Long-Term Side Effects of Xanax – Xanax is an anti-anxiety medication that can result in unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects when used long-term. Occasionally, people misuse Xanax to self-medicate when symptoms worsen, or for conditions not indicated initially. Others use Xanax illegally for the calming and euphoric high it can produce. Regardless, due to the many side effects that Xanax can produce, this abuse can lead to chronic, adverse health effects.
How Xanax Impacts the Brain and Body
Xanax (alprazolam) is one of many drugs known as benzodiazepines or benzos. Like all the drugs in this class, Xanax helps to reduce the transmission of messages in the brain and thus fosters a sense of calm, relaxation, and sedation. Because of this, it is often prescribed for conditions such as the following:
- Anxiety disorders
- Panic disorder
Moreover, benzos like Xanax reduce central nervous system (CNS) activity and because of this, they are in a class of drugs known as CNS depressants. Unfortunately, however, this sedative action – as well as other interactions of Xanax in the body – can lead to unexpected side effects, especially if the drug is being misused.
Short-Term Physical Side Effects
Side effects can range in intensity from mild to severe and will vary between individuals. They may include the following:
- Reduced physical coordination
- Slowed or labored breathing
- Heart palpitations or chest pain
- Stuffy nose
- Blurred vision
- Upset stomach or changes in bowel movements
- Swelling of hands or feet
- Excessive sweating
Psychological Effects of Xanax Use
As noted previously, Xanax works to slow message transmission in the brain and produce calmness. It accomplishes this by increasing the availability of a brain chemical known as GABA, which intervenes with other chemicals traveling through the brain. For this reason, the drug may also produce mental side effects, some of which can impede the individual’s ability to function normally. These include the following:
- Sleep disturbances and fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
- Memory loss or difficulties
- Dependence and tolerance
How Long-Term Side Effects of Xanax Progress
Many of the aforementioned symptoms can become more serious as a result of the long-term use of Xanax. One of the more common problems is related to an increased risk of developing dementia. Recent research has shown that those who use benzos like Xanax on a long-term basis have a greater risk of developing dementia-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease than those who do not. Other long-term issues may include the following:
- Heart damage and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Hypoxia (low oxygen in the brain) as a result of impaired lung function
- Edema (swelling) in extremities
Because of the problems that can manifest with the long-term use of Xanax, it is often recommended that this drug is not used regularly for longer than six weeks.
Xanax Abuse and Dependence
Xanax abuse can rapidly result in dependence. This is because, over time, the user may experience increased tolerance, a condition in which the body becomes accustomed to the drug, and the effects diminish as a result. This often compels the person to use more of the drug to achieve the desired effect.
This type of overuse can cause the person’s system to reach a point where it can no longer function normally without the drug’s presence. This is known as chemical dependence and results in withdrawal symptoms when the user attempts to quit or drastically cut back. When the person also acquires a psychological dependence and drug use becomes uncontrollable, full-blown addiction has developed.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Discontinuing use of the drug abruptly can produce adverse withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Seizures and tremors
- Increased anxiety
- Depression and suicidal ideations
Is the Damage Reversible?
Some long-term effects of Xanax may be reversible upon cessation of the drug, but others may not. For example, chronic use can result in memory impairment and dementia, mental health conditions which may not be possible to reverse. Conversely, some physical side effects, such as heart palpitations and edema, may return to normal after the medication has been discontinued.
Treating Xanax Abuse and Addiction
Xanax withdrawal can be dangerous and even deadly. People who regularly abuse or are addicted to Xanax should consult a doctor/addiction specialist and inquire about a tapering method – a process used by medical professionals to safely wean a person off the drug and avoid severe side effects. Following a tapering and/or medical detox, patients should immediately transition to a reputable addiction treatment program for long-term therapy, counseling, and support. Treatments include:
- Individual Behavioral Therapy
- Group and Family Therapy
- Individual and Group counseling
- Peer support groups, such as 12-Step programs
- Exercise and nutritional support
With these and other treatments, clients can learn to regain their lives without the use of Xanax or other drugs or alcohol, avoid relapse, and experience the happiness and wellness that they deserve! We can help – please call us as soon as possible!
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