Most people have probably heard of Xanax bars, though they might not know exactly what kind of medication they are, or what they treat.
Alprazolam is the generic form of Xanax, a very strong and potentially habit forming sedative belonging to a class of drugs referred to as benzodiazepines.
When taken as directed, Xanax can be a useful medication for some people, though when misused or abused for recreational purposes, the drug can be seriously dangerous.
What are Xanax Bars?
Xanax bars are sometimes called “planks” or “bars” because they are rectangular-shaped tablets scored into four sections that can be broken down into quarters or halves and ingested individually.
A whole, unbroken Xanax bar is usually around 2 milligrams of the drug, though there are some lower doses of Xanax bars on the market.
Xanax also comes in other shapes and colors to signify the strength or manufacturer. Oblong-shaped pills are sometimes called “footballs.”
Benzodiazepines like Xanax or Alprazolam are often prescribed to treat the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders. They are also sometimes prescribed to treat insomnia, muscle spasms, and anxiety-induced depression.
Whether people are familiar with the word benzodiazepine or not, they have likely heard of other drugs in this classification, such as Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan.
Research shows that alprazolam is the most prescribed psychotropic medication in the United States, which means the drug is highly accessible and ripe for abuse because of it’s euphoria inducing side effects, especially among young adults and teenagers.
Alprazolam Side Effects of Xanax Bars
Benzodiazepines like Alprazolam or Xanax stimulate GABA in the brain, a chemical that calms and soothes the central nervous system in as a little as 20 minutes in some cases.
Depending on the dosage taken, the effects of Xanax bars can last from two to eight hours and may stay in the body for up to three days after the initial use.
Some common side effects of Xanax bars can include:
- Dry mouth and sleepiness
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Confusion and difficulty with motor skills
- Weight irregularities, either gaining or losing unnecessary pounds
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Low blood pressure and irregular heartbeat
- Mood swings, depression, or increased anxiety
- Addiction, especially if misused or abused, or taken for longer than prescribed
Because of the wide availability of Xanax and other benzodiazepines, they are often misused by teenagers who take them from the medicine cabinets of friends and family. Early drug abuse by teenagers has shown to create lifelong struggles with addiction.
According to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General, 70 percent of adolescents who try an illicit drug before the age of 13 will develop an addiction within seven years, compared with 27 percent for those who first try an illicit drug after the age of 17.
It’s not just teenagers who are at risk of physical and psychological addiction to Xanax or Alprazolam either. Anyone misusing the drug for recreational purposes, especially when mixing benzodiazepines with other substances, such as alcohol or opioids, is taking a serious risk with their overall health and their life.
Signs of Xanax Addiction
An addiction to Xanax bars or Alprazolam can occur in a relatively short amount of time. While a dependency to benzodiazepines is treatable, quitting all at once or going “cold turkey” is never recommended.
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be dangerous or even fatal. Anyone withdrawing from benzodiazepines like Xanax bars should be monitored in a professional drug detox setting due to the risk of heart rate irregularities and the potential for seizures.
Spotting abuse or misuse early on and getting a person professional help as quickly as possible can help prevent advanced symptoms of addiction or other unhealthy consequences from taking root.
Though the indicators of addiction will vary from person to person, there are some common signs that someone might be developing an addiction to Xanax bars.
Signs of Alprazolam or Xanax addiction may include:
- Sudden personality shift, going from a fun-loving person to someone struggling with depression or visibly isolating themselves from others
- Changes in friends or activities once enjoyed on a regular basis
- Problems at work or school
- Seemingly always tired or exhausted
- Slurred speech or a sudden lack of coordination
- Stealing Xanax or other benzodiazepines from the medicine cabinet
- Seeking prescriptions for Xanax, valium, Klonopin or other meds online
- Going to different doctors in an effort to get multiple prescriptions of Xanax
It’s common for some people suffering from the signs of an addiction to Xanax bars or other benzodiazepines to deny that they have any problem with the drugs or a dependence to them.
Others might recognize the dependency has become a problem and may attempt to quit on their own, only to fall back into continued use.
The more desperate a person with a Xanax addiction becomes to get their hands on the drug, the higher the risk of addiction becomes.
A deadly overdose is rare when using prescription benzos without other substances, but it can become a genuine concern when Xanax is used with alcohol or other drugs like opioids.
Dangers of Fake Pressed Xanax Bars
The increased abuse and relative ease of getting Xanax on the street comes with other problems. Counterfeit versions of the drug, often exactly resembling real Xanax bars or pills, have flooded many parts of the country.
In May 2020, Customs and Border Protection seized more than 350 pounds of fake pressed Xanax bars in just one bust.
That does not account for thousands of pounds of fake Xanax that successfully made it across the border and onto the black market.
What makes these counterfeit drugs so dangerous is the unknown ingredients they contain. In many cases, the extremely powerful and deadly opioid fentanyl may be used, which can quickly send a person into cardiac arrest and cause a fatal overdose.
Unfortunately, government data reports that fentanyl-related overdose deaths continued to rise from 2019 to 2020.
While Xanax bars have been a favorite recreational drug for teens and young adults for some time now, the risks of addiction and benzodiazepine withdrawal have always been an issue.
With the recent arrival of fake Xanax possibly containing fentanyl hitting the streets, recreational drug use of any kind has become extremely dangerous.
It’s just not worth taking a chance experimenting with illegal drugs, and anyone who is dependent or addicted should seek help.