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Symptoms and Treatment of Xanax Addiction: Dangers and Risks of Abuse

Xanax Abuse Symptoms and Treatment

Addiction can happen to anyone. It is not just people who use illicit drugs who become addicted and need treatment. Even people who only take prescription medication as directed by their doctor can become addicted to some medications.


The anti-anxiety drug Xanax is one of those medications.

What is Xanax?

Xanax is the brand name for a prescription medication called alprazolam, and belongs to the benzodiazepine (often called benzos) category of drugs. It is most commonly used to treat patients with anxiety and panic disorders.

It works by interacting with a specific receptor in the brain to increase inhibitory brain activity, thus calming the problematic excitement of anxiety. Xanax is a quick-action drug; its benefits are fully effective within an hour of taking a dose. The effects typically last at least six hours. It is most commonly abused by users seeking its sedative effects.

Paul Lavella Jr., Director of Alumni Services for New Jersey Addiction Center Summit Behavioral Health, clarifies how this drug was intended to be prescribed, “Xanax is typically prescribed to treat Panic Disorder and other short-term forms of anxiety, however is not meant for routine use - specifically due to its high potential for dependency. Once a person develops an addiction to this medication, it becomes dangerous to stop taking and requires physician monitoring to slowly taper down, sometimes in a medically supervised detox."

Xanax is exceptionally addictive when it is abused (taken differently than prescribed or recreationally). However, even those who take it as prescribed can develop a tolerance, dependence, and addiction when it is taken for a prolonged period of time. They may not even realize that they are addicted until they try to discontinue use. At that point, they may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

Abuse or addiction to Xanax produces both physical and mental symptoms.

Physical symptoms include:

  • Feelings of euphoria or elation
  • Sluggishness or drowsiness
  • Memory problems
  • Problems with concentration
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Nausea
  • Headache

The mental, psychological and social symptoms of Xanax abuse and addiction are far more noticeable, and they include:

Strained relationships – Substance abuse of any kind affects all aspects of a user’s life including his or her relationships. It’s common for a Xanax abuser to have problems with friends and family, especially their spouse and children.

Professional problems – People who abuse Xanax typically have a problem with absenteeism due to not feeling well, or not being able to use while they are at work.

Financial issues – Problems with money and paying bills can occur due to increased spending to obtain Xanax or because the user no longer pays attention to their bills.

Lack of motivation – Xanax abusers often feel tired and lethargic, so they lack the motivation to do the things that they normally would. Additionally, they usually show even less motivation for tasks that require time, concentration, or sustained attention.

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Loss of memory – Benzodiazepines in general can cause an amnestic effect, making it common for addicts to not remember details and conversations fully.

Craving – Someone who is addicted to Xanax will experience craving when they are out of the drug. They will spend a lot of time thinking about how to get more as their supply decreases.

Tolerance – Xanax abusers develop a tolerance to the drug, which means that they have to take more in order to achieve the same effect. This often results in “doctor shopping,” which means the addict will go to various doctors to obtain prescriptions for Xanax. If that doesn’t work, they may try to obtain the drug illegally.

Withdrawal – People who become dependent on Xanax will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.

Xanax Abuse Effects

The prolonged use or abuse of Xanax can have some negative effects on your body. Because the drug is a central nervous system depressant, it slows down many of the body systems, which can affect your mental and physical health. The most common effects of Xanax abuse are:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech or difficulty talking
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Reduced respiratory rates
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Sedation
  • Coma or death

Symptoms occur faster and are more severe when Xanax is mixed with alcohol, which is also a depressant. The overall effect can be extremely serious, even leading to death.

Treatment for Xanax Addiction

If you or your loved one has a dependence or addiction to Xanax, it’s important to seek professional medical treatment to stop using the drug safely. The withdrawal symptoms of quitting Xanax suddenly can be very painful and dangerous – even causing seizures or death. Withdrawal symptoms vary in severity and duration depending on the length of time you have used and the amount that you used. Inpatient treatment with a medically-supervised detox is often recommended for people addicted to Xanax.

Inpatient rehabilitation will provide you with a stable and temptation free environment for your detox and your start in recovery. Inpatient facilities have around-the-clock care and support to help you cope with withdrawal (they may administer medication to make withdrawal more comfortable and less risky) until the Xanax is out of your system.

After completing detox, you begin the daily recovery activities of inpatient treatment that include:

• Drug addiction classes and education
• Individual and group therapy sessions
• Relapse prevention techniques and education
• Life and coping skills lectures or classes
• 12-step or other addiction support meetings
• Psychiatric care, if needed

Depending on the severity of your addiction, you may either begin with outpatient treatment right away or after you complete inpatient treatment.

Outpatient drug addiction treatment programs allow you to attend rehab during the day, but return home at night. The number of days and duration of the program may be different depending on the facility, but you typically receive the same type of education and therapy as patients in inpatient therapy, but on a smaller scale.

Whatever you decide for you or your loved one, keep in mind that addiction recovery is difficult. The best chances for long-lasting recovery are associated with receiving professional help. While you may be able to stop using Xanax on your own, it can be very dangerous, and without a program of recovery, relapse is very likely.

Written by Faizan Javed of Globexitsolutions.