Category Archives: Prescription Drugs

Opioid Side Effects

When you have a headache or lower back pain, your first source of pain relief is usually an over-the-counter aspirin or ibuprofen. If the pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe something stronger, such as a prescription opioid. Opioids are types of narcotic pain medications that are effective at treating severe pain, but they can have serious side effects if you don’t use them as directed. Some of the most common opioids include OxyContin and Vicodin.

If you are concerned that you or someone close to you is not taking their opioid medication correctly, there are signs to watch for. In this post, we will talk about the most common side effects of opioid use, what to be on the lookout for and how to address a potential problem. To learn more about opioids and their effects, read our earlier post “5 Facts About Opiates”.

How Opioids Work

In order to understand why opioids are dangerous when used incorrectly, you must first understand how the medication works. Opioid drugs bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the body. The purpose is to lower the pain messages that are being sent to the brain. Because fewer messages are being sent, less pain is felt.

While effective, opioids do come with risks and can be habit forming. That’s why they require a prescription from your doctor. Your doctor will prescribe the appropriate dose for your pain. Depending on your pain, the reasons for the pain and your doctor, you may be instructed to take the pain medication every 4-6 hours or only as needed.

As long as the medication is taken as directed, it is usually safe. The most common side effects include constipation, drowsiness and nausea or vomiting.

When Opioids Become Habit Forming

If you take opioid pain medication for a while, you may find that you need more and more of the drug to achieve the same relief. This means that you are building tolerance to the drug. Tolerance can happen even if you are taking the medication as prescribed.

If you continue taking the opioid, you can become physically dependent on it. Basically, your body becomes so accustomed to the medication that it will go through withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it. Tolerance and physical dependency are not the same as addiction. Addiction is a disease characterized by compulsive use of the drug. However, tolerance and physical dependency are precursors to addiction.

People can – and do – develop addictions to opioid medications. They will compulsively seek out pain medication to support their habit. If you fear that you or your loved one will cross over into this territory and become physically and mentally dependent on opioids, there are signs to be aware of. Usually, your gut is right, but you would never want to wrongfully accuse someone of a drug problem.

Breaking Down the Top Opioid Side Effects

The most common side effects of opioids are constipation, confusion and drowsiness. If you experience these effects while taking the drug, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the dosage. It’s possible that it’s too high, and a lower dose will provide you with necessary pain relief while reducing the side effects of opioids.

Let’s break down a few more opioid side effects to be aware of that may indicate a greater problem.

  • Nausea and vomiting. Opioids stimulate opioid receptors that are in the gastrointestinal tract and the part of the brain that is responsible for vomiting. Frequent vomiting is a sign that you’re taking too much of the drug.

  • Sedation. It’s common for opioids to cause severe drowsiness and sedation. People taking the medication are advised not to drive or operate heavy machinery for this reason. Extreme or persistent drowsiness is a sign that the dose is too high.

  • Skin changes. Some people get flushing or cooling of the skin. There is also the possibility of developing an allergic rash called urticaria.

  • Misosis. Small, constricted pupils indicate that a person is being affected by opioids.

  • Respiratory suppression. Opioid medications adversely affect respiratory function. However, this is most common when opioids are taken at large doses. Still, it’s important to realize that opioids naturally suppress breathing and should not be combined with other depressants such as alcohol.

  • Psychological effects. Euphoria is common when taking opioids, and some people experience delirium or hallucinations. Memory loss and headache are also common as the drug starts to wear off.  

  • Heart rate changes. It’s possible that your heart rate may increase or decrease because of the medication. Each person responds differently.

  • Dependence and abuse. Dependency and abuse are possible with long-term opioid use. Opioids are habit forming, and the longer they are used, the more likely you are to become dependent on them.

In the next section, we will focus more on opioids side effects that may indicate an unhealthy relationship with the drug.

Signs of Opiate Abuse

Side effects are common with any drug, but what if you are concerned that you are becoming dependent on opioids – or worse yet – addicted? Remember, dependency is a side effect of the drug. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, it’s possible that this symptom is present.

Below are the signs of a potential addiction to opiates.

  • Noticeable euphoria or elation

  • Extreme drowsiness or sedation

  • Constricted pupils

  • Mental confusion

  • Slowed breathing

  • Constipation

  • Nodding off

  • Shifting moods

  • Social withdrawal or isolation

  • Financial problems

  • Doctor shopping

The above signs are important to be aware of because they indicate that the opioids are becoming a problem. Either the dose is too high or you are becoming physically and mentally dependent on them. Knowing that opioids are habit forming and have severe consequences, it’s important to speak with your doctor immediately.

