Alprazolam Treatment and Rehab Explained
For many people suffering from anxiety, panic and other disorders, alprazolam – often better known by the trade name Xanax – has been a genuinely life-changing medication. Unfortunately, this medication is not without its dark side, and thousands of people now suffer from crippling – and potentially deadly – alprazolam addictions.
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Understanding Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction and Rehab Treatment Options
Alprazolam is a short-acting benzodiazepine, mostly used in the short-term treatment of certain anxiety disorders (in particular panic disorder and generalised anxiety disorder, or GAD, but also including other anxiety disorders co-occurring with depression) and occasionally prescribed to treat nausea resulting from chemotherapy
Alprazolam was developed in the 1960s, following the creation of the first benzodiazepine – chlordiazepoxide, or Librium – in 1956, and the first patent for the drug was granted in the USA in 1976. Benzodiazepines were first developed as a less problematic alternative to barbiturates, a class of anxiolytic (anxiety-suppressing), hypnotic and anticonvulsant drugs whose use, it had become clear, could lead to addiction and dependence and to a wide range of other health problems including a significant risk of overdose. However, it rapidly became apparent that benzodiazepines were also potentially habit-forming, and their use posed similar, if perhaps less severe, health issues to those associated with barbiturates.
It also became obvious that benzodiazepines have the potential to be used and abused recreationally because of the euphoric and sedative “high” produced by their consumption. Nevertheless, because of their efficacy in the treatment of serious and debilitating anxiety, the medical value of benzodiazepines including alprazolam was deemed to be worth their attendant dangers, and in the UK many benzodiazepines are available on prescription and/or provided in hospital and other settings in the treatment of numerous disorders.
(However, the potentially harmful nature of improper benzodiazepine use was not swept under the carpet by the British government: unlawful possession of benzodiazepines (ie, possessing them without a valid prescription) contravenes the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, under which they are categorised as class-C controlled substances, with penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine, and 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine, for possession and supply respectively.)
Globally, alprazolam – and the trade name by which it is best known, Xanax – is one of the most familiar and widely consumed benzodiazepines. In the UK, however, Xanax is not available on the NHS and may only be legally obtained by private prescription – though the advent of the dark web has seen a significant quantity of alprazolam reach Britain’s streets for recreational use, both as Xanax and under numerous other trade names, including Alprax, Alprocontin, Alzam, Alzolam, Anzilum, Apo-Alpraz, Helex, Kalma, Mylan-Alprazolam, Niravam, Novo-Alprazol, Nu-Alpraz, Pacyl, Restyl, Tranax, Trika, Xycalm, Xanor, Zolam and Zopax (if someone close to you is consuming alprazolam under any of these names without a valid private prescription, they could well be breaking the law).
As with all benzodiazepines, alprazolam enhances the effects of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain and central nervous system (CNS). GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the CNS of mammals, which works by reducing the excitability of neurons throughout the nervous system: in simple terms, GABA is a “calming” chemical, and by enhancing its efficacy benzodiazepines can have a calming (or sedative) effect both on mood and on the body – hence the utility of some benzodiazepines in reducing seizures and muscle spasms, including those associated with withdrawal from dependence to various substances of abuse.
However, these sedative properties create effects which can be pleasurable to many people – and this is enhanced by certain secondary effects of benzodiazepines which cause an increase in the release of dopamine, a neurochemical associated with feelings of pleasure, reward and motivation: taking benzodiazepines, therefore, can result in a very enjoyable “high” which makes them sought-after by many recreational drug users, as well as giving rise to the risk that individuals taking benzodiazepines including alprazolam will go on to consume them recreationally, potentially in a manner constituting abuse, during or after proper treatment.
This situation is complicated, in the case of alprazolam (and other benzodiazepines) by two other very significant factors. Firstly, alprazolam itself causes an increase in dopamine levels in the brain, compounding the activity of the reward system and enhancing the effect of any sensations relating to an increased level of dopamine when alprazolam is taken, and a greatly restricted level of the neurochemical when it is not, effectively making alprazolam consumption an addictive behaviour and alprazolam itself a psychologically addictive substance.
