G. Rodríguez, P. Carrasquillo, K. Luna, J. Mercado, A. Cedeño
University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, San Juan, PR.
Addiction and drug abuse are common social problems that are shared across the globe.
However, this topic is often limited to certain illicit drugs. Medicines such as barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines are prescribed drugs that could lead to their abuse and even addiction. Alprazolam, a benzodiazepine commercially known as Xanax, is a frequently prescribed drug used to treat multiple anxiety disorders. It works through the GABAergic system modulating the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Benzodiazepines arise as a substitute to barbiturates since the latter have been known to pose a risk of inducing respiratory depression. Being approved in 1981 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Xanax was developed because of its short-term higher efficacy as well as its higher tolerance against the placebo effect. This drug is classified as a Schedule 4 controlled substance, having low potential for abuse and dependence, which delimits its clinical applications. It has a high prescription rate, with an increase of three million prescriptions in 14 years (2004 – 2018), and, although it is described as a drug with low potential for addiction, it accounts for a high rate of abuse in young people, emergency room visits, and overdose deaths. Because Xanax’s primary pharmacological effects are sedation and anxiety reduction (anxiolytic), it is used to treat generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks, as well as alcohol withdrawal syndrome and depression. Nonetheless , as with all medications, multiple side effects could interfere with the overall health of the consumer, one of the most significant being the general depression of the central nervous system. Due to its abuse potential, Xanax could lead to the development of an addiction problem which in turn can cause other severe complications that should be treated.
Currently, treatment for Xanax addiction is primarily based on behavior modifications with the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and residential transfer treatments. Other options that are being studied at this time are substitute drugs, such as CBD and Flumazenil. Xanax is a highly prescribed and accessible drug, and it often does not cause physiological disorders after its use.
However, it is a drug that has the possibility to generate abuse, dependency and even addiction so it is necessary to acknowledge its limitations and be more aware of its administration. It is important to provide information about this drug and its possible adverse effects, not only to create awareness about the possibility of developing addiction, but also to promote the discussion of the available treatments for those who are already affected by this drug.