Xanax Addiction: Signs, Effects, & Treatment

Xanax is a powerful drug typically prescribed to treat panic disorders, insomnia, and more. When misused, people may become physically dependent on Xanax and develop an addiction.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Xanax is a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety disorders. When used for a long period of time or misused, people may become addicted to Xanax and face serious health problems.

Prescription rates for Xanax have been steadily increasing since 2008. Every year almost 125,000 people visit the emergency room due to the recreational abuse of Xanax.

Xanax became a popular street drug used to enhance the effects of alcohol and other drugs at social events such as concerts, raves, and other gatherings.

People who abuse Xanax describe the feeling as pleasurable, with accompanying effects such as lightheadedness, detachment, and sedation.

Is Xanax Addictive?

Xanax is an extremely addictive benzodiazepine that works by stimulating receptors in the brain known as GABA neurotransmitters.

People who abuse Xanax can quickly become physically dependent on the drug and feel withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it.

Can You Get High Off Xanax?

When used as prescribed, Xanax works to depress the central nervous system, which is what makes it effective at calming symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders.

However, when people abuse Xanax, the drug can produce a relaxed, sedated “high” that may lead to drowsiness and sleeping for hours at a time.

Some people report other effects such as memory loss or blacking out after Xanax use.

Read more about the Xanax “high”.

How Xanax Is Abused

The most common way to abuse Xanax is by taking the prescription pills by mouth with or without a doctor’s prescription.

Other methods of abuse include crushing and snorting Xanax or injecting Xanax, drinking the dissolved pills in an alcoholic beverage, or smoking Xanax.

Learn more about how Xanax is abused.

Signs Of A Xanax Addiction

People who misuse Xanax will typically appear very tired or sedated. They will lack energy and motivation, and may lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed.

Other signs of Xanax abuse include slurred speech, nausea and vomiting, impaired coordination, and cognitive impairment.

Read more about the signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction.

How Long Do The Effects Of Xanax Last?

After ingesting Xanax, the effects are typically brief. Most people will feel the most impact of the drug in the first two to four hours after taking it.

There are also lingering effects of Xanax, sometimes referred to as “fuzzy feelings”. These sensations may continue for several hours after the initial high.

Learn more about the duration of Xanax effects.

What Xanax Looks Like

Xanax usually looks like an oval or rectangular-shaped pill with ladder-like indents. Xanax pills also come in different colors such as green, pink, yellow, purple, and peach.

When purchased on the street, Xanax may appear similar but have misspelled words on the pills or not be soluble in water.

Street Xanax is dangerous due to the possibility of cutting agents such as fentanyl mixed in.

Read more about what Xanax looks like.

Types Of Xanax

Xanax tablets come in a variety of strengths including 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, and 1 mg. Extended-release tablets may be prescribed in 2 mg and 3 mg strengths.

The pills are typically white, peach, or blue depending on the strength, and have “XANAX” imprinted on the pill.

Learn about types of Xanax.

What Xanax Is Used For

Xanax is used to treat anxiety disorder caused by depression, and panic disorder that may or may not be related to a fear of places and situations (agoraphobia).

Xanax works by enhancing the effects of GABA neurotransmitters in the brain which produce a calming effect on the central nervous system.

Read more about what Xanax is used for.

Can You Develop A Tolerance For Xanax?

Tolerance may be built up over time by taking high doses of Xanax, taking it for a long period of time, or mixing it with other substances to get high.

Xanax is classified as a federally controlled substance (C-IV) due to its potential for abuse and physical dependence.

Learn about Xanax tolerance.

Common Side Effects Of Xanax Abuse

People who abuse Xanax may experience a range of physical and psychological side effects.

Side effects include:

A person who’s misusing Xanax may lack motivation to do things they used to enjoy such as spend time with friends and family, or engage in normal daily activities.

Read more about the side effects of abusing Xanax.

