Addiction To Xanax (Alprazolam)

Xanax is a powerful Benzodiazepine that is often prescribed to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), panic disorders, and insomnia. It is extremely addictive when used long-term, making Xanax addiction and abuse a serious concern. Xanax is the number one prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States. 70% of teens with a Xanax addiction get the drug from their family’s medicine cabinet.

Tolerance to Xanax develops quickly, requiring the user to take more of the drug to achieve the desired effects. Someone with a Xanax addiction may take up to 20 or 30 pills per day. If the user decides to stop taking Xanax, they may experience withdrawal effects such as anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and tremors. The onset of withdrawal symptoms is a sign that a physical dependence has developed. The development of tolerance and withdrawal are indications of addiction.

Once a Xanax addiction has taken hold, daily responsibilities such as school, work, or family are ignored as energy is redirected toward drug-seeking behavior.

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Other behavioral signs of Xanax addiction include:

  • Continued use of Xanax even though it is contributing to personal difficulties.
  • Inability to stop using Xanax despite the desire to.
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.
  • Obsessing about obtaining and using Xanax.
  • Loss of control over the amount of Xanax being consumed.
  • Legal problems that are the result of using Xanax.
  • Risk-taking behaviors, such as driving while under the influence of Xanax.

If a user wishes to stop taking Xanax after dependence on the drug has formed, it is not recommended to quit “cold turkey” or without medical supervision. The symptoms of Xanax withdrawal are similar to those of alcohol or Barbiturate withdrawal, and the severity of the symptoms can vary. If convulsions occur, withdrawal from Xanax can be deadly.

Normally, the withdrawal process involves slowly reducing the dosage of Xanax and eventually switching the user to a long-acting form of the drug for a period of time. The gradual taper of this drug helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

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Understanding Xanax

Xanax is the brand name for Alprazolam, a prescription Sedative in the Benzodiazepines family. Benzodiazepines were originally developed as a replacement for Barbiturates. Xanax affects the brain and Central Nervous System (CNS). It boosts a brain chemical called Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), which slows down the nerve cell activity in the brain. The result is a calm and relaxed feeling.

Because Xanax is a CNS Depressant, common effects of the drug include slurred speech, loss of coordination, and anxiety.

Xanax is dispensed in 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg strengths. The pills come in different shapes and colors depending on their strength. The 2 mg tablets are white, green, or yellow in color and rectangular in shape. The rest are oval shaped and colored white (0.25 mg), orange (0.5 mg), or blue (1 mg). Xanax is a regulated schedule IV controlled substance.

After taking Xanax, the peak effects of the drug are typically felt within one to two hours. As an intermediate-duration drug, Xanax stays in a person’s system for 12 to 15 hours.

How Long Do Benzos Stay In The Body?
Brands Halcion Xanax Librium
Length Of Action Short-acting Intermediate Long-acting
Time 2-4 hours 6-12 hours 5-30 hours

Common street names for Xanax include:

  • Xannies or Zannies
  • Handlebars
  • Bars
  • Blue Footballs
  • Benzos
  • French Fries
  • Ladders
  • Sticks

Xanax Effects And Abuse

Taking more than the prescribed dosage or using Xanax without a prescription is considered abuse of the drug. However, even those who follow a prescription can fall victim to Xanax addiction and abuse.

Xanax may be abused in several ways, including:

  • Taking multiple pills
  • Injecting it
  • Snorting it
  • Taking it via blotter paper
  • Taking it with other drugs or alcohol

Xanax is typically abused because of the sense of calm and relaxation it causes in the user. Some people abuse Xanax by taking it in higher doses or combining it with other drugs or alcohol in order to achieve the desired high.

They say drugs fill a void, or at least that’s what my therapist thinks. The first time I popped a Xanax was the first time I felt relief from my anxiety disorder… There was something oddly comforting about Xanax — the way it came in many shapes and colors, like peach and blue. I enjoyed looking at the pills. They were a pretty little assortment of happiness I could feel just by holding in my hands. Although Xanax put a temporary stop to my agony, it soon introduced a new kind.

- Former Benzo addict Ashley Zlatopolsky, Salon.com, 2015

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An overdose on Xanax can be fatal, especially if the substance is taken with alcohol or other drugs. Overdose can also occur if the pills are crushed or chewed, as the drug is designed to be time-released into the system. Xanax overdose symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting
  • Loss of balance
  • Muscle weakness
  • Coma

Treatment for a Xanax overdose will depend on how much of the drug was taken and whether other drugs or alcohol were also taken. In the event of an overdose, medical providers may pump the stomach to remove as much of the unabsorbed Xanax as possible. Medications such as Flumazenil may also be administered as antidotes. Doctors may insert an IV to provide necessary fluids. It is important for anyone suffering from an overdose to be honest with the emergency medical personnel about exactly what substances were taken and at what amount.

Featured Centers Offering Treatment for Xanax Addiction

Common Xanax Drug Combinations

Those suffering from Xanax addiction and abuse frequently combine the substance with alcohol or other pills — particularly Opiates — to get a better high. Heroin users regularly consume Xanax, as do Methadone users. In addition, approximately 40% of alcoholics regularly abuse Xanax. Alcohol is particularly dangerous when mixed with Xanax because they are both Depressants; combining the two can lead to an overdose and respiratory failure.

Xanax Statistics

124.9

thousand

Emergency room visits due to the recreational abuse of Xanax more than doubled, from 57,419 in 2005 to 124,902 in 2010.

50

million

In 2013, 50 million prescriptions were written for Alprazolam (the generic name for Xanax), up from 38 million written in 2006.

9

percent

Prescription rates for Xanax have been climbing at a 9% rate since 2008.

Xanax Addiction And Abuse Treatment

Overcoming an addiction to Xanax isn’t easy, but people do it every day. Medical detox and treatment programs can be helpful when treating a Xanax addiction. Contact a treatment provider today for help finding a Xanax addiction treatment program near you.

Published:

Author

Jeffrey Juergens

Photo of Jeffrey Juergens
  • Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.

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Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

Theresa Parisi

Photo of Theresa Parisi
  • Theresa Parisi received her bachelor’s degree in Addiction Science and Psychology from Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota in 2010. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) by the Florida Certification Board. Theresa is passionate about recovery having gone through addiction herself.

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Harbor Oaks Hospital

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Valiant Behavioural Health

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Bradford Recovery Center

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Recovery Institute of Ohio

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Shickshinny , PA

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Cove Forge Behavioral Health Center

Williamsburg , PA

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Serenity Mountain Recovery Center for Women

Waymart , PA

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Clearbrook Treatment Centers

Laurel , PA

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Pocono Mountain Recovery Center

Henryville , PA

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Newport Academy – Teen Rehab Center

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Bowling Green Brandywine

Kennett Square , PA

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SOBA New Jersey

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Guardian IOP – New Brunswick

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Princeton Detox & Recovery Center

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Banyan Treatment Centers – Philadelphia

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