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Xanax Abuse and Addiction

Xanax, a widely available brand formulation of alprazolam, is a prescription benzodiazepine used to treat panic disorder and anxiety disorders. Though it has several medical uses, it is frequently abused for its pleasurable, sedative effects.1 With consistent use, the rewarding effects of the drug may place users at risk of developing a Xanax addiction.

This page will provide more insight into Xanax, its addictive nature, its effects, signs of Xanax abuse, how Xanax addiction is treated, and whether you can use your insurance plan to obtain Xanax addiction treatment and rehab.


What is Xanax Addiction?

Drug addiction is the continued, compulsive use of drugs, including central nervous system depressant like Xanax, despite serious negative consequences, such as health, work, school, and relationship problems.1 Addiction is a treatable medical illness that affects the brain and changes behaviors such as self-control.2

The misuse of benzodiazepines, including alprazolam, in the United States is a public health issue. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 4.8 million people in the United States aged 12 or older misused benzodiazepines in the past year.3


Checking Your Insurance Benefits 

If you are looking for Xanax addiction treatment, it can feel overwhelming As you consider your options, knowing exactly what your insurance plan covers can give you peace of mind while you or your loved one is in rehab. You can do the work of getting and staying sober without worrying about unexpected costs or financial struggles. For more information on what your insurance plan covers, call AAC at , click here, or fill out the form below.


What is Xanax?

Xanax, a benzodiazepine, is a widely prescribed drug in the U.S.1 Xanax is a registered trademark name for the drug alprazolam and is commonly prescribed for treating anxiety disorders and panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia).1,2 Alprazolam works by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain.1

Xanax is available for use as an oral tablet, and it works on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. It’s influence on these receptors increases the inhibitory signaling of the GABA neurotransmitter, which generally means that those effects bring about the sedative, anti-anxiety, and amnestic (memory loss) properties of the drug.4 Benzodiazepines like Xanax are intended for the relatively short-term management of panic and anxiety; larger or more frequent dosing, as well as taking it for longer than the prescribed duration of use can increase the risk of dependence and addiction.1,5

Xanax street names include:6

  • Bars
  • Benzos or bennies
  • Z-Bars
  • Downers
  • Poles
  • Tranks
  • Totems
  • Yellow/Blue Zs

Is Xanax Addictive?

Xanax is in the drug class of benzodiazepine and is listed as a Schedule IV drug on the U.S. Schedule of Controlled Substances. Schedule IV substances are considered to have a relatively low risk of abuse.7

Xanax does have a potential for abuse and to minimize that potential, many doctors will prescribe alprazolam for brief periods of time, rather than as a long-term treatment. Benzodiazepines like Xanax can lead to the development of physiological dependence and addiction, especially when misused. Dependence occurs when an individual needs to take more of the drug to achieve the same effects they previously experienced.8 Dependence also results in withdrawal symptoms if drug use is stopped abruptly.8

Abuse or misuse of Xanax can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD). The American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) briefly defines SUDs as a pattern of symptoms and behaviors due to continued use of a substance or substances despite significant social, vocational, physical, psychological, or educational issues due to continued use.9

Characteristic behavioral, physical, and psychological patterns associated with Xanax addiction (diagnosed as a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder) are outlined in the DSM-5 as:9

  • Larger doses are taken than intended; or, Xanax is used over a more extended period than intended.
  • An inability to cut down on the use of the drug, despite a desire to do so.
  • A significant amount of time and energy is spent on securing Xanax or recovering from using it.
  • Intense cravings to use it.
  • Failure to fulfill work, school, home, or social obligations due to use.
  • Continued use of Xanax despite experiencing social or interpersonal conflicts.
  • Loss of interest or engagement in things you were once interested.
  • Use of Xanax in risky situations such as while driving or while operating heavy machinery.
  • Continued use of Xanax despite experiencing physical or psychological issues due to use.
  • Tolerance (a need to use more significant amounts to feel the same effects).
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not taking Xanax or needing to continue taking Xanax to reduce or prevent withdrawal symptoms.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction?

Some potentially adverse Xanax addiction symptoms may include:1,4,5

  • Drowsiness.
  • Impaired attention.
  • Confusion.
  • Memory loss.
  • Irritability.
  • Changes in mood and behavior.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Coordination problems.
  • Unsteady gait.
  • Stupor.

