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Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

Xanax is a brand formulation of alprazolam, a prescription benzodiazepine used to manage specific anxiety disorders and sleep disorders.1 It is the most prescribed sedative-hypnotic medication in the U.S. and is often misused for its euphoric, sedative effects.1

Xanax is a Schedule IV controlled substance because of its potential for misuse and dependence, even when taken as prescribed by a doctor.2 Using benzodiazepines like Xanax over an extended period can increase a person’s risk of dependence and addiction, especially when the drug is misused.2, 3 A person may misuse Xanax by taking it in a way other than prescribed, taking someone else’s medication, or taking it to feel the effects it causes.4

If you or someone you care about takes Xanax, it can be beneficial to know the signs and symptoms of a possible Xanax addiction. This page will help you understand Xanax addiction symptoms and how to get help if you or someone you care about is struggling.

Xanax Addiction Symptoms

Someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs may be diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD), which is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive substance seeking and use despite negative consequences.5

In clinical settings, Xanax addiction is diagnosed using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), and is classified as a Sedative-, Hypnotic-, or Anxiolytic-Related Disorder.6 A diagnosis can only come from a medical professional and is based on the presence of 2 or more of the following DSM-5 criteria manifesting within a 12-month period:6

  • Using Xanax in larger amounts or more often than originally intended or prescribed.
  • Being unable to cut back or stop Xanax use despite a desire to do so.
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of Xanax.
  • Experiencing cravings, or an intense desire, to use Xanax.
  • Being unable to fulfill obligations at home, school, or work due to Xanax use.
  • Continuing to use Xanax despite having interpersonal or social problems that are caused or worsened by substance use.
  • Using Xanax in situations where it is hazardous to do so (e.g., driving).
  • Using Xanax despite having a persistent mental or physical health problem that is likely due to substance use.
  • Giving up occupational, recreational, or social activities to use Xanax.
  • Developing tolerance, meaning more Xanax is needed to achieve previous effects.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using Xanax.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Misuse

While a substance use disorder (SUD) can only be diagnosed by a professional, there are physical and behavioral signs and symptoms that may indicate someone is struggling with Xanax misuse or addiction.

Physical Signs and Symptoms

Xanax can produce several side effects, the most common of which are drowsiness and light-headedness.2 A person can experience side effects even when taking the medication as prescribed by a doctor; side effects do not necessarily indicate a person is misusing the medication.

Some of the physical Xanax misuse signs and symptoms include:3, 6

  • Slurred speech.
  • Impaired coordination.
  • Unsteady gait.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Problems with memory.
  • Confusion.
  • Involuntary eye movements.

Xanax withdrawal can occur if a person is physically dependent on the drug and abruptly stops or reduces their use. Dependence is a physiological adaptation of the body to a substance, wherein the body becomes so used to the drug being present in the system that when the individual cuts back on their use or quits, withdrawal symptoms emerge. With significant levels of physiological dependence, a person may continue to compulsively drink or use drugs to avoid unwanted withdrawal symptoms. Mild symptoms of Xanax withdrawal may include blurred vision, diarrhea, muscle cramps, decreased appetite, and weight loss, among others.2 In serious cases, Xanax withdrawal can result in life-threatening seizures, even after brief and therapeutic doses.2

Someone experiencing a Xanax overdose may exhibit symptoms including ataxia (poor muscle control), slurred speech, altered mental status, and more.2, 7 Benzodiazepines like Xanax are most commonly misused with opioids.3 Unfortunately, combining Xanax with other opioids and other central nervous system (CNS) depressants carries a greater risk of overdose.3, 6 According to 2020 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16% of overdose deaths involving opioids also involved benzodiazepines such as Xanax.8

Behavioral Signs and Symptoms

People who misuse substances often experience negative consequences in various areas of their life, such as difficulty with interpersonal relationships and problems at school or work.4 Other potential behavioral signs a person misusing Xanax may exhibit include:3, 6

  • Using other substances.
  • Accidents, falls, or other injuries.
  • Arguments or fights.
  • Absenteeism and/or impaired performance at school or work.
  • Marked difficulties in relationships.
  • Impaired judgment.
  • Seeking out multiple doctors to obtain more medication (“doctor shopping”).
  • Legal problems.
  • Severe depression.
  • Suicidal attempts or ideation.

Getting Help

If you or someone you care about is showing Xanax addiction symptoms, you may be wondering what to do next. Xanax addiction can be challenging to overcome, but treatment is available and can help address the underlying issues that may have contributed to misuse or addiction.9 Several types of treatment options are available to address the varying needs of people struggling with substance misuse and addiction. Effective treatment is individualized and addresses a person’s substance use as well as any associated medical, psychological, social, and vocational problems.10

Many people begin treatment with detox to help manage the potential symptoms of Xanax withdrawal as comfortably and safely as possible and help them transition to ongoing treatment (e.g., inpatient or outpatient rehab).10, 11 Ongoing treatment can vary but may include a combination of behavioral therapy, medications, co-occurring disorder treatment (if necessary), and follow-up care.12

If you or someone you care about may be struggling with Xanax 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 on rehab for Xanax addiction, resources, and support. Recovery from Xanax addiction is possible, and help is available.

 

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