Longer Term Opioid Side Effects

Many times, the only side effects listed are short-term ones. However, there are long-term effects that can impact a person, too. People who continue to use and abuse opiates are at risk for the following symptoms:

  • Weakened immune system

  • Gastric problems

  • Significant respiratory depression

  • Mental and emotional distress

  • Addiction

Link Between Prescription Opioids and Heroin

Sometimes people underestimate the severity of becoming dependent on opioids. They believe that if the doctor prescribed them, they must be safe. While opioids do have their place in medicine and can be an effective treatment for some people, they are not without risk. If you are becoming obsessive with opioids and noticing more opioid side effects, it’s likely that you are dependent on them and possibly even addicted.

Addiction is a progressive disease. This means that it will continue to get worse if it’s not treated. And, if you abruptly stop taking the pills, you will probably experience withdrawal symptoms. These effects can be so powerful that they may lead you to do things you wouldn’t normally do. 

Prescription drugs can be gateway drugs to heroin. People that are addicted to pain pills sometimes move onto heroin. It may seem like a big jump, but heroin is an opioid and it produces similar effects as medications like Vicodin or OxyContin. It’s also cheaper and sometimes easier to get. In order to stop withdrawal symptoms and feed the habit, a person who wouldn’t normally think of using heroin can be brought to this point.

When It’s Time to Get Help

So when is it time to seek prescription drug treatment? Anytime that you think opioids are becoming a problem. You don’t have to wait for the problem to get out of control; you can seek treatment if you or a loved one is facing dependency. It’s usually easier to treat a problem at this level rather than a full-blown addiction to heroin.

Thanks to day programs and outpatient programs, it’s possible to get professional support and guidance without having to go into a treatment program for a month or longer. Outpatient programs are designed to be flexible and convenient, and they can be extremely effective for people who have already sought treatment for a drug addiction.

Managing Withdrawal Symptoms

Of course, you can’t go directly from opioid use to treatment. Withdrawal symptoms are powerful and will make it difficult to get help unless they are addressed first. Withdrawal from opioids can be very hard and dangerous, so it’s not recommended to do it alone. Talk to your healthcare provider about the opioids side effects you are experiencing and which course of treatment is right for you.

A rehab facility that offers detox is probably going to be your best option. These facilities are equipped to deal with the common side effects of opioids and withdrawal symptoms. While none of the side effects can be erased, rehabilitation centers have a wide variety of treatments to manage these negative symptoms. This includes conventional medicine such as buprenorphine and clonidine, as well as naturopathic therapies like massage therapy, acupuncture and infrared sauna.

Is Opioid Therapy Ever Safe?

Chronic pain is one of the most common medical conditions in the United States, and it can be extremely difficult to manage and live a normal life. Opioid medications can be an effective means of treatment for these individuals. However, opioids have a long list of side effects and can be addictive. Therefore, they should only be considered under strict circumstances, such as if all other nonopioid therapy has failed, the dosage is low and a single physician and pharmacy are used.

If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, call The River Source today. We have been successful in treating opiate addictions. With our wide range of treatments, we can offer a full recovery that includes detox, counseling and continuing care.

Can You Overdose on Xanax?

It is possible to overdose on Xanax (alprazolam). Xanax is mostly used to control anxiety or help people sleep. It is a habit-forming drug and can be even more dangerous when mixed with other substances, such as alcohol or antidepressants. Because of the addictive nature of the drug, most doctors prescribe Xanax as a short-term medication.

When taken at a low dose and for a short period of time, the risks of becoming addicted are much lower. However, the longer you take the drug, the more tolerance builds. Then you need more to feel the same effects. This is what can lead to misuse, and possibly, overdose. The Drug Abuse Warning Network reported in 2011 that benzodiazepine use was responsible for 228 people – ages 18 to 25 – being sent to the emergency room on a daily basis.

Can You Overdose on Xanax? A Complete Guide

Whether you’ve been prescribed Xanax by your doctor and are looking out for your best interests, or you are concerned about someone close to you using Xanax, be aware of how to prevent an accidental overdose. In this post, we will discuss the most common ways that people overdose on Xanax, the signs to watch for and how to address these potentially fatal circumstances. 

How Do People Overdose on Xanax?

The amount to overdose on Xanax is usually high, though this varies from person to person. Some of the factors that affect how likely a person is to overdose on Xanax are weight, metabolism and previous exposure to the drug. In other words, as long as you take the drug according to your doctor, Xanax is relatively safe in these terms.

