How Xanax Effects Work | What Does Xanax Do To Your Body?
Just because a drug is legal, doesn’t mean that it can’t harm you. There are a number of substances that many people abuse that are widely available. Particularly, even though pharmaceutical medications must be received via a prescription obtained from a doctor, they can still be easily abused.
In theory, this should prevent medications from getting into the hands of people who would abuse or misuse them, but that’s not been the case. Xanax is one of the most easily-prescribed medications, and due to its accessibility, it is dangerously prone to recreational use and abuse.
When used outside of the supervision of a prescribing medical professional, Xanax can do more harm than good.
After OxyContin was released to market in the 1990s, the misuse of dangerous medications like painkillers and benzodiazepines spiked alarmingly fast. People from all walks of life had become addicted to prescription medications, and the trend continued into and through the 2000s.
Although there have been a number of recent efforts aimed at curbing prescription medication abuse, this is still a major concern, especially for anti-anxiety medications like Xanax. While there remains a black market for addictive pharmaceuticals, it’s important for everyone to know some of the harmful effects these substances can have on the body, especially the brain. Below we summarize the effects of Xanax, explaining what the drug is, why it has such a high potential for abuse, and common side-effects.
What Exactly Is Xanax?
Prescription medications are broken down into a number of different categories and classes, some of which are controlled or federally regulated due to a high potential for abuse and addiction, while others are less dangerous and not usually monitored so extensively. Although controlled substances that can be addictive when taken incorrectly can be beneficial in the right circumstances, there are many that are unfortunately targeted for abuse due to the effects that they offer.
Xanax is a benzodiazepine, which is a class of psychoactive pharmaceuticals that affects the body’s central nervous system, modifying the production and functioning of certain neurochemicals. In essence, benzodiazepines are intended to counter feelings of stress and anxiety that are caused by adrenaline and neurochemicals. Similar to the effect of depressants, benzodiazepines help individuals that experience more anxiety than the average person to relax.
Why Xanax Has Such High Potential for Abuse
Between the years 2004 and 2010, Xanax abuse increased exponentially. According to surveys conducted during those years, emergency room visits relating to the misuse and abuse of Xanax increased from 46,000 to nearly 125,000, nearly a threefold increase. Additionally, it was found that as many as 96,000 of those emergency room visits could be attributed to individuals misusing Xanax in combination with another substance such as cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, heroin, and other opioids. Used for such conditions as generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, epilepsy, and sometimes cases of severe alcohol withdrawal, those who abuse Xanax typically seek the relaxing and calming effects of the drug, which are amplified into a sort of intoxication when taken to excess.
Xanax Effects on the Body
The intoxication caused by Xanax and other benzodiazepines is often compared to that of alcohol, impairing mental alertness and acuity, motor coordination, and mechanical performance such as driving, slurring speech, causing dizziness and evoking a strong sense of drowsiness and lethargy. These varied effects are caused by the drug’s more specific effects on the brain and its chemistry.
Xanax works by increasing the production and effectiveness of a neurochemical called GABA, which is responsible for calming a person during times of stress. With continued abuse of Xanax over an extended period of time, the brain becomes ineffective at producing GABA, which means that individuals who abuse Xanax persistently over time actually become less able to overcome stress and anxiety without relying on medication. Those who have become dependent on Xanax may experience other side-effects, such as confusion and an inability to think clearly, racing thoughts, excessive and erratic risk-taking behavior, and bouts of severe depression (which may be accompanied by suicidal thoughts). These all result from severe imbalances in brain chemistry.
Continued Xanax use and abuse are also associated with a number of other physical symptoms, such as pronounced trembling and shaking, an inability to control one’s bodily movements, rapid heartbeat and/or palpitations, loss of equilibrium and balance, and difficulty speaking.