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Xanax High: The Dangers of Recreational Alprazolam Use

dangers of high on xanax

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It is not unusual to experience an occasional bout of anxiety due to life stressors. Yet, more than 40 million Americans experience persistent, uncontrolled, and overwhelming anxiety that prevents them from leading a normal life. In fact, anxiety is a serious and pervasive mental health issue around the world.
The symptoms of an anxiety disorder can fluctuate throughout a person’s life. Some people are able to achieve a spontaneous remission, but many people require pharmacologic therapy to treat this condition. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that have proven effective in treating people who feel unusually anxious or panicky or suffer from phobias.
Xanax (generic name: alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine which is a commonly prescribed treatment for people who are prone to feeling panicky or anxious.

Yet, Xanax can be highly addictive when taken without a prescription, leading to physical dependence.

How does Xanax make one feel? Is Xanax recreational use safe? Learn more about alprazolam high and why it can be dangerous.

Table of Contents

Prescription Xanax: How Does It Work?

Book with Alprazolam and test tubes For some people, anxiety is more than a temporary worry or fear. It is a persistent and progressive feeling that interferes with work and relationships. People who tend to be anxious and panicky have a chemical imbalance in their brains. Alprazolam enhances the action of GABA, a chemical in the brain which has a calming effect. In general, benzodiazepines have a dose-related depressant effect on the central nervous system. Due to this effect, at low doses, these drugs lead to mild impairment in the performance of tasks. At high doses, they can produce hypnosis or even coma.
Xanax is prescribed for the pharmacologic management of people with anxiety and panic disorders. Treatment usually begins with a dose of 0.25 mg to 0.5 mg taken up to three times a day. The maximum recommended dose of alprazolam is usually 4 mg per day in divided doses. Doctors prescribe the lowest effective dose of alprazolam and periodically assess the need to continue treatment.

Xanax is a highly addictive drug, and even short-term use at recommended doses can result in dependence.

The risk of dependence is greater at higher doses and when treatment continues for a longer duration. People suffering from anxiety or depression should seek the advice of a doctor before starting Xanax treatment.
What is the best way to take Xanax? Alprazolam tablets should be taken by mouth as directed by a doctor. The prescribed dose varies according to the patient’s age, the severity of the medical condition, and response to therapy. The dose is gradually increased until a beneficial effect is noted. It is important to closely follow the doctor’s instructions for alprazolam use to avoid side effects and the risk of dependence.
Xanax has a depressant effect on the brain. For this reason, people taking the drug should be cautious about engaging in activities that require mental alertness, such as driving a motor vehicle or operating heavy machinery. It is also important to avoid mixing alprazolam and alcohol because the depressive effect of these two substances can be addictive and may prove dangerous.
Benzodiazepines interact with the metabolism of some other medications. Alprazolam should be avoided by patients who are taking certain antifungal agents (ketoconazole and itraconazole) and antibiotics (cimetidine and fluvoxamine). Benzodiazepine drugs are potentially hazardous for pregnant women as they can cause birth defects in the fetus. In addition, these drugs pass into breast milk and can cause withdrawal symptoms in the newborn baby.

Anxiety Relief: How Long Does Xanax Take to Work?

Alprazolam is a commonly prescribed pharmacologic therapy for anxiety. Many people struggling with feelings of apprehension and nervousness are looking for quick relief. How long does Xanax take to kick in? Following ingestion of a tablet, alprazolam is absorbed quickly into the blood. The level of alprazolam in the blood depends on the dose. The drug reaches a peak concentration of about one to two hours after taking the tablet.
When an individual takes a tablet of alprazolam, they usually begin to feel the effects of the medication in less than an hour. However, regular use of the drug can lead to tolerance. In other words, with prolonged use, it may take longer for the medication to work and the effects may not be as strong.
How long does it take for the effects of Xanax to wear off? The drug has a half-life of approximately 11 hours, i.e., this is the time it takes for the quantity of the drug to reduce to half its initial value. It is important to understand that each person metabolizes the drug differently. The half-life of the medication can vary from 6 to 26 hours in different people. It can, therefore, take two to four days for the drug to be fully eliminated from the body. However, the effects of the drug fade before it is completely eliminated. Alprazolam is, therefore, prescribed in divided doses to maintain a constant blood level and ensure the person taking the medication continues to feel its effects.

