Xanax (Alprazolam) Addiction and Treatment Options

Xanax, known by the generic name alprazolam, is one of the most popular prescription sedatives used to treat anxiety disorders and other conditions. Its calming effect makes it an invaluable and effective treatment, but also one of the most commonly abused in the United States. Like all medications, Xanax comes with the potential for negative side effects, many of which are worsened when the drug is abused.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is classified as a benzodiazepine — a class of drugs that has a depressant effect on the central nervous system. By slowing down the activity of the nervous system, it produces the feelings of calmness, sedation, and relaxation that counters anxiety. After administration, Xanax slows breathing, heart rate, and inhibits receptors in the brain so they’re less susceptible to stimulation. This allows the individual to relax and can even induce sleep.

This medication may be prescribed to treat several conditions that increase the activity of the nervous system and cause uncomfortable effects like panic attacks or general unease. Unlike other medications which only achieve the desired effect after days or weeks, Xanax is fast-acting, reducing anxiety and panic immediately. This immediate effect increases its potential for abuse for those seeking the recreational high of induced relaxation.

What is Xanax Used For?

Medically, Xanax is prescribed to treat a variety of conditions or symptoms including:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders
  • Seizures
  • Muscle spasms
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Mania

Signs of Xanax (Alprazolam) Abuse and Addiction

Benzodiazepines are an especially addictive class of drugs. Xanax addiction follows similar patterns to other substance addiction. These signs and behaviors may indicate problematic drug use that is outside the scope of safe medical prescription:
  • A need to take more Xanax than the recommended dosage
  • Tolerance that requires increased amount of the drug to achieve the same effect
  • Increased time spent obtaining Xanax with or without a prescription
  • Visiting multiple doctors to obtain different prescriptions
  • Social withdrawal and secretiveness surrounding drug use
  • Attempts to rationalize or justify excessive drug use

Side Effects Of Xanax ADDICTION

Excessive or prolonged use of Xanax against a doctor’s recommendations can exacerbate the side effects of the drug, which include:
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed respiration
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Constipation
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Sexual dysfunction

​​Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Individuals who abuse Xanax may do so by combining it with other substances like alcohol. This is especially likely when prolonged use has led to tolerance and the same dosage no longer has the desired effect. Xanax and alcohol are an especially dangerous combination because both are depressants. Their combined effect is synergistic, which can result in extreme sedation, respiratory depression, and loss of consciousness. Their combination can also result in dependence to both substances, which can complicate addiction treatment.


When taken as directed by a doctor, overdose on Xanax is extremely unlikely. However, deadly overdose is possible when it’s frequently abused and even more probable when it’s abused in combination with other drugs. Overdose may occur as a result of severe respiratory depression that cuts off oxygen to the brain. Signs of overdose include: stupor or severe confusion, impaired motor coordination, loss of consciousness, or coma. If a person becomes unresponsive, overdose may be possible and immediate medical attention is required.

Xanax Dependence And Withdrawal

Physical dependence develops when the body becomes accustomed to a certain level of a substance. Without it, a person experiences uncomfortable feelings of withdrawal as the body struggles to function without it. This is what causes cravings for a drug that may sustain addiction. When attempting to quit Xanax, individuals may experience the following symptoms of withdrawal:
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Anxiety or unease
  • Muscle cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors or convulsions
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Elevated blood pressure and heart rate

Long-Term Effects

Long-term Xanax use can lead to impairment in a person’s memory, coordination, and cognitive functioning. Chronic misuse compounds the potential for long-term effects, as well as increases the likelihood of addiction and overdose. If heavy Xanax use leads to inadequate oxygen availability in the brain, neurological problems requiring long-term care may develop. The longer Xanax is used, the more severe dependence and withdrawal will be, making it more difficult to overcome addiction.

Xanax Addiction Recovery

Xanax withdrawal may be more severe than other benzodiazepines and may require medical detox. Medical detox is a controlled and supervised process whereby an individual is slowly taken off the drug and the symptoms of withdrawal are monitored and alleviated as needed. Detox is typically the first step in addiction treatment which includes therapy, peer group support, and life skills training.

Typical rehabilitation programs for Xanax addiction may involve individual and group cognitive-behavioral therapies that can help address the behavioral underpinnings of addiction. Rehab is also designed to instill healthy habits that promote well-being including exercise and good nutrition. By finding natural and therapeutic ways to reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress, the need for medications like Xanax is eliminated.

Xanax FAQs

How addictive is Xanax really?

Since Xanax offers short-term relief for what may be uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety, it has a high potential for addiction. It’s considered one of the most addictive of the benzodiazepines, which are classed as Schedule IV drugs by the US Drug Enforcement Agency. Xanax addiction may develop in as little as three to four weeks.

How to prevent addiction to Xanax?

Preventing addiction requires faithfully adhering to prescription dosage. When used as directed by a physician, addiction is less likely. If its effects have decreased over time, you should consult with your doctor to determine if a change in your prescription is necessary. You should never attempt to self-medicate or change your dosage without medical guidance.

How long does Xanax stay in your system?

Xanax has a half-life of about 11 hours — the time it takes to eliminate half of the dosage taken. The exact amount of time xanax stays in your system can vary from less than 12 hours to over 24 hours depending on individual characteristics and dosage.

Can you take Xanax while pregnant?

Xanax can be harmful during pregnancy, causing birth defects or withdrawal symptoms in the baby. Since it can affect a baby’s cognitive and motor functioning, it is not recommended to take Xanax while pregnant.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March). Prescription CNS depressants DrugFacts.

AHFS Patient Medication Information [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc.; c2019. Alprazolam; [updated 2021 May 15.

Ait-Daoud, N., Hamby, A. S., Sharma, S., & Blevins, D. (2018). A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal. Journal of addiction medicine, 12(1), 4–10.

Xanax Addiction Recovery at Riverwalk Ranch
A Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area Addiction Treatment Center

Riverwalk Ranch provides individualized treatment for Xanax and other prescription drug addiction in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Our medical professionals on staff are leaders in their field, offering patients effective and evidence-based treatment to achieve a drug-free lifestyle. Treatment targets addiction as well as co-occurring disorders to promote healthier physical and behavioral habits.

If you or a loved one is suffering from Xanax addiction, contact our addiction treatment center today at (877) 863-3869. Whether you call Texas home or you’re seeking a fresh start far away from a toxic environment, Riverwalk Ranch can provide a therapeutic and supportive oasis for you. You deserve a happy and healthy life, and we want to put you on the path toward it.

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