Xanax and other benzodiazepines are medications prescribed for symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, or shortness of breath. But as many people know, benzodiazepines have progressed to one of the most prescribed drugs globally, and Xanax is among the most prescribed benzos available. Because of this, Xanax has helped lead the way in benzos’ new identity as a drug responsible for the newest drug epidemic, joining the ranks of methamphetamines and opioids. Besides the general list of potentially dangerous side effects associated with Xanax, one is especially alarming: suicidal thoughts. Here’s how taking Xanax can lead to suicidal thoughts.
When Symptoms Escalate
Benzodiazepines work by sedating the central nervous system, causing relaxation and euphoria. This makes them a go-to choice when users need a calming effect from symptoms like anxiety. But while these drugs are effective at managing these symptoms, they are not designed for long-term use. While the possibility of addiction can vary from person to person, many estimates state that most users will develop a dependency after several months of use. Once a dependency is developed, the question is no longer whether users will experience withdrawal symptoms as they attempt to come off the drug, but rather what kind of symptoms.
The FDA released its black-boxed warning for benzodiazepines in 2020. People could assume this warning is its statement about a particular drug’s potential for abuse and dependency. While this is true, it is helpful to know that the FDA has released a document that provides detailed information describing how and why it came to its conclusion that a drug is worthy of the infamous black-boxed warning. In its document about benzodiazepines, it encourages users to “be prepared to address more severe or life-threatening reactions,” which include “suicidal ideation and behavior.” The FDA even goes so far as to say that users should “consider all therapeutic options for management of the patient’s condition.” We should note that the FDA determines which drugs are worthy of the black-boxed warning by reporting and data, not speculation.
This shouldn’t surprise us, however. The wide range of Xanax withdrawal symptoms has been a topic of discussion for some time. Xanax withdrawal symptoms have been known to include symptoms that lead to suicidal thoughts, such as depression, panic, pessimism, and disturbed sleeping patterns. What we should recognize here is how withdrawal symptoms are intense experiences of what the drug is meant to correct in the first place: anxiety and insomnia. In this case, Xanax users can experience suicidal thoughts when trying to come off the drug on their own or when they have developed a tolerance to the drug.
Adding to the Risk of Self-Harm
While suicidal thoughts are a problem specifically for Xanax users, the possibility is much higher when Xanax is mixed with other drugs. In addition to the FDA’s black box warning for benzodiazepines, it released a warning in 2016 specifically about the elevated risks of using Xanax and other benzos along with opioids, such as oxycodone and morphine. Some of the risks include “extreme sleepiness, respiratory depression, coma, and death.”
Three years later, the University of Chicago Medicine published its findings on drugs linked to suicide attempts, with the opioid Vicodin and the benzo Xanax at the top of the list. Knowing that these drugs carry their own risk of suicidal thoughts and/or actions, it’s easy to understand why users who mix Xanax and opioids could experience this at deadly levels. The same is true when Xanax is mixed with alcohol. Apart from traffic incidents, 20 percent of alcohol-related deaths are the result of suicide. With each added layer of mixing Xanax with other substances, there is an added risk of self-harm.
Promoting Personal Well-Being
While suicidal thoughts or even attempted suicide is a troubling part of the risk associated with Xanax, this still should be considered as one part of the bigger picture. Like any drug, Xanax affects different people differently. Additionally, no two people are exactly the same in the financial, emotional, and relational dynamics of life. Because of this, it is possible to take Xanax without experiencing any suicidal thoughts and to experience suicidal thoughts long before turning to Xanax.
The most important thing here is to know the potential risks with Xanax and how they can quickly worsen over time. Xanax is especially dangerous because of how addictive it is, which means anyone taking the drug regularly will experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to come off the drug. Unfortunately, one of those is, you guessed it, suicidal thoughts. Because of this, it is important to deal with a Xanax addiction professionally, with a dedicated team that can help make your personal recovery a reality.