Many addictive substances are classified as either “uppers” or “downers”.  Uppers are stimulants while downers are depressants. These terms refer to the physical, mental, and emotional reactions an individual experiences while intoxicated by a specific substance. As stimulants, uppers produce an increase in energy, feelings of invincibility, and sharpened focus while downers act as depressants, inducing lethargy, feelings of euphoria, and relief from discomfort. 

While the reactions are oppositional in nature, both uppers and downers are equally capable of inflicting damage to the user.  Complications associated with uppers include rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and aggression whereas downers contribute to breathing suppression, low blood pressure, and impairment of motor skills. 

Is Xanax an Upper or Downer?

Xanax is a benzodiazepine, classifying it as a downer. Clinically known as alprazolam, Xanax is a commonly prescribed medication in treating anxiety and panic disorders. Currently, there are over 20 million active prescriptions in circulation, making it the 37th most frequently prescribed substance in the United States. According to the University of Virginia’s Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, Xanax carries high misuse liability and it is shown to result in a more severe withdrawal syndrome than other benzodiazepines, even when tapered according to manufacturer guidelines.

Side Effects of Xanax

Xanax produces a high in which the user experiences:

Sense of calm 




Slurred Speech 

Poor balance 

When used in excess or for a prolonged period of time, there is a possibility of experiencing the following:

Chronic imbalance 







Dangers of Xanax Abuse

As a medication, Xanax poses little risk when prescription guidelines are followed; however, abuse of this benzodiazepine often leads to serious health concerns. Having a high potential for abuse, Xanax stimulates the brain’s GABA receptors which are responsible for producing a sense of calm. After prolonged or excessive use, the brain becomes dependent on the substance to continue GABA functioning. Because of this dependence, seizures and other serious withdrawal symptoms may occur with abrupt Xanax discontinuance. 

In addition to the risk of developing seizure disorders, prolonged Xanax use has also been linked to the premature development of dementia. According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, the risk of developing dementia increased by 32 percent for people who had used benzodiazepine medications like Xanax for 3-6 months and by an alarming 84 percent in those who used it longer than six months.

Xanax abuse can cause many adverse reactions when abused on its own, but combining this benzodiazepine with other substances is extremely dangerous and one of the most common causes of overdose. When combined with alcohol, heart and breathing rates plummet, resulting in cardiac or respiratory suppression or arrest.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, the estimated number of Xanax-related emergency department visits doubled from 57,419 visits in 2005 to 124,902 visits in 2010 with 19 percent involving Xanax only and 39 percent involving a combination with another drug, most commonly alcohol.  

drug addiction

Asheville Recovery Center Can Help  

Xanax is a highly addictive depressant that has the potential to cause irreversible damage when abused. It is important to seek help immediately if you or a loved one is struggling with this addiction. At Asheville Recovery Center, treatment specialists have developed a unique, hybrid model of treatment which combines a traditional 12-step program with holistic rehabilitation. A multitude of services, programs, and therapies are offered, including the Partial Hospitalization Program, Residential-style treatment, outpatient rehabilitation, and more. 

The founders of Asheville Recovery Center, as well as many of our addiction therapists, have struggled with addiction and now enjoy life in recovery. They understand the struggles of addiction and how difficult it is to overcome alone. If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call (828)518-6996 and speak with an addiction expert today so you can take the first step towards a rewarding life of sobriety.

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