Complications increase when taking Xanax with other drugs, medications or alcohol. Users don’t know how much they’re taking, how the substances affect each other and how their body will react. Another way to overdose on Xanax is to abuse the drug, such as by snorting it or taking it for non-medical reasons. This method sends the drug across the brain-blood barrier and into the bloodstream, which is much harder on the body.

Chronic abusers who have stopped using and relapse are at an increased risk of overdose. Mentally, they think they can take the same dosage as they were taking before, but physically, they cannot. If they relapse and go right back to using the same amount of Xanax and other substances, this can slow or stop breathing.

How Much is Too Much?

The only safe way to take Xanax is under the supervision of your doctor. You should never buy prescription medications online, as you can’t be certain of the quality or purity. There are many unlicensed pharmacies selling prescription drugs and they are not to be trusted. Starting alprazolam can be as low as 0.75 mg per day and increased depending on how well the drug is working and the side effects you are experiencing. 

What about taking the drug by itself? Can you overdose from Xanax alone? Though it’s never recommended to take more than the prescribed dose, Xanax is safer when taken alone. This is one of the reasons why the drug is not considered a medical narcotic. Also, taking too much of the drug on a regular basis can lead to tolerance, withdrawal symptoms and seizures.

What Happens When You Overdose on Xanax? 

Taking large amounts of Xanax causes sedation, drowsiness and impaired judgement. These are worrisome side effects because they can cause accidents at work or on the road. That is why you should never operate heavy machinery or drive a vehicle while taking a drug with these side effects. The excessive sleepiness puts you at risk for unforeseen accidents to yourself and others.

The most troubling symptoms of a Xanax overdose are slowed or shallow breathing. This is what makes overdosing on Xanax potentially deadly – it can stop your breathing completely. When taking the drug with other substances, specifically depressants, both decrease breathing and can lead to even greater complications.

Below are signs of a potential overdose to be aware of in another person:

  • Muscle weakness. Is the person showing signs of muscle weakness? If they can’t stand or lift their arms, this is excessive and requires medical attention.

  • Blurred Vision. Ask the person if they can focus on an object. If they can’t or are experiencing blurred vision, call 911.

  • Drowsiness. Xanax can make a person very tired and sleepy, but extreme drowsiness is different. Call the ER if you can’t seem to wake the person.

  • Confusion. Is the person confused about what’s going on? Maybe they are talking nonsense. Again, Xanax can make a person less sharp, but it shouldn’t have them so confused, they don’t make sense.

  • Slurred Speech. When you talk to the person, are they having trouble relaying their thoughts? Is their speech slurred? This is a warning sign of an overdose.

  • Shallow or Slowed Breathing. This is the most dangerous overdose symptom by far, and it can lead to death. If the person’s breathing has become slowed, shallow or labored, call 911 right away.  

It’s imperative that you get immediate help if you suspect an overdose. Without proper medical intervention, it’s possible for overdose to lead to coma or death.

How to Get Help for a Xanax Overdose

Timing is everything when it comes to overdoses. We are lucky enough to live in a society where many overdoses can be successfully reversed with the right medications. That’s why it’s important to act fast and be honest with emergency room doctors so they may administer the correct treatment. However, not everyone knows when it’s the right time to call for help.

If you notice any of the warning signs listed above, call 911. Don’t wait. When you speak with the emergency crew, it’s helpful if you can tell them how much Xanax was taken as well as additional substances. If you don’t know specifics, that’s okay. Any information is helpful when devising an appropriate treatment.

Additional information that is helpful when treating an overdose is:

  • Time of the last dosage

  • Medical conditions to be aware of

  • Age and weight of the person

  • Whether the person abuses Xanax or other drugs

 Overdose may be accidental or intentional, but the overdose will be treated in the same manner. Often times, the stomach needs to be pumped. After the initial medical treatment, additional professional help may be needed. Xanax abuse can lead to psychological and physical health problems such as suicide or depression. Those who abuse Xanax on a regular basis will benefit from an inpatient treatment program.

Selecting a Residential Rehab for Xanax Abuse

Once an overdose has been medically treated, the next step for many individuals is to seek treatment. If the person has been abusing the drug, it’s likely that they will go right back to their old ways when they are released from the hospital. They must learn to change their thinking and how they deal with stressful situations for the drug abuse to stop. 

When choosing an inpatient treatment program, here are a few things to look for.

  • Dual Diagnosis Experience. Many people who abuse Xanax also have a co-occurring condition, which is why they were put on the drug in the first place. Look for treatment centers that have experience treating dual diagnosis and ask about their approach to treating both disorders.

