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Xanax Bars: Abuse, Effects, Treatment

Published May 07, 2021 By Addiction Helpline America

Xanax bars (Alzprazolam) are small, white, rectangular Xanax pills that are used to treat chronic anxiety, panic disorders and insomnia. They are part of a group of pills known as benzodiazepines (benzos) that help to induce calm in the brain and central nervous system. Xanax is the most prescribed form of medication in the United States. However, it is highly addictive and has been implicated in serious health issues such as suicide attempts and intentional overdose.

What are Xanax Bars?

Xanax bars (also known on the street as 'zanies', 'planks' and 'benzos') are the most common way in which Xanax is taken. Each bar contains a 2 mg dose. But it can be divided into smaller doses such as two-1 mg doses. It can be further divided into 0.5 mg and 0.25 mg segments. The 0.25 mg dose is the lowest dose.

Who Takes Xanax Bars?

Xanax may be prescribed to any adult with a chronic mental condition including:

  • Pregnant women with muscle cramps and anxiety.
  • Seniors with anxiety and panic disorder that come from aging and increased isolation.
  • People with advanced liver disease and other incapacitating disorders.
  • How are Xanax Bars taken?

    The doctor decides the dosage, and may gradually increase the Xanax dosage until it reaches a level where it's effective for the person.

    For Anxiety

    The doctor will start the patient on a dose of 0.25-0.5 mg Xanax, to be taken three times a day. To achieve the full medical effect, the doctor may increase the dosage every every 3 or 4 days up to a 4 mg daily dosage (taken in divided doses). Experts say doses should be kept at a level low enough to achieve the desired results with constant monitoring and reassessment, since the risk of addiction increases with dose and length of treatment.

    To prevent Xanax addiction, the drug is prescribed for between 2 and 6 weeks. When therapy is being discontinued, the daily dosage will be decreased gradually, usually by 0.5 mg every 3 days. However, some patients could require a slower reduction process.

    For Panic Disorders

    Studies have shown that panic disorder patients can be successfully treated at doses higher than 4 mg a day, sometimes up to a high of 10 mg a day. Therapy would be started at a low dose to minimize the possibility of adverse effects and then gradually advanced until there is a drastic reduction in the panic attacks or a complete end to them. Or until the recommended high-level dose has been achieved. After this, a supervised tapering off process will start.

    Treatment may start with a dose of 0.5 mg given 3 times a day. The dose may then be increased every 3 or 4 days in increments of 1 mg per day. But the process may be slower for those requiring more than 4 mg per day. When the panic attacks have been fully eliminated, the tapering off process may start.

    How does Xanax Work?

    Xanax bars are swallowed to make for the slow release of the drug into the body. Most users start to feel its effects in less than an hour (others in less than 20 minutes) with the effects reaching their highest after 2 hours. This feeling of relaxation may last up to 11 hours.

    What is Xanax Addiction?

    Addiction happens when people who have not been prescribed Xanax take it illegally and in large amounts. Those most likely to abuse Xanax are the 18 to 25-year olds and those with a family or personal background of alcoholism or drug abuse. Many Xanax abusers believe Xanax to be safer than other opioids such as heroin while producing the same high. Once they're hooked, Tthey can't cut back because they risk facing serious withdrawal symptoms.

    Another way abuse happens is when those legitimately taking Xanax, develop a tolerance for it and begin to take many times more than the prescribed dosage. A study showed that 20 percent of people who have a Xanax prescription, misuse Xanax. Further studies show that the level of Xanax abuse in seniors is 1 in 4. So, addiction is abused in different age groups.

    Those abusing Xanax bars could, for instance:

  • Move from a quarter Xanax bar to two quarters and may graduate to taking the full Xanax bar. Children as young as 11 have been known to abuse it.
  • Start to mix the Xanax bar with other substances - alcohol being the most common. Valium, cocaine or other more potent drugs such as fentanyl, may also be mixed with Xanax. The result may be a deadly overdose.
  • Others may resort to crushing and snorting the Xanax bar. Studies have, however, shown that the intended effects may be more intense and peak more quickly, as too much of the drug is being released at one time. So, for a greater high and a longer lasting effect, the abuser would be tempted to snort more Xanax in one sitting.
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    What are the Side Effects of Xanax Addiction?

    It's not unusual for some side effects to happen at the start of therapy, but these usually disappear with continued medication. However, when Xanax starts being abused, these side effects continue and they worsen overtime, making it difficult for people to function normally. Symptoms vary from individual to individual and are determined by factors such amount used, and level and length of addiction. Common factors include:

  • Continued tiredness or drowsiness, even after several hours of sleep
  • Lack of motivation and energy, and disinterest in daily functions of life
  • Nausea, headache, dry mouth, slurred speech, blurred vision, hallucinations
  • Feelings of disconnection and isolation
  • Diarrhea, constipation, sweating, blurred vision
  • Lack of coordination and balance
  • Absenteeism from work or school
  • Inattentiveness, memory problems, mood swings
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Time and money lost in accessing, using and recovering from Xanax effects.
  • These factors help family members to identify Xanax addiction in their loved one. However, staging an intervention for a loved one may be difficult because many Xanax abusers are in denial. If you find yourself in this situation, it's best to work with a professional interventionist who will study the family situation and gently ease your loved one into accepting help.

    What are long-term side effects of Xanax?

    Abuse of Xanax can lead to some serious long-term side effects. For a start, personal relationships may be strained beyond repair. Studies also show that there may not be full cognitive recovery after the tapering process, which makes Xanax addiction in the elderly problematic. One study found a link to Alzheimer's disease and therefore to confusion, dementia and memory loss, making the elderly abusers prone to loss of balance, falls, motor car accidents, and broken bones. The study found that the more the Xanax was taken, the more the dementia risk.

    Long-term Xanax abuse could also lead to respiratory illness, overdose, coma and death.

    Can you quit Xanax bars 'cold turkey?

    Recovery from Xanax addiction is possible. However, stopping cold turkey or abruptly on your own, is not recommended because it could result in severe withdrawal symptoms including seizures, and possibly death. The withdrawal symptoms associated with Xanax discontinuation, appear to be worse than for other benzos partly because of their higher potency rate which may cause chronic rebound effects. This means the anxiety or panic disorder symptoms that made you take Xanax in the first place, may return and may be worse than before you started taking Xanax. You may be compelled to return to Xanax to get relief from these symptoms and in the process, you may reinforce your dependence on Xanax.

    Xanax Addiction Treatment

    The best from of treatment for Xanax abuse is at a treatment center, under the watchful eye of trained staff. If your Xanax addiction is mild, an outpatient treatment center would be fitting but if it's moderate or severe, you would benefit from an inpatient program. Whatever your choice, treatment would start with a medically-supervised detox to gradually wean you off the Xanax. In some cases, a less potent benzo may be used to help any resultant withdrawal symptoms or rebound effects which could include:

  • panic attacks
  • seizures
  • weight loss
  • headaches
  • chronic anxiety
  • racing heart
  • nausea and muscle stiffness
  • insomnia
  • confusion
  • suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • tremors
  • delirium
  • psychosis
  • The entire process of getting sober at a treatment center could last just a month, after which you could join a support group, and individualized therapy program to consolidate the sober living skills you learnt while in rehab, such as identifying your triggers and learning healthy ways to cope. This ongoing treatment program is crucial and has to become part of your lifestyle as it will help you prevent relapse and stay sober in the long-term.

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