Xanax Addiction & Treatment
By The Recovery Village
Medical Reviewer Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD | Editor Melissa Carmona
Last Updated: May 16, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
Xanax is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine, or “benzo.” Like all benzos, Xanax is a controlled substance that carries a risk of abuse, dependence and addiction. Unfortunately, the fear of withdrawal symptoms can be a major barrier to stopping Xanax, even if a person wants to quit. Although a Xanax addiction can be hard to overcome on your own, you can live a Xanax-free life with help.
What is Xanax?
Xanax, also known by its generic name alprazolam, is a benzo. Street names for Xanax include Bricks, Benzos, Blue Footballs, Upjohn, Z-Bars, Bars and Zanbars. Xanax is a Schedule IV controlled substance and is FDA-approved for anxiety and panic disorder. Like other benzos, Xanax slows down brain activity by enhancing gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, in the central nervous system.
Illicit Xanax at the Heart of New Jersey’s Largest Drug Bust
In 2019, Xanax was at the center of the largest drug bust in New Jersey history, with authorities seizing hundreds of thousands of counterfeit tablets. This was not the only instance of illicit Xanax in New Jersey. In early 2020, a New Jersey doctor was indicted for distributing Xanax and other controlled substances without a medical reason.
COVID-19 has increased the number of prescriptions for benzos like Xanax. Between February 16 and March 15, 2020, prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications like Xanax increased by more than 34%. Demand for street versions of benzos, which may be contaminated with other substances, has also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Xanax Side Effects
The most common short-term side effects of Xanax include:
More intense side effects can occur if Xanax is taken with other drugs that depress the central nervous system like alcohol or opioids. Xanax’s long-term side effects are unclear, as the drug has not been studied for longer than four months in people with anxiety or for longer than eight months in people with panic disorder.
Signs of Xanax Abuse
When a person begins to struggle with Xanax, certain signs become apparent to loved ones. These signs are mostly behavioral and do not usually include paraphernalia, as Xanax is typically taken by mouth. Signs of substance abuse you may notice include:
- Social withdrawal
- Avoidance of loved ones, family and friends
- Mood swings
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping at unusual times
- Inability to meet responsibilities, appointments or deadlines
- Problems at work, school or with family
- Reckless behavior
- Legal or financial problems
In addition, people who misuse Xanax may display what are called drug-seeking behaviors, such as:
- An unusual knowledge about benzos and Xanax in particular
- Specifically requesting Xanax and being forceful if a health care provider says no
- Not having a regular doctor or “doctor-shopping” for Xanax prescriptions
- Asking for new Xanax prescriptions or refills before they are due
- Complaining that the pharmacy did not dispense the appropriate quantity of Xanax
- Stating that they lost their Xanax or that someone stole the drug
- Forging Xanax prescriptions
- Seeking medical attention specifically to get Xanax
If you believe you are witnessing a Xanax overdose, you should immediately seek medical attention. According to experts, Xanax may be more toxic than other benzos and may be especially dangerous in an overdose situation. A Xanax overdose can quickly become deadly. The opioid reversal agent naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, does not work on benzos like Xanax. Symptoms of Xanax overdose, common to both the long-acting and short-acting dosage forms, include:
- Extreme sedation or unresponsiveness
- Mental status changes like confusion
- Problems with coordination and reflexes
- Slowed breathing
Xanax withdrawal can be uncomfortable and dangerous. In September 2020, the FDA strengthened its Black Box Warning about the dangers of benzos like Xanax, specifically about their risk of abuse, dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
Xanax withdrawal symptoms can start 1–2 days after the last dose and may last for four or more weeks. Withdrawal symptoms can be unpredictable and may fluctuate, improving for a while only to worsen again. Common Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:
- Agitation and irritability
- Problems with concentration and memory
- Muscle tension and aches
In cases of severe withdrawal, complications like seizure can occur. Because of this, it is important to only come off Xanax while under a doctor’s care. In particular, coming off Xanax in a medically supervised setting like a detox facility can be helpful. In a medical detox center, Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be treated as they occur so the person can comfortably ease off the drug.
Trying to detox from Xanax on your own can be dangerous because of the risk of withdrawal symptoms. A doctor can design a schedule for you to taper Xanax, slowly decreasing the dose over time until you are no longer taking the drug. Different people will require vastly different taper schedules, which can depend on both the dose of Xanax your body is used to and how long you have taken the drug.
