History of Xanax
Xanaxis most commonly prescribed to treat:
- Panic disorders.
Dr. Leo Sternbach created the first benzodiazepine, chlordiazepoxide (Librium), in 1956 in an attempt to create safer, less addictive alternatives to traditional tranquilizer drugs such as alcohol, barbiturates, and meprobamate.
First introduced in the US market in 1981, alprazolam is distinguished by:
- Intermediate onset of action.
- Shorter half-life, or quicker elimination from the body than other commonly prescribed benzodiazepines such as Valium or Librium.
Xanax became widely used in anxiety disorders because it provides rapid symptom relief for these disorders (within a week of beginning treatment) and shows no decrease in its effectiveness over time, even when used for several years.
Like many other anxiolytic and sedative drugs, alprazolam works by binding ?-aminobutyric acid A (GABAA) receptors in the brain, which decreases the overall level of brain activity. By activating GABAA receptors, Xanax reduces feelings of anxiety and panic in patients, but it can also produce euphoria when taken in larger doses, leading some people to abuse this medication.
Abuse, Dependence, and Withdrawal Among Xanax Users
Although benzodiazepines were initially thought to have little potential for abuse , dependence and withdrawal symptoms are now well known for many of these drugs—including alprazolam.
In fact, severe withdrawal symptoms can be observed when individuals stop taking alprazolam suddenly—even in patients who take this drug exactly as directed. For this reason, doctors gradually reduce a patient’s dose over time before directing them to stop taking it altogether.
In users who become dependent outside of a doctor’s care, withdrawal symptoms are often pronounced and include:
Despite problems with abuse and withdrawal, Xanax is still commonly prescribed because it remains a very effective treatment for anxiety, and laboratory studies have suggested its abuse potential is lower than older alternatives. However, this does not suggest it has no potential for abuse or addiction. Non-medical use or inappropriate doses can quickly lead to a problem. Xanax dependency can lead to users to seek it out illegitimately for non-medical use.
The high number of legal prescriptions for alprazolam being issued has increased the availability of this drug on the street. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has identified “doctor shopping” and prescription forging as major sources of alprazolam on the black market.