Overview of Xanax Use and Abuse
- Xanax (alprazolam) is a sedative medication that acts as a central nervous system depressant.
- Xanax’s short-term effects include muscle relaxation, anxiety relief, drowsiness, and sleep induction.
- The risk of becoming addicted to Xanax increases the longer it is used and when doses of 4mg or more are taken daily.
- People who have a history of substance abuse are at a higher risk of developing an addiction.
- Long-term abuse of Xanax can lead to depression, impulsive behavior, aggression, speech problems, persistent disorientation and confusion, and social isolation.
- Withdrawal symptoms include sweating, nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, tremors, and hallucinations.
What Is Xanax?
If you need help overcoming a Xanax addiction, contact a treatment support advisor at 1-888-319-2606
Xanax is a prescription drug that is used to treat generalized anxiety, social anxiety disorder, as well as panic disorder.
It belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which slow down the central nervous system and cause sedation.15 Other branded formulations include Xanax XR, and it is available generically as alprazolam.
Taking Xanax non-medically for extended periods of time may lead to an addiction. In some cases of chronic Xanax abuse, it can take more than 6 months to fully overcome some of the cognitive impairments from addiction. Some of these may even become permanent.1, 7
- Xannies (Zannies)
- Zanbars (Xanbars)
- Blue Footballs
How Is It Used?
People who abuse Xanax may take several pills at the same time to get high. They may take the pills orally or crush them into a powder that can be snorted in an effort to increase its effects or the speed of onset of its effects.
Attempts to circumvent the intended route of administration can actually minimize efficacy, shorten the therapeutic window and, especially in the case of the XR formulation, be quite dangerous (as a bypassed built-in controlled release mechanism might result in delivery of a large dose instantaneously).
Xanax’s effects may last anywhere from 4-8 hours.21 Effects include:
- Dry mouth.
- Muscle relaxation.
- Anxiety relief.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
The risk of becoming addicted to Xanax increases the longer a person uses it and when he or she takes doses of 4mg or more daily.22 People who have a history of drug or alcohol abuse also have a higher risk of becoming addicted to Xanax.
Signs of Xanax addiction include:
- Taking Xanax in larger amounts and for a longer period than planned.
- Failure to cut down or quit using Xanax.
- Spending an excessive amount of time acquiring the drug, using the drug, and recovering from its effects.
- Intense craving for Xanax.
Who Answers? to get help finding a treatment program for Xanax addiction or abuse.
Due to the presence of severe, potentially life-threatening withdrawal effects such as seizures, people attempting to quit abusing Xanax may require a period of medically supervised detoxification and withdrawal.
Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:
- Rebound insomnia.
- Seizure. 22,23
Mixing Xanax with alcohol increases the risk of overdose.
Taking larger doses of Xanax to experience a high can lead to an overdose and even death, especially if Xanax is combined with alcohol or other depressants (e.g., opioids). 15
Signs of Xanax overdose include:
- Muscle weakness.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Intense confusion.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Trouble walking.
Xanax addiction treatment doesn’t have a set price. The cost of treatment will depend on many things, including the type of program, how long it is, where it’s located, its features and your insurance coverage.
Learn more about insurance options below:
- No insurance. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s free helpline to find programs near you that help people with substance abuse disorders who don’t have insurance.
- Have insurance. Confirm what your insurance will cover and which recovery options are available by calling 1-888-319-2606 Who Answers? .
If you’re ready to seek treatment for Xanax addiction, explore the different treatment options and think about which factors matter most to you in a recovery center.
By focusing on what’s important to you and having a good sense of what you’re looking for, you’re more likely to get something out of the program and stay sober when you leave.
- Outpatient centers: These are a good option if you have a mild addiction that you need help with. You can continue to live at home during treatment and visit the drug recovery program for regular individual and group therapy.
- Inpatient or residential centers: Residential programs are good for people who have a serious problem with Xanax that is interfering with daily life. You receive detox treatment then meet with an addiction treatment professional to develop a treatment plan that may include individual and group therapy, 12-step meetings, and other activities at the center.
- 12-step recovery: These programs involve meeting with a group of other people trying to overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol. A sponsor works with you as you complete the 12 steps of the program’s recovery process.