With the misuse of the drug, additional Xanax side effects may include:1,4,5

  • Light-headedness.
  • Headache.
  • Tiredness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Talkativeness.
  • Increased salivation.
  • Changes in sex drive or ability.
  • Nausea.
  • Constipation.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Weight changes.
  • Joint pain.

What are the Health Risks of Xanax Abuse?

Alprazolam addiction or abuse symptoms may include:1,6,7

  • Severe allergic reaction and swelling of the face.
  • Sleep activities where the individual experiences various behaviors while they were asleep/not fully awake (including driving, making and eating food, making phone calls) that they do not remember upon waking.
  • Feeling depressed, thoughts of self-harm or suicide, or lack of interest in life.

Long-term physical effects of Xanax abuse may include:6,7

  • Physical dependence.
  • Pregnancy complications.
  • Increased risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases.

Withdrawal symptoms may include the following:2

  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Seizures

Xanax withdrawal may be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. Addiction rehab can provide you with chance to go through withdrawal safely and comfortably and address the underlying issues of your addiction so you can begin working toward recovery.


Take Our “Am I a Drug Addict?” Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute “Am I A Drug Addict?” self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with drug addiction. The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.


How Do I Get Help for Xanax Addiction?

While it can be difficult to overcome an addiction to Xanax, it can be effectively managed.11,12 There is not one type of facility or program that is suitable for everyone.9 Addiction treatment should address both your substance abuse and the various ways it has negatively impacted your life, including physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally.11,12

There are various types of treatment options available to address the wide range of needs that people experience.13 Programs typically provide an individualized treatment plan that is tailored to your unique needs. They often use a combination of different techniques to address your addiction and how it has affected you.13

These can include:11-13

  • Residential treatment, where you live at a facility, and receive care and/or support around the clock. This is a structured setting with counseling, support, and a strong emphasis on peer and social interactions.
  • Inpatient treatment typically involves a shorter stay at a facility—often around 4 weeks —with around-the-clock monitoring and care, intense group therapy, and individual counseling.
  • Outpatient treatment offers less intensive group and individual counseling while you live at home. This type of care allows you to work, attend school, and participate in daily life while learning how to adjust to stressors and receiving the support of peers and staff.
  • Behavioral therapy in a group, individual, and/or family settings is highly effective for treating addiction to hallucinogens, dissociative drugs, and other substances. These techniques can help you learn how to stay sober, improve your relationships with others, cope with stress in healthy ways, and participate in positive activities.
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders, which addresses mental health disorders at the same time as a substance use disorder, is generally more effective than treating these issues separately. Therapy, medications, and other supportive services are commonly utilized in this type of treatment.

If you are seeking alprazolam treatment in the United States, you have a wide array of options including private rehab facilities, state-run treatment facilities, and local treatment programs. There are also support groups that can help you as you work toward becoming sober and maintaining that sobriety. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a mutual support group that offers people the opportunity to use peer bond, sponsor relationships, and self-expression to work toward sobriety. There are also non-12-step programs available that offer alternatives to NA.


Where Can I Learn More about Treating Xanax Addiction?

For more information about Xanax abuse and addiction treatment, you may want to reach out to your doctor. Or you can contact one of our admissions navigators at for the information and support you are looking for as you look for Xanax abuse treatment.

There are various treatment programs and strategies available for alprazolam addiction, so don’t give up if the first program you check out doesn’t meet your individual needs. To learn more about Xanax addiction treatment, click here.


Sources

  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). MedlinePlus: Alprazolam.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health(HHS Publication No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  4. Chowdhury, Z., Marshed, M., Shahriar, M., Bhuiyan, M., Islam, S., & Sayeed, M. (2016). The effect of chronic Alprazolam intake on memory, attention, and psychomotor performance in healthy human male volunteers. Behavioral Neurology, 2016(1), 1 – 9.
  5. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2019). Alprazolam (Xanax).
  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021). MedlinePlus: Substance use – prescription drugs.
  7. U.S. Department of Justice: Drug Enforcement Administration, Diversion Control Division. (2021). List of controlled substances.
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Is there a difference between physical dependence and addiction?
  9. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  10. Ait-Daoud, N, Hamby, A.S., Sharma, S., Blevins, D. (2018). A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and WithdrawalJ Addict Med, 12(1); 4-10.
  11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third edition).
  12. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). The National Institute on Drug Abuse media guide.
  13. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment approaches for drug addiction.

More resources about Xanax Abuse and Addiction: