Column: Breaking up with Xanax

In Columns, Opinion
A blue shade sketch of a young blond woman smiling while taking a Xanax bar. Music lyrics in white font "I'm still so relaxed on Xanax" float among notes and clefs in the foreground.
(Illustration by Danielle Evangelista/Daily Titan)

College is supposed to be a time of experimentation and learning one’s limitations, but society’s normalization of powerful prescription drugs, like Xanax, is not something to mess around with.

The drug can help people with insomnia or some cases of anxiety, but taking it simply because it is easily accessible and a “quick fix” is unsafe and just plain dumb.

I started taking it because I was worrying all the time. I would shake and hyperventilate regularly. The worst was when I would waste all night staring at a blank wall until birds would started chirping, and the sun was coming up.

I knew I wasn’t OK, so I decided to self-medicate. At first, I told myself that as long as I only took a quarter of a bar, it would all be fine.

I found myself sleeping through the night and I was suddenly hooked. I started taking bigger pieces to help me sleep longer, feeling that bang of relaxation that would completely overtake my body after just a single beer or two.

I hadn’t thought about it too much until one day I realized that I was taking it to simply lay on the couch and watch a movie with my roommates. But I did nothing to change my habits.

The dependency began to take a toll on my health. I found myself showing more signs of depression. I told myself I was being hysterical, that I was simply taking it to get some rest. I could kick it to the curb at any time, right?

My friend encouraged me to quit after I scared her one night, intoxicated and crying. I popped one of those suckers in and was out cold in bed for about 18 hours. She could clearly see that I wasn’t doing well.

However, quitting only made my original symptoms worse. The insomnia came back, this time with more depressive tendencies and my heart felt like it was beating a million times a minute even when I laid in bed. I would shake excessively and all of it was too much to bear.

I eventually reached the lowest point I had ever been in in my life. I had been diagnosed with depression before as a teen, but this time around, it felt different. Going back to therapy, I learned that the depression had creeped its way back and I was also diagnosed with panic disorder.

My coping mechanisms weren’t healthy ones. “People get prescribed them all the time, how am I feeling worse instead of better now?” I constantly kept asking myself. The things I had heard about the drug were also eye-opening.

For example, one of the most common outcomes is the dependency that users develop. Someone using Xanax can become hooked in less than a month, even if taken in small doses, according to the American Addiction Centers. As tolerance builds, users tend to begin increasing their doses little by little.

Often times, those that suffer from anxiety are more susceptible to fall into depression. Prolonged use of the substance can actually deepen depressive symptoms, even after people stop taking the drug, which can also lead to higher suicide rates, the most serious side effect of Xanax, according to the American Addiction Centers.

Another factor is the intensified effects that the drug has when taken with alcohol, which can be deadly. Both substances are central nervous depressants and they amplify each other’s effects, which can cause many different harmful outcomes such as seizures and death.

Several of my friends have taken the drug while simply hanging out and having a drink. They felt sedated and were completely unaware of what others saw. They slurred their speech and had delayed reactions, which made interacting with them unpleasant.

With so many other more natural remedies and options, it would be foolish to believe that Xanax is more beneficial than many other things on the market for relaxation.

Stick to marijuana, kids.

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