The circumstances of Whitney Houston's demise have dominated headlines and search trends since news outlets first reported of her death. Her struggle with addiction was covered extensively by the media, and even discussed candidly by Houston herself during several high-profile interviews. Though toxicology reports needed for definitive answers have yet to be released, there has been no delay in rumors and speculation regarding what drugs may have been involved in the loss of this legendary and undeniably gifted songstress. Xanax (generic name alprazolam) and alcohol have been named specifically. Whether or not these substances are ultimately named as factors in Houston's death, the mere perception that they could be raises questions - particularly about prescription psychiatric drugs. Here are some answers.
What is Xanax?
Xanax is a prescription medication for anxiety disorders (some outlets have incorrectly reported that it is an anti-depressant). It works by acting on GABA receptors, the "brakes" of the brain. It is part of the benzodiazepine class of medications and is in a larger group of medications commonly referred to as "downers" or "sedatives."
While many people with anxiety disorders benefit from treatment with them, benzodiazepines have the potential to become addictive and can be abused. Drugs that people feel the effects of quickly and that leave the system quickly are more likely to be abused. Of the benzodiazepines, Xanax is one of the fastest acting and most potent.
Are all anxiety medications potentially addictive?
No. There are other kinds of medication for anxiety that affect the brain differently than Xanax and the other benzodiazepines.
Are drugs like Xanax dangerous?