Xanax Bars and Teen Drug Abuse
As adults, it’s easy to forget the emotional and psychological turmoil that teenagers experience. The teen years are filled with insecurity, anxiety and a sense of pressure to conform to the social expectations of their peers. This is one reason why many teens experiment with drugs, to either “fit in” or dull the constant anxiety associated with these years. Experiments, however, very often lead down the darker road of addiction.
Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, which often goes by the names “Xanax Bars,” “z-bars,” “bars,” “planks,” “zanies,” or “blue footballs” because of the shape of the pill, have evolved into a dangerous party drug for some high school and college aged kids. For years, this medication has been over prescribed, making it easily accessible in medicine cabinets across the country.
The pharmaceutical company Upjohn introduced their anti-anxiety and panic attack medication in 1981. The powerful and addictive benzodiazepine, which has a calming effect on the central nervous system, became a bestseller.
According to Forbes, physicians now dole out an estimated 50 million prescriptions of Xanax or alprazolam, the generic form of the drug, every single year. To place that number in perspective, that exceeds more than one prescription every second.
Other Benzodiazepines include Valium, Klonopin and Ativan. Misusing and abusing this class of medication leads to a host of negative symptoms including memory loss and blackouts, which can put teenagers in particularly vulnerable situations. When mixed with alcohol and other drugs, the effects of Xanax are intensified and the result can be a fatal overdose.
Xanax is a fast-acting drug that metabolizes quickly in the body. It gets the user “high” and then wears off rapidly, leaving them wanting more. Benzodiazepine addiction comes with a myriad of side effects that varies among individuals.
What are the Side Effects of Xanax?
- Depression, irritability, confusion and memory impairment
- Drowsiness, low energy and fainting spells
- Dizziness, blurred vision and headaches
- Impaired coordination and abnormal involuntary movement
- Decreased libido
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Insomnia and dream abnormalities
- Chest pain and hyperventilation
- Nausea/vomiting, diarrhea and constipation
- Fluctuations in appetite, weight gain and loss
Benzodiazepine addiction is treatable, but it’s important that anyone with a dependence on this class of drugs seek professional treatment. Quitting Xanax and other benzodiazepines “cold turkey” is discouraged because of the potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms associated with it, such as a decreased heart rate and seizures, which can be fatal in some circumstances.
The transformation of Xanax and other benzodiazepines into party drugs for high school and college aged students is cause for concern. Because the drug is so often prescribed by the healthcare industry, there is the perception that it might not be dangerous, much less addictive.
The ramifications of early abuse and addiction can last a lifetime. The human brain is not fully developed, on average, until the age of 25. Substance abuse and dependence, any time during these years, can substantially alter the brain’s chemistry and unnecessarily handicap a teen’s full potential.
Friends, family and loved ones should be on the lookout for the signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction. Open and non-judgmental lines of communication are encouraged because it is very likely that anyone addicted to benzodiazepines, or any drug for that matter, might want to quit, but not know how to reach out for the help they need.
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