Tapering off benzodiazepines requires proper training and experience, so it can be beneficial to work with an addiction specialist. The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper is a detox facility staffed by experts who can help wean you off Xanax at your own pace.
Xanax Treatment Options
Staying off Xanax long-term requires a custom approach to addiction that is tailored to your specific needs. At The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, we realize this and offer multiple treatment programs. Working alongside our team, you can pick the option that works best to support you as you overcome your struggle with Xanax. Our treatment options include:
- Medical Detox: In medical detox, you stay in our state-of-the-art inpatient treatment center. There, you are weaned off Xanax under medical care. We can create a custom Xanax taper schedule to help you avoid withdrawal symptoms and ease yourself off Xanax comfortably.
- Residential Rehab: Medical detox is only the first step to recover from Xanax. After Xanax detox, intensive one-on-one and group therapy can begin. Our inpatient therapy program has you living onsite. Treatment will help you learn the coping skills to live life without Xanax and explore why you began to rely on the drug in the first place.
- Outpatient Rehab: After residential rehab, outpatient rehab involves living at home and participating in therapy sessions at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper. Some people with less-severe Xanax addictions may attend outpatient rehab from the start. Teletherapy may also be available.
- Aftercare: Following rehab, the lifelong process of aftercare helps you stay Xanax-free over the long term. Aftercare offers support groups and relapse prevention training.
- Dual Diagnosis: Mental health issues are common in people who struggle with substances like Xanax. Our therapists can help you address your Xanax addiction and any underlying mental health issues in dual diagnosis treatment. By addressing both issues, you stand a better chance of overcoming them.
Related Topic: Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab
What is Xanax used for?
Short-acting Xanax is FDA-approved for anxiety and panic disorder. Long-acting Xanax is FDA-approved for panic disorder.
How often can you take Xanax?
It is important to only take Xanax as your doctor instructs. Short-acting and long-acting Xanax are taken in different ways. Short-acting Xanax can be taken up to three times a day as needed. However, long-acting Xanax is meant to be taken daily.
How long does Xanax stay in your system?
Xanax can be found in urine for up to four days and in saliva for up to two days. It can also be found in hair, with a 1.5-inch hair sample showing the past 90 days of drug use.
Is Xanax addictive?
Yes. As a Schedule IV controlled substance, Xanax carries a risk of abuse, addiction and dependence.
Can Xanax kill you?
A Xanax overdose can be deadly, especially when mixed with other central nervous system depressants like opioids or alcohol. Experts think that Xanax may be more toxic compared to other benzos.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
ClinCalc. “The Top 200 Drugs of 2020.” Accessed September 29, 2020.
Connecticut State Department of Consumer Protection. “Alprazolam.” Accessed September 27, 2020.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Xanax.” February 14, 2020. Accessed September 27, 2020.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Xanax XR.” March 18, 2020. Accessed September 27, 2020.
Gryczynski, Jan; Schwartz, Robert P; Mitchell, Shannon D; et al. “Hair Drug Testing Results and Self-repor[…]isk Illicit Drug Use.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, May 17, 2014. Accessed September 26, 2020.
ARUP Laboratories. “Drug Plasma Half-Life and Urine Detection Window.” January 2019. Accessed September 26, 2020.
Cansford Laboratories. “Oral Fluid (Saliva) Testing.” Accessed September 26, 2020.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are some signs and symptoms of some[…] a drug use problem?” Accessed September 27, 2020.
Isbister, Geoffrey K; O’Regan, Luke; Sibbritt, David; Whyte, Ian M. “Alprazolam is relatively more toxic than[…]azepines in overdose.” July 2004. Accessed September 27, 2020.
Food and Drug Administration. “FDA requiring Boxed Warning updated to i[…]diazepine drug class.” September 24, 2020. Accessed September 27, 2020.
World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Manag[…]e in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed September 27, 2020.
Burke, Minyvonne. “Three New Jersey men charged in largest […]in state’s history.” NBC News, April 16, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2020.
Department of Justice. “Doctor Described as ‘Candy Man’ and […] Opioids to Patients.” February 24, 2020. Accessed September 27, 2020.
ExpressScripts. “America’s State of Mind.” April 2020. Accessed September 27, 2020.
Moraff, Christopher. “How COVID-19 Is Driving Risks in the Ill[…]nzodiazepines Market.” Filter, August 5, 2020. Accessed September 27, 2020.