Xanax Addiction and Abuse

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Xanax: Frequently Asked Questions

Is Xanax Addictive?

Yes, Xanax can be addictive. It can cause withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it.

Is Xanax Safe?

It is safe when a doctor prescribes it to a person, and the person takes it as prescribed. However, if it is taken illegally, with other medicines a doctor doesn’t about or is taken more than prescribed, it can be harmful.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the risks for overdose death when a person takes opioids and Xanax is ten times higher than if a person took either drug individually.1

What Is Xanax’s Drug Class?

The U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency categorizes benzodiazepines like xanax as Schedule IV drugs. This means they have addictive potential and likelihood for abuse, but not as much as drugs on Schedules I through III, such as painkillers, amphetamines, cocaine, and anabolic steroids.2

How is Xanax Used?

It is a medication doctors prescribe to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia. It belongs to the medication class benzodiazepines along with other medications like Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan. When a person takes it, they feel calm or more sedate.1

Doctors usually prescribe the drug to be taken short-term. An increasing number of people are taking both Xanax and opioid painkillers. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an estimated 23 percent of people who died from an opioid overdose also tested positive for benzodiazepines.1

People who abuse the drug will commonly take more of the medication than needed or crush them up and snort them.3

What Are Some Street Names?

Street names include:

  • Benzos
  • Bicycle parts
  • Blue footballs
  • Footballs
  • School bus
  • Xanbars
  • Xannies

According to CNBC, the number of fake and smuggled Xanax pills available on the streets is rising.3 It’s difficult to know what is truly in the pill when buying it on the street.

Physical and Mental Effects of Xanax

Short-Term Effects

Some of the short-term effects are:

  • Amnesia
  • Irritability
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced muscle spasms
  • Sedation
  • Vivid and disturbing dreams

Long-Term Effects

It’s possible to experience an addiction-related to Xanax, which can increase the risks for overdose long-term. Long-term use also tends to result in higher rates of respiratory problems, such as pneumonia because the drug can affect breathing.

Can You Overdose?

Yes, it can slow a person’s breathing and response times, leading to overdose. Signs a person may be overdosing on Xanax include:

  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slow respiratory rate
  • Weak pulse

People have died from Xanax overdose.2

What is Withdrawal Like?

Doctors think Xanax causes more severe withdrawals than when compared to other benzodiazepines.3 Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Muscle spasms

Some people may also experience seizures, which makes the drug a potentially dangerous medication to withdrawal from.3 For this reason, many medical experts recommend seeking professional medical help when withdrawing from the drug.

Treatment and Recovery

How Do I Stop Using Xanax?

If Xanax use has occurred for a time period longer than a couple of weeks, most doctors don’t recommend immediately stopping “cold turkey.” This is because the drug reduces the likelihood a person will have a seizure. If they suddenly stop using it, it’s possible it could send their body into overdrive, leading to seizures as well as other side effects.2

Treatment Options

A professional rehabilitation facility can recommend a tapering plan where Xanax doses are slowly cut back on until use is safely ended. They can also provide services to help deal with anxiety and other emotions, which likely helped lead to Xanax abuse. Some common therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy.3

In addition to these approaches, a doctor may recommend alternative medications that can help relieve anxiety and may have fewer side effects and less addictive potential. An example is the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressant. Examples include sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac).


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids
  2. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/sites/getsmartaboutdrugs.com/files/publications/DoA_2017Ed_Updated_6.16.17.pdf#page=59
  3. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/02/antianxiety-drugs-fuel-the-next-deadly-drug-crisis-in-us.html

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