People have been using mind-altering substances recreationally for thousands of years. One of the first substances to be used recreationally was alcohol, which was being created as much as 9,000 years ago. Of course, alcohol is far from the only substance that’s currently available.
There are dozens — if not hundreds — of other addictive intoxicants that are in widespread use, most of which are divided into one of three categories:
The latter group has become particularly problematic in recent years as rates of alcohol, opioid, and benzodiazepine addiction have skyrocketed. With regard to benzodiazepines, there’s one particular drug that’s become extremely popular among recreational drug users and that drug is called Xanax.
View All Depressants
WHAT EXACTLY IS XANAX?
While stimulant drugs “stimulate” the central nervous system, depressants “depress” the central nervous system. In other words, depressants cause an individual to experience a major decrease in his or her energy level. Over the course of human history, there have been a number of depressant substances to become popular, with the first being alcohol.
While some would say that alcohol is the most dangerous depressant due to its legal status, the many prescription depressants that have been developed were spread liberally throughout the U.S. and abroad, resulting in a number of pharmaceutical drugs reaching epidemic-like levels of abuse. Xanax, in particular, is one of those pharmaceutical drugs that became and remains a major issue to this day.
By the mid-twentieth century, people were realizing the dangers of the class of drugs known as barbiturates, which could be considered a predecessor to benzodiazepines. Among their many other drawbacks, barbiturates had a much stronger potential for dependency. Therefore, a number of chemists and pharmaceutical researchers were attempting to develop substances that could be used to treat similar things as barbiturates while minimizing the amount of danger that they’d put patients in.
Likewise, the psychological community was noticing a great need for medications that were relatively mild but could assist with symptoms of mental disorders. The benzodiazepine, alprazolam — most familiar by its trade name Xanax — was created in the late 1960s. However, it wasn’t until 1981 that it was actually made available to the public.
Initially, the purpose of Xanax was to treat insomnia and depression, as well as to have similar properties as muscle relaxants. Since then, we’ve come to realize that the drug has a number of different applications. In addition to being an anxiolytic (treatment for anxiety), Xanax is also an:
- Muscular and skeletal relaxer
- Amnestic (It has a negative impact on memory while actively in a user’s system)
Perhaps not surprisingly, Xanax had a difficult time getting approved, which is why it took over a decade for the drug to be made available. While the drug had been partly intended to be an antidepressant, it ended up being approved as an anti-anxiety medication. This is largely how Xanax is used today.
After its approval, Xanax grew rapidly in popularity over the next several decades. In fact, Xanax was the 12th-most-prescribed pharmaceutical drug in the United States in 2010. Somewhat ironically, it has been favored by medical professionals because Xanax isn’t as harsh on the body as barbiturates and even other benzodiazepines, but it has also quickly become one of the preferred pharmaceutical drugs of substance abusers.