Short & Long-Term Side Effects Of Xanax Abuse

Xanax is a potent benzodiazepine that may cause a host of short-term and long-term side effects. Side effects of Xanax may be mental or physical in nature and may cause serious harm if left untreated.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, which is an addictive prescription medication in the benzodiazepine drug class.

Xanax is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that helps treat generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and several other issues. Most doses of Xanax come in extended-release tablets.

People under strict medical attention from a healthcare professional may benefit from the use of Xanax. When abused, Xanax can cause addiction and people will be nearly incapable of functioning without it.

Along with the onset of addiction and physical dependence, Xanax abuse may also result in a range of life-threatening side effects, affecting both mental and physical health.

How Xanax Abuse Affects The Body

CNS depressants such as Xanax work by forcing the body to create a neurochemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Enhanced GABA creation will create a sedative effect in people, making them feel relaxed and far less anxious.

While there are benefits to using Xanax, there are several physical side effects that may occur when not used as directed.

Physical Side Effects Of Xanax

The general physical side effects of Xanax include drowsiness or tiredness, psychosis, dry mouth, memory impairment, lightheadedness, respiratory depression, and more.

Effects On The Eyes

Xanax may have negative effects on the eyes including dilated or enlarged pupils, blurred vision, double vision, eye irritation, and increased sensitivity to sunlight.

Xanax may cause other eye-related side effects, such as yellowing of the eyes, in the event that a person may have overdosed on the drug.

Xanax Hangover

When the effects of Xanax wear off, a person may begin to experience symptoms of withdrawal. This is also known as a Xanax hangover.

Symptoms may feel similar to an alcohol hangover, and may include:

  • insomnia
  • fatigue
  • rapid breathing
  • headache
  • nausea
  • increased blood pressure

Stomach Issues

Xanax may also cause issues with the gastrointestinal tract. One such ailment that can be Xanax-induced is gastritis.
Gastritis is a condition that irritates the lining of the stomach, causing indigestion, nausea, and bloating.

Sexual Effects

It is also known for Xanax to cause erectile dysfunction (ED) in some people, which makes it difficult to get or maintain an erection long enough to have sex.

Other side effects of Xanax include lowered libido (sex drive), decreased genital sensitivity, delayed ejaculation, and diminished orgasm.

How Xanax Abuse Affects The Brain

There are known to be many mental effects of Xanax abuse. First, Xanax can worsen anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, or other mental health conditions.

Further, misuse of Xanax can lead to depression, or exacerbate symptoms of an existing depressive disorder.

Long-Term Effects Of Xanax Abuse

Along with the short-term physical side effects of Xanax, there are also an array of long-term issues that may arise due to prolonged Xanax use or abuse.

Effects On Weight

Generally, prolonged Xanax use can cause weight gain due to the overwhelming sense of calmness and sleepiness caused by the drug. People are less inclined to exercise while under the influence of Xanax.

Some people may see weight loss from Xanax use due to other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Effects On Memory

One of the most common side effects of Xanax is memory loss. The specific kind of memory loss caused by benzodiazepines is called anterograde amnesia.

While this type of amnesia does not affect memories, it does disrupt the ability to turn short-term memories into long-term memories.

If anterograde amnesia occurs, high doses of Xanax may be the culprit. Luckily, mild memory loss is reversible when you stop taking the medication.

Liver Damage

Long-term Xanax use may cause damage to the liver, particularly when coupled with the use of alcohol and other drug interactions.

Liver damage from Xanax occurs when damage to the nerve tissue in the liver causes inflammation. If left untreated, people may be at higher risk of liver disease or liver failure.

Heart Problems

Xanax may adversely affect the heart by drastically slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

Due to the effect GABA receptors have on communication between nerves, heart rate can be further disrupted and may lead to heart failure or permanent damage to the heart.

Is Xanax Abuse Worse For The Elderly?

Xanax side effects may be more severe in elderly people. This is primarily due to the slower metabolism in older adults that affects how long Xanax stays in the system.

Additionally, several studies have shown that elderly people may also be more at risk for developing dementia from Xanax abuse after long-term use.

Some healthcare providers recommend older adults take an over-the-counter supplement called St. John’s Wort to help prevent the serious side effects of Xanax.

Treatment Options For Xanax Addiction

Xanax addiction carries many risks, but help is available in the form of evidence-based services.

Treatment options may include:

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we can help you recover from other substances as well, including opioids, diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), fluoxetine, and other antidepressants.

Find Substance Abuse Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

Call our helpline today for more information on prescription drug abuse and treatment available at Bedrock Recovery Center. We can help you or your family member reach sobriety.

Here, our team can answer your questions about the use of benzodiazepines, withdrawal symptoms, and other important information. We can also offer a referral for medical advice.

  1. National Institute of Health (NIH)
  2. National Institute of Health (NIH)
  3. National Institute of Health (NIH)
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

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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