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Xanax Overdose: Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Treatment

Xanax, also known by the generic name alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine that is often prescribed to treat specific anxiety disorders, seizure disorders, and insomnia.1 It is also the most frequently prescribed psychotropic medication in the U.S.1 According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), 38% of the 92 million benzodiazepine prescriptions dispensed from U.S. outpatient pharmacies in 2019 were alprazolam.2

Xanax is often misused for recreational purposes because it can produce anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects, disinhibition, and euphoria.1 Some people might mistakenly assume that the drug doesn’t pose many dangers because it’s a legal prescription medication. However, people can overdose on Xanax if they misuse it, take too much, take drugs sold on the street that they think are Xanax, or combine it with other substances.3, 4

This article will help you learn more about Xanax overdose, including the signs, risk factors, and treatment options.

Xanax Overdose Symptoms

Isolated benzodiazepine overdose, meaning an overdose that occurs without the presence of other substances, can present as central nervous system (CNS) depression with normal or near-normal vital signs.4

Classic Xanax overdose symptoms include:4

  • Ataxia (poor muscle control).
  • Slurred speech.
  • Altered mental status.

A person who overdoses on Xanax may present with other symptoms as well, including drowsiness, impaired coordination, and coma.3 It’s important to note that a person who has taken too much of a benzodiazepine might still appear alert and be able to converse with others.4

When a person overdoses on benzodiazepines alone, poor outcomes are rare.4 However, there have been reports of death due to alprazolam overdose by itself.3 There have also been reports of death in people who have overdosed with a combination of a single benzodiazepine, including alprazolam, and alcohol. Importantly, the alcohol levels in some of these people have been lower than those usually associated with alcohol-induced fatality.3 The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that in 2020, 16% of overdose deaths involving opioids also involved benzodiazepines such as Xanax.5

Who Is At-Risk of Overdosing on Xanax?

People who misuse the drug are at risk of overdosing on Xanax.5 According to NIDA, prescription drug misuse includes taking a medication in a way other than prescribed, taking someone else’s medication (even if for a legitimate medical complaint), or to feel euphoria.6

Taking more than one substance at a time or within a short time of each other is known as polysubstance use.7 Someone who misuses Xanax in combination with other CNS depressants, such as alcohol, opioids, or other benzodiazepines, can have a much higher risk of overdose.7 Most of the near-fatal or fatal cases of alprazolam overdose are due to polysubstance use.1, 3

How Much Xanax Does It Take to Overdose?

There isn’t a specific amount of Xanax that it takes to overdose. Different factors can influence alprazolam toxicity and the risk of overdose, such as your weight, whether you use Xanax with other substances, the amount of Xanax taken, your tolerance to Xanax, whether you have co-occurring mental health disorders, or whether you’ve had previous overdoses.8 Xanax should only be taken as prescribed by a doctor.

Xanax Overdose Treatment

If a Xanax overdose occurs, you should seek medical attention immediately.

You may receive general supportive measures and immediate gastric lavage (stomach pumping).3 You may also receive intravenous fluids and ventilation assistance to ensure that your airways are adequately maintained.1, 3

As with all types of drug overdose, your blood pressure, pulse, and respiration will be monitored.3 If you experience low blood pressure, you may receive vasopressors, which are medications that make your blood vessels constrict and help to increase blood pressure.3

When a benzodiazepine overdose is suspected, a person may receive flumazenil, a medication that is a benzodiazepine receptor antagonist.3 Flumazenil can completely or partially reverse the sedative effects of benzodiazepines.3 After receiving flumazenil, it’s important that a person remains under observation to monitor for re-sedation, respiratory depression, and other potential residual benzodiazepine effects.3

Additionally, management of intentional overdose involving any drug requires that medical professionals keep in mind that a person may have used multiple substances and provide appropriate treatment.3

Getting Help for Xanax Misuse

If you misuse Xanax or suspect that you have a Xanax addiction, it may be time to seek professional treatment. Ongoing treatment can help address the underlying issues that may have contributed to substance misuse or addiction, as well as any potential co-occurring mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression.10 Addiction is treatable, and treatment may help a person stop substance misuse and enter recovery.10

Xanax addiction treatment should be tailored to your specific needs and situation.10 Treatment for substance misuse may include a variety of approaches, and treatment plans can vary from person to person.10

Common treatments include:10, 11

  • Behavioral therapies, which can help address underlying issues and teach you skills that may help prevent substance misuse and relapse.
  • Medication to help with withdrawal, which, in the case of Xanax, typically involves substitution with a different benzodiazepine that has a longer-half life, such as diazepam.
  • Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
  • Long-term aftercare to prevent relapse.

Getting help can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of evidence-based addiction treatment across the U.S. Our admissions navigators are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when you call . You can share your story, learn about treatment options, and verify your insurance over the phone.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

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