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In the year 2006, abuse and addiction to the prescription drug Xanax in the U.S. began to skyrocket. As of 2012, doctors and clinics were issuing some 49 million prescriptions for Xanax per year.
With this much Xanax in public circulation, it has become easier to buy it illegally, or have it stolen from a parent, friend or relative's medicine cabinet. The drug has become a major source of addiction for young people ages 18 to 25.
The addiction rate among young adults is about 10.3%. Older than age-25 people become addicted to Xanax at about half that rate, or about 5.7% Addiction can be found in all race and culture groups, including all income levels of society, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Xanax, known generically as alprazolam, first came on the market in 1981. It was seen as a safer alternative to such drugs as Valium or Librium. It served the same function as these medications, which are intended to treat anxiety conditions, panic attacks and insomnia.
Xanax has proven to be extremely effective in treating anxiety and panic disorders. The drug works by boosting gamma-aminobutyric acid, a natural chemical in the brain. It also suppresses brain nerve cell activity.
When taken in large doses Xanax produces a feeling of euphoria, calmness, and well-being. The problem is that people quickly develop tolerance to the drug and then need to take ever larger doses to get the same euphoric effect. Tolerance development is rapid.
The medical community today is alarmed by how easy getting addicted to Xanax has proven to be.
Symptoms of Xanax addiction include “zombie-like” behavior. Abusers tend to lose interest in work, school, hobbies and activities of all kinds. This includes relationships and sexual activity. People high on Xanax may display slurred speech, loss of coordination and seem disoriented.
Xanax abusers tend to obsess over the drug and have trouble thinking about anything but making sure they have a sufficient supply. This, in turn, has led to crime and a lucrative black market for the drug which has enriched criminal elements of society.
Additionally, Xanax addiction can produce paranoia and alterations in personality, especially narcissism.
Beating Xanax addiction is one of the most difficult forms of drug dependence recovery, according to Erik MacLaren, Ph.D., a doctor of pharmacology and freelance medical writer.
Stopping Xanax "cold turkey" is not recommended, and doing so can even lead to death. Rather, doctors recommend weaning the abuser from the drug by gradually stepping down the dosage until use can be eliminated.
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