Xanax is a benzodiazepine that is prescribed for anxiety disorders, panic disorders, insomnia, and alcohol withdrawal. However, the drug is highly addictive and has a high risk potential for abuse. Even though Xanax is extremely addictive, it is the most frequently prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States.[1]

People who abuse Xanax can develop a tolerance quickly. When tolerance develops, individuals have to take more and more of the drug to achieve the high they desire. Consequently, if a user does not take the drug, he or she will experience Xanax withdrawal symptoms. Then, once Xanax addiction begins to spiral out of control, people typically neglect their responsibilities and experience troubles at home due to drug-seeking behaviors.

How Xanax Works

Xanax is also sold under the generic name, alprazolam, and is well-known in most American households. The medication is a benzodiazepine but is also known as a tranquilizer or anxiolytic. Xanax works by slowing the pace of brain activity which leads to a calm, relaxed feeling. When someone takes Xanax, the drug stimulates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) production in the brain – a natural tranquilizer. [1]

The most common method of abuse is by swallowing Xanax pills, however, some people snort the drug. The effects of Xanax begin relatively quick and can last for several hours. Xanax abuse causes drowsiness, lack of coordination, and slurred speech – symptoms that are similar to alcohol intoxication. People often experience trouble with decision making and memory while under the influence of Xanax. When abused in copious amounts or when combined with other drugs or alcohol, there is a risk of Xanax overdose, which can be fatal under some circumstances. Despite the risks, Xanax abuse is fairly common due to its sedative effects.

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

Taking more pills than prescribed or using drugs without a prescription is considered drug abuse. Xanax can be abused in a variety of ways, including:

  • Swallowing multiple doses at once
  • Injecting the drug
  • Snorting the drug
  • Using the drug in addiction to alcohol or other drugs
  • Taking Xanax using blotter paper

Physical Signs of Xanax Abuse

In addition, there are physical and mental symptoms you can look for to determine if a person is abusing Xanax. Some physical symptoms of Xanax abuse include:[2]

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue and sluggishness
  • Development of tolerance to Xanax
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not taking Xanax

Social and Psychological Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

Furthermore, there are many psychological and emotional symptoms that indicate Xanax abuse as well. Substance abuse of any kind can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life. People who abuse Xanax typically experience strained relationships. Drug abuse can cause distrust between friends and family members, marital problems, and even professional issues due to the person’s work performance. 

In addition, a common sign of Xanax abuse is spending excessive amounts of money buying the drug, time using the drug, and time obsessing over getting more of and using the drug. This can lead to financial and emotional problems. People who abuse Xanax may have trouble paying their bills, isolate from time with friends and family, and begin neglecting their obligations and responsibilities. 

Benzodiazepines, like Xanax, have an amnestic effect, meaning that it makes individuals have trouble recalling small details, tasks, obligations, conversations, and more. These memory problems can affect everyday life and lead to a slew of problems. Lastly, chronic Xanax abuse often leads to addiction – which can ultimately make life unmanageable.

Health Risks

The most apparent health risk of Xanax abuse is an overdose. Xanax overdoses can be fatal, and they are more likely to be fatal if the drug is combined with other substances. Symptoms of Xanax overdose include:[2]

  • Slowed or difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Loss of balance
  • Muscle weakness
  • Coma

The treatment for Xanax overdose depends on the amount of the drug taken and whether or not other substances were combined with it. Medical professionals can either pump a person’s stomach or administer flumazenil, an antidote. 

As a central nervous system depressant, Xanax abuse causes poor coordination, slurred speech, disorientation, and confusion. Consequently, there is a risk of accidental injury or car accidents while under the influence of the drug. When Xanax is abused with alcohol or other drugs, the risk of coma, accidental injury, or overdose increases. 

When people abuse Xanax for an extended period of time, the brain has less control over emotional responses and symptoms of anxiety and depression can worsen. Long term abuse often leads to mood swings, hostile behaviors, and irritability. While memory loss is a short-term side effect of Xanax, evidence links the use of Xanax with dementia.[3]

Lastly, Xanax withdrawals are dangerous and potentially fatal because they can cause seizures, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and delirium. Going through this process isn’t easy, so it is suggested to undergo drug detox when individuals make the decision to get sober. 

Recovering from Xanax Addiction

If you or a loved one is recovering from Xanax addiction, getting recovery aftercare services in place before leaving treatment can help smooth the transition out of rehab. 

Concierge aftercare is an effective way of strengthening one’s recovery. Dr. Henriques and his team of professionals understand the rate of relapse potential is greatest during the first 90 days, and for many extending into the first year when immersing back into the world with life’s responsibilities, and develop an individualized plan from which to impart valuable recovery tools.”

The PARALLAX solution involves a relapse prevention plan, sober goals, and lifestyle adjustments that allow you to maintain newfound freedom. If you’re looking for aftercare services and recovery coaching you can rely on, reach out to us today.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684331/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/benzodiazepine-abuse#2
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/benzodiazepine-use-may-raise-risk-alzheimers-disease-201409107397

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