Xanax Australia: The Growing Benzodiazepine Problem

Many Australians will struggle with mental illness at some point in their lifetime, with anxiety being prominent. For many people, their struggle with anxiety is temporary. The emotion is generally in response to something external. But there are times when a person’s anxiety isn’t a response to something external. 

For some people, anxiety isn’t a response to external stimuli, and it’s not temporary. For many people, anxiety is irrational and constant. They think of all the things that could go wrong in their life. They don’t want to think about them, but their brain doesn’t give them much choice in the matter, and it can negatively impact a person’s quality of life.

Anxiety disorders are treatable conditions. People usually go to therapy, join support groups, and take tablets to keep their anxiety in check. But while taking tablets can significantly reduce how severe anxiety symptoms can be, there are times when a person can become dependent on their pills or misuse them.

At Sivana Bali, we make it our mission to help people who have found themselves in a position where they’ve become addicted, regardless if it’s to an illicit substance or to a prescription medication that was supposed to make their lives better.

What is Alprazolam?

Alprazolam, known by the brand name Xanax, is a benzodiazepine medication belonging to the benzodiazepine class, commonly used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It works by enhancing the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has a calming effect on the nervous system.

Alprazolam helps alleviate symptoms such as excessive worry, restlessness, and sudden episodes of intense fear. It is available in various forms, including tablets and extended-release capsules, and is usually taken orally.

Due to its potential for dependence and abuse, it is typically prescribed for short-term use under close medical supervision. Common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, and changes in appetite. 

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications primarily used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. They enhance the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that induces calm and relaxation.

Common benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and lorazepam (Ativan).

These drugs are effective for short-term anxiety relief, but prolonged use can lead to dependence and tolerance. Because of the risk of addiction, benzodiazepines should be used under medical supervision.

Is it Legal to Prescribe Xanax in Australia?

A regular Australian can’t just get Xanax from a pharmacist. Since 1 February 2014, Xanax has been classified as a Schedule 8 controlled substance due to its potential for abuse and dependence. This step was taken in response to concerns over growing misuse in Australia.

Prescriptions for Xanax are typically restricted to short-term use to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Healthcare providers must follow strict guidelines, including thorough patient assessments and ongoing monitoring when prescribing this medication. A prescriber will generally consider alternative treatments before prescribing Xanax due to the risks involved with taking the drug.

Furthermore, patients may need to see a specialist or obtain approval from regulatory authorities for long-term use. Pharmacies also have strict controls in place for the distribution of Xanax, and they require proper documentation and identification.

Misuse of Xanax, including using it without a prescription or selling it, is illegal and can result in severe penalties. As such, while it’s legal to prescribe alprazolam, which can be the medicine people need to manage their condition, its distribution and use are carefully controlled by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to prevent abuse and ensure patient safety.

How Prevalent is Benzodiazepine Use in Australia?

Benzodiazepine use is relatively common in Australia. Many people in the country struggle with anxiety, and benzodiazepines such as alprazolam help with managing anxiety, insomnia, and various neurological conditions. Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggests that millions of prescriptions for benzodiazepines are dispensed annually, making them one of the most frequently prescribed medications in the country.

Despite the effectiveness of benzodiazepines, there is concern about their potential for addiction, misuse, and other adverse effects.

Furthermore, benzodiazepines are often implicated in drug-related hospital admissions and fatalities, especially when combined with other substances like alcohol or opioids. 

Efforts to curb misuse include tighter prescribing regulations, such as the 2014 reschedule of alprazolam, better education for healthcare providers, and public awareness campaigns.

Despite these efforts, benzodiazepines continue to be a critical component of therapeutic strategies for patients struggling with anxiety disorders, which highlights the need for its safe use and distribution.

Alternatives to Taking Alprazolam

There are several alternatives to taking alprazolam for managing anxiety and panic disorders. Non-medication approaches include cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which helps patients identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises, can also reduce anxiety symptoms. 

For those who prefer pharmaceutical solutions, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like sertraline and fluoxetine, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like venlafaxine, can be prescribed, and they carry a lower risk of addiction. Buspirone is another anxiolytic medicine that is non-addictive and can be used for long-term anxiety treatment. 

Lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and minimising caffeine and alcohol intake, can also significantly help manage anxiety. 

Treating Benzodiazepine Addiction

There are several alternatives to taking alprazolam to help patients manage anxiety and panic disorders. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises, can also reduce anxiety symptoms. 

For those who prefer medication, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as sertraline and fluoxetine, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), like venlafaxine, are commonly prescribed and have a lower risk of dependence. Buspirone is another anxiolytic that is non-addictive and can be used for long-term treatment. 

Professional treatment generally entails a combination of support groups, individual counselling, and detoxification, which can result in benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. To minimise the risk of withdrawal symptoms, it’s advised that patients taper off benzodiazepines and wean themselves off slowly.

You Can Overcome the Misuse of Alprazolam

For many people, becoming addicted to a prescription drug can feel particularly hopeless. Not only does a person have to deal with the addiction, but addressing it may potentially mean worsening the underlying condition.

This is why at Sivana Bali, we offer dual diagnosis treatment. It allows us to address a mental health issue at the same time as addiction, giving patients the comprehensive care and support they need to live healthier, sober lives. Contact us now, and our friendly team will provide you with all the information you need or answer any questions or concerns you may have.

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