Last updated: 04/22/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Nowadays, most everyone knows about opiate drugs and how addictive they can be. What many may not realize is an addiction to Xanax can be just as bad as an addiction to opiates.
Xanax belongs to the benzodiazepine class of drugs, which act as central nervous system depressants. Considering how opiates also act as central nervous system depressants, a Xanax addiction develops in much the same way as an opiate addiction.
Understanding the similarities that exist between these two drug types can go a long way towards helping you avoid the pitfalls of Xanax addiction.
Benzodiazepines and Opiates
Even though benzodiazepines and opiates belong to different drug classes, they still produce the same types of effects on brain and central nervous system functions. Both drugs act as depressants, slowing chemical activities in the brain and nerve signal communications throughout the body.
Both drugs also interfere with the brain’s dopamine neurotransmitter processes, which ultimately lies at the root of opiate addiction, according to Macalester College, as well as Xanax addiction.
Similarities Between Xanax and Opiates
Brain Tolerance Effects
Opiates, like oxycodone, fentanyl and heroin produce pain-relieving effects, whereas Xanax works to relieve anxiety-based symptoms. Opiates work by forcing the brain to increase its production of serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters. Xanax increases GABA and dopamine outputs.
In both cases, the brain works to accommodate drug effects by decreasing its own neurotransmitter production rates. The end result sees a person having to keep increasing drug dosage amounts in order to experience the desired effects of the drug. Xanax addictions and opiate addictions develop out of the brain’s growing need for more of the drug.
Over time, the repeated use of Xanax and opiates creates a state of chemical imbalance in the brain. As chemical imbalances grow, the brain becomes more and more dependent on the drug to function normally.
Withdrawal episodes take shape whenever needed amounts of the drug are lacking or when a person tries reduce dosage amounts. Much like increasing tolerance levels, withdrawal episodes drive continued drug use as users attempt to relieve uncomfortable withdrawal effects by using more of the drug.
More than anything else, a drug’s ability to interfere with the brain’s dopamine chemical levels most determines its overall addictive potential. As Xanax and opiate drugs both interfere with dopamine production in similar ways, a Xanax addiction is no less dangerous than an opiate addiction problem, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Once addiction develops, the areas of the brain that regulate thinking, emotions and learning become dependent on the drug’s effects to cope with and manage daily life pressures and responsibilities. At this point, compulsive drug-using behaviors start to take shape.
When all is said and done, the damage caused by Xanax addiction is just as bad as opiate addiction. In either case, a person stands to see ongoing decline in his or her physical and psychological well-being when using these drugs on an ongoing basis.
Ultimately, a very real need for treatment help will eventually develop, so it’s best to get help early on than wait for a drug problem to spin out of control.