How Addictive Is Xanax (Alprazolam)?

Xanax is a drug often referenced in popular media as “Xannies” or “Xanbars”. Its popularity gives us a little idea about the drug’s potential addictiveness. However, if you’re someone suffering from , you may want to know the real effects and risks of this drug. Understand what does Xanax do, and how you can get help through this post.

How Xanax Affects the mind

Xanax is actually a brand name for the generic drug Alprazolam. It belongs to the class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which are used to treat anxiety, panic, and other mood disorders. Xanax was first introduced in 1981 as an alternative to barbiturates since they are considered to be ‘less addictive’.

The drug became widely used after its release because of its fast-acting mechanism, providing immediate relief to symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. Similar to sedative drugs, Xanax binds with the receptors in the brain that decreases overall activity. As an effect, the person who feels anxious or experiencing the height of panic attacks may immediately feel relaxed, drowsy, and peaceful.

Upon taking the drug, a person would immediately experience these effects under less than an hour:

  • Decreased overthinking
  • Slower heart rate
  • Relaxed mood
  • Pleasurable feelings
  • Loose muscles
  • Drowsiness

Despite its positive effects, of course, this is just one side of the coin. It turns out that many people develop substance-seeking behavior after taking Xanax for a period of time. Thus, problems such as Xanax addiction, overdose, and even death happen to some users.

Is Xanax Addictive?

Now, a crucial question for people who have potential Xanax abuse is its level of addictiveness. You may have read in the earlier portions that this drug was designed to be less addictive than barbiturates. Even with these intentions, it was discovered that Xanax can be highly addictive even with people who take the prescribed doses.

Since the effect of Xanax is quicker than other types of anxiolytic or sedative drugs, some individuals develop a dependency on Xanax every time anxiety or panic attacks reappear.

How Addictive Is Xanax?

If you notice yourself or a loved one exhibiting symptoms of Xanax misuse, you may also be wondering how much of the drug will bring you to a point of full-blown Xanax addiction. Unfortunately, Xanax is highly addictive because of its quick chemical mechanism.

The sudden shift of mood, brain activity, and body regulation is what facilitates people’s dependency on the drug. Since anxiety is a mental health disorder that can be easily diagnosed through self-reports of thoughts and feelings related to the condition, many individuals who may not have anxiety can get access to Xanax and other similar medications. No wonder media outlets often report increasing Xanax addiction rates, especially in the younger population.

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Xanax Addiction And Abuse

Xanax addiction is more widespread than most people think. As there are campaigns that try to eliminate the stigma of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, more and more people come forward to be diagnosed with these conditions.

As a result, they receive prescriptions for Xanax and other alprazolam-containing medicines, which become the trigger for substance use disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over 30% of overdose deaths on opioids are those which involve the use of benzodiazepines, of which Xanax is included. Additional statistics show that:

  • There is a 67% increase in people getting prescriptions for benzodiazepines including Xanax.
  • People who are prescribed more than 4 mg per dose a day are at a higher risk of Xanax addiction.
  • The younger population is more susceptible to Xanax abuse due to increasing rates of anxiety diagnosis and other mental health disorders.

These staggering facts show us that Xanax abuse is a real concern, and its effects are life-threatening.

What are some Xanax addiction symptoms?

If you suspect a Xanax addiction in yourself or a loved one, here are some signs that may help you point towards an informed decision to get treatment:

Addiction to Xanax symptoms:

  • Tolerance with the drug: The individual needs to gradually higher doses to achieve the same effects.
  • Loss of interest with other activities: The person seems to slack on school, work, or daily responsibilities while being consumed with drug use.
  • Time spent acquiring and using Xanax: They are preoccupied with trying to file prescriptions, looking for stocks on the black market, or asking friends for the drug. Additionally, they may isolate themselves and use Xanax as often as possible.
  • Physical and behavioral changes: Since Xanax has a relaxing or sedative effect, many people who are addicted to it will appear drowsy, incomprehensible, or even unresponsive at times. They may lose weight, have pale skin, and have an unkempt appearance due to Xanax use.
  • Experiencing Xanax withdrawal symptoms: Some individuals will attempt to stop the use of the drug. However, they experience intense panic attacks, nausea, vomiting, flu-like symptoms, and other discomforts when trying to do so. This could be a sign that their bodies are dependent on Xanax.

Xanax Effects And Abuse

What happens when an addiction to Xanax persists? The truth is, long-term abuse of this drug can bring life-threatening effects. Below are some of the short-term and long-term effects of Xanax abuse.

Short-term effects

  • Inability to stay alert: This is a dangerous short-term effect if the individual is driving or operating machinery. People who are taking Xanax should not be performing tasks that require dexterity or manual operation immediately.
  • Slurred speech: Individuals abusing the drug may experience speech difficulties as Xanax is a muscle relaxant. As an effect, their speech may become less comprehensible.
  • Increased dependency: Although it relieves symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders, there is a potential for increased dependency on Xanax. A person may consequently experience withdrawal symptoms associated with Xanax use.

Long-term effects

  • Kidney and liver problems: Overuse of any substances can lead the kidneys and liver to work more than the usual. This can cause toxin buildup and organ failure.
  • Mental health problems: Substance use disorder has been linked to mental health problems such as psychosis, depression, and personality disorders. As extensive use of Xanax decreases brain activity, some neurological effects can happen such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Overdose and death: Progressing addiction and increasing tolerance can lead to fatal doses of Xanax, leading to an overdose. When an overdose isn’t treated promptly, it can result in death due to suppression of brain activity and organ function.

Common Xanax Drug Combinations

Another potential danger that must be discussed is some drug combinations that could be fatal when taken. Some risky Xanax combinations include the following:

  • Xanax and alcohol: Both substances have sedative effects. When taken together, it can work in tandem and suppress organ activity altogether, leading to overdose and other life-threatening situations.
  • Xanax and opioids: Some benzodiazepines and opioids are prescribed together for pain and anxiety issues, but when doses aren’t taken properly, the patient will be at risk for an overdose. These drugs have a sedative effect as well, and using too much of both can also halt brain and organ function.
  • Xanax and cocaine: This combination is taken to supposedly balance out the negative effects of each other. Since cocaine is a stimulant and Xanax is a sedative, some people do this in order to remain alert yet calm. However, this combination can also lead to drug toxicity and overdose.

Xanax bar information indicates that unless stated by a doctor, you should never mix it with other contraindicating drugs. The risks shown above can cause life-threatening situations when taking Xanax with other drugs experimentally or accidentally.

From Anxiety To Addiction? There’s Help Available

When you’ve found yourself experiencing Xanax addiction after being prescribed some due to anxiety, it may feel like a problem on top of the other. However, there’s always help available and it is possible to fully recover from Xanax addiction. All it takes is the decision to change.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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