Xanax Use: How Often is Too Often? (Addiction Timeline)

Medically Reviewed

When it comes to Xanax use, when are you moving from recreation to danger? That’s a very personal question that only you can answer. But taking drugs like Xanax can cloud your thinking, making it hard for you to form strong opinions and have good judgment.

To help, we have outlined a few signs and symptoms that could indicate your use of Xanax is heading into dangerous territory. If you notice these signs in yourself or someone you love, it’s essential to take action.

Dosage Matters

Xanax, also known as alprazolam, is a prescription medication. Doctors prescribe different dosage levels for their patients, depending on the symptoms they are treating with Xanax.

According to the Mayo Clinic, adults taking Xanax for anxiety are typically encouraged to take up to 0.5 mg (milligrams) three times per day to keep symptoms under control. Adults with panic disorder might take up to 1 mg once per day for their symptoms.

Whether you are taking Xanax to assist with a mental health issue, or you are taking the drug on a recreational basis to make life a little more pleasurable, the drug works in the same manner. It attaches to receptors within the brain, triggering a series of chemical reactions that slow down overall brain activity while allowing chemical signals of pleasure to build up.

That chemical action is responsible for the symptom release people experience. Those same chemical reactions can also deliver a high.

It is not at all uncommon for people with an addiction to Xanax to take doses that are much higher than those a doctor might prescribe. For example, the singer from the band Korn told a reporter writing for Forbes that he was taking 4 mg of Xanax per day at the height of his addiction.

That dose is much higher than the dose a doctor is likely to prescribe. It indicates that use of the drug is moving from something a person is controlling into something that is controlling a person. Escalating use by increasing the size of doses is one indication that addiction might be in play.

Understand Tolerance

Why do people take bigger doses of Xanax? That question can be answered with a discussion of drug tolerance.

Each dose of Xanax you take in creates changes within the cells of the brain. In time, those brain cells become accustomed to operating under the influence of Xanax. Some receptor cells stop functioning with small doses of the drug, and that means taking those doses produces no change at all.

If you are taking Xanax to get high, that can mean the doses you once took do not produce the euphoria you are accustomed to. To get those happy feelings back, you must take a larger dose. In time, you must increase that dose again as your brain cells become accustomed to that larger dose.

According to research published in the journal Advances in Pharmacological Sciences, tolerance to benzodiazepines like Xanax happens relatively quickly. Also, people can become physically dependent on the changes Xanax brings about. When the drug is gone, they can develop nasty withdrawal symptoms, and those symptoms can keep people taking Xanax even if they want to quit.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive distress
  • A racing heart

If you find that you’re experiencing symptoms of tolerance, or you experience withdrawal symptoms between doses of the drug, you could need help for a substance abuse issue.

Other Signs to Watch For

In a study in the journal CNS Drugs, researchers were able to identify problematic Xanax use by looking at how often people shopped for doctors who would help them. In this study, about 2 percent of people who had a prescription for Xanax looked for additional doctors to fill prescriptions for the drug.

If your addiction began with a prescription, you might head back to your doctor often to get that prescription refilled. In time, your doctor might question why you need multiple refills, and they might refuse to give you the drug. If you start making appointments with other doctors, using a hospital, or heading to an urgent care clinic in the hopes of getting more Xanax, this is a warning sign of addiction.

Xanax is a powerful drug on its own, but as an addiction deepens, you might be tempted to add other drugs to your daily dosage mix. This is especially true if you have struggled to get enough Xanax to keep symptoms of withdrawal at bay. Adding other drugs might seem like the best way to get the high you want.

Adding things like alcohol to your Xanax dose can be deadly. In research published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers found that in 94.9 percent of alprazolam overdose cases, other drugs were present. Combining drugs can lead to reactions you did not expect and cannot control. At times, those reactions can come with life-threatening consequences. If you are ever tempted to add something else to your Xanax dose, your drug use is moving into dangerous territory.

Finally, the way you take your Xanax dose can also indicate a problem. Xanax is typically available in a pill format that you swallow without chewing. The drug works its way through the digestive system, eventually moving through the bloodstream and into the brain. This process can take time, and some pills come with additional chemical properties that allow the doses to be released slowly over a specific period.

As an addiction grows, you might be tempted to get the entire power of the dose all at once, bypassing the digestive system in the process. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, people with a Xanax addiction do that by crushing the pills and snorting them. That allows the drug’s molecules to move into the body through mucous membranes in the nose. That is a much faster route of administration than the digestive system.

Shifting from swallowing pills to snorting them is a clear sign that your drug abuse is escalating. At this point, it might be hard to convince yourself you are taking the drug for any purpose other than to get high. There is no way that taking the drug in this manner could be considered healthy or therapeutic.

What Should You Do?

If you recognize yourself or someone you love in these symptoms of addiction, know that help is available. In a structured program, you can work with professionals who can help you to understand your addiction and what you can do to get better. This team of experts can help you get sober in a controlled, safe environment, so you will not experience life-threatening withdrawal. And the team can give you the tools you need to preserve your sobriety. If you are dealing with addiction, it is time to get help.

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