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Can Xanax Make Anxiety Worse?
Xanax is a prescription anti-anxiety medication in a category known as benzodiazepines or benzos for short. Along with Klonopin, Valium, Librium and other benzos, it is most commonly prescribed for moderate to severe anxiety or panic disorders. But can Xanax make anxiety worse in some cases? The short answer is yes.
Now you’re probably wondering how can Xanax make you more anxious when it’s a drug designed to do the exact opposite? The answer to that question is a bit more complex. In this blog from 1st Step Behavioral Health, we will explain the ways in which Xanax can make anxiety worse and how Xanax and other benzodiazepines can easily get a person caught in a cycle of dependence and unwanted symptoms and side effects. We will also explain how to avoid the pitfalls of benzo addiction and how to get sustainable help for anxiety that really works.
What is Xanax? What are Benzos?
Xanax, also known as alprazolam, works much the same way as other drugs in the benzodiazepine class do. Benzodiazepines increase the effects of a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that help the brain send signals. They play an important role in how our brains function, and can affect our mood, behavior and even physical state.
What Does GABA Have to Do with Anxiety?
GABA works by inhibiting certain neurons from firing, thereby calming the activity of the nervous system. The primary effect of this is that it helps regulate mood and reduce anxiety. Ordinarily our brains produce enough GABA for us to be sufficiently calm and happy.
But some people’s brains do not produce enough GABA naturally and this condition can contribute to anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines can act as a short-cut to enhance the GABA activity for those people and offer them some relief from anxiety. How can Xanax make anxiety worse then? Well it begins with dependence and tolerance.
Is Xanax Safe or Can Xanax Make You More Anxious?
In short-term use as prescribed, benzo medications like Xanax can help people manage anxiety along with psychotherapy. However long-term use has become increasingly controversial and many doctors and psychiatrists are reluctant to prescribe benzodiazepines for long term use now. Part of the reason for this is that over time people develop a tolerance to benzodiazepines and may need more and more to achieve the same effect.
Benzo addiction is also a very real risk. Addiction to Xanax or other benzos sometimes occurs when people are taking the medicine as prescribed but they begin to develop a tolerance and need to take more and more to achieve the same results. Benzo addiction also occurs when these drugs are acquired illegally and used recreationally. In both instances, a person begins to take more than the prescribed amount and this is when they are at greater risk of even more dependence, tolerance and ultimately withdrawal symptoms.
In What Ways Can Xanax Make Anxiety worse?
You may have heard of Newton’s Third Law, Action and Reaction. It goes something like this: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. That’s essentially how Xanax withdrawal works. When you introduce a drug into your body that causes chemical changes in the brain, the brain adapts to the presence of that chemical. In the case of Xanax, the main chemical being acted on is GABA. When less Xanax (or no Xanax) is suddenly available, the brain cannot simply snap back to the condition it was in before the benzodiazepine was on board.
The result is a severe GABA deficit. This rebound effect is the primary way Xanax can make anxiety worse. Even a person who had an anxiety diagnosis and took the medication as prescribed can and often does experience rebound anxiety when they stop, which is worse than the anxiety they had to begin with. The side effects of Xanax withdrawal are very serious and sometimes fatal. No one should ever stop or dramatically reduce their dosage of Xanax or any other benzos
Some ways Xanax can make anxiety worse:
- Rebound anxiety when lowering your dose
- Severe anxiety in Xanax withdrawal
- Anxiety about refills when you use more than prescribed
- Anxiety brought about by buying drugs illegally
What Can I Do About My Anxiety if I Don’t Take Xanax?
This is a very common question, believe it or not. First, we need to preface this by again reminding you to NEVER stop taking a benzodiazepine like Xanax suddenly if you are a regular user, prescribed or not. Best case scenario you will have pretty unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can linger for weeks. Worst case, you could have a fatal seizure. You must always get medical attention to stop taking a benzo you’ve been taking regularly.
With that out of the way, there are a lot of interventions for anxiety now that don’t involve benzodiazepines and all their associated risks. Medications like BuSpar (buspirone), Vistaril (hydroxyzine) are proven effective for many. Antidepressants like Prozac (fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram) and Celexa (citalopram) also have anti-anxiety properties. Even beta blockers like Propranolol can help with anxiety.
The best part is, none of the above will cause rebound anxiety and none of them are addictive or habit forming. But remember too that medication isn’t the only solution to anxiety. Diet and exercise have a very real effect. You should also cut caffeine from your diet if you haven’t already. It’s a proven contributor to anxiety.
Non-Narcotic Help for Anxiety includes:
- Recovery-safe anxiety meds like BuSpar and Vistaril
- Antidepressants like Prozac or Lexapro
- Beta blockers like Propranolol
- Herbs and supplements (Valerian root, St. John’s Wort)*
- Regular strenuous exercise
- Prayer and/or meditation
What if I’m Dependent on Xanax and I want to Stop
If you or someone you love is dependent on Xanax, another benzodiazepine or any other substance, 1st Step Behavioral Health wants to help. We offer a medical detox to get you off of Xanax or just about anything else, safely and comfortably with 24-hour care. Our holistic alcohol and drug rehab center offers a gym and wellness center for chiropractic and massage therapy. Give us a call at (855) 425-4846 begin a chat on our site or submit your health insurance for verification using our confidential form here.
* Always talk to your doctor about potential drug interactions before taking any over-the-counter herbal supplement. St. John’s Wort is known to interact with some medications.