Xanax (Alprazolam) was introduced in 1969 and is the one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in America, according to data from IMS Health, a health care information company. In 2006, 37.5 million prescriptions for it were dispensed, up from 29.9 million in 2002.

The half-life for Xanax is short–6-12 hours. This means that it is quickly metabolized and transferred to the brain, which increases the actions of GABA and thus causes more chloride ions to reach the cells.  Of course, this means that the calming effect of Xanax starts quickly and this is one of the reasons that it becomes so addictive so fast.  (To feel the effect quickly is why people snort cocaine up their nose or inject heroin in their veins.)  However, conversely, the effects lessen rapidly as well.

Initially, Xanax will be adding to the effect created by your own GABA.  However, in anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, the use of Xanax will normally lead to a decrease in your production of GABA.  To achieve the same initial effects, the Xanax dose will have to be increased to compensate for the lack of natural GABA—the person has developed a physical dependence on Xanax.

Most people develop a tolerance to Xanax and are required to take more and more and start craving the drug when the effects of the drug begin to lessen—in a relatively short time after taking drug. There have been reports that people taking larger doses of Xanax became physically dependent in as little as two days.  As with most drugs, the larger the dose, the faster one becomes addicted to Xanax.

Because of its addictive qualities, Xanax is only approved by the FDA for up to 8 weeks of use and it is only approved for up to 4 weeks of use in Great Britain.  While there is nothing illegal about a doctor prescribing Xanax for long-term use, and many psychiatrists and medical doctors do, it should be understood that this practice can create serious problems for the patient.

Xanax and other Benzos are increasingly being used, mostly without prescription, by younger people seeking a high, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  A government survey in 2000 found that about 5 million Americans have abused Xanax or a similar anti-anxiety drug at some point.

Xanax has proven to be one of the most difficult drugs from which to detox people.  While the reasons for this difficulty are not completely understood, there is evidence that long-term Xanax usage actually causes changes in brain chemistry and this can explain why withdrawal symptoms may commence many weeks after the last Xanax dose.  It is a very dangerous drug.