Secondly, like all benzodiazepines alprazolam is also physically addictive; that is, users of alprazolam run the risk of developing physical dependence. Dependence is a phenomenon closely related to, and often mistaken for, but distinct from addiction; dependence develops when the system of someone taking a particular substance repeatedly over time becomes reliant (dependent) upon certain levels of that substance being present in the brain and body in order to be able to function normally.
Once dependence has developed, if that substance is then suddenly withdrawn from the system (for example, if someone suddenly stops taking alprazolam, willingly or not) parts of the affected individual’s brain and body may enter a period of abnormal functioning while the person’s system readjusts and renormalises (achieves homeostasis). During that period, the abnormal functioning in question may manifest in the form of a wide variety of potentially unpleasant and dangerous withdrawal symptoms, which in the case of a benzodiazepine such as alprazolam would collectively be known as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.
Although withdrawal from many substances can be extremely distressing, in most cases withdrawal syndrome does not pose a direct threat to the life of the affected individual. However, benzodiazepines are notorious for being one of the few types of drug (along with alcohol and barbiturates) the withdrawal from which can be directly fatal: seizures (especially those occurring as a consequence of the manifestation of delirium tremens, or DTs, more traditionally associated with alcohol withdrawal), stroke, organ failure and a number of other conditions and symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal can all kill.
Even in cases of withdrawal which do not prove directly fatal, there is also the risk that an addict going through benzodiazepine withdrawal will find their condition so distressing that they may attempt suicide as a means of escaping it: not only is suicidal ideation a known symptom of withdrawal from benzodiazepines, but so is depression, which can develop into major depressive disorder, making suicidal ideation vastly more likely.
Furthermore, addicts going through alprazolam withdrawal may be tempted to relapse as a means of dispelling unpleasant and/or painful withdrawal symptoms – but relapsing after a period of withdrawal can itself be extremely dangerous. Someone using alprazolam over time can develop a phenomenon known as tolerance, which (like dependence) involves their system becoming used to certain levels of alprazolam, and adjusting accordingly, making alprazolam’s effects less and less pronounced over time if the affected individual continues to take the same dose. In order to achieve the desired effects, an alprazolam-tolerant individual will need to take greater and greater dosages of the drug.
Going through a period of detoxification (detox) and withdrawal will see the user’s tolerance decline, eventually returning to zero (i.e., the user is just as susceptible to the effects of alprazolam as they were when they first started taking the drug). However, they may not be aware of this diminution of tolerance, and upon relapsing may take alprazolam at the same dosage that they were accustomed to consume at the height of their dependence – which may now be far too much for their system to be able to handle effectively and safely, and which therefore may cause alprazolam overdose.
Although one impetus behind the development of benzodiazepines was the recognition that fatal barbiturates overdoses were becoming increasingly common, and a safer alternative was required, benzodiazepine overdose can also be fatal (indeed, benzodiazepines are a comparatively common factor in instances of intentional overdose – i.e., suicide by drug poisoning). Benzodiazepine overdose may feature symptoms including drowsiness, hypotension, slurred or incoherent speech, nystagmus, ataxia, coma, respiratory depression, cardiorespiratory arrest (if you observe any of these symptoms in someone who you know has taken alprazolam or any other benzodiazepines, call an ambulance immediately).
(Because of the various dangers associated with withdrawal from benzodiazepine dependence, it is absolutely vital that if you are suffering from the condition you do not attempt to detox and go through withdrawal independently (ie, without the correct medical assistance): doing so could, quite literally, kill you. Rather than making such a dangerous attempt, speak with your GP and/or an addiction specialist about detoxing from benzodiazepine dependence, and what treatment options might be available to you.)
With these perils in mind, it is clear that an alprazolam addiction – whether initially caused by the legitimate medical use of alprazolam, or by recreational alprazolam use and abuse – is an extremely dangerous condition (even without taking the many various dangers of addiction generally into account) and that alprazolam addiction treatment can be genuinely life-saving. Even in less serious cases, addiction treatment can transform an addict’s life and restore the optimism, confidence and self-esteem – among countless other factors – which may have been lost over the course of a period of substance abuse and the development of addiction.
There are many different approaches to the treatment of addiction, and of course every individual’s journey through addiction and recovery is unique. However, it is generally considered that residential rehabilitation (rehab) treatment options provide the greatest possible chance for a complete and permanent recovery.