  • Holistic Therapies. Holistic therapies are more than a luxury. To fully recover from a drug addiction, addicts must learn new ways of dealing with stress, anxiety and negative thinking. Therapies such as acupuncture, massage and biofeedback can all be used to manage stress later into recovery. Teaching addicts these therapies now gets them more comfortable using them in everyday life.

  • Life Skills Teaching. Any type of drug abuse will affect how a person lives. Often, people who struggle with addiction need to be re-taught essential life skills that will prepare them for re-entering their roles in the home, workplace and society. 

  • Experienced Counselors. Some treatment centers hire staff members who are recovering addicts. The purpose of doing this is to give addicts who are healing an environment where people understand what they are going through. This perspective can help your loved one be more receptive to treatment.

  • Continuing Care. Stopping Xanax abuse can be a long road, and it doesn’t end at treatment. Select a treatment center that provides a full continuum of care, meaning that they offer detox to safely manage withdrawal symptoms, counseling and aftercare. Most recovering addicts need support and guidance from their treatment program at one point.

We hope that we’ve addressed your questions about overdosing on Xanax. Taking Xanax alone or with another substance can put you at risk for breathing problems, which can ultimately shut down your respiratory system. If you or someone you know is struggling with a dependency to Xanax, get help now. There is no benefit to waiting.

Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

The world of opioids can be divided into two categories: illicit opioids and prescription opioids. Illicit opioids include substances like heroin that people abuse to reach a euphoric and relaxed state. In contrast, prescription opioids are commonly used by doctors in a medical setting to treat pain. Some of these powerful painkillers include codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone. While these prescription medications provide pain relief for patients who are recovering from surgery or injuries, they also pose serious risks when they are misused.

In recent years, more people in the United States have been using opioids for nonmedical purposes. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that approximately 2.1 million people in the United States and 26.4 to 36 million people worldwide are technically abuse opioids. Our country and the world are clearly facing an epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction. It’s important to remember that there is help available despite the highly addictive nature of opioids.

All opioid drugs can cause physical dependence. As a result, when you try to stop or decrease your opioid use, you may experience the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. The risk of experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms is higher for someone who has been using these drugs at high doses for a few weeks or more. The reason why is simple. Many bodily systems are impacted and altered when someone takes large amounts of opioids for an extended period of time. When you stop taking opioids, your body has to adjust to no longer having opioids in it, and withdrawal symptoms occur.

Although the withdrawal symptoms of opioids can be uncomfortable and unpleasant, they are generally not life-threatening. However, the discomfort that they cause makes you consider giving up on getting clean and sober all together. Understanding the opioid withdrawal symptoms and timeline can increase the odds of breaking free from an addiction to opioids.

Understanding the Most Common Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Before discussing the withdrawal symptoms of opioids, it makes sense to take a closer look at how these substances work. Everyone’s brain and spinal cord contain opioid receptors, and the brain actually produces low levels of its own opioids. These opioids are responsible for decreasing pain, lowering respiration, and reducing anxiety. However, since the body only produces opioids in small quantities, they are never enough to mimic the effects of opioid drugs or cause problems like addiction or overdose.

Opioid drugs, both prescription and illicit, are different from naturally occurring opioids, because they produce stronger effects, including pain reduction, relaxation, and euphoria. While these effects can be helpful for patients who are struggling with serious pain, they can also drive you to use opioid when you don’t need them.

When you take opioids for a long period of time, your body becomes desensitized to the drug. As a result, your body needs more of the substance over time to achieve the same effect. This can be a slippery slope that can lead to addiction and accidental overdose.

Additionally, prolonged use of opioid drugs changes the way opioid receptors work in the brain, making the receptors dependent on the drug to function normally. This is referred to as dependency. When you are dependent on opioid drugs, you will become sick if you stop taking them. These symptoms, which can sometimes be mistaken for the flu, are known as withdrawal symptoms and they are your body’s response to no longer having the drug in it.

The symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be classified as mild, moderate, moderately severe, or severe. A physician can determine the severity of a patient’s symptoms by evaluating their opioid use history and symptoms. After diagnosing the severity of the symptoms, the doctor can begin treating them.

Multiple factors, including overall health and frequency and severity of your opioid use, determine how severe withdrawal symptoms will be and how long they will last. As a result, the process of opioid withdrawal is slightly different for everyone.

