How Addictive Is Xanax? Understanding The Risks

Despite being a commonly-prescribed medication for anxiety, Xanax is not a perfectly safe drug. Anyone can develop dependency or addiction with sustained use. Fortunately, there are options for treatment and recovery.

Alprazolam goes by the well-recognized brand name Xanax. It’s usually prescribed to help people with the symptoms of anxiety, depression, or stress.

Xanax falls within a class of psychoactive prescription drugs known as benzodiazepines. These drugs are depressants, which means they slow down brain activity and relax the muscles.

Due to their calming effects, Xanax and other benzodiazepines (benzos) are commonly abused and sold illegally.

However, because Xanax is addictive and may develop into physical or mental dependency, it’s important to use this drug with caution and only as prescribed by a medical professional.

Can You Get Addicted To Xanax?

Benzos are some of the most addictive drugs in the world. Even when taken as prescribed, they can result in dependency.

So how addictive are Xanax pills? According to researchers, as many as four out of 10 people who take Xanax have a dependency.

Xanax is listed as a Schedule IV drug, which means that it has a low risk of addiction. For people who are predisposed to addiction, however, it can quickly become habit-forming.

Xanax is notorious for being one of the strongest and fastest-acting drugs in terms of chemical dependency. Despite this, it is commonly prescribed for various panic disorders.

People who take 4 milligrams (mg) or more per day are at the highest risk for addiction. Using Xanax for sustained periods can result in eventual cravings and withdrawal symptoms without it.

Is Xanax Addictive? Dependence Vs. Addiction

There are some key differences between dependence on a substance and drug addiction.

Dependence means that your body has grown accustomed to using a particular drug and requires it to function normally. This can result in building tolerance and needing higher doses.

People who take Xanax as prescribed may find themselves experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they miss a dose. If this happens, their body has developed a dependency. This is not necessarily a sign of addiction or misuse.

Consistent substance abuse rewires the brain’s central nervous system receptors until the drug is the only thing providing the person with essential neurotransmitters like dopamine.

By that point, addiction has set in. The person will do anything they can to seek out the substance, no matter what negative effects it may have on their life or health.

Xanax Effects On The Brain And Body

Why is Xanax addictive? Like any substance, Xanax affects everyone differently. For some, using alprazolam doesn’t pose a significant risk of developing an addiction, but for others, addiction may be more likely.

Similarly, people taking 0.25 mg per day will not experience the same thing as someone taking a 10 mg dose per day.

A Xanax addiction can be either physiological or mental. It’s dangerous to quit Xanax cold turkey, and the drug detox process should always be done with medical supervision.

When Xanax use is stopped suddenly, a person may experience “rebound symptoms,” where the condition they were taking Xanax to treat returns with increased severity.

Xanax Effects On The Brain

Xanax is often used to treat the worst effects of anxiety disorders or other mental illnesses, and the short-term relief, euphoria, and relaxation it provides can be very desirable.

Someone who suffers from extreme anxiety may become fearful of their symptoms or afraid that they won’t be able to function without Xanax. It can start to preoccupy their mind more and more.

Xanax comes with a number of mental side effects. It can cause memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and disinhibition. It’s also associated with accidents and is not safe to drive on.

Xanax Effects On The Body

Xanax has a considerable effect on bodily functioning. People may experience side effects after taking it or when going through withdrawal without it. Many of these symptoms overlap.

Some side effects of Xanax abuse and withdrawal include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • changes in heart rate
  • excessive sweating
  • panic attacks
  • depression
  • dizziness
  • fatigue or drowsiness
  • visual impairment
  • convulsions or seizures
  • headaches

Physical dependence is characterized by experiencing one or more of these symptoms after stopping use. People often also experience bodily aches and pains during Xanax withdrawal.

What Are The Signs Of A Xanax Addiction?

While addiction can happen to anyone, people with co-occurring disorders, people who have relatives with mental illnesses, and people with a history of trauma are at a higher risk.

Studies have demonstrated that Xanax addiction rates are higher in older people than in adolescents. It’s also common for people who abuse Xanax to experience alcohol abuse.

There are several telling signs that a person is addicted to a substance.

Signs of an addiction to Xanax include:

  • mood swings or changes in behavior
  • withdrawal from friends and family
  • increasing dosage to combat tolerance
  • preoccupation with finding Xanax
  • changes in weight or appearance
  • loss of interest in hobbies, work, or school

People who are addicted to substances may also experience legal troubles, fractured interpersonal relationships, or increasingly reckless behavior.

Self-Assessment For Xanax Addiction

Because there are legitimate uses for Xanax, it may be more difficult to differentiate between typical Xanax use and misuse.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, (DSM-V) has some helpful questions for people who suspect they may be addicted to substances.

If you suspect you or a loved one may have a Xanax addiction, consider the following:

  • Have you tried to cut down on your use and failed?
  • Have you kept using Xanax even when it caused problems in your relationships?
  • Do you experience intense cravings or urges to use Xanax?
  • Do you spend large amounts of time acquiring, using, and recovering from Xanax?
  • Do you put yourself in risky situations while using Xanax?
  • Do you need more of the drug to experience the desired effect?
  • Have there been times when you used more Xanax than you wanted to?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, you might meet the criteria for a Xanax addiction. It may be a good idea to begin looking into your treatment options.

What To Do If You Or A Loved One Has A Xanax Addiction

It can be intimidating to confront addiction in a loved one or in yourself, and you may not know what the next steps are. Fortunately, there are many options available to help.

If you believe you are addicted to Xanax, The first step is to acknowledge that you have a problem and seek help from a friend, family member, or mental health professional.

You can help your loved one by educating yourself on the signs, symptoms, and treatments for benzodiazepine use. It’s also critical to be able to recognize the signs of a Xanax overdose.

Think carefully before staging an intervention, as being confronted can make people feel defensive or alone. Sometimes a one-on-one conversation is the better route.

Make sure to prioritize your mental wellness. There are many support groups in psychiatry for people experiencing drug abuse and for the friends and family of people addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Xanax Addiction Diagnosis And Treatment

The most common treatments for an addiction to Xanax include a combination of medications and therapy in an outpatient program.

Some of the medications used to taper off Xanax include antidepressants or Valium. Healthcare providers may also recommend over-the-counter medications to combat headaches or nausea.

Depending on the severity of the drug addiction, healthcare providers may recommend an inpatient rehab stay at a treatment center. This will help the patient detox in a supervised setting.

When the patient is physically stable, they’ll begin behavioral therapy to learn about relapse prevention and avoiding triggers. Clients also often attend group, individual, or family sessions.

12-step groups can also be a great benefit to those in recovery from Xanax addiction.

Getting Help For A Xanax Addiction

While a Xanax addiction can be scary to confront, the condition is treatable and the person can expect to recover and live a happy, healthy life.

Spring Hill Recovery Center in Ashby, Massachusetts, is here to help. To learn more about the addiction treatment programs available to you, call our 24/7 helpline to speak to a specialist.

  1. National Library of Medicine – Alprazolam
  2. National Library of Medicine – DSM-5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorders
  3. WebMD – Xanax Addiction: 6 Facts You Should Know

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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