What is Xanax?

white xanax bars

Though it’s taken a backseat to headlines about the opioid epidemic, the spotlight still, occasionally, lands on alprazolam, aka Xanax. The habit-forming benzodiazepine targets overactive neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for some anxiety and panic disorders brought on by depression.

Misuse or abuse of Xanax, especially in tandem with alcohol and other drugs, is not just addictive; it can be life threatening as well. A study, published in April 2016 by the American Journal of Public Health, reports a 67 percent increase in anti-anxiety prescriptions, like Xanax, Valium and Ativan, between 1996 and 2013. Researchers also note that the rate of fatal overdose during the same period spiked.

“If we’re going to address the prescription drug crisis,” Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, the author of the study, told the New York Times, “we can’t just focus on opioids. We need to think more broadly about other drugs, like benzodiazepines.”

The medication comes in various colors and doses, depending on a physician’s prescription. These can include the following:

  • Blue Xanax pills are elliptical and, generally, are a 1mg dose
  • Pink and peach colored Xanax pills are of a similar shape and might be scored in the middle so a user can take just half of the 0.5mg dose
  • Xanax bars are a heavier 2mg dose of the medication. They can be white, green and, for generic alprazolam, yellow

What are Xanax Bars?

Going by street-names like “yellow school bus” or “white ladders,” Xanax bars come scored – either three or four serrations, depending – so patients can take smaller portions of the 2mg dosage. Because of the higher potency, however, Xanax bars are a favorite on the black market and internet pharmacies.

As with any black market or overseas purchase of illegal drugs, Xanax users risk ingesting tainted pills that might contain any number of unknown chemicals that can create dangerous side effects.

Less than two years ago, San Francisco health officials advised people not to buy Xanax on the street. A batch of Xanax bars laced with fentanyl, a potentially deadly opioid much more powerful than morphine, killed four people and put several others in the hospital. Overdose survivors of the counterfeit Xanax experienced fluid in the lungs, muscle breakdown and weakness in their extremities, all of which can lead to liver failure.

xanax bars

Tablets (Pills)

Tablets come in various colors including blue, pink and peach-colored. They contain less than two milligrams of xanax and are still as addictive as bars.

  • Blue xanax are one milligram elliptical tablets
  • Orange xanax are oval-shaped pills in both .25mg and .5mg
  • Pink xanax are .5 milligram pills with a line etched in the middle

How is Xanax used or Abused?

The prescribed use of this medication is to swallow it with water. The most common form of abuse is to swallow more than the recommended dose. Using Xanax illicitly can quickly lead to tolerance and dependence. People abusing benzodiazepines will often chew the pill or crush it and snort the resulting powder in order to speed up tranquilizing “high” that Xanax has on the central nervous system.

Smoking crushed Xanax or injecting it after its liquefied is by no means safer. In fact, any of these methods can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms and come with a host of adverse side effects. These can include:

  • Confusion, dizziness, impaired coordination
  • Unconsciousness and coma
  • Seizures and hallucinations
  • Slowed heart beat and difficulty breathing
  • Death

The National Institutes of Health report a steady increase in Xanax and other benzodiazepine related overdose in the last decade, with an estimated 9,000 deaths in 2015 alone. While there might not be a steady stream of headlines about Xanax, there’s no safe method for abusing it. Addiction to benzodiazepines is treatable and individuals seeking help should not be stigmatized or feel any shame for needing help.

Xanax Side Effects

Taking too much Xanax can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms and come with a host of adverse side effects. Another danger to abusing xanax are the withdrawal symptoms affecting addicts who cannot access their drug of choice.

People with a high tolerance for the bars may feel the onset of withdrawal symptoms within 6 to 12 hours of taking their last bar. Nausea and vomiting, anxiety, panic, muscle tremors, fever and insomnia are classic xanax withdrawal signs.

These can include:

  • Confusion, dizziness, impaired coordination
  • Unconsciousness and coma
  • Seizures and hallucinations
  • Slowed heart beat and difficulty breathing
  • Death

Fakes aka “Counterfeits” Xanax

Less than two years ago, San Francisco health officials advised people not to buy xanax on the street. A batch of bars laced with fentanyl, a potentially deadly opioid much more powerful than morphine, killed four people and put several others in the hospital. Overdose survivors of the counterfeit xanax experienced fluid in the lungs, muscle breakdown and weakness in their extremities, all of which can lead to liver failure.

Overdosing on Xanax

Overdosing on xanax is more likely when you take bars instead of tablets simply because the onset of sedation and suppression of central nervous system functioning is quicker and stronger.

Signs of an overdose include;

  • extreme drowsiness
  • periodic unconsciousness
  • slowed breathing & heart rate
  • vomiting while unconscious
  • shock

Without medical emergency treatment, a xanax overdose patient could suffer seizures or lapse into a coma.

  • If you or someone else think you might have taken too much Xanax, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or 911.

 

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