Xanax® is the trade name of a drug called alprazolam, originally manufactured by Pfizer.
It is currently marketed under the generic name by several companies and the pills come if variety of colors and shapes, depending on which generic company produced it. Xanax is a drug in the benzodiazepine family (others include Valium, Librium, and Restoril) and is used to treat anxiety.
Although Xanax is recommended for short term or intermittent use, some patients use it on a daily basis. They may have a condition that requires frequent use, or patients may self administer and increase their intake without medical advice. Because it can take more than 24 hours to clear the drug, tolerance begins to build up over time and addiction can occur.
Like many addictive substances, when the drug level falls below a certain threshold,xanax addiction symptoms begin to appear and another dose must be taken to return to ‘normal’. For anxiety, the addicted patient no longer takes the drug in response to anxiety caused by external factors, but for anxiety caused by not taking alprazolam. This is also true when Xanax is taken as a sleep aid. Insomnia (the original problem) can occur simply because someone has become dependent on the drug.
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Xanax is sometimes taken, not by the person for whom it was prescribed, but by someone intent on getting the relaxed state it produces. This is especially dangerous when it is taken in combination with alcohol or opiates to get a more intense ‘high’. Benzodiazepines in combination with alcohol have led to deaths from respiratory depression.
In some cases, Xanax has even been used as a "date rape drug". This is because it has a relatively sudden onset (1 – 2 hours), has stronger effects when mixed with alcohol, and has a side effect of memory loss. The criminal intent is to make the victim cooperative and to have them forget any details of the rape.
The American Academy of Family Physicians1 notes that Xanax it is rarely the sole drug of abuse when obtained outside of a physician’s care. They estimated that 80% of chronic Xanax abuse was part of a polydrug addiction, with 73% of heroin addicts also using alprazolam at least once a week (usually as a sleep aid). They also estimate that as many as 40% of alcoholics have also abused Xanax, sometimes to self-treat for alcohol withdrawal symptoms.