Additionally, different drugs remain in the body for different lengths of time, which can impact the onset of withdrawal symptoms. For example, heroin tends to leave the body quickly, so withdrawal symptoms can start within 12 hours of the last dose. In contrast, methadone users may not experience withdrawal symptoms for 30 hours, because the drug takes longer to leave the body.

Despite these differences, there is a general opioid withdrawal symptoms timeline that most patients experience.

The first symptoms appear 24 hours after the last dose of the drug. These symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings for the Drug
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle Aches
  • Restlessness
  • Runny Nose
  • Tearing Eyes
  • Sweating
  • Yawning

The next set of opioid withdrawal symptoms is more intense. These symptoms typically start after the first day, and they include:

  • Abdominal Cramping
  • Blurry Vision
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Goose Bumps
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Rapid Heartbeat

This set of cardiac, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and visual symptoms can be very unpleasant and painful. However, these symptoms often begin to improve within 72 hours of the last dose, and they should disappear within a week.

Sometimes, you may have some symptoms of withdrawal that last for six months. If you are experiencing these protracted symptoms you should talk with your physician about how to manage them.

Complications of Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Although opioid withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening, they can be very uncomfortable. Some of these symptoms can also lead to medical complications. For example, if you experience severe nausea and vomiting you can accidentally inhale vomit into your lungs. This is known as aspiration, and it can result in a specific type of pneumonia called aspiration pneumonia.

If you experience both vomiting and diarrhea you can lose critical fluids and electrolytes. This can cause a heart arrhythmia, which can lead to a heart attack. As a result, it’s very important to replace fluids and electrolytes lost due to diarrhea and vomiting. Having a team of medically trained professionals by your side can help you manage potential complications with withdrawal. Doctors can also prescribe medications to reduce diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Keep in mind that some people may experience other opioid withdrawal symptoms that are not listed. For this reason, you should remain under the close care and supervision of a medical professional during the withdrawal process.

There is one more complication of opioid withdrawal, which is relapse. Unlike the other complications, this one can be deadly. Most of the opioid overdose deaths that occur happen when someone has just gone through the withdrawal process. Since this process reduces a person’s tolerance to opioids, people can overdose on a much smaller dose than they used to take. It is a tragic situation, and the best way to prevent it is with medical intervention and caring support during the process of recovering from opioid use.

Diagnosing and Treating Opioid Withdrawal

A doctor can formally diagnose opioid withdrawal by performing a physical exam and asking questions about a patient’s symptoms, medical history, and past drug use. They can also order blood and urine tests to assess the levels of opioids in the body.

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, which can make you want to keep taking opioid drugs as a way to avoid the side effects. Other people may believe that they can successfully go through the withdrawal process on their own at home, but this is very difficult.

To increase the likelihood of a successful recovery, it is best to undergo the withdrawal process in a controlled, medical environment. Some examples of these environments include hospitals and inpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers. In these locations, doctors and medical specialists can provide 24/7 monitoring and treat the symptoms of opioid withdrawal during the medical detoxification, or detox process.

The way that doctors treat withdrawal symptoms of opioids depends on the severity of the symptoms. For milder withdrawal symptoms, doctors can give patients acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen for aches and pains. Doctors will often give patients Imodium for diarrhea and Atarax or Vistaril for nausea. Medical professionals will also encourage patients to get plenty of rest and drink extra fluids.

For more intense withdrawal symptoms, doctors may prescribe clonidine. Research shows that clonidine can reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms by 50% to 75% for many patients. Specifically, clonidine can reduce the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Cramping
  • Muscle Aches
  • Restlessness
  • Runny Nose
  • Sweating
  • Tearing Eyes

There are also other drugs available that some physicians will prescribe to manage their patients’ opioid withdrawal symptoms. One is suboxone, which contains a mild opioid (buprenorphine) and an opioid blocker (naloxone). This substance is much less addictive than other opioids. When taken by mouth, this drug can reduce the intensity and length of detox from other opioids.

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

When you are ready to receive treatment for an opioid addiction, the first step is going through the detox process. As mentioned above, you should consider attending a residential treatment program for detox, since the symptoms of opioid withdrawal can make the process of detoxing difficult. In a medical detox program, you can slowly reduce your dose of opioids until they are no longer taking the drug. This form of detox tends to be the most effective, and it can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

After completing detox, you may need to receive psychological counseling and ongoing support. These services can be provided on an inpatient or outpatient basis, and they should continue as a part of your long-term treatment plan to maintain your sobriety.

During psychological counseling, a mental health professional works with you one-on-one to help you determine the cause of your addiction. From there you work to develop new coping strategies, life skills, and stress management techniques. You can also attend counseling in a group setting, with other patients who are in recovery or with members of their family. Both of these forms of counseling can be beneficial during the recovery process.