Drugs That May Interact With Xanax

Taking other medications or substances with Xanax may increase the effects of the drug and cause an accidental overdose or other detrimental health effects.

There are four classes of drugs that may cause dangerous interactions with benzodiazepines.

These classes include opioids, insomnia drugs such as Ambien, proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec, and fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as Cipro.

Learn more about drugs that interact with Xanax.

Detection Times For Xanax In The Body

The elimination half-life of Xanax is approximately 11 hours, and sometimes longer depending on a person’s age, weight, and health of the kidneys and liver.

Tests used to detect Xanax in a person’s system include blood tests, saliva tests, hair follicle tests, and urine tests. Urinalysis is the most commonly used method of detecting Xanax in the body.

Read more about detection times for Xanax.

Withdrawal Symptoms Of Xanax Abuse

Using Xanax for long periods of time may result in dependence and the onset of withdrawal symptoms if abruptly removed from the body.

Forty percent of people experience moderate to severe withdrawal when they stop taking Xanax.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • sleep disturbances
  • hallucinations or delusions
  • seizures
  • suicidal thoughts
  • cravings
  • irritability
  • insomnia

Factors that influence Xanax withdrawal include using high doses of Xanax, long durations of use, and mixing Xanax with other substances such as opioids or alcohol.

Learn more about Xanax withdrawal.

Can Xanax Abuse Cause An Overdose?

A person can overdose on Xanax if they’ve taken more than the amount prescribed, or if they’ve consumed alcohol or opiates while taking the drug.

Symptoms of Xanax overdose may include confusion, drowsiness, loss of consciousness, respiratory depression, abnormal heart rate, and coma.

Read more about Xanax overdose.

How Much Xanax Causes A Fatal Overdose?

The amount of Xanax it takes to cause a fatal overdose will vary based on which substances were used with Xanax, whether Xanax was cut with fentanyl, and other variables.

Due to the extreme danger of mixing Xanax with opioids of alcohol, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about the risk of lethal overdose.

Read more about how much Xanax causes fatal overdose.

Risks Of Abusing Xanax While Pregnant

Using Xanax during pregnancy may lead to physical dependence, addiction, and neonatal withdrawal syndrome, as well as a higher chance of birth defects in the baby.

Even though neonatal abstinence syndrome is a risk, approximately 33 percent of women receive medications such as Xanax during their pregnancy.

Learn about the risks of abusing Xanax while pregnant.

Dangers Of Xanax Use While Breastfeeding

When breastfeeding mothers continue to use Xanax, the drug will be transferred to the baby. Infants exposed to Xanax may exhibit sedation, irritability, and other withdrawal symptoms.

Doctors may prescribe a small dose of Xanax to a breastfeeding mother, but even trace amounts of the drug in breastmilk may pose dangers to a newborn.

Read about the dangers of taking Xanax while breastfeeding.

What To Expect During Detox From Xanax

During Xanax and other benzodiazepine detox, a person can expect acute withdrawal symptoms to last anywhere between five and 28 days after last use.

In a medically monitored detoxification program, health care providers may taper a person off Xanax, or gradually reduce the amount of Xanax in the body.

Receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT) at a rehab facility such as Bedrock Recovery Center may also help alleviate Xanax withdrawal symptoms.

Other Xanax addiction treatment options may include cognitive behavioral therapy, dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders, and short-term or long-term residential care.

Learn more about what to expect during detox from Xanax.

Find Substance Abuse Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

If you or a loved one have an addiction to Xanax or other benzodiazepines, the outpatient and inpatient behavioral health programs at Bedrock Recovery Center can help you recover.

Call our helpline today for more information on our evidence-based treatment plans for prescription drug addiction and illicit drug use.

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — Xanax https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/018276s044,021434s006lbl.pdf
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Benzodiazepines and Opioids https://nida.nih.gov/drug-topics/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids
  3. National Institute of Health (NIH) — A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846112/
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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