What Makes Xanax So Dangerous to Take Recreationally?

What Makes Xanax So Dangerous to Take Recreationally?

The medical community first made Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, available as a prescription in 1981. Today, drug dealers produce fake Xanax at alarming rates. The problem is that these pills are often pressed with other substances, including the lethal opioid fentanyl. As a result, overdose cases are increasingly common. In the rest of this article, we’re going to discuss the addictive properties of Xanax and why it’s so deadly when combined with fentanyl.

Xanax Drug Facts

Xanax, whose chemical name is alprazolam, has been heavily popularized by contemporary rap music. Its recreational use has skyrocketed over the last few years, and the prevalence of fake Xanax has gone up with it. A drug dealer can easily buy a pill press for $20 on the internet, crush up whatever substances they like, and sell it as prescription-grade alprazolam.

Mechanism of Action

Xanax is in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which act on the brain by binding to specific GABA receptors. GABA is one of the primary neurotransmitters that impact anxiety. It’s inhibitory, meaning that GABA tells other neurotransmitters to calm down when they’re overactive. In the case of GABA, it communicates with the neurotransmitter glutamate. When you’re having anxiety, the over-expression of glutamate can be part of the cause. In cases such as these, a benzodiazepine like Xanax can suppress the expression of glutamate, resulting in decreased feelings of anxiety.

About Legal Xanax

Today, Xanax is one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States and is the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepine. Other benzodiazepines include diazepam, estazolam, quazepam, and clonazepam, among others. For most people, their first experience with Xanax is a legal prescription from their doctor. The most classic indication for Xanax is persistent anxiety accompanied by depression. Xanax is also prescribed for panic attacks, but since the development of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines have become a secondary line of defense in such cases.

Xanax is Highly Addictive

Even with the blessing of your doctor, you should exercise extreme caution when taking Xanax. The tendency for Xanax addiction is high with benzodiazepines compared to other prescription drugs, and the withdrawals can be severe. In fact, benzodiazepines are the only class of drugs besides alcohol that can cause seizures upon withdrawal.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Xanax

Users who are trying to quit after a long period of use are most at risk for seizures. Other symptoms of withdrawal from long-term Xanax use include psychotic episodes, hallucinations, and suicide. Long-term use is described as daily Xanax use for three months or longer.

Those who take Xanax less frequently are still susceptible to a long list of side effects when they try to stop. These can include headache, nausea, palpitations, sleep disturbance, panic attacks, irritability, anxiety, poor memory, muscular pain and stiffness, hand tremors, and increased tension.

Gradually reducing your dosage over time can help to minimize withdrawal symptoms. It is not safe to abruptly discontinue long-term benzodiazepine use.

What Law Enforcement Has To Say About Fentanyl Use

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) website, fentanyl is a banned opioid substance and is largely responsible for the recent nationwide spike in drug overdoses. Fentanyl, initially synthesized over 50 years ago, has enmeshed itself into the international drug supply. One of the most common final destinations for illicit fentanyl is the inside of an illegally pressed Xanax pill.

Why It’s So Easy to Overdose On Xanax That’s Laced With Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a cheap, synthetic opioid that’s far too potent for recreational use. Ironically, this is precisely why its use is so widespread. By sprinkling just a little bit of fentanyl into their Xanax concoction, dealers can significantly amplify the high. The danger is that adding even slightly too much fentanyl can result in a drug overdose. The likelihood of overdose increases when combined with a high Xanax dosage, other drugs, or alcohol.

Symptoms of Overdose From Xanax/Fentanyl

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine. Drug dealers can press the pills so that they look indistinguishable from the real deal. The user has no idea that their pills are laced with fentanyl until they start to take effect.

If you’re suspicious that you or someone you know has possibly taken Xanax that’s been laced with fentanyl, be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

Symptoms of Fentanyl Overdose

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Confusion
  • Pale face
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Low blood pressure
  • Limp body
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Frequently losing consciousness

Symptoms of Xanax Overdose

  • Repeated loss of consciousness (including fainting)
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Confusion

Notice that vomiting, pinpoint pupils and seizures are overdose symptoms of fentanyl but not of Xanax. Be on high alert for these signs when taking Xanax recreationally.

The Current Drug Overdose Epidemic

Over the last three years, deaths from drug overdoses have exploded in number, thanks largely to the massive influx of fentanyl into the drug supply. When officials released the figures from 2016, the statistics were staggering. Nationwide, statisticians estimate that 64,000 deaths were caused by drug overdoses in the year 2016 alone. That’s a 22% increase from 2015. Over this same time, drug overdoses involving fentanyl had more than doubled.

Xanax and Fentanyl Awareness Is On The Rise

On November 15th of 2017, the 23-year-old rapper, Lil Peep, died of a lethal drug overdose just hours before he was scheduled to perform in Tuscon, AZ. The young star was found unconscious and unresponsive on his tour bus after taking Xanax he had gotten from a fan. According to the coroner, no alcohol was found in Lil Peep’s system, and the official cause of death was a lethal overdose of Xanax and fentanyl.

The death of Lil Peep has sent shockwaves through the rap community. Several rappers who knew or were inspired by Lil Peep are now speaking out against Xanax use, including Lil Xan. Formerly a benzodiazepine addict himself, Lil Xan is now the leader of Xanarchy, a movement that’s dedicated to discouraging the use of Xanax.

On their own, Xanax and other benzodiazepines are dangerously addictive medications that have the potential for severe side effects and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. When combined with the opioid fentanyl, the potential for overdose is high. More people are dying every year form fentanyl-related drug overdoses, and the numbers are staggering. When you choose to take Xanax other than what you’re doctor prescribes, you’re not just running the risk of becoming addicted to benzodiazepines. You also have an excellent chance of your pills being laced with a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

If you or anyone you love is suffering from benzodiazepine addiction, or would like more information on the topics discussed above, please, give Stonewall Institute Treatment Center a call today at (602) 535-6468 or email us at info@stonewallinstitute.com.

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Kyle Penniman is Arizona’s best licensed alcohol counselor providing alcohol treatment at Stonewall Institute Phoenix. Kyle Penniman, MSW LISAC provides comprehensive alcohol use evaluations to help determine whether or not an individual needs treatment for alcohol abuse. To make an appointment, call Kyle Penniman at 602-535-6468 or visit the website at www.stonewallinstitute.com

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