Counseling is also a useful tool, because mental health professionals can diagnose and treat co-existing mental disorders, like anxiety and depression. Patients who receive treatment for mental health conditions tend to experience higher rates of success in recovering from an opioid addiction.

In addition to counseling, when you are in recovery you should have short-term and long-term support. This support should ideally come from a number of sources, including medical professionals, friends, family members, and support groups. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have all of these sources of support. If you don’t have a strong community around you that supports your sobriety, having supportive doctors and attending a support group can help.

There is one support group that is specifically designed to help people who are recovering from an opioid addiction, Narcotics Anonymous. This group works with people who are recovering from a wide variety of substances, including opioid drugs. Another group is Heroin Anonymous which helps support people in their sobriety with local meetings taking place around the world. Attending one of these groups can help you learn from other people in recovery and feel less alone during the recovery process.

By seeking help for an opioid addiction, you can improve your mental and physical health and the quality of your life. Although the symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be uncomfortable, they can be managed. Long-term sobriety is worth the pain and discomfort of opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal from opioids can be difficult, but The River Source can help. Our treatment center takes a holistic approach to treating opioid addiction. In a supportive and professional environment, we provide behavioral and pharmacological therapies to help patients detox from opioids. After completing detox and inpatient treatment, you will leave The River Source with a long-term care plan to help you maintain your sobriety.

If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction to opioids, The River Source can help. Contact us today to learn more about our approach to treating opioid addiction and how we help patients overcome the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine that affects chemicals in the brain that are unbalanced in people with severe anxiety. Xanax is used to treat panic disorders, anxiety disorders and depression. Though Xanax is not without side effects, some people need it to get through their days and manage panic attacks. It’s a strong benzodiazepine, 10 times more potent than other drugs in its class, including Valium and Klonopin.

To legally consume Xanax, you need a prescription from your doctor. Never buy the drug over the internet, as it could contain harmful ingredients, may not come from a licensed pharmacy or may not comply with FDA regulations. Also, never share your prescription with anyone else. Xanax can be habit-forming and lead to misuse, addiction, overdose or death.

Because of the chemical properties of alprazolam, it’s classified as a Schedule IV drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. Just one dose can stay in your system for one week, though it’s difficult to overdose on it this way. Instead, people usually overdose from taking too much of the medication. Xanax calms the body and brain by altering chemicals, but it also produces a high, which is why it’s sometimes abused.

Now that you know more about Xanax, what it’s prescribed for and how it works on the body, let’s talk about addiction and Xanax withdrawals symptoms.

Why People Become Addicted to Xanax

Many people become addicted to alprazolam without realizing it. It’s one of the mostly commonly prescribed benzodiazepines, so there is no shortage of people taking the drug. Just because a doctor prescribes it does not mean it’s safe, however. While some people do need the medication to manage symptoms of anxiety, it produces a “high” that can be addictive. Also, the body builds up a tolerance, so people need more of it to produce the same effects.

Once a person becomes dependent on Xanax, they need the drug psychologically as well as physically. The Xanax becomes their “escape” from their problems, and they lose the ability to manage stressful situations. Very often, people take Xanax to feel “normal”. If you take the drug away, the person may think that they can no longer cope with life.

The most challenging part is when withdrawal symptoms kick in. The withdrawal effects can be so strong that they make the person go to extreme lengths to get more of the drug. This is why friends and family members are often surprised to see their loved one lying, stealing or buying prescription drugs online. It doesn’t sound like something their loved one would do, but once addicted, the person is no longer in control of their actions.

The Most Common Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms to Be Aware Of

Xanax withdrawals symptoms occur when a person who is physically dependent on the drug stops taking it. Because they rely on the drug to feel normal, their body essentially goes into shock and begins craving the drug. The people most at risk for symptoms of Xanax withdrawal are those who take the drug in large doses or for long periods of time. Just a few weeks of being on the drug – even at the prescribed dose – can lead to dependency.

Below are the most common withdrawal symptoms of Xanax to watch out for:

  • Headache

  • Blurred vision

  • Vomiting

  • Sweating

  • Insomnia

  • Aggression

  • Seizures

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Shaking

  • Muscle cramps

  • Muscle pain

  • Sensitivity to light

Something else to be aware of are rebound symptoms. Those who were prescribed Xanax for anxiety or panic disorders can suffer from rebound symptoms once they quit the drug. These symptoms are intensified effects of a pre-existing condition and include anxiety, panic attacks or the inability to sleep. In other words, if you were prescribed Xanax for generalized anxiety disorder, it’s possible to experience extreme anxiety as you withdraw from the drug. These usually subside after a week, but the underlying condition needs to be treated.