- Use: More than 4,000 people reported misusing or abusing alprazolam (Xanax) in 2015.14
- Gender: Males show slightly higher rates of benzodiazepine abuse, with 3,148 men reporting past-year use and 974 reporting past-month use, compared to 2,903 women reporting past-year use and 900 reporting past-month use.14
- Addiction rate: Almost 700,000 people age 12 or older struggled with a tranquilizer use disorder in 2015.14
- Teen Xanax abuse: In 2015, 4.7% of 12th graders reported past-year use of tranquilizers such as Xanax, a slight drop from previous years. Use among 8th graders is at the lowest level since 1991, with only 1.7% of reporting past-year use. All in all, tranquilizer use has declined since 2001 in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade populations.17
- Emergencies: In 2011, nearly 10% of all emergency department visits related to nonmedical use of any pharmaceutical involved the abuse of alprazolam (Xanax).18
- Overdose: Nearly 8,000 benzodiazepine overdose deaths were reported in 2014 alone, the highest number since 2011.19
Find Treatment for Addiction
Xanax and other benzodiazepine addictions can be challenging to overcome and frequently require closely supervised detoxification.
. Barker MJ, Greenwood KM, Jackson M, Crowe SF. (2004). Persistence of cognitive effects after withdrawal from long-term benzodiazepine use: a meta-analysis. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology 19(3):437-54.
. Mendelson, WB. (1992). Neuropharmacology of sleep induction by benzodiazepines. Neurobiology 16: 221.
. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011). Drug overdose deaths—Florida, 2003-2009. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 60(26):869-72.
. Lydiard RB, Laraia MT, Ballenger JC, Howell EF. (1987). Emergence of depressive symptoms in patients receiving alprazolam for panic disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry 144(5):664-5.
. Tien AY, Anthony JC. (1990). Epidemiological analysis of alcohol and drug use as risk factors for psychotic experiences. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 178(8):473-80.
. Mathew VM, Dursun SM, Reveley MA. (2000). Increased aggressive, violent, and impulsive behaviour in patients during chronic-prolonged benzodiazepine use. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 45(1):89-90.
. Tata PR, Rollings J, Collins M, Pickering A, Jacobson RR. (1994). Lack of cognitive recovery following withdrawal from long-term benzodiazepine use. Psychological Medicine 24(1):203-13.
. Cloos JM, Bocquet V, Rolland-Portal I, Koch P, Chouinard G. (2015). Hypnotics and Triazolobenzodiazepines – Best Predictors of High-Dose Benzodiazepine Use: Results from the Luxembourg National Health Insurance Registry. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 84(5):273-83.
. Gudin JA, Mogali S, Jones JD, Comer SD. (2013). Risks, management, and monitoring of combination opioid, benzodiazepines, and/or alcohol use. Postgraduate Medicine 125(4):115-30.
. Jann M, Kennedy WK, Lopez G. (2014). Benzodiazepines: a major component in unintentional prescription drug overdoses with opioid analgesics. Journal of Pharmacy Practice 27(1):5-16.
. Minaya O, Fresàn A, Cortes-Lopez JL, Nanni R, Ugalde O. (2011). The Benzodiazepine Dependence Questionnaire (BDEPQ): validity and reliability in Mexican psychiatric patients. Addictive Behaviors 36(8):874-7.
. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2013). Alprazolam (Xanax).
. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (5th ed.). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 16-4984, NSDUH Series H-51).
. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2013). Benzodiazepines.
. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Alprazolam. Medline Plus.
. Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E. & Miech, R. A. (2016). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2015: Volume 2, College students and adults ages 19–55. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2011: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4760, DAWN Series D-39. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Overdose Death Rates.
. Longo, L.P. (2000). Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines-Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives. American Family Physician, 61(7), 2121-2128.
. Abadinsky, H. (2014). Drug Use and Abuse: A Comprehensive Introduction (Eighth Edition). Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2011). XANAX.
. Bush, D.M. Emergency Department Visits Involving Nonmedical Use of the Anti-anxiety Medication Alprazolam. The Center for Behavioral Statistics and Quality Report May 22, 2014.
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