Are The Effects Of Xanax Abuse Worse For The Elderly?

Benzodiazepines drugs such as Xanax can be beneficial with intermediate use in both seniors and younger adults. However, there are a number of more elderly-specific risks associated with using this powerful sedative medication.

Get Help Now!
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Alprazolam, or Xanax, is a controlled Black Label substance, meaning it has high addiction risk, and can cause serious health complications if misused or abused.

Xanax is an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety medication, prescribed by healthcare providers to treat panic disorders and generalized anxiety disorders.

Misuse of Xanax is risky for anyone, leading to a number of adverse effects, including overdose risk and risk for addiction.

How Xanax Abuse Effects Older People

The use of benzodiazepines can be risky for older people for a number of reasons.

First, seniors experience a lot of growing aches and pains, to put it simply — arthritis, debilitating and chronic pain, and so much more.

This makes it understandably easier for elderly people to become addicted to painkillers.

A study performed by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that, on average, 1 in 20 seniors actively use benzodiazepines and opioid-based painkillers for pain management.

Due to the sensitive nature of bodily processes, such as metabolism, intestinal health, and overall mental health, Xanax abuse can pose exclusive threats for seniors that aren’t present in other age brackets.

The increased risk of heart attack from raised blood pressure and drowsiness to an already-slowed motor skill set are just a couple of examples of these risks.

Is Xanax Safe For Seniors?

Prescribing Xanax or any other type of benzodiazepine, such as clonazepam (Klonopin) or lorazepam (Ativan), can be safe for seniors, as long as proper intake directions are followed.

However, geriatric clinicians have noted that seniors experience higher-than-average negative side effects of benzodiazepine use.

Some of these serious side effects may include experiencing respiratory depression, symptoms of anxiety, and increased sleepiness.

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society performed an investigation which found that, of all drug-associated elderly hospital admissions, over 20% were caused by benzodiazepines.

Xanax Side Effects In The Elderly

Abuse of prescription drugs such as Xanax can have dangerous and potentially life-threatening health risks for seniors.

Some of the detrimental side effects caused by elderly Xanax use can include:

  • severe drowsiness
  • increased chance of physical dependence
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • heightened risk of falling
  • unsteadiness
  • clumsiness
  • kidney, liver, or lung problems

Increased Risk Of Falls

Some of the short-term effects of Xanax use include impaired motor skills, as the sedative drug operates by inhibiting excitability chemicals in the CNS.

Because of this, elderly people can have an increased chance of stumbling, falling, or losing their balance — all of which can be dangerous.

Drug Interactions

Benzodiazepines, including diazepam (Valium) and fluoxetine (Prozac), are temperamental drugs that do not interact well with other medications.

Since elderly people have more sensitive bodies than younger people, these drug interactions can be dangerously amplified.

Some of the drugs to avoid when using Xanax include:

  • Lopinavir
  • Indinavir
  • Cobicistat
  • Boceprevir
  • Clarithromycin
  • Telaprevir

In addition to prescription and over-the-counter medications, Xanax should not be mixed with a number of other substances.

Xanax and alcohol can have fatal effects, while Xanax and grapefruit juice can lead to potentiation.


Lightheadedness can be dangerous for elderly people, as it can cause them to lose their balance, and potentially fall and hit their head or another extremity.

Xanax use can cause this particular symptom, and can also be triggered by or compounded with respiratory depression, as the body reacts to the sedative effects of Xanax.

Memory Impairment

Clinical studies performed in psychiatry have noted a causal relationship between elderly Xanax use and Alzheimer’s disease. That is, older people who use Xanax may be at increased risk for Alzheimer’s.

Other Health Risks Of Long-Term Use Of Xanax

Xanax is generally prescribed to be taken as needed, not on a daily basis. This is due to the addictive qualities of Xanax and its compounding effects on the central nervous system.

Prolonged Xanax use can also have serious impacts on the brain’s health, as well as behavioral and emotional health.

The longer Xanax is used, the more tolerance develops to the effects of the drug, meaning a higher dose may be necessary to treat the same symptoms.

However, this can speed up the process of developing an addiction if it is not already present, and contribute to the facilitation of a mental or behavioral health disorder.

Some of the health risks associated with Xanax misuse may include:

  • increased chance of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • increased long-term anxiety
  • dependency and addiction
  • chronic blood pressure and heart rate complications
  • respiratory depression and other lung-related issues
  • Xanax withdrawal symptoms
  • potential for overdose and even death

Treatment Programs For Xanax Addiction

Fortunately, there are many substance abuse treatment methods and programs available to treat Xanax addictions.

Some of the treatment methods and services available to treat Xanax drug abuse are:

  • inpatient and outpatient treatment
  • detoxification
  • therapy and counseling
  • residential treatment options
  • medication-assisted treatment

Find Substance Abuse Treatment Services At Bedrock Recovery Center

If you or a loved one is searching for drug rehab services for a substance addiction, call our helpline today to discuss obtaining a referral.

  1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),premedication%20before%20some%20medical%20procedures.
  2. Psychiatry Online

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

Prefer Texting?
We've got you covered.

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.
Ready to make a change? Talk to a specialist now.
(617) 657-2877
icon-angle icon-bars icon-times