“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.

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