Josh Chandler | May 1, 2023

Is Xanax Addictive?

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is the brand name of a prescription sedative medication with the generic name Alprazolam. It is a central nervous system depressant in the benzodiazepine class of medications and can effectively lower feelings of fear and panic by reducing the excitement of the brain. This provides a sense of calm and comfort. So is Xanax addictive? Yes, it can be. Although it has been prescribed by doctors since the 1960s, it is classified as a Schedule IV drug due to its potential for abuse, and it is also sold on the street under names like Xannies (Zannies), Xanbars, Zanbars, Bars, Upjohn, and Blue Footballs.

This medication is usually given to those who have mental health issues including panic disorder and anxiety disorders, stress disorders, and depression. It is also sometimes prescribed on a short-term basis to treat insomnia, and it may be prescribed to help treat some seizure disorders as well. This medication is usually prescribed in tablet form to be swallowed, or as a disintegrating tablet that is placed under the tongue to dissolve into the bloodstream.

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When Is Xanax Prescribed?

Xanax is often a short-term prescription given by doctors to people who have generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, depression, agoraphobia, insomnia, seizure disorders, and moderate to severe stress levels. It is one of the most commonly prescribed medications but is only meant to be taken for a short period of time, usually no longer than six weeks. Your doctor will let you know what dosage to take, and how long your period of usage should be.

The reason this medication is given in a short-term prescription is that this medication causes physical dependence quite easily, which, if unchecked, can lead to the development of a Xanax addiction. For this reason, you should only ever use Xanax under a doctor’s supervision. Today, Xanax addiction is one of the most common drug-related reasons for emergency room visits.

It is important to note that Xanax alone does not cure any of the listed disorders and conditions. It is a prescription medication that should be used in conjunction with care from a medical doctor, along with therapy, stress reduction techniques like exercise and meditation, and/or professional behavioral health care.

Is Xanax Addictive?

addicted to xanax

Xanax is a benzodiazepine medication with a short half-life. This means that it leaves the body relatively quickly, which can cause withdrawal symptoms that may include psychological disturbances, stress and anxiety, and physical pain. These symptoms may result in compulsive usage that exceeds the prescribed dose. Because of this compulsion, coupled with the feeling that you cannot function normally without Xanax in their system, people may begin to take more of this medication than they have been prescribed, ask their doctor to prescribe them more, take other people’s Xanax, or even buy the drug illegally on the street. So the answer to the question “Is Xanax addictive?” is yes, it can be.

How Xanax Affects the Mind

Xanax is effective in reducing anxiety, stress, and tension by affecting the central nervous system, slowing the heart rate, and lowering blood pressure. It raises the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain which produces a calming effect. Over time, the brain slows its natural production of the GABA neurotransmitter and the person develops a tolerance for Xanax that can cause anybody who has been using this medication regularly to become physically dependent. This dependence can lead to addiction.

Some common side effects of using Xanax include drowsiness, lack of coordination, memory issues, dizziness, slurred speech, confusion, depression, and sleep issues. It does not produce a euphoric high. Instead, it may cause you to fall asleep.

Using Xanax for a long period of time can cause serious side effects like weight and appetite changes, forgetfulness, hallucinations, mania, aggression, decreased inhibitions, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, seizures, and suicidal thoughts or actions. Taking a high dose of Xanax or mixing it with alcohol or other drugs can have serious or even deadly results, causing symptoms like blackouts, respiratory depression, blurred vision, and overdose.

15 Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

If you have been abusing Xanax with or without a prescription, or if you have had a Xanax prescription for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to stop use while supervised by medical professionals. A medical detox program is the safest and most effective way to combat Xanax addiction as it will utilize a benzodiazepine taper, as well as therapy and health treatments that will keep you safe and comfortable as your body weans off of Xanax once and for all. If you instead opt to quit cold turkey, you will be putting yourself at risk of experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms that may include:

  • Seizures
  • Increased heart rate and palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Panic attacks
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shaking
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Depression with or without suicidal ideation
  • Insomnia, nightmares, and other sleep issues
  • Aggression and irritability
  • Muscle pain and stiffness

Xanax withdrawal usually begins fairly quickly, often within a few hours after your last use, but because it is a drug with a short half-life, it will also be over quicker than it would with similar sedative drug detox. Xanax detox usually takes around one week, but in some cases, Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) may occur. This is a long-lasting syndrome in which symptoms of withdrawal like chronic insomnia, aches and pains, anxiety, poor concentration, and depression may linger for up to 24 months after detoxing.

Because of PAWS, and because Xanax is usually prescribed for a mental health disorder, a short or long-term stay in inpatient rehab with dual diagnosis care is often helpful directly after detox, followed by an outpatient program for continued long-term support.

Muse Treatment Can Help People Overcome Xanax Addiction

If you or a loved one has a Xanax use disorder or if your Xanax use has begun to take over your life in negative ways, please call Muse for professional addiction treatment. Quitting any benzodiazepine medication comes with certain risks during withdrawal, so a safe, effective medical detox program with a benzodiazepine taper, combined with therapy and other treatment is the safest way to stop use.

Because Xanax is usually prescribed for a mental health issue, dual diagnosis treatment in rehab is usually the best way to help patients with a Xanax addiction. Without care for the co-occurring disorder, quitting Xanax can cause symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, or panic disorder to rebound even more intensely than they were before. Treating the underlying disorder is the best way to achieve long-term sobriety and avoid relapsing.

At Muse, we provide customized treatment plans for people who wish to stop Xanax abuse. We offer medical detox programs, short-term and long-term inpatient rehabilitation, intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs, and aftercare programs. All treatment is designed to best help you as an individual. From the moment you walk through our doors, we will do all we can to ensure you feel safe, respected, and cared for. Your treatment plan will be designed to suit your healthcare needs, as well as your budget and your long-term recovery goals.

If you or a loved one has a substance use disorder, or if you would like to verify your insurance coverage with Muse, please call us today at 866-336-9037. Our integrated continuum of care will ensure you have the appropriate amount of support needed to overcome your addiction and begin down the road to recovery.

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Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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