders, as seen in a sample of outpatient clients. Diazepam and clonazepam have been found to have long-lasting, but not permanent, immunotoxic effects in the fetus of pregnant rats.
Suicide and Self-Harm
Teenagers who already displayed signs of depression who were taking benzodiazepines were found to have a drastically increased risk of self-harm or suicide.
Sadly, suicide is common among chronic benzodiazepine users. Misuse or abuse of benzos, like with other medications that suppress the Central Nervous System (CNS depressants) increase the risk of suicide with 11% of males and 23% of females who abuse a sedative hypnotic, like Xanax or Valium, committing suicide.
Benzodiazepine dependence often leads to an increasingly worsening quality of life for the user, which includes social deterioration leading to co-occurring issues such as alcoholism and other drug abuse. Benzo addiction goes beyond physical dependence; when someone who has been taking benzos over a long period of time starts to experience issues such as the deterioration of relationships, employment problems, and financial issues, then it is pretty safe to say that they have crossed over into addiction.
The American Psychiatric Association Task Force devised a table that lists the withdrawal symptoms associated with benzos and categorizes them as such: “Very Frequent, Common but Less Frequent, and Uncommon.”
Very Frequent withdrawal symptoms included anxiety, agitation, and irritability.
Common but Less Frequent withdrawal symptoms include depression.
Uncommon withdrawal reactions included psychosis, confusion, paranoid delusions, and hallucinations. The APA task force also found that these withdrawal symptoms “may persist up to several weeks (occasionally for months).”
But withdrawal from benzos doesn’t end there. Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is very similar to alcohol withdrawal syndrome in that it requires medical treatment because it isn’t safe to quit cold turkey. In some cases, benzo withdrawal (like alcohol withdrawal) results in death.
The good news is that anywhere from 3 to 6 months of abstaining from taking benzos (with proper detox and tapering), there are noticeable improvements in the mental and physical wellbeing of the user. Although long-term use of benzos can actually create or exacerbate physical and mental health conditions, these issues usually improve after 6 or more months of abstinence. So, if you or someone you love is dependent on or addicted to benzos, recovery is possible. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.