In the final decades of the 20th century, Valium was the anti-anxiety drug that was widely prescribed—and abused—by millions worldwide, especially women who were routinely advised to take it by doctors for everything from minor stress to genuine anxiety. Today, Valium is no longer as carelessly prescribed because of its well-documented addictive properties, but that doesn’t mean this type of drug is no longer in use.

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What Is Xanax?

Xanax, otherwise known by its generic medical name Alprazolam, falls under a class of drugs called Benzodiazepines. “Benzos” are generally prescribed as anti-anxiety drugs, muscle relaxants, and anticonvulsants to help people recover from certain types of muscle-related injuries. Xanax and other Benzos like it are classified as “Schedule IV” drugs. This means they are recognized to have legitimate medical uses, have relatively “low” addictive properties compared to other drugs, but can only be legally used when prescribed by a doctor, and are thus unavailable for off-the-shelf purchase the way other products like cough syrup or low-grade painkillers like Tylenol or Advil are.

Because Xanax is an anti-anxiety drug, doctors are widely prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and panic attacks. It is also sometimes prescribed as a treatment for insomnia. While some doctors may feel comfortable about immediately prescribing Xanax for dealing with stress, others may refer a patient to a psychiatrist first since psychiatrists specialize in dealing with psychoactive substances for dealing with emotional problems. It is usually through a prescription given by a doctor that most addiction will occur, requiring Xanax addiction treatment.

The Xanax Abuse Cycle

While Xanax is a Benzo, like Valium, the biggest difference between these two drugs is duration. Taking Valium results in anti-anxiety effects that last for 4-6 hours; however, the drug remains in the system for days. Conversely, Xanax has a shorter “half-life,” While its effects can last for a similar period of 4-6 hours, it starts to leave the system after about 11 hours. Xanax works relatively quickly, similar to painkillers, and the effects can be felt in as little as an hour after use. While a strong sense of “euphoria” is not common, it may occur in a small number of Xanax users. Most, however, feel a sense of relaxation and well-being from taking Xanax and, with prolonged or excessive use, can impair their cognitive functions. Forgetfulness and an inability to focus during activities that require concentration are common symptoms of Xanax use. While it does reduce anxiety and panic attacks, it also leaves users handicapped for activities that may require sharp or agile thinking.