Xanax Addiction and Abuse

The Most Prescribed Benzo

Table of Contents

Xanax, also known as alprazolam in its generic form, is a common sedative medication typically prescribed to treat symptoms of anxiety. The sedating effect counteracts the stimulating effects of stress. It can be especially beneficial for people dealing with mental or emotional problems.

What is Xanax?

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1981, alprazolam is part of a drug family called benzodiazepines or benzos. Benzos typically include well-known medications such as Valium and Ativan. Though the generic name for Xanax is alprazolam, its brand names are Xanax or Xanax XR. All current forms of Xanax are as tablets, disintegrating tablets, and a liquid solution administered by mouth.

Although benzodiazepines treat many medical and psychiatric conditions, it’s typically prescribed to treat anxiety, panic disorders, insomnia, and seizures. Xanax directly influences how the brain responds to nervousness and anxiety, making it an effective medication to treat symptoms of phobias and panic attacks. Because it creates sedative effects, knowing the Xanax side effects can help people manage medication use appropriately.

Some Xanax side effects are:

Xanax Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), filled prescriptions for benzodiazepines have increased by 67% from 1996-2013.1 Xanax is the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepine. This statistic is troubling because alprazolam has contributed to deaths involving other drugs.

Alprazolam’s wide availability makes it easy to acquire and abuse. The US Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) notes that alprazolam is the most frequently encountered benzodiazepine on the black market.2 When abused as a street drug, its street names include Xanax bars, benzos, nerve pills, tranks, downers.

Is Xanax Addictive?

If used as prescribed, Xanax is a safe medication. With short-term use, alprazolam is usually safe and effective. However, with long-term use, tolerance and dependence on benzodiazepines may develop, leading to addiction.

A boxed warning is attached to alprazolam, which alerts prescribers and anyone taking it of its potential for abuse, addiction, and overdose. Alprazolam, as with all other benzodiazepines, can be addictive.

Xanax is especially dangerous when combined with other drugs. For example, in 2016, Xanax was a part of:3

26% of Deaths Involving Hydrocodone
23% of Deaths Involving Oxycodone
18% of Deaths Involving Methadone

Drug Class and Schedule

Xanax falls under the benzodiazepine drug class. It is an anxiolytic (to treat anxiety.) All benzodiazepines, including alprazolam, are controlled substances. Alprazolam is a schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

How is Xanax Used?

Xanax is prescribed to treat phobias and other anxiety-related disorders. The amount typically depends on:

  • A person’s age
  • The form of alprazolam prescribed
  • Other medical conditions that might be present

Typically, a physician prescribes a low dosage and adjusts the dosage upwards until the effective dose is reached. The lowest dose that treats symptoms is usually the preferred goal. Xanax bars, called that due to their rectangular shape, are sometimes abused by crushing and snorting the pills. Abusing alprazolam by taking large doses, using it without a prescription, or not as prescribed, can lead to dependence and addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

Addiction to Xanax is often characterized by the drug’s compulsive use, regardless of any negative consequences from its abuse. For example, the abuse of benzodiazepines may lead to daytime drowsiness, resulting in poor work performance and job loss. Yet, drug use continues. If they can’t cut back or quit benzodiazepine use, then that is a sign of addiction.

An addiction to alprazolam may also result in the following symptoms:

Alprazolam addiction can affect every aspect of a person’s life, from the inability to accomplish daily activities to impacting personal relationships. However, an addiction to Xanax can also have long-term effects, by hindering career and life developmental milestones and negatively affecting overall health.

Overdose and Withdrawals

Overdoses with benzodiazepines like alprazolam often occur when combined with other substances. The best way to prevent a Xanax overdose or addiction is to use the medication as prescribed and avoid alcohol or illicit drugs. The CDC notes that one-third of all fatal opioid overdoses involve benzodiazepines. Because sedation is a Xanax side effect, it can cause an overdose, which can be deadly when combined with other substances. Xanax and alcohol, in particular, may sound harmless but can easily lead to a Xanax overdose.

Signs of a Xanax overdose may include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Poor reflexes
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Coma

Although respiratory difficulties aren’t typical in a Xanax overdose, they can occur when the drug is taken with other substances that affect the central nervous system, like alcohol or opiates. When opiates are combined with Xanax and alcohol, the results can be fatal.

Withdrawal From Xanax

Even for people who aren’t dependent or addicted to benzodiazepines, stopping the medication can be challenging. Xanax, in particular, may present worse withdrawal symptoms than other benzodiazepines. It’s not advisable to quit any benzodiazepine abruptly or “cold turkey.” Doing so may cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including delirium and seizures.

Withdrawals from alprazolam can be very uncomfortable and best done by tapering down the medication while under a physician’s oversight.4 The following symptoms may occur during a Xanax withdrawal:

Because a Xanax withdrawal can be significantly uncomfortable and potentially medically dangerous, finding the appropriate help is critical.

Steps to Stop Using Xanax

Slowly tapering down alprazolam use, with the help of a physician or health care professional, is the ideal method to use when trying to quit. It may be tempting to stop alprazolam use as quickly as possible, but abruptly stopping can lead to cravings and intolerable withdrawal symptoms.

Recovery from alprazolam dependence may require closer support and intervention, which a detox or treatment center can provide. With the help of addiction specialists, medical workers, and staff specifically trained in substance abuse can make Xanax withdrawal less stressful, safer, and increase the chances for long-term success.


If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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