What Is Xanax (Alprazolam) Used For?

Xanax is a prescription benzodiazepine that can be helpful in treating anxiety disorders, seizures, insomnia, and even depression. Unfortunately, it is habit-forming. Abusing Xanax can lead to drug interactions and the risk of serious withdrawal symptoms.

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Xanax is the brand name for the generic drug alprazolam.

It is part of the benzodiazepine family and shares pharmaceutical characteristics with other prescription drugs like Valium (diazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam).

All of these drugs bind with the GABA receptors of your central nervous system to help calm neural activity.

Xanax, in particular, is a short-acting benzodiazepine that is most often used to treat anxiety disorders.

However, Xanax is addictive and often abused.

Why Xanax Is Prescribed

Xanax is an inhibitor that is typically used to treat anxiety, but the drug’s sedative qualities have proven helpful in treating a handful of other conditions.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

A generalized anxiety disorder is typically diagnosed when you experience excessive anxiety in response to at least two aspects of life.

If you have a GAD, a low dose of Xanax or Xanax XR (the extended-release tablet) may be prescribed to help curb your anxiety symptoms.

Panic Disorder

A panic disorder is a specific category of anxiety disorder characterized by repeated panic attacks. A panic attack features intense fear that manifests with physical symptoms.

Xanax can be used to calm the neural over-excitement that contributes to your symptoms, so your doctor may prescribe a small dose.


Apart from its ability to calm anxiety symptoms, Xanax has sedative properties. When you take Xanax, you are likely to feel some mild to moderate drowsiness.

This side effect has led some physicians to use Xanax as a treatment for insomnia.

If there’s a possibility that your insomnia is linked to a larger mental health issue, a healthcare professional may prescribe it for you.


Benzodiazepines like Xanax are often used to treat seizures. A seizure is caused by intense and erratic neurological activity.

Xanax and prescriptions with similar qualities can be used to reduce the intensity of a seizure or stop it entirely. Xanax is typically only used this way in the emergency room.


Agoraphobia is an extreme anxiety disorder that causes you to fear new places, crowded places, or the outside world in general.

Mental health experts theorize that the repeated trauma of panic attacks may cause a subconscious connection between moments of intense fear and being away from places you consider safe.

Xanax is not an immediate fix for agoraphobia, but it can be a helpful aid to other forms of therapy by reducing the symptoms of anxiety.

Why People Abuse Xanax

There are a myriad of explanations for Xanax abuse that depend on your individual situation.

In some cases, Xanax abuse is a form of self-medication. If you’re experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, you may look for ways to dampen those feelings.

Experimenting with controlled substances could lead you to realize that you feel better on a benzo like Xanax, contributing to abuse and eventual addiction.

Even with oversight, there is a small risk that extended use could build a tolerance. Seeking medical advice from your doctor when you experience signs of tolerance can help to reduce this risk.

Finally, of the most common reasons people abuse Xanax, sometimes it’s a recreational choice. In certain combinations, Xanax can amplify the high or counter the effects of other forms of substance abuse.

Why People Mix Xanax With Other Drugs

Mixing Xanax with some substances can cause serious side effects, but it’s a fairly common practice.

In each case, the person mixing drugs may be attempting to either increase or decrease the intensity of their experience.

Mixing Xanax with other “downers,” for example, will generally intensify the experience, while mixing Xanax with “uppers” will generally counter the effects of both.

While this practice is common, it can also be unsafe. Xanax has a long list of negative drug interactions that could lead to serious medical conditions.

You should never take Xanax in conjunction with:

  • antidepressants
  • antihistamines
  • cimetidine
  • erythromycin
  • fluoxetine
  • fluvoxamine
  • itraconazole
  • ketoconazole
  • nefazodone
  • sertraline (Zoloft)
  • over-the-counter supplements

What Does Xanax Do?

Xanax binds with the GABA receptors in your central nervous system. These receptors are used to keep your neural activity in check, and Xanax increases their efficacy.

As a result, Xanax calms down your central nervous system. This process may cause you to feel a bit of sleepiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, and dry mouth.

Rarer side effects of Xanax include nausea, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and changes in your normal habits. If you begin to experience these, you should talk to your doctor.

Unfortunately, this prescription drug is far more dangerous if it is abused.

If you form a physical dependence and go into withdrawal without a taper, you may experience life-threatening symptoms, including breathing problems, severe impairment, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts.

Can Xanax Treat Opiate Withdrawal?

Current research suggests that Xanax may counter certain symptoms of opiate withdrawal. However, using Xanax in this way continues to pose significant risks.

Benzodiazepines and opioids are different pharmacologically, but they share some effects.

That is why Xanax may make you feel better during withdrawal. It is also why there is a danger that you could double your substance use problem.

Xanax should only be used to treat opiate withdrawal in a clinical setting with medical help from healthcare staff who are well-versed in the process.

Treatment Programs For Xanax Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is as dangerous as any other drug addiction. Withdrawing from Xanax safely and permanently requires the help of a qualified treatment center.

You cannot quit Xanax “cold turkey” without risking serious illness or death.

An addiction treatment center will help to establish a taper plan to slowly reduce your daily dosage of Xanax over time.

When you’re ready, you can begin evidence-based therapeutic treatments for Xanax addiction to provide the mental and emotional support you will need during this time.

Find Drug Treatment Services At Bedrock Recovery Center

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we know that your drug addiction isn’t a choice. It’s a health condition.

That is why we offer comprehensive and empathetic treatment to help you get back on track without judgment.

If you or a loved one is facing a Xanax addiction, give us a call at our Massachusetts location to learn what we can do to help you.

  1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2021/018276s055lbl.pdf
  2. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a684001.html
  3. National Library of Medicine: PubMed https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8905331/

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2023 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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