Is Xanax More Addictive Than Heroin?

If you have been following substance abuse trends in America, it will come as no surprise that heroin and Xanax are two of the most abused drugs in the country. And there is no shortage of studies available to substantiate this claim. In one study, in particular, published by the National Institutes of Health, researchers revealed that nearly 950,000 Americans reported using heroin in 2015. Although this data is several years old, this unsettling trend does not appear to be slowing down. According to the same study data, an estimated 170,000 people in America said they started using heroin for the first time in 2016, nearly doubling the more than 90,000 first-time users recorded in 2006. Turning our attention to Xanax, although perfectly legal with a valid prescription, many Americans have admitted to abusing this particular drug at one time or another. And this is evidenced in a study published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which found that an estimated 16 percent of overdose-related deaths involved benzodiazepines, one of which being Xanax.

Is Xanax More Addictive Than Heroin?

For years, there has been some debate concerning whether Xanax is more addictive than heroin and vice versa. In truth, there is no easy way to answer this age-old question. And this is because each drug works differently in the body after an individual consumes them. Xanax, for example, works by elevating gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain. When this happens, it elicits feelings of calmness and relaxation that help combat feelings of anxiety. However, this can come at a price insofar as the calming and relaxing effects associated with this benzodiazepine are the very things that drive many people to abuse it to the point that they develop a severe addiction.

Much like Xanax, heroin also affects the brain shortly after the drug enters the body, albeit much differently. Studies show that once an individual consumes heroin, either by smoking or injecting it, the drug almost immediately begins the process of binding to and activating specific receptors in the brain known as mu-opioid receptors (MORs). The drug also binds and activates delta (DOR) and kappa (KOR) receptors in the brain. However, mu-opioid receptors are the primary target. This process makes heroin and similar opioids effective in easing pain. But it also triggers a euphoric high by activating the reward center of the brain. And for many people, the desire to repeatedly achieve the same high is what leads to addiction.

Additional Factors That Can Contribute to Addiction Among Those Who Abuse Xanax and Heroin

Unfortunately, some people are more likely to become dependent on Xanax and heroin than others. The same is generally true for many other prescription and street-level drugs as well. And there are several reasons why this is the case. According to many physicians and addiction experts in rehab facilities across America, the following are all factors that can increase an individual’s chances of developing an addiction:

  • Gender
  • Genetics
  • Stress
  • Age
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Socioeconomic status
  • A co-occurring mental health disorder

The frequency of use and amount of a given drug an individual consumes can also dictate how likely they are to develop an addiction. For example, individuals who take Xanax to combat anxiety will typically start by taking a 0.25 to 0.5 mg dose of the drug three times per day as directed by their physician. Eventually, they might titrate up to a maximum dosage of 4 mg per day if necessary. Many people who take Xanax explicitly to get high will usually exceed the recommended and even maximum dosage of the drug, which, in turn, sets the stage for addiction. Heroin, on the other hand, is a different matter entirely since it is a street-level opioid that has no recommended guidelines for dosing or frequency. With that being the case, many people will consume however much of the drug it takes to achieve a desired high and developing an addiction in the process. In fact, many people become addicted to heroin after taking just one hit of the street-level opioid, according to a study published by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Bottom Line

All in all, Xanax and heroin are both highly addictive drugs and can have devastating consequences the longer an individual continues to abuse them. Having said that, if you have a problem with either or perhaps both of these drugs, and you’re ready to break the cycle of addiction, consider speaking with one of our addiction experts today at 833-497-3812.