Xanax Abuse Among College Students

The prescription drug alprazolam, commonly known by its brand name, Xanax, is a medication used to treat anxiety, panic disorder, and insomnia.  In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the long-term effects of prolonged Xanax use such as short-term memory loss. Perhaps even more concerning, however, is the startling rate of Xanax abuse and misuse, especially among young adults.  Xanax has become a popular party drug used to intensify the effects of alcohol, as well as reduce anxiety when coming down off of illegal drugs such as MDMA. Xanax has even become a drug commonly slipped into people’s drinks without their knowledge, presumably in an effort to induce sedation and impair decision-making.  While it is relatively easy to obtain a Xanax prescription and to buy it on the street, the danger associated with abusing this drug is immense. College students are especially vulnerable to the dangers associated with Xanax use due to the party culture prevalent on many campuses.

Xanax and Alcohol Use

Alcohol and Xanax share similar effects, both leading to feelings of sedation and mild euphoria.  People use Xanax while drinking alcohol to achieve a high or intensify alcohol’s sedative reaction in the body.  Although most people combine Xanax with alcohol to achieve a euphoric effect, the combination can also cause an individual to become extremely lethargic, lightheaded, irritable, and aggressive.  Alcohol use with Xanax has been shown to inhibit the user’s ability to control their emotions and impulses. This means that people who are high on this combination of substances may be more likely to verbally attack someone or even violently lash out.  Additionally, people taking Xanax with alcohol are likely to feel cognitively impaired and may feel unable to think clearly or process information at a normal speed.  

While blackouts are possible from excess alcohol consumption alone, adding Xanax to the mix makes blackouts far more likely to occur.  Blackouts happen when the brain is so impaired due to substance use it is unable to record new memories. This results in entire events or even entire days going unrecorded, leaving the user to wake up the next morning unsure of what happened to them or what they may have done.  People who use these drugs in combination are also more likely to pass out or become unconscious, or even to enter a coma. Because of this frightening effect, predators seeking to take advantage of someone have been known to slip Xanax into drinks. College students should be especially mindful of their drinks, never leaving them alone at parties where they could be laced.   

Because both Xanax and alcohol are central nervous system depressants, they both carry similar risks when taken in excess.  An overdose of alcohol or Xanax can cause the brain to begin to shut down and eventually fail to maintain life-sustaining functions such as telling your lungs to breathe and your heart to pump.  When taken together, the risk of a potentially fatal overdose is heightened. Additionally, because Xanax and alcohol slow breathing and heart rate, damage can occur in these areas after prolonged use, even if the combinations aren’t being taken at levels that could cause an overdose.  Lastly, the most common effect of using Xanax and alcohol together is the development of a substance use disorder. Using any two addictive drugs together increases the chances that you will become addicted to one or both substances.  

Xanax Abuse Due to Mental Illness

Xanax is commonly prescribed to individuals who struggle with severe anxiety, mental health-related insomnia, and panic attacks.  When used as recommended, Xanax can be an effective emergency sedative, although a dependence may still develop with normal use. However, many people with Xanax prescriptions begin increasing their dosage as tolerance develops, or because they are seeking to numb their emotional pain or unresolved trauma.  For college students, Xanax use may start as a way to relieve anxiety about exams or the stress that comes from being away from home. For those with a history of mental illness or trauma, times of dramatic change, such as going away to college, can trigger symptoms of anxiety, depression, and many other mental health issues.  Unfortunately, using any substance in excess to cope with psychological pain is usually a straight path to addiction. 

Quitting Xanax

Xanax addiction is very serious and often requires professional help to overcome. Quitting Xanax cold turkey can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be very dangerous.  Abruptly denying your body of Xanax after dependence has enveloped can cause seizures and severe depressive symptoms such as suicidal thoughts. Seeking treatment for Xanax addiction is the best and safest way to achieve recovery, and a medically supervised detox can eelpout through the beginning stages of withdrawal,

Many college students living with mental illness turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, and in doing so many of these individuals develop debilitating addictions.  If you believe you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, now is the time to reach out for help. At Burning Tree West, you will find a team of compassionate, knowledgeable professionals who specialize in helping young adults struggling with addiction and their families.  Here, our clients tackle their addictions head-on and harness the power to restructure their lives in a way that fosters lasting sobriety. We believe that practicing recovery doesn’t have to mean an end to educational or career goals, but instead can become a fundamental part of a successful and fulfilling life.  For more information on how we can help, call us now at 888-530-9424.