Xanax Side Effects from Use, Misuse & Addiction
Xanax, a brand name for alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine and central nervous system (CNS) depressant medication that is FDA-approved for the treatment of anxiety disorder and panic disorder with or without agoraphobia.1,2
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines in the U.S.3 Although Xanax has legitimate medical uses, it can be misused, which means using it in any way not directed by a doctor, including using someone else’s prescription or using it in greater amounts, more often, or longer than directed.4 In 2020, 4.8 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription benzodiazepines.4
People may misuse Xanax because of its disinhibition, euphoria, and anxiolytic effects.1 Misuse of benzodiazepines like Xanax often occurs with polysubstance use, or using Xanax in combination with other substances, particularly cocaine, opioids, and alcohol.3 Polysubstance use involving Xanax can occur for different reasons, such as to enhance the effects of other drugs, to reduce side effects from certain substances, and to alleviate withdrawal symptoms of alcohol or other substances.3
Misusing Xanax either on its own or with other substances can be dangerous and may increase the risk of several adverse physical and mental health effects. If you or a loved one use or misuse Xanax, you should be aware of Xanax side effects and how they can potentially impact your overall health and well-being.
Side Effects of Xanax Use
Side effects of Xanax can vary from person to person and range from mild to severe depending on different factors. The manufacturer reports that the most common Xanax side effects include:2
- Problems with coordination.
- Hypotension (low blood pressure).
- Dysarthria (trouble saying words clearly).
- Changes in sex drive/libido.
Other side effects are possible.2 If you think you are experiencing Xanax side effects, you should talk to your doctor.
The development or intensity of side effects can be impacted using other prescription or over the counter medications, other illicit drugs, or alcohol along with Xanax.2 Using benzodiazepines with alcohol, opioids, or other central nervous system depressants can cause severe drowsiness, respiratory depression, coma, and death.2
In addition to these adverse Xanax effects, overdose, and fatality due to overdose can occur with Xanax use, and these risks can increase with higher doses or with polysubstance use, and especially with the use of opioids or other CNS depressants along with Xanax.2
Symptoms of Xanax overdose are reported to include:2
- Impaired coordination.
- Diminished reflexes.
Overdose involving Xanax and other CNS depressants can cause symptoms such as:5
- Slow breathing.
- Weak pulse.
- Altered mental status or confusion.
- Passing out.
Short-Term Effects of Xanax
Alprazolam effects may be perceived as desirable and can include a reduction in anxiety, increased feelings of calm, or an improved ability to sleep.6 It may take a few hours to a period of days to see improvement with the use of Xanax.6
People may also experience short-term effects of Xanax, which typically begin shortly after they start using Xanax; many of these side effects of alprazolam tend to subside after the first week or so of ongoing Xanax use.6
The most common Xanax side effects include:6
- Impaired coordination.
- Decreased ability to concentrate.
Certain people may have a higher risk of side effects, such as those who use certain medications, including some prescriptions or certain over-the-counter medicines (like antihistamines such as Benadryl), people with mental health conditions like depression, or individuals with a decreased metabolism (such as the elderly and people with hepatic impairment).2,6
The elderly may be especially sensitive to benzodiazepines and more vulnerable to adverse effects.2 Xanax side effects in the elderly may also be more likely with higher doses.2
Women who are pregnant should be aware that Xanax use can cause neonatal sedation and neonatal withdrawal syndrome, resulting in overreactive reflexes, irritability, restlessness, tremors, inconsolable crying, and feeding difficulties in their newborns.2 p. 6 bottom, p. 12 bottom Xanax can be present in breast milk, and reports have indicated that breastfed newborns and infants who were exposed to alprazolam have developed sedation and withdrawal symptoms.2 p. 13 lactations
Find Out if Your Insurance Plan Covers Xanax Addiction Treatment
American Addiction Centers can help people recover from benzodiazepine misuse and benzodiazepine use disorders (AUDs), including Xanax. To find out if your insurance covers treatment for you or your loved one at an American Addiction Centers facility, or verify your insurance. Your information is kept 100% confidential. You can also click here to find a rehab near me.
Long-Term Xanax Side Effects
Long-term effects of Xanax are possible, and the risks can increase with higher doses and longer treatment durations.2 Alprazolam is often only intended for short-term use, and long-term use (2 or more weeks of daily use) may lead to dependence.6
As per the manufacturer’s labeling guide, it is not known if alprazolam is safe and effective for use longer than 10 weeks for panic disorder treatment and 4 months for anxiety disorder treatment.2
Some long-term side effects of Xanax use and misuse may include:2,7,8
- Dependence and associated withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it.
- Health problems, including an increased risk of hip fractures (in the elderly secondary to falls from being off balance) and significant cognitive decline, which can persist for long after you’ve stopped using Xanax.
Physiological dependence is an adaptation that occurs due to repeated substance use and involves subsequent withdrawal symptoms; withdrawal may be more likely in people who suddenly stop or cut back their Xanax use after prolonged periods of use or who use high doses of Xanax.1,2
Xanax withdrawal can involve a wide range of symptoms, including:2
- Blurred vision.
- Gastrointestinal nausea.
- Memory impairment.
- Muscle pain and stiffness.
- Panic attacks.
Even people who take Xanax as directed can develop dependence and/or addiction.2 Dependence is not the same thing as addiction, but it can be a risk factor for its development.6
Addiction is characterized by compulsive substance use that results in behavioral, cognitive, and physiological Xanax addiction side effects. These may include a strong desire to take Xanax, continuing Xanax use despite harmful consequences (such as health, legal, financial, or relationship problems), and, in many cases, tolerance or physical dependence.2
The first step in getting help might be to speak to a medical care provider about any effects of Xanax abuse you may be experiencing. A medical professional can perform an evaluation and discuss your treatment options. Addiction is a treatable condition, and treatment is available in a variety of settings.
The recovery process for Xanax addiction often begins with detox.9 There are currently no approved medications for treating sedative use disorder (the diagnosis that includes benzodiazepine addiction), but medical detox can help people safely and comfortably withdraw from Xanax by providing a tapering schedule, managing withdrawal symptoms, and attending to any complications that may arise.9,10
Detox can help you become medically stable and prepare you for further benzodiazepine abuse treatment.10 People may follow detox with more comprehensive rehab for Xanax addiction, which typically involves behavioral therapies, counseling, education, and long-term follow-up.9,11 Treatment can occur in either an inpatient or outpatient setting, depending on your unique needs.9 If you would like more information about addiction treatment options available in your area, contact American Addiction Center’s helpful admissions navigators at for a free, private consultation today.
Xanax Side Effects FAQ
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