xanax Addiction & treatment

What is Xanax?

Alprazolam, more commonly known by its brand name, Xanax, is a powerful benzodiazepine often prescribed to help treat insomnia, panic attacks and anxiety disorders. While it is thought of as an effective psychiatric medication, it can be extremely addictive, causing both mental and physical harm when used long-term. 

Xanax addiction is on the rise in the UK, with many people looking for ways to deal with symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks caused by depression. Xanax’s tranquilising effects are what make it so appealing to those suffering from these disorders. However, a large number of people obtain Xanax without prescription in order to abuse it recreationally, often combining it with other substances, the consequences of which can be devastating if not effectively treated.   

What is Xanax Addiction?

Xanax addiction refers to the compulsive need to find and use Xanax despite any negative consequences that might occur as a result. Many people associate drug addiction with illicit drugs; however, any mind-altering substance carries a risk of addiction and dependence. 

Xanax addiction can occur rapidly due to its fast-acting properties, which is why it’s considered the most addictive benzodiazepine available today. Prolonged use can result in big changes to brain activity in a short space of time, which can eventually lead to physical and psychological dependence. Once the body has become dependent on Xanax it requires the drug in order to function normally. Therefore, the urge to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay reinforces substance use.

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Xanax Addiction Symptoms

Xanax is an extremely fast-acting and highly potent drug, which is why many people use it as a way to self-medicate. Symptoms of Xanax addiction may not occur immediately, however as you become more careless, these symptoms may become obvious to those around you. Common signs of Xanax addiction include trouble with cognitive function and coordination as well as an inability to form sentences without slurring. 

Someone suffering from a Xanax addiction may also present some of the following symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Delirium
  • Excessive sleep
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Fatigued 
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizures 
  • Vertigo
  • Lack of coordination
  • Weakness
  • No interest in other activities 
  • Legal consequences
  • Missing school or work
  • Isolating from friends and family 

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Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Like other depressants, Xanax works by impacting the central nervous system, slowing down important functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature while at the same time reducing stress, panic and the risk of seizures. Frequent use of Xanax causes these functions to slow down more regularly while the brain becomes used to this. When the drug is suddenly removed, these functions may rebound.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms can manifest within 8 to 12 hours of your last dose, typically peaking in severity after 72 hours. Some of the most common symptoms of Xanax withdrawal include: 

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle pain
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhoea
  • Numb fingers
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety

If your detox is not medically managed and you experience any of the withdrawal symptoms mentioned, you should speak to a healthcare professional to arrange to have your dose slowly tapered. Alternatively, you may be able to access medications for withdrawal from your local drug and alcohol service.  If you experience these or any other side effects of Xanax, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider, who can help you taper off safely.

Xanax has been found to produce some of the most severe withdrawal effects of all benzodiazepines Therefore, the best way to avoid a difficult withdrawal period is to slowly reduce the dose over some time. It is not recommended to taper without the assistance and recommendations from your prescribing doctor.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Taking large doses of Xanax can result in an overdose. However, when mixed with other substances, the risk of overdose is especially high. While symptoms will vary from person to person, some of the more severe symptoms include coma and even death. 

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of a Xanax overdose can save lives. Whether you have taken Xanax by itself or have combined it with other substances, recognising the dangers is vital. In most cases, the cause of an overdose is down to the impact the drug has on the central nervous system. 

The most identifiable signs of an overdose include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Slurred speech and mental status changes due to the sedating nature of the drug
  • Depressed breathing, which often occurs when Xanax is taken with alcohol and other depressants
  • Lack of coordination and balance, even when performing simple tasks 

An overdose is treated on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the amount of drug that has been taken and the method of use.  

Xanax and alcohol: risks of mixing them

Many people mistakenly believe that by combining depressants, one cancels out the other.  However, this is incredibly inaccurate. Taking Xanax with alcohol is known to intensify the side effects of both substances, ultimately doubling your risk of experiencing dangerous consequences. 

Mixing Xanax with other central nervous system depressants such as alcohol can result in overdose. The risk of this occurring is even higher with the use of counterfeit Xanax pills that are often sold illegally and cut with other harmful substances. 

When combined with the sedative properties of other benzodiazepines or alcohol can cause a lethal suppression of the circulatory system. Symptoms of abuse will vary by person depending on the combination of drugs taken, but some of the most common risks of mixing Xanax and alcohol include: 

  • Sedation
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Low blood pressure
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea

Besides addiction and dependence, long-term use of Xanax and alcohol together increases your risk of:

  • Drastic changes in weight 
  • Changes to appetite 
  • Impaired cognitive function 
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression
  • Liver failure
  • Personality changes
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease 
  • Stroke

Treatment for Xanax addiction

There are various treatment methods for overcoming addiction, such as free drug and alcohol services, support groups and outpatient rehab treatment. While each one has its benefits, inpatient addiction rehab is considered to be the safest and most effective. At an inpatient rehab facility, you will receive around the clock care to ensure your health and wellbeing. 

Due to Xanax’s high potency, addiction treatment will require detox to clear the system of any toxins that have built up over time, as a result of excessive drug use. During this stage of recovery, you are likely to experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms as your brain and body try to adjust without the presence of Xanax. 

In this instance, supervised medical detox is recommended to lower the risk of harm during withdrawal. Opting for a medical detox means you will receive medication to reduce any unpleasant symptoms of Xanax withdrawal and minimise the risk of complications. In addition to a supervised detox, you will be offered intensive counselling and therapy to help treat the psychological aspects of your addiction. 


Xanax is a prescription medication, however, it can also be obtained illegally and used recreationally. Addiction is often associated with illicit substances; but while using a medication outside of the recommended parameters is considered abuse, even those who follow medical advice are at risk of developing an addiction. 

Addiction is characterised by the compulsive need to find and use Xanax, despite any negative consequences that might arise as a result. Someone addicted to Xanax is unable to stop taking it, and usually develops a tolerance and physical dependency as a result of frequent use. Xanax abuse refers to any use outside of the recommended parameters. Someone abusing Xanax every so often is capable of stopping, whereas a person suffering from Xanax addiction is unable to control their desire for the drug. 

Xanax withdrawal has no set timeline; however, symptoms typically appear around 8 to 12 following your last dose. If you’ve been taking Xanax as part of a prescription, your doctor will taper your dose to avoid experiencing any agonising withdrawal symptoms. However, if you fail to taper your dose, your symptoms may intensify. Withdrawal symptoms are said to peak after 48 hours but should improve by the fourth or fifth day. 

Xanax is a particularly potent benzodiazepine that can cause extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when stopped suddenly. For this reason, detoxing at a rehab facility is considered the safest option.

While it is possible to receive outpatient care and medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, there is still a high risk of relapse occurring during this stage of recovery. Taking Xanax after any period of abstinence significantly increases the risk of suffering a life-threatening overdose.  

Many residential rehabs offer aftercare programmes to help clients maintain sobriety once they leave. These programmes focus mainly on relapse prevention as well as offering support groups and therapy sessions. 

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A page revised the 6 of July of 2021, by Danielle Byatt, a Level 4 addictions counselling, Level 5 in Leadership & Management, BA applied social work. and Treatment Director at Step by Step Recovery.

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