How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Last?

Xanax withdrawal tends to be more intense than withdrawal from other benzodiazepines, but it has a shorter duration. Because Xanax is a short-acting benzo, its effects are felt sooner than others but also end sooner. Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax can start in as little as a few hours from the last dose and continue for one week. Like other drugs, however, it’s possible for withdrawal symptoms to appear up to two years after stopping the drug, something called PAWS.

Here is a brief outline of what to expect from symptoms of xanax withdrawal.

  • First 6-12 hours. Within six hours, Xanax begins to wear off and withdrawal symptoms can be felt. The most typical symptoms include anxiety and irritability that gets increasingly worse.

  • Days 1-4. The first few days of Xanax withdrawal are the most difficult. Rebound anxiety and insomnia are the most intense symptoms. Other side effects also become present, such as shaking, muscle pain and sweating.

  • Days 5-14. Once day five hits, symptoms of Xanax withdrawal usually start to subside. Though symptoms may still be present, they are less severe.

  • Days 15+. It’s possible to have symptoms of withdrawal come and go over the next two years. For others, however, symptoms are completely gone.

Can You Quit Xanax Cold Turkey?

A cold-turkey withdrawal from Xanax is not recommended. It can produce uncomfortable side effects that can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Serious side effects include seizures, psychosis, hallucinations and a return to Xanax. Less severe but still concerning cold-turkey withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Irritability

  • Anxiety

  • Trembling

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Heart palpitations

  • Muscle pain and stiffness

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Panic attacks  

If a person wants to quit Xanax, they must be committed to a detox and treatment program. There is only one recommended method for coming off Xanax, and that’s to taper off the drug under strict medical supervision. Quitting cold turkey or detoxing in the home puts a person at risk and can lead to fatal complications.

How to Quit Using Xanax Safely

If a person has been using large amounts of Xanax for a long period of time, tapering off the drug may take longer. This does not mean that someone who has abusing small doses won’t need the medical supervision. All it means is that they may not need as long as a time to taper off the drug. Medical detox is the only recommended method for quitting Xanax.

Choosing a holistic treatment center such as The River Source is highly recommended. We offer naturopathic detox that allows patients to safely and effectively detox from Xanax and manage withdrawal symptoms. Our naturopathic doctors use a combination of medicine and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage therapy and oral vitamin therapy.

One of our goals is to promote a healthy mind and body during detox. While it’s important for patients to withdraw from the drug, they must also build up their psychological and physical resources so that they can continue on with treatment. We achieve this by offering IV therapy and infrared sauna therapy. The two work together to sweat out harmful toxins and replace essential nutrients in the body.

Treating Dual Diagnosis

When the patient has completed detox, the recovery process can begin. The River Source offers 30, 60 and 90 day treatment programs that include counseling, life skills workshops and a safe, sober living environment nestled in two Arizona locations.

We are also successful in treating a dual diagnosis , which is not uncommon with patients who have detoxed from Xanax. Usually, there is an underlying reason why they took the drug in the first place – anxiety, depression – and that condition still needs to be treated. If it’s not, it’s likely that the person will go back to self-medicating their symptoms.

In their time with us, we address the co-occurring disorder and ensure that the person gets the help they need, while also learning how to safely and effectively manage symptoms of the condition. For instance, if a patient suffers from anxiety, our counselors may teach them breathing exercises, meditation or yoga. Other therapies that have proven effective for managing stress and anxiety are cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback.

What if You are Prescribed Xanax?

With the potential negative effects of Xanax, as well as the habit-forming nature of the drug, it’s recommended only to take Xanax if you absolutely need it and all other treatments have failed. Discuss the symptoms that you are experiencing with your doctor, and the two of you can come to a sensible solution about how to manage your anxiety, depression or insomnia.

Some people experience anxiety so severely so that they can’t function in their everyday lives. Sweaty palms, racing thoughts, increased heart rate and shortness of breath may be felt every minute of every day. There are other benzodiazepines that can be prescribed, but all have habit-forming tendencies because of how they work on the brain.

Xanax is most widely prescribed because of its effectiveness. Some people are prescribed the drug on a regular basis, while others are told only to take it before stressful situations, such as flying on a plane. Generally speaking, those who only take the drug on occasion are not as much at risk for developing a dependency as those who depend on it more regularly.