In rehab, addicts can focus wholly upon their treatment and recovery within a secure, pleasant, tranquil, friendly and confidential environment perfectly conducive to healing and thoughtfulness. Various high-quality rehabs with significant experience of treating benzodiazepine addiction can be found across the UK, offering numerous different approaches to treatment, therapy models, facilities etc; such rehabs can provide the professional help which can make the difference between success and failure in overcoming addiction (not to mention the medical assistance without which detox and withdrawal from alprazolam dependence can be fatal).
What to Expect from Treatment
Just as every case of addiction (like every addict) is unique, so too is every experience of recovery. Addiction treatment is an extremely personal practice, and what works for one individual may be useless in the case of another. As a result, rehab facilities need to be reactive and responsive environments within which treatment is as bespoke as possible and practical. and because of this, – and the many differences between facilities, even those run by the same parent organisation – it is impossible to create a universally applicable “roadmap” to addiction treatment.
However, of course there are also many commonalities across facilities and across treatment generally, and it is possible to give a rough guide to what you might expect if you enter rehab to treat your alprazolam addiction.
Addiction screening and assessment
Upon entering a facility, your first activity will be a full physical and psychiatric assessment aimed at establishing the nature and severity of your addiction. Based on the results of this assessment, doctors will draw up an addiction treatment plan which will govern your treatment through the rest of your stay (although, of course, this treatment plan will need to be flexible and responsive to reflect your particular circumstances and any changes to your condition).
Following your assessment, you will enter the detox phase. Depending on how doctors interpret your condition and requirements, at this point you may be provided with certain medication to address any withdrawal symptoms which may have begun to manifest. It is important to note that there is no pharmaceutical cure for benzodiazepine addiction, but medication may be used throughout treatment to tackle particular symptoms, especially persistent psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety, and of course during detox and withdrawal should any symptoms emerge which are of particular concern to medical staff.
Detox is a vital element of treatment as no further treatment can hope to be successful whilst an addict is still struggling with dependence (and probably withdrawal) or is under the influence of any substances of abuse, including alprazolam. Detox cleanses the addict’s system of substances of abuse, enabling them to enter therapy and other aspects of the treatment programme “clean” and sober.
Therapy lies at the very heart of all addiction treatment; in very basic terms, if detox (whether or not assisted with medication) treats the body, therapy treats the mind of an addict, revealing the root psychological causes of addiction and giving the addict psychological defence mechanisms and strategies against relapse, as well as preparing them for a return to life outside the facility. Many different therapy models and methodologies are provided in addiction treatment, but of course not every facility can offer every conceivable approach to therapy; which facilities offer which therapies may have a significant bearing upon your eventual choice of facility, and if you are considering rehab alprazolam addiction treatment, speak with an addiction specialist about how therapy is provided in individual facilities.
Educating addicts (and, potentially, their families) about substance abuse and addiction is an often-overlooked aspect of treatment in rehab. Many addicts simply do not understand phenomena such as addiction and dependence, despite having been afflicted by them, and developing such an understanding can contribute significantly to the development of a healthier and wiser mindset with which to tackle the challenges of recovery. Addiction education can also help addicts come to realise the extent of the dangers to which they have exposed themselves, and the damage that they may have done – and, more importantly, that they may continue to do – to their own physical and mental health and to the well-being of others.
Follow up and aftercare (to avoid relapse)
It is vital to remember that recovery is not achieved simply by completing an addiction treatment programme in rehab; instead, it is a long-term – possibly lifelong – process requiring constant diligence and hard work to avoid and maintain sobriety. To assist with recovery, good rehab facilities will provide up to a year’s free aftercare following the completion of residential treatment.
Aftercare may consist of a number of appointments back at the facility (and others potentially carried out by phone or email) to check progress and if necessary advise on further treatment and/or prescribe more medication, as well as elements such as individual counselling, and participation in support group meetings. As with an addiction treatment programme proper, an aftercare plan will be highly tailored to each individual.
Dual Diagnosis in Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Dual diagnosis is particularly common in cases of alprazolam addiction, since alprazolam is often taken specifically to address certain mental health issues (in particular, anxiety) -and like many substances of abuse alprazolam can also cause various mental disorders to emerge.
Dual diagnosis complicates addiction treatment significantly, as each disorder needs to be treated simultaneously and the treatment of one can interfere with the treatment of another; as a result, specialist care is typically required.
