The Xanax Effect: Why Christianity and Xanax Don’t Mix
If you have any idea of what’s going on in America then you’re probably aware of the prescription medicine Xanax and the dangers it brings in it’s tidy orange bottles. Xanax is an anti anxiety medication that’s labeled as a sedative for those who have panic attacks or are simply stressed out from the trials of life. It was originally created to be a safer, less addictive, alternative than traditional barbiturates. This, however, didn’t turn out to be the case because Xanax is one of the most commonly abused drugs this country has ever seen.
In 1981, Xanax exploded on the US market as a savior for the anxious. Never-mind the fact that humans had lived for thousands of years without needing a chemical aid in facing everyday life; this new potion promised us a better way than we had previously known. In laymen terms, this pill provided rapid system relief for anxiety disorders within a week of taking it. It also promised that it would show no decrease in it’s effectiveness over time. It didn’t take long until people bought into those promises and lined up in doctor offices everywhere to get their fix.
Yet, the results of what I call the “Xanax Effect” wouldn’t be seen for years. No one bothered to ask what future price our society would pay for taking this wonder drug. No critic demanded to know what this concoction actually did to the brain or nervous system. There wasn’t a soul who worried about their future kids stealing this “innocent” medication from their cabinets in twenty years because it was addictive to taste and seductive to touch. Hence, the question arises: How does it work and what are the statistics telling us about Xanax?
Simply put, when someone pops Xanax their brain activity is decreased. There are certain receptors in your brain, and when those receptors are activated by the chemicals in this pill they reduce your natural feelings of anxiety. The issue with this process is that the brain wasn’t built to be slowed down by a medication. Like a narcotic pain medication, it takes some sort of euphoria to replace the “bad feelings” of worry that people who take Xanax are trying to escape. This is why people can abuse Xanax and become hooked on the feeling of being relieved from the natural process of worry that we all have inside of us.
It’s important to remember that these Benzos were originally thought to have little potential for abuse. But, human nature will abuse anything it finds pleasurable and Xanax has fell victim to that as well. Since 2006, the world has seen a rapid increase in the number of people admitted to rehab for Xanax abuse. In 2013, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health said younger adults (18-25) were the most likely to have abused Xanax for non medical purposes. That’s a fancy way of saying young people have turned this brain slowing medication into a party drug.
The rate of emergency room visits by young people on Xanax is even more disturbing. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that more than 50% of nearly 176,000 emergency room visits for Xanax related issues also involved alcohol or other street drugs. This means that young people are mixing Xanax, an anti anxiety drug, with street drugs such as cocaine or alcohol. (That’s sad that it’s become a norm in our society and it’s even sadder that people’s conscience has become so seared that we accept it as a fact of life for our younger people.)
Google trends also shows that the monthly numbers of searches including the term “Xanax” have nearly doubled since 2004 and when you add that with the fact that over 49 million scripts were written for it in 2012 then the picture becomes clearer on why so many people are hooked on this pill.
I personally can attest to the horrors of abusing Xanax. It actually was the first pill I ever abused and I can’t tell you about the night that I did it because I blacked out. Of course, losing your wits and blacking out has become “cool” in our culture and something to brag about at work on Monday, so I didn’t see anything wrong with this process at the time. After a few years, however, these black outs became more frequent and my withdrawals became more dangerous. I have a pretty high physical pain tolerance, but those days of trying to detox off Xanax were extremely painful for me. My brain would throb and my body would ache. My thinking was cloudy and I couldn’t stay awake for more than an hour. It was hell.
Now that I’ve been off Xanax for a period of years and the Lord has changed my heart, I can look back at that time with a different perspective. Don’t get me wrong, the abuse was my fault. I fully accept responsibility for my actions. Yet, the pill was also everywhere. Most of the time me and my friends would steal them from our parents and grandparents medicine cabinets. The cost for the scripts are low, ($17-$27 for 30 2mg tablets), and that enables people to stock pile them with ease. On the streets we would have to pay nearly $5 bucks per pill so stealing them from the parents was our best bet to keep the party going.
I’m telling you this because, as a Christian, I’m now looking back and wondering why so many adults were on these pills in the first place? Most of the people I stole them from claimed to be professing believers yet they were so full of worry they needed them as much as I did, an addict, in order to stay functioning in life.
My point isn’t to bash people on Xanax because I too once took them in order to escape the pain of worrying about losing control of my life. My pain tolerance for that fear was extremely low and I sought to escape it through the wonders of prescription medicine. The truth is if Christ had not intervened in my life then those pills would have killed me, so I have nothing but mercy for those who are still on them.
What I am saying is that if you look into the inner workings of Xanax then it’s easy to see how a lack of faith in God and His sovereignty can lead to the type of anxiety that requires a medication to tame. A panic attack comes from someone realizing they have zero control over a situation and that thought haunts them until they are overwhelmed to the point of sickness. In the Christian life, these things shouldn’t be so.
In closing, instead of trusting in the world’s medication to slow our brain down so we don’t have to face reality, we should admit our weakness and fears to God and trust in Him to strengthen us. We should ask Christ to show Himself faithful to us in our darkest hours of mistrust. As a younger Christian I struggle with not knowing my future. I understand the heartache of fearing the unknown. I taste the pain of worrying about how I will meet future challenges in areas where I feel unequipped. During those seasons there are times I want to quit pressing on as well, but it is my faith that pushes me into God’s arms and not into a pill bottle.
So, whether we pop one a day or fifty a week, when we take Xanax we are making the claim that God and His Word are not sufficient for the worries of today. Let us repent if this is the case and let God pour His sustaining grace into our souls. Come quickly Lord Jesus.