The Connection Between Xanax and Cancer

For people taking Xanax to treat their anxiety, it could be potentially concerning to hear about the possible link between Xanax and cancer. But is this actually true? If so, such a serious issue of using Xanax and other related benzodiazepines should cause people great pause before taking this medication. If not, where did this rumor come from? Here’s what you need to know about the connection between Xanax and cancer.

When the Warnings Started

Xanax comes from the polarizing class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. These drugs were initially marketed as safer alternatives to barbiturate drugs. At one time, they were the most widely used prescription drug. Xanax is certainly the most popular of the various benzodiazepines, and it’s generally prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It is also used as a sedative. Beyond personal use via prescription, Xanax and other benzodiazepines treat people undergoing alcohol detox and even opioid recovery programs, too. However, these drugs are also notorious for their highly abusive and addictive potential.

So what makes Xanax, in particular, a culprit in developing cancer? Unfortunately, there are conflicting studies related to this. Some studies assert that Xanax does not have a direct link to causing cancer whatsoever, while others argue that it can only be linked to certain types of cancer. For example, The Guardian reported in recent years that there is a link between Xanax and the development of lung cancer. Still, other studies conclude that only certain benzodiazepines, not including Xanax, have a link to cancer. The medical research verdict at this point is “unclear,” which unfortunately means we just don’t know yet.

Is Cancer a Necessary Side Effect?

What we do know might make a big difference, though. Xanax comes from a long history of drugs initially marketed as safe. At first, barbiturates were thought to be safe drugs to treat many of the same symptoms that benzodiazepines do. Over time, however, barbiturates were understood to cause severe dependence and abuse. Then came benzodiazepines, a drug thought to solve some of the dependence problems that came with the territory of barbiturate use. Just consider the way the drug was originally advertised as a personal savior during the 1970s. However, it didn’t take long for benzo users to show the same patterns of abuse and dependence as those who used barbiturates.

Not only do we not see the kind of magazine advertisements for Xanax that you could find decades ago, we now see more explicit warnings about the drug coming from updated drug labeling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). An official statement from the FDA in September 2020 announced that the drug labeling would be updated with its strongest warning to signal “potential abuse, misuse, addiction, physical dependence, and withdrawal reactions.” This warning is known as the FDA’s black box warning, its strongest warning. This is important because Xanax and other benzos have not changed chemically from their early days. What has changed is how much we know about these drugs today after decades of statistical use.

The same pattern of research regarding Xanax and other drugs tends to follow a similar path; the more we learn about drugs already approved for widespread use, the more we learn of their previously unknown dangers, not their harmless nature. Drugs tend to be deemed more dangerous over time because we can learn more about them over time, and Xanax is no exception to this.

We know much more about Xanax’s addictive potential than when the drug first hit the markets, including the Xanax withdrawal symptoms, which range from restlessness to life-threatening delirium tremens (DTs). We know that people experiencing Xanax withdrawal are the most vulnerable during the first two weeks of detox. We also know those who take blood pressure or heart medications should avoid taking Xanax in most cases because of the risk of adverse drug interactions.

Taking the Gamble of the Unknown

Whether Xanax is the culprit or a contributing factor to cancer is still unclear. We do know that mixing Xanax with other substances increases the risk of organ damage, chronic illnesses, and, yes, even cancer. Since Xanax is already part of the equation in those cases, it seems best to treat long-term use of the drug as a dangerous option.

While Xanax has a legitimate use in medical treatment, we can’t afford to downplay its high abuse potential or the ongoing research that adds to the list of dangers.

©Kevin Morris. All rights reserved.

Sources

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