Canaan, CT – As Xanax continues to be normalized in pop culture, Mountainside in Canaan, CT, reminds the public to consider the risks of this seemingly harmless anti-anxiety drug. The treatment center also urges the public to avoid using Xanax, a benzodiazepine, in combination with opioids or alcohol.

Xanax and other “benzos” – including Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin – are a class of sedative medications typically prescribed to relieve anxiety, treat muscle spasms, and reduce seizures. Also known by the generic name alprazolam, Xanax is the most extensively prescribed benzodiazepine across the nation, with 45 million alprazolam prescriptions dispensed in 2017.

For pop singer Justin Bieber and many others who have used Xanax frequently or in greater doses, the damaging effects of the drug outweigh its potential benefits. In a 2019 interview with Vogue, Bieber reflected, “Drugs put a screen between me and what I was doing. It got pretty dark. I think there were times when my security was coming in late at night to check my pulse and see if I was still breathing.”

Respiratory depression is common during a benzodiazepine overdose; benzos like Xanax suppress breathing. The Food and Drug Administration has warned against consuming them with opioids, alcohol, and other central nervous system depressants, as the combined effect of these substances can produce fatal consequences.

Taking opioids along with Xanax impairs cognitive function and increases the likelihood of suffering a lethal overdose. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that the number of benzo overdose deaths rose from 1,135 in 1999 to 11,537 in 2017. For every year between 2012 and 2017, benzo overdose deaths involving opioids also steadily increased.

Those who use benzodiazepines and alcohol together are similarly at risk. Current research examining this dangerous combination of benzos and alcohol is limited. According to a 2018 article in The Journal of Collegiate Emergency Medical Services, using these substances concurrently can provoke several unpleasant side effects, including confusion, aggression, slurred speech, and impaired coordination. Other symptoms, such as hypotension, low heart rate, and respiratory depression, can be life-threatening.

On their own, Xanax and other benzos pose more harm than many Americans realize. While they can be effective for anxiety relief when taken as prescribed, long-term use can lead to memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, depression, and addiction.

Recovery can be especially challenging for those struggling with benzo addiction. Many who become dependent on benzos were initially prescribed these medications to alleviate their anxiety symptoms, but abruptly discontinuing use can contribute to a heightened sense of anxiety. As a result, those who suffer from benzo addiction should taper off of these medications slowly under the care of a team of medical professionals.

“A strong support system is important for anyone struggling with addiction, but it is critical for people suffering from benzodiazepine addiction to seek help during the detox process and beyond,” says Ashley McGee, Director of Nursing at Mountainside. “People who use Xanax and similar drugs often do so to cope with ongoing emotional challenges, so treatment providers should point them toward safe, lasting solutions in recovery.” 

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Mountainside Treatment Center

Mountainside is nationally recognized for the effectiveness of its drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs. Our Integrative Care Model provides a comprehensive set of treatment and care offerings coordinated by a multidisciplinary treatment team to best fit the unique needs and interests of each client. We are lauded for our ability to partner with each client and the client’s family and healthcare professionals in developing and executing individualized treatment plans that promote long-term sobriety. Learn more about Mountainside at mountainside.com.