However, some people still find themselves becoming obsessive about having the pill around in case they need it. You must also be responsible about keeping the drug out of the hands of others. Again, only you and your doctor can come to a reasonable solution about whether Xanax is a drug you should be taking.

Conclusion

If you or someone you love is addicted to Xanax, call The River Source. We have been successful in treating addictions to benzodiazepines. Our detox is medically supervised and includes a wide range of therapies to help manage uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, our doctors and counselors know how to approach dual diagnosis, effectively treating both the underlying anxiety disorder and the addiction. Call us today to learn more.

Help Stop Prescription Drug Abuse. Here’s What To Do With Expired Medications.

This entry was posted in Prescription Drugs on by .

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in our country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially declared it an epidemic. As of 2012, overdose deaths from prescription opioids increased to nearly 17,000, and heroin has seen a 75 percent increase from 2007 to 2011.

But what if we told you that there was a way that you could help?  

Addressing the prescription drug problem involves many layers, and one of them is the proper disposal of leftover or expired medications. Home medicine cabinets have become the new drug dealer, and over half of teens abusing prescription drugs get them from an unknowing friend or family member.

It’s up to YOU to dispose of your medications properly. However, there is confusing advice on how to do so safely. Do you flush the meds down the toilet? Throw them in the trash with kitty litter? Or drive them over to a police or fire station?

Do Not Flush Your Medications!

We now know that flushing prescription or over-the-counter drugs is not the best way to get rid of them. Even though the drugs become diluted, they still end up somewhere, and this somewhere is our waters and environment.

…Or Throw Them Away

Throwing away your medications with kitty litter or coffee grounds is not ideal either. The drugs aren’t breaking down this way, so they can still get into the wrong hands. Not to mention, trash-related toxic exposures are called into the Pet Poison Helpline each day.

So where do your old, expired and unused prescription and OTC drugs go? Medicine take-back programs.

Use a Take-Back Program Instead!

Medicine take-back programs are the only safe and secure method for disposing leftover medications. These programs are offered at various locations such as law enforcement offices and pharmacies. The locations have secure equipment that prevent theft, and when enough medication has been collected, it is disposed of safely.

Although the demand for take-back programs is high, they are not guaranteed. Since they are funded with government and law enforcement budgets, the programs can be unpredictable. Talk to your pharmacy or law enforcement office to see what types of medications they will accept, and if there are take-back programs in your area. Most pharmacies accept prescribed and OTC meds – just not controlled ones.
    
You can learn more about medication take-back programs at DisposeMyMeds.org.

Could a New Batch of Opioids Relieve Pain Without Being Addictive?

This entry was posted in Prescription Drugs on by .

One issue that continually comes up when discussing opioids is why the drugs are made legal and available when they are addictive and dangerous. The answer is always the same: some people need them.

Opioids: Helpful or Hurtful?

If you’ve ever had a serious injury or surgery before, you realize the importance of having pain medications. Opioid painkillers like oxycodone and fentanyl are meant to be used for patients who are in extreme pain. When used accordingly and under the direction of a doctor, they are generally safe.

As we know, however, opioids don’t always stay in the hands of the pain patient, or they are misused by the patient. This is when dependency and addiction can easily occur. But if pain medications are necessary and need to be available for extreme cases, what can we do to fight the growing prescription drug epidemic?

A New Generation of Painkillers?

A recent article on CNBC discussed this issue and what scientists are doing to improve the situation. Currently, scientists are working on a new generation of painkillers that are just as effective as conventional opioids but don’t carry the same dangerous side effects.

For one, the drugs will work differently on the brain. They will bind to opioid receptors – proteins found in the brain, spinal cord and organs – but they will signal a different pathway. This route is where information travels from one molecule to another, which is different than how conventional opioids work. The belief is that the drugs won’t be as addictive.

Second, this new batch of drugs will be less likely to cause overdose deaths. With conventional painkillers, there are molecules that can lead to respiratory distress. These molecules won’t be contained in the new drugs and is a key objective for scientists.

What Compounds are Being Researched?

At this time, researchers have found promise with three new compounds:

·  Oliceridine from pharmaceutical company Trevena has been given preferential treatment by the FDA.

·  Mitragynine pseudoindoxyl is a compound that comes from the leaves of the Southeast Asian kratom plant and shows a reduced risk of addiction in lab rats.

·  The compound PZM21 is in its early stages of research but has produced effects that are unlike anything seen before from conventional painkillers, according to researchers.

We will have to wait and see what comes of these drugs and if they will help us meet the needs of pain patients while taking addictive opioids off the streets.