Xanax, also called “Xannies,” “Footballs,” “Sticks,” or “Bars” is the popular drug on and around the block. Originally designed to treat acute panic attacks, Xanax is a Benzodiazepine (ben-zoe-dye-AZE-eh-peen,) also known as a Benzo. This medication works by suppressing the output of neurotransmitters that interpret fear and slowing down brain activity, thereby producing a calming effect. It enters and leaves the system quickly. But before you get swept up into thinking that Xanax is a safe, “chill pill” answer-to-anxiety, there are a few things you should know:

  • There is a connection between Benzos and Alzheimer’s disease. Among a group of 10,000 elderly citizens in Canada, those who had ever taken Benzos for six months were 84% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. (Researchers at France’s University of Bordeaux)
  • Regardless of the dosage, when attempting to quit Xanax, it is important to do so only under medical Otherwise, there is a risk of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome: seizures and heart failure can occur, as well as panic attacks, hallucinations, psychosis, and suicide.
  • Very serious interactions can occur when mixing Xanax with alcohol.
  • Entries to rehabs that involve Benzo use tripled between 1998 and 2008, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
  • Emergency room admissions associated with the non-medical use of Xanax doubled in 2005 from 57,419 to 124,902 in 2010.
  • Xanax corrupts judgment, memory, and self-control leading users to misjudge how badly they’ve been impaired. This can cause users to overdose easily on drugs or alcohol. Xanax-induced temporary amnesia can also cause users to forget how many pills or alcohol they’ve ingested, increasing the lethal risk.
  • People taking Xanax are more likely to act violently, loose inhibitions – act crazy, crash cars, and get into other types of trouble.
  • Many recovering addicts report that trying to get off of Xanax is equally as difficult, if not more so, than kicking a heroin habit.
  • According to The American Geriatric Society, the risk of motor vehicle accidents, falls, and hip fractures leading to hospitalization and death more than doubles in older adults taking benzodiazepines.
  • A pregnant woman taking Xanax can harm her unborn baby.
  • Many celebrities who have died from drug complications were on Benzos. Those rumored or confirmed to have been on benzos at the time of death were: singer Amy Winehouse, actress Brittany Murphy, DJ AM (Adam Goldstein,) actor Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson and singer Whitney Houston.
  • The most popular form of Xanax is oblong, white, cylinder-shaped tablets. They contain two milligrams of the drug and are commonly referred to as “Sticks” or “Bars,” due to their shape. Also commonly seen are the one milligram, blue tablets, often called “Footballs” because they are shaped as such. The Sticks are usually sold at $5.00 per pill; the Footballs at $2.50.
  • Xanax is considered the strongest and most dangerous out of all the benzodiazepines; primarily due to the short-acting nature of the drug. The drug delivers its sedating effects very quickly, and leaves the system equally as fast, increasing its potential for abuse and addiction.
  • Other brand names of Benzodiazepines, similar to Xanax, include Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan.

There is a growing number of anti-benzo psychologists who believe Americans would be better, and healthier if they learned to manage their anxiety without pills. They think that people should feel their feelings and navigate life’s tough spots by themselves.

“According to Steven Heyers, CASAC-T of The SAFE Foundation, “One of the reasons it is so difficult to break an addiction to Xanax (or any other substance,) is because the drug comes to occupy a real presence in the person’s life. He or she develops a relationship with the substance and may find that, in addition to struggling with physical dependence, they have come to rely on the drug as a coping mechanism for various emotional concerns such as stress, anxiety, self-esteem, depression, low confidence levels, etc. Once the drug is removed, they miss the feeling and the relief it provided. This why having a strong support system in place raises the chances of beating an addiction, developing a sense of self, independent of drug use, and reclaiming one’s life.”

This article has been adapted from information on the following sites: rehabs.com, wikipedia.org, drugs.com, prdhealth.com, nymag.com.