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Medication used for Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Treatment and Rehab
There is no pharmaceutical cure for benzodiazepine addiction. However, medication is frequently used in the treatment of benzodiazepine addiction, including alprazolam addiction, specifically to counter and alleviate some of the worst symptoms of withdrawal: for example, antidepressants may be prescribed should depression manifest, whilst sedatives and hypnotics (normally other
than benzodiazepines, for obvious reasons) can tackle insomnia. Should any especially dangerous or otherwise worrisome withdrawal symptoms emerge, medication potentially including other benzodiazepines can be used to counter them.
Pros and cons of using medication in alprazolam/Xanax addiction treatment and rehab
Where possible and practical, doctors usually seek to avoid prescribing medication. However, in some cases medication is indispensable since it can address dangerous and potentially life-threatening symptoms of alprazolam withdrawal. Even in less serious cases, withdrawal can made much more comfortable and bearable by the prescription of certain medications to tackle some of the more problematic symptoms of withdrawal. Of course, medication does come at a cost (though this is usually included in the overall cost of treatment) and with various attendant risks, including potentially problematic side effects. Balancing the advantages and disadvantages of medication is a key responsibility of the medical staff involved in your treatment.
Medication replacement programmes for alprazolam/Xanax addiction treatment
In the cases of some substances of abuse, certain medication can be prescribed to replace more problematic and potentially illegal drugs, making management of drug consumption (and therefore also any tapering down ahead of treatment) easier as well as reducing the various dangers to which an addict may be exposed. In the case of alprazolam, providing a substitute medication has slightly less extensive benefits that might be the case with, for example, providing a heroin addict with (legal) methadone; however, some facilities may provide alternative benzodiazepines during a tapering program ahead of during detox, as well as offering alternative anxiety medication which is not from the benzodiazepine class or related classes. Speak with an addiction specialist about medication replacement in alprazolam addiction treatment.
Duration of Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Rehabilitation
How long an alprazolam addict remains in treatment depends very much on a number of factors including the severity and longevity of the addiction, the addict’s personal circumstances, how well they engage in therapy and others. Typically, a stay in residential rehab last between 30 and 90 days, though shorter and more intensive, and alternatively longer and slower-paced, treatment plans may be provided.
Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Treatment and Rehab Success Rate
How successful rehab treatment is varies very significantly from one facility and treatment organisation to the next, and it can be very difficult to obtain accurate success rates as many addicts in recovery do not report back to their facilities years after treatment.
A 2012 report by the NHS’ National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse showed that the best-performing private treatment facilities enjoyed success rates (in terms of the number of clients completing treatment who were still reporting abstinence five years after completing treatment) of between 60% and 80%. Unfortunately, at the other end of the spectrum, the worst performers could only boast success rates of less than 20%.
Twelve-Step Programme for Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Some facilities offer twelve-step programmes (or preparatory familiarisation courses) based on the twelve-step model created by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and since adopted by numerous other organisations including Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Whilst these twelve-step programs have undoubtedly been beneficial in countless cases, they are not however appropriate for every addict, as they require addicts to concede that their recovery is in the hands of a higher power (for many people, God).
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Of all the various therapy models and methodologies applied in the treatment of addiction, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is probably that which is most familiar to the lay person and to addicts entering treatment. CBT aims to improve mental health, and to address specific problems (such as alprazolam addiction), by revealing and remediating negative thought patterns and behaviour, and to help clients with emotional regulation and to develop coping strategies. Therapists teach new skills in areas such as information processing, and work with clients to create effective tools and strategies to counter temptation and triggers, in order to prepare them optimally for life outside the facility.
The Role of Counselling in Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Treatment and Rehab
While many forms of psychotherapy focus on enabling clients to come to their own conclusions, counselling involves the provision by a counsellor of much more firm advice on how to address and overcome specific challenges including those posed by addiction and substance abuse. Counselling can be provided in rehab as part of an addiction treatment programme, but can also be a component of aftercare, and indeed can be engaged in on an ongoing basis at any time during an individual’s recovery. Private counsellors can be found throughout the UK; speak with an addiction specialist about how to find and engage the best counsellor.