Recreational Alprazolam Use: The Dangers of Getting High on Xanax

Young woman is lying on the floor with a lot of pillsWhy do people use alprazolam without a prescription? How does Xanax feel? The effects of a Xanax high include feelings of calmness, laziness, euphoria, relaxation, and drowsiness. People may use this drug recreationally to feel carefree, get relief from anxiety, and forget troublesome events. These effects are not unexpected because alprazolam is a narcotic drug that is prescribed to treat anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.
However, recreational Xanax, when taken without a prescription, can have unpredictable effects on the body, including many side effects. Blackouts are common amongst new users who take high doses of alprazolam or mix it with alcohol or marijuana. In the worst-case scenario, even the smallest dose can lead to a blackout or loss of control.
The inhibitory effects of the drug lead to an inability to control actions. This state can put the user in dangerous situations, such as robbery, suicide, or murder. The person using alprazolam recreationally may exhibit aggressive behavior towards other people. In some individuals, the drug affects memory and causes the brain to create false memories. In fact, short-term memory lapses can persist long after a person is Xanax-free.
Some of the side effects of unmonitored Xanax use include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Muscle aches
  • Skin rash
  • Impotence

With long-term use, abusers tend to develop a tolerance to alprazolam. This can lead the user to increase the dosage to feel the same effects progressively. This unmonitored increase in dose can lead to a physical dependence on the drug to a point where the person’s body cannot function without the drug. If untreated, this uncontrolled use of Xanax can lead to dramatic symptoms and may even prove fatal.
The long-term effects of Xanax abuse include impaired memory, depression, delirium, cognitive difficulties, psychosis, and aggressive behavior.

Benzodiazepine overdose is associated with severe signs and symptoms, including slurred speech, blurred vision, weakness, reduced respiratory rate, and coma.

Despite the dangers of alprazolam abuse, people still continue to use this drug without a prescription. There have been several cases documented where users overdosed on the drug or committed terrible crimes under its influence. However, it is possible to overcome alprazolam addiction. If someone is exhibiting warning signs of Xanax addiction, it is important to seek help. One of the most important factors in the addict’s recovery is the support and timely response from their family.

Xanax High Dosage: How Much Is Needed to Feel the Effects?

In the beginning, recreational users often feel Xanax high effects after they take small doses of the drug. However, with time, users stop feeling high with small doses and progressively increase their dosage.

This can lead to dramatic side effects and uncontrolled behavior, even to the point of Xanax bars high in which users end up hurting themselves or their family.

How much Xanax does it take to get high? The amount of the drug necessary to get high depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Height and weight
  • Metabolism
  • Psychological state
  • Tolerance to benzodiazepines
  • Severity of symptoms

Getting High: How Long for Xanax to Kick In?

Xanax kicks in very quickly and some people report feeling its effects within 5 minutes. Typically, the high wears off in 2-3 hours, although the effects of the drug may last for up to 6 hours. However, when taken without a prescription, the desirable effects of calmness and sedation can easily progress to undesirable effects such as impaired cognitive skills and slurred speech. In larger quantities, the drug has more dramatic effects such as disorientation and confusion. In fact, Xanax can quickly kick in and make a person non-functional when it is taken without medical supervision.

Safe Use of Alprazolam: Avoiding Addiction and Withdrawal

Benzodiazepine drugs, such as alprazolam, are anxiolytics. There is some risk of addiction and psychological dependence on Xanax even after relatively short-term use at recommended doses. Repeat prescriptions of this drug should be available only to people who are under medical supervision. This is especially true when the drug is prescribed at high doses for an extended period of time. People who have a history of drug or alcohol abuse are at greater risk of developing a dependence on alprazolam. It is, therefore, necessary to carefully monitor Xanax use when this drug is prescribed to addiction-prone individuals.

A physical dependence on Xanax can lead to a number of adverse health effects, some of which may be life-threatening.

The withdrawal symptoms of Xanax are similar to those seen with alcohol and other sedative and hypnotic drugs. When a person discontinues taking benzodiazepines, they may experience a range of symptoms, including:

  • Mild dysphoria (feelings of uneasiness and dissatisfaction)
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle cramps
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

The incidence and severity of withdrawal symptoms are related to the dose and duration of abuse. However, withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, have been reported after a person has taken Xanax at the prescribed dose. Withdrawal symptoms are more likely to occur if the drug is discontinued abruptly or the dose is reduced dramatically. If a person has been taking alprazolam at doses above 4 mg a day, the risk of withdrawal symptoms is higher. To avoid addiction and withdrawal symptoms, it is imperative that benzodiazepine drugs are taken under medical supervision.
To safely and effectively use prescription benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, users should:

  • Advise their physician about alcohol use and other medications they are taking
  • Inform their doctor about a confirmed or possible pregnancy
  • Inform their doctor if they are breastfeeding
  • Tell their doctor about any allergies to other benzodiazepines (diazepam, lorazepam)
  • Give a complete medical history including a personal or family history of substance abuse
  • Avoid driving a car or performing other potentially hazardous activities until they know how the medication affects them
  • Refrain from increasing the dose without consulting their doctor
  • Avoid stopping the medication abruptly or reducing the dose without medical supervision
  • Refrain from sharing their tablets or obtaining the medication from another person
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Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN
Nena Messina

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.


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