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Xanax Abuse and Addiction

What is Xanax?

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

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.3 However, in 2018, about 3.5 million adults aged 26 or older reported misusing prescription benzodiazepines such as Xanax.4

What Does Xanax Do?

Xanax is available for use as an oral tablet.5 Xanax 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.6 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.2,7

Xanax may be referred to on the street as:8

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

Xanax Statistics

Xanax and other alprazolam products are among the 5 most widely prescribed benzodiazepines, as well as one of the most commonly diverted drugs for illicit use.9 Other facts about Xanax and other benzodiazepines include:1,10,11

  • In 2018, about 399,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 reported misusing prescription benzodiazepines in the past year.
  • An estimated 4.5% of young adults aged 18 to 25 misused prescription benzodiazepines in 2018.
  • In 2016, there were 6,209 deaths due to Xanax overdose.
  • In 2019, 16% of overdose deaths involving opioids also involved benzodiazepines such as Xanax.

Xanax Addiction Symptoms

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.12

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:13

  • 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.

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.

Potential Adverse Effects of Xanax Use

Some of the potentially adverse symptoms associated with Xanax use may include:2,13

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

Xanax Withdrawal

If an individual reduces or stops use of Xanax, withdrawal may occur and will likely be more severe than that associated with other benzodiazepines.14 These more severe withdrawal symptoms can also occur after a short period of use.14

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.

Getting Xanax Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with a Xanax addiction or compulsive use of this and/or other substances, treatment can help. Withdrawal from Xanax in physically dependent individuals can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, may lead to serious complications such as seizures; in these instances, recovery attempts should be made under the supervision and care of a medical team, which you may find in many drug rehab centers that offer medical detoxification.

There are many different Xanax addiction treatment programs and facilities in the U.S. including private rehab centers, state treatment centers, and local treatment centers.

Though treatment details may vary from one program to the next, many Xanax addiction treatment protocols will include:11,12

  • Detox. The first step in treating an addiction to a sedative drug like Xanax is often medical detoxification, which commonly take place in an inpatient or residential setting (though outpatient medical detox may also be conducted, when appropriate). As part of a supervised detox, medications may be used to manage and reduce the risk of unpleasant or dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
  • Inpatient/residential treatment. This type of treatment involves you living at a facility and receiving care and/or support around the clock. These types of programs provide highly structured settings with counseling, support, and a strong emphasis on peer and social interactions. You may also have drug education classes and behavioral therapies such as individual counseling, group counseling, or family counseling in this setting.
  • Outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment includes a range of similar treatment approaches to inpatient, but it does not require that you live in the facility. Instead, you will attend treatment during the day and then return home in the evening. You will be provided with similar combination of treatment approaches as those found in inpatient settings, including drug education classes and behavioral therapies conducted through ample individual counseling, group counseling, or family counseling sessions.

Regardless of the treatment option or options selected, an individualized treatment plan implemented to meet a person’s specific needs can make a huge difference in promoting long-term recovery.15

Find Out If Your Insurance Plan Covers Xanax Rehab

American Addiction Centers can improve treatment outcomes for those in recovery from addiction and substance abuse. It has facilities where methadone treatment is available to help treat opioid or heroin addiction. To find out if your insurance covers treatment at an American Addiction Centers facility, click here or fill out the form below. Your information is kept 100% confidential.


  1. Argawal, S., & Landon, B. (2019). Patterns in outpatient benzodiazepine prescriptions in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2(1), 1 – 11.
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). MedlinePlus: Alprazolam.
  3. U.S. Department of Justice: Drug Enforcement Administration, Diversion Control Division. (2021). List of controlled substances.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Commonly used drugs charts.
  6. 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.
  7. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2019). Alprazolam (Xanax).
  8. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021). MedlinePlus: Substance use – prescription drugs.
  9. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2019). Benzodiazepines.
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Media guide: The science of drug use and addiction: The basics.
  11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.
  12. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Types of Treatment Programs.
  13. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th). American Psychiatric Publishing.
  14. Ait-Daoud, N, Hamby, A.S., Sharma, S., Blevins, D. (2018). A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal. J Addict Med, 12(1); 4-10.
  15. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Principles of Effective Treatment.

More resources about Xanax Abuse and Addiction: