Xanax is a brand name of the drug Alprazolam; one of the most popularly prescribed medications in the country, and yet it is associated with plenty of side-effects and very serious health problems. In the benzodiazepine (benzo) category of medications Alprazolam is the most prescribed and often most abused substance on the list. Xanax is used to treat:
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
It is also prescribed to be used as a muscle relaxer, stress reliever and sleep aid. However, it has earned its name on the DEA list of schedule IV controlled substances, and comes with a laundry list of side effects. These side effects will vary in frequency and intensity depending on many factors. Some are more common, while others are indications of a more serious health risk.
What Are the Side Effects of Xanax: Common
The more moderate side effects of Xanax include:
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Decreased sex drive
- Feeling light headed
- Slurred speech
- Memory impairment
- Weight gain/loss
- Blurred vision
- Changes in appetite
What Are the Side Effects of Xanax: Less Common
There is a very extensive list of side effects people have reported in connection to Xanax that are less common. Some of these side effects of Xanax include:
- Abdominal/stomach pain
- Body aches
- Drastic behavioral changes
- Decreased frequency and/or volume of urine
- Dry mouth
- Ear congestion
- Irregularities with eyes
- Irregular heartbeats
- Joint pain
- Loss of bladder control
- Painful urination
- Swollen joints
- Tightness in the chest
- Uncontrolled movements
- Unpleasant breath odor
- Yellow eyes or skin
What Are the Side Effects of Xanax: Severe
There are also some side effects that are listed that are more severe than others. Some of these should be taken extremely serious, and can be signs of a much more severe and potentially life-threatening condition.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Vomiting Blood
- Chest pains
- Breathing problems (deep and slow or fast)
- Ear pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Feeling unusually cold
- Hearing loss
- Lack of feeling or emotion
- Loss of control of limbs
- Severe sleepiness
In 2012, a study released by SAMHSA found that benzo drugs like Xanax accounted for around 35% of drug-related visits to hospital emergency and urgent care facilities.
What Are the Side Effects of Xanax: Withdrawal Symptoms
Xanax works very fast and has a relatively short half-life, which causes withdrawal symptoms to begin very rapidly once the individual discontinues their use, which is why a Xanax addiction detox program is so important. Most people will start to feel withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours once they stop using Xanax, and those symptoms will peak within 3-4 days. Residual and long-term symptoms of withdrawal can even last for up to months at a time.
Going through a medical Xanax addiction detox program is so important because of the severity of some of these symptoms, especially in combination with other substances such as alcohol which will increase the discomfort. The most common withdrawal symptoms from Xanax 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
There are other side-effects that happen when combining Xanax with other substances, especially with other depressant type drugs such as alcohol. When combining Xanax with alcohol, it can create even more serious health problems, like:
- Behavioral changes
- Severe sedation
- Psychomotor agitation
Withdrawal from either substance can be risky, but the combined effects can be lethal.
What Are the Side Effects of Xanax: Important Factors
When it comes to the Xanax side effects, or side effects for any drug, there are important factors that come into play. For instance, the amount of the substance used matters. If someone takes a higher dose of Xanax more frequently, they will most likely experience side effects different than someone who takes lower doses less frequently. The method of use can also impact the side effects.
Also, any additional substances or medications being used along with Xanax can cause the side effects to become more severe. Someone combining Xanax with other sedatives may experience side effects in a different way than someone combining Xanax with stimulant drugs.
Finally, side effects may also vary for anyone dealing with pre-existing health conditions or co-occurring mental health disorders. If an individual already has kidney or lung problems, their side effects may be very different than someone who is physically healthy but struggles with a mental illness like bipolar depression.
What Are the Side Effects of Xanax: Addiction
Out of all the side effects for Xanax, addiction is definitely a serious problem. Developing a physical dependence that then evolves into a substance use disorder can not only cause extensive damage to the individual’s life, it can exacerbate all other side effects and symptoms.
Extended use of a drug like Xanax can cause new health problems. With the brain, benzo drugs can cause malfunctions in coordination and damage brain cells. It can affect how the brain operates and have lasting psychological effects. One of these can be the cravings for the drug, as well as dramatic mood shifts.
Some research published in 2016 actually suggests that long-term use of benzodiazepine drugs like Xanax significantly increases the risk for brain, colorectal, and lung cancers.
Addiction is something that doesn’t only manifest in a physical form. Drug addiction also takes a mental and emotional toll. All the effects can be extremely difficult to overcome, and can even be dangerous when unmonitored. Anyone trying to overcome Xanax addiction should attend a safe medical detox program. Even with some prescriptions of symptom controlling medications, a quick detox can be very tough and uncomfortable. A drastic drug detox should never be attempted without medical supervision.