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Xanax Misuse and Addiction

Xanax (alprazolam) is a prescription benzodiazepine medication used to manage generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.1 While Xanax has therapeutic uses, many people misuse it non-medically for its rewarding, euphoric effects. Even when taken as prescribed, benzodiazepines like Xanax can expose users to risks of certain adverse side effects, misuse, and addiction development. Misuse of benzodiazepines like Xanax—whether alone or with other substances such as opioids—can increase the risk of adverse effects, as well as overdose toxicity and death.1

If you or someone you care about uses Xanax, understanding the signs of a possible Xanax addiction is important. This page will help you learn more about:

  • Xanax and its addictive potential.
  • The signs of Xanax addiction.
  • The dangers of Xanax misuse and addiction.
  • How to find professional Xanax addiction treatment.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine prescribed to manage generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.1, 2 Like other benzodiazepines, Xanax is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and has anxiolytic, or anti-anxiety, effects. These effects can calm an overexcited CNS, leading to feelings of sedation and relaxation.1, 2 Benzodiazepines produce relatively rapid onset, yet temporary anxiolytic effects, making drugs like Xanax good for short-term, or as-needed use to help manage certain anxiety disorders. Studies have demonstrated Xanax to be effective for up to 10 weeks for short-term management of panic disorder, but it is generally not indicated for longer-term use.1, 2

Is Xanax Addictive?

Yes, Xanax can lead to addiction, a chronic, relapsing health condition characterized by compulsive drug use despite the harmful consequences it may cause.1, 3 Xanax is categorized as a Schedule IV drug due to its potential for misuse and addiction and should only be taken as prescribed by your doctor.1, 4, 5

Xanax is the most prescribed and misused benzodiazepine in the U.S. and is one of the most diverted drugs on the illicit market.5, 6 While Xanax is sold in tablet form intended for oral use, some people may attempt other routes of misuse, including crushing up the drug and snorting it.1, 4 The misuse of prescription drugs like Xanax may also involve:4

  • Taking Xanax in a dosage other than the amount prescribed by your doctor.
  • Taking Xanax belonging to someone else.
  • Taking Xanax for its rewarding euphoric effects (e.g., to get high).
  • Taking Xanax with other substances, such as alcohol or opioids.

Xanax has therapeutic benefits, and not everyone will misuse it or become addicted. However, certain biological and environmental risk factors can increase a person’s risk of addiction, such as:3

  • Certain types of genetic predisposition.
  • Any concurrent mental health issues (e.g., anxiety, depression).
  • Stress.
  • Physical or sexual abuse.
  • Peer pressure.
  • Parental behavioral influences.
  • Early exposure to drugs.

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

In clinical settings, medical professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose Xanax addiction, classified as a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder.7 A diagnosis is based on the presence of 2 or more of the following characteristic signs, symptoms, and behavioral changes manifesting within a 12-month period:7

  • Using sedatives like Xanax in larger amounts or for longer periods than originally intended.
  • Having trouble reducing or stopping sedative use despite a desire to do so.
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of sedatives.
  • Feeling cravings, or strong desires to use sedatives.
  • Being unable to fulfill obligations at home, school, or work because of sedative use.
  • Continuing to use sedatives like Xanax despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of using the substance.
  • Forgoing important occupational, recreational, or social activities because of sedative use.
  • Using sedatives in situations where it is dangerous to do so (e.g., driving).
  • Continuing to use sedatives despite persistent physical or psychological problems caused or worsened by use.
  • Developing a tolerance to Xanax, meaning you need higher or more frequent doses to experience previous effects. (Note: The presence of tolerance does not count as meeting diagnostic criteria among people who take the drug as prescribed).
  • Experiencing Xanax withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug. (Note: The presence of withdrawal symptoms does not count as meeting diagnostic criteria among people who take the drug as prescribed).

These warning signs do not necessarily mean you or someone you care about has an addiction, though they may alert you to the need for professional treatment intervention.

Take Our Xanax Addiction Self-Assessment

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

Dangers of Xanax Misuse and Addiction

The continued use of Xanax may lead to physiological dependence and subsequent withdrawal symptoms if a person tries to reduce or stop taking the drug.1 Withdrawal from benzodiazepines like Xanax can be unpleasant and even dangerous and could include serious complications including seizure; medical supervision and pharmacological intervention may be necessary to keep a person as safe and comfortable as possible during acute benzodiazepine withdrawal.1, 4

Xanax misuse can have several adverse effects including, but not limited to:1

  • Impaired concentration and memory.
  • Confusion and disorientation.
  • Impaired muscle control.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Irritability.
  • Disinhibition.
  • Aggression.
  • Tremors.

More severe adverse effects of benzodiazepine misuse can include delirium, paranoia, suicidal behavior and ideation, coma, and seizures, which can lead to death.1

Misuse can increase the risk of Xanax overdose, especially in instances of polysubstance use involving alcohol, opioids, and other benzodiazepines. Unfortunately, benzodiazepine misuse often occurs with the misuse of other substances. This increases the risk of serious life-threatening consequences, including profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death.1, 2

The effects of addiction can be far-reaching. A person who struggles with addiction is more likely to experience financial trouble, relationship trouble, and mental and physical health problems, including cancer, stroke, and HIV/AIDs, among others.8

How Do I Get Help for Xanax Addiction?

If you are struggling with Xanax addiction, knowing how to get help can feel challenging. Fortunately, there are several ways you can find support, including:

  • Having an open conversation with your doctor and asking for referrals.
  • Using online resources like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) website.
  • Using our rehabs directory which allows you to filter treatment options by location, treatment types, and accepted insurance.

No matter how severe the situation may seem, benzodiazepine treatment is available and can help people struggling with Xanax addiction. While recovery is different for everyone, many patients begin with a medically supervised detoxification phase to help mitigate and treat the potentially dangerous symptoms of Xanax withdrawal. This can help patients reach a substance-free state safely before transitioning to ongoing treatment in an inpatient rehab or outpatient rehab.9

There are currently no FDA-approved medications to treat addiction to Xanax and other benzodiazepines.4 Treatment may instead focus on behavioral therapies to help patients learn to identify and modify behaviors and thought processes that may contribute to their addiction.4 Because benzodiazepine addiction often occurs in conjunction with the use of other substances such as alcohol and opioids, co-occurring evaluation and treatment can address both, which can provide better patient outcomes.4, 10

If you or someone you care about may be struggling with alprazolam misuse or addiction, American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help. AAC is a leading provider of evidence-based addiction treatment throughout the U.S. You can contact AAC 24 hours a day at for information, resources, and support.

Frequently Asked Questions

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