WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- From 2005 to 2010, U.S. hospital emergency room treatment for non-medical use of the sedative alprazolam, or Xanax, doubled from 57,419 to 124,902, but leveled at 123,744 in 2011.
A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said non-medical use of alprazolam -- Xanax, Xanax XR or Niravamcan -- could lead to physical dependence, causing withdrawal symptoms such as tremors and seizures.
Xanax is also used to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders and anxiety caused by depression.
If Xanax is combined with alcohol or other drugs that depress the central nervous system, such as narcotic pain relievers, the effects of these drugs on the body could be enhanced, SAMHSA said.
"When used as directed, alprazolam is safe and effective, but misuse can result in serious health consequences," Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA administrator said in a statement.
"This report highlights the need to educate people about the dangers of misusing or sharing prescription medications and the importance of properly disposing of unused medication."
Non-medical use of drugs includes:
-- Taking more than the prescribed dose.
-- Taking a drug that was prescribed for another individual.
-- Being deliberately poisoned with a drug by another person.
-- Documented misuse or abuse of a drug.
The report, "Emergency Department Visits Involving Nonmedical Use of the Anti-anxiety Medication Alprazolam," used data from SAMHSA's 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network, a surveillance system that monitors drug-related U.S. emergency department visits.