“Octomom” Enters Rehab For Xanax Addiction

Nadya Suleman, popularly known as the “Octomom,” has voluntarily entered rehab for  “anxiety, exhaustion, and stress” blamed on an addiction to Xanax.

She reported checked into the Chapman House Drug Rehabilitation Center in Southern California last week. A representative for Suleman told ABC News:L

Ms. Suleman has been taking Xanax that was prescribed by her doctor to deal with her anxiety but she felt she needed a treatment program to help with her recovery. She will be in treatment for 28 days or more if needed.

The rep added that “Although the rehab offered to treat her at no charge, Ms. Suleman opted to pay for the program.”

Suleman came to worldwide fame in 2009 when she gave birth to octoplets through artificial insemination. Sulemon, a single mother, already had six children at home (all conceived through artificial insemination as well).

Her struggles with providing for her children has been well documented, and she declared bankruptcy earlier in the year. But Fox News reports that her financial situation seems to have changed: “Suleman is reportedly no longer be drawing welfare as she is attracting six figures through stripping,  in addition to lucrative deals starring in such films as the X-rated flick ‘Home Alone.’”

Suleman’s children are being cared for during  her absence by three nannies and a couple of friends.

We’re covered a number of stories about anxiety disorder, most recently the one about Leann Rhines. So let’s talk a little about Xanax.

What is Xanax?

Xanax, chemical name alprazolam, belongs to a group of medications called Benzodiazepines (BDP). Other medications in this group include diazepam (Valium), triazolam (Halcion) and estazolam (ProSom).

They are considered CNS (brain) depressants, which are substances that can slow brain activity. As such, they are sometimes referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers.


Most CNS depressants act on the brain by affecting the neurotransmitter gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA). Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that allow communication between brain cells.  CNS depressants work through their ability to increase GABA—which inhibits brain activity.

Adding BDP increases the amount of GABA that binds to its receptors and opens a channel for chloride to pass into the cell. Increasing chloride in a nerve cell can slow or even block transmission of the nerve message.

This produces a drowsy or calming effect helpful to those suffering from anxiety or sleep disorders.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Alprazolam may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • drowsiness
  • light-headedness
  • headache
  • tiredness
  • dizziness
  • irritability
  • talkativeness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • dry mouth
  • increased salivation
  • changes in sex drive or ability
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • changes in appetite
  • weight changes
  • difficulty urinating
  • joint pain

Can Xanax Be Addictive?

Despite their many beneficial effects, benzodiazepines have the potential for abuse and should be used only as prescribed.

During the first few days of taking a prescribed CNS depressant, a person usually feels sleepy and uncoordinated, but as the body becomes accustomed to the effects of the drug and tolerance develops, these side effects begin to disappear. If one uses these drugs long term, larger doses may be needed to achieve the therapeutic effects. Continued use can also lead to physical dependence and withdrawal when use is abruptly reduced or stopped.

Because all CNS depressants work by slowing the brain’s activity, when an individual stops taking them, there can be a rebound effect, resulting in seizures or delirium tremens. Withdrawal effects from therapeutic dosages of benzodiazepines are mainly anxiety symptoms. In addition,  increased heart rate and blood pressure level, tremulousness, excessive sweating, insomnia and sensory hypersensitivity are common.

Although withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be problematic, it is rarely life threatening. Patients wishing to stop taking BDP’s should discuss this with their physician.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.


  1. Rohini Sigireddi

    November 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    The life and struggles of Nadya Suleman, the Octomom, exemplify the medicalization of everyday life, and the growing belief that modern medicine can solve all of life’s problems.

    Suleman sought in vitro fertilization (IVF) when she was unable to have children, an issue that led to the dissolution of her marriage. Through IVF, she delivered six children in separate births, and much to the dismay of critics, a set of premature octuplets.

    Unfortunately, biomedicine could not finance Suleman’s large brood, and she soon began receiving government welfare and later declared bankruptcy. In an attempt to resolve her financial woes, Suleman entered the adult film industry, and sought plastic surgery to improve her employment prospects. Suleman’s liposuction and implants also redressed her insecurities about her physical appearance, after bearing 14 children.

    Most recently, the Octomom has presented herself with an anxiety disorder so severe that she had to be prescribed Xanax. I wonder if Suleman really had an anxiety disorder, or if her “disorder” were in fact the medicalization of the worries any single mother would have when having to provide for 14 children and succumbing to a career in pornography. Despite the medicalization of anxiety, the condition itself is difficult to medically verify. Should psychiatrists check the gammaaminobutyric acid levels of their patients to confirm an anxiety disorder? Furthermore, I question the efficacy of anti-anxiety drugs, which only treat one cause of anxiety, are highly addictive, and ironically lead to “anxiety, exhaustion, and stress,” the very symptoms they are meant to treat.

    The case of the Octomom leaves us to question whether or not modern medicine can truly better our lives. Suleman turned to biomedicine to solve her relationship, appearance-related, and emotional challenges, but is now in rehabilitation. As more of life’s problems become medicalized and treated with modern medicine, will individuals face outcomes as tragic as those of the Octomom?

  2. Katharine Yang

    December 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Modern medicine has definitely played a large role in healing and saving lives, but in order to reap its benefits, they must be used properly. Patients can easily make poor choices from inducing behavioral changes that induce physicians to prescribe a certain medication to getting repeated plastic surgeries that ultimately do more harm than good.

    In the case of Nadya Suleman, it seems that the life choices she made regarding the 14 children she has to single-handedly raise, has indirectly induced her anxiety disorder, her career into X-rated films and stripping, and her need to enter rehab. If anyone were put it her position, they would be getting anxious as well! These choices have unfortunately led to a downward spiral.

    Though there is doubt whether or not she does have an “anxiety disorder,” I would not doubt that she was undergoing mental issues. Anxiety may be a socially defined term, but when symptoms are apparent (and I am sure there are, based on her environmental situation), the CNS depressant Xanax is the clinically relevant drug to treat her condition. Ever since the introduction of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III), these more “social” diseases were more medically defined. Though many have mixed thoughts about the medicalization of social diseases, it has been well-accepted in our medical culture, and perhaps even the source of greater addiction problems, as psychiatrists are more prone to prescribe medications than provide psychological, humanist-like therapy.

    But by making the decision to accept that this disease is medical and not one that can be solved on one’s own, patients run into the risk of addiction, which is seen in the case of Octomom. She potentially could have also taken the path of not taking the drug and facing the anxiety by seeking help to change her environment and better her lifestyle. Thus, to me, effective medicine must be practiced by both the physician and the patient. It is the job of the physician to gauge how well giving a medication will affect the patient and the job of the patient to remain compliant and be invested in his/her care.

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