Choosing a Treatment Centre for Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Treatment and Rehab
It is understandable most people entering into addiction treatment do not really know much about the subject – yet the more information you can get on treatment programmes and individual facilities, the likely it is that you will make the right choice of facility. Draw up a wish list of what you want from a facility, and then contact an addiction specialist to discuss how to go about making sure that the facility in which you enrol is right for you.
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Inpatient Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Treatment Programme
Many rehabs offer addiction treatment on both an inpatient or outpatient basis. Inpatient stays take addicts out of their daily environment in which alprazolam addiction has developed, and provides them with a holistic addiction treatment programme whose components – typically including detox and therapy, and other elements such as bespoke dietary and fitness plans – are provided within confidential and safe facilities during a stay usually lasting between 30 and 90 days.
Advantages of inpatient alprazolam/Xanax addiction treatment and rehab centres
Inpatient alprazolam addiction treatment provides the comfort and security of 24/7 medical access and monitoring; on-site medication prescription; an environment free of substances of abuse; a comfortable environment conducive to healing; facilities such as gyms and experienced chefs; therapy sessions and other appointments onsite; and contact with a peer group which understands the nature and challenges of addiction.
Outpatient Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Treatment Programme
For some people, inpatient treatment may simply not be feasible because of responsibilities such as family and work.
Outpatient treatment may be provided with some appointments attended on-site but with much of an addiction treatment programme needing to be carried out independently. Outpatient treatment can be problematic as it does not remove the addict from their environment of substance abuse and addiction, making relapse very significantly more likely.
All-Age Rehabs vs. Specific Age Group Rehabs
Some addicts in particular age groups – especially comparatively young, or much older addicts – may need to be treated in facility dedicated to that age group, as the approach to treating addiction in these age groups can be impacted by age (for example, it may not be appropriate for very young addicts to be treated in the same facility as problematic adult patients). Speak with an addiction specialist about age-specific rehabs if a young or elderly person close to you has an alprazolam addiction.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Treatment
How long someone needs to receive alprazolam addiction treatment will depend on a number of factors unique to that person. How long your state may need to be will be determined in consultation with a doctor.
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Gender-Specific vs. Mixed Gender Programmes
Some addicts may prefer to be treated in single-sex facilities, and this may also be recommended by doctors depending on circumstances of a given addict. Discuss with an addiction specialist whether or not a mixed gender facility will be suitable for your needs.
Treatment Near Home vs. Different City or County
Some addicts prefer to receive treatment near their homes as they may be comforted by their proximity to family; others on the other hand may wish to put as much distance as possible between themselves and their environment of addiction and substance abuse. Discuss your specific needs with an addiction specialist who can tell you the pros and cons of choosing facilities near to, or far from, your home.
Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Rehabs and Confidentiality
Confidentiality is absolutely crucial for rehabs, as clients must be confident that their condition will not become public knowledge. Very strict guidelines for client confidentiality govern both public and private rehab facilities; if you seek further reassurance, ask staff at any rehab you may be considering about confidentiality policies.
Questions to Ask Treatment Centres
When doing your research on treatment options, you may wish to ask any of the following questions:
- How long does treatment last
- Is the facility fully licensed and accredited?
- What success rates can be demonstrated by the facility?
- What payment terms are available?
- What medical care is available on site?
- What therapy methodologies are deployed?
- Will I be able to receive visitors?
- What aftercare is provided?
Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Treatment & Health Insurance
Many clients seek to pay for residential rehab by health insurance – but not all health insurance covers all treatment options. Contact your insurance provider and get them to provide a written breakdown of what your policy does and does not cover.
Alprazolam/Xanax Addiction Rehab and Treatment Statistics
- The UK makes up 22% of global sales of Xanax on the dark web.
- Xanax can cost as little as £1 per tablet on the street.
- Benzodiazepines are the second most commonly discussed drugs (after opioids) by callers to the government’s Frank drug safety programme.
- Over 200 deaths in the UK were associated with Xanax between 2015 and 2018.
- Fake Xanax “bars” worth more than £1m have been seized at UK borders since 2016.
Get Help Today
If you have an alprazolam addiction, your life is in danger: you need professional help to overcome your addiction and get your life back on track. Reach out for that help today by calling your GP and/or an addiction specialist, to discuss your condition and the treatment options which may be available to you. Don’t delay: make that call today and take your first steps on the road back to health and happiness.
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