How to Benefit from Alprazolam Without Actually Taking It – Psychology Today

Many roads to contentment begin with self-forgiveness. It is among the most difficult—and most important—steps one can take.
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Posted April 28, 2021 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
Many people who experience anxiety or panic might be prescribed Alprazolam, which is typically commercially sold under the brand name Xanax. Alprazolam is part of a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. This class of drugs is utilized to help calm a person’s brain down very quickly. Therefore, it is no surprise that those suffering with panic disorder or other types of anxiety conditions will be prescribed Alprazolam.
Although this can be a huge help for those who experience moments of panic, there are consequences to taking Alprazolam, ranging from mild to severe. Doctors will typically prescribe Alprazolam for short-term usage only, to avoid a person becoming dependent on the medication. Ideally, Alprazolam should be utilized while a person is also learning behavioral strategies to calm the nervous system. The goal is for the individual to reach a point where they can use the behavioral strategies alone to experience symptom relief.
My concern, as a psychologist, is that a person will not practice the behavioral intervention strategies, but rather immediately turn to Alprazolam. I had a client some years back who was diagnosed with PTSD, OCD, and Panic Disorder. Her doctor had prescribed Alprazolam. But even though the physician had prescribed a very low dosage, she was still reluctant to take it for fear that she would become “hooked.”
This client was set in wanting to only use cognitive/behavioral techniques to control the symptoms of her psychological conditions. Together, we developed a plan for her. I recommended that she fill the prescription and keep some pills in her purse, some in her office, and some at her house.
I explained to her that she never had to actually take any of them. However, just knowing that they were nearby at all times made her feel “secure” in the knowledge that she could exit out of panic any time, by just cracking open the prescription bottle. Of course, she was also instructed to continue practicing her cognitive-behavioral therapy strategies. This created a “safety net” feeling for her.
The client explained that this plan worked excellently. She described feeling a panic attack coming on. She knew that she could grab a Xanax at any moment if the panic became too intense. However, she delayed reaching for the medication by telling herself to keep trying the behavioral interruption strategies first.
After using a couple of interruption strategies, as well as other CBT techniques, the client began feeling calmer and decided she did not need to actually ever take Alprazolam. Many other clients have had success with what I call a “placebo” technique.
This plan of action also works well for those diagnosed with specific phobias. I once worked with a man in his early 30’s who had a severe phobia of flying. When he needed to take a flight for work, he tried this technique with great success. He explained that his desire to use Alprazolam as a “last resort” pushed him to use his behavioural techniques. He believed that he would not have focused and practiced his behavioral interventions as much had he not had a Xanax tucked away in his pocket.
Remember, when creating any behavioral plan or therapeutic intervention, it is important to work with a licensed and trained professional.
Ilisa Kaufman, Psy.D., is a Miami based psychologist who specializes in the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
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Many roads to contentment begin with self-forgiveness. It is among the most difficult—and most important—steps one can take.

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