Signs of Xanax Abuse and Addiction

Last Updated: January 18, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Xanax (alprazolam) is one of the most widely prescribed benzodiazepine drugs in the United States, with an estimated 48 million prescriptions each year. Like most benzodiazepines (also known as benzos), Xanax carries the risk of abuse and addiction. It’s estimated that around 4.8 million Americans misused benzos like Xanax in 2020 alone.

Xanax is a depressant medication typically prescribed for anxiety or panic disorders, as it suppresses brain signals that are connected with anxiety. While Xanax may be helpful for these conditions, it can also lead to a variety of unpleasant side effects — especially when misused.

Xanax Side Effects

The side effects of Xanax are primarily caused by the depressant effects the drug has on the body. These side effects can be dangerous when too much Xanax is used or when it is combined with other depressants, such as alcohol or opioids.

Xanax should not be taken during pregnancy. However, a person who is using Xanax when they become pregnant should talk with their doctor before making any changes.

Short-Term Side Effects of Xanax

Short-term Xanax side effects can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased coordination
  • Increased appetite
  • Memory deficits
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Weight changes
  • Constipation

Long-Term Side Effects of Xanax

Long-term Xanax side effects can include:

  • Addiction
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation

Can Xanax Make Anxiety Worse?

Xanax can cause a paradoxical reaction, meaning that instead of improving symptoms of anxiety, it makes anxiety worse. This reaction is rare and occurs in less than 1% of people who use benzos, but it is unpredictable and can cause significant distress when it occurs.

More commonly, Xanax can significantly worsen anxiety due to the rebound effect that it can cause. The baseline anxiety that someone has will normally be decreased when they use Xanax. When Xanax use ends, however, the rebound effect can cause the anxiety to return in a worse way than it was originally. This condition is more common in people who have used Xanax for a long period of time or in heavy doses. Fortunately, the rebound effect will eventually wear off.

How To Tell if Someone Is on Xanax

Asking someone about their drug use can be quite uncomfortable and may not result in open answers. However, there are other signs that can indicate whether someone is using Xanax. The signs of Xanax use are related to both the effects of Xanax as well as behaviors associated with drug misuse in general.

Signs of Xanax Misuse

The signs of Xanax misuse may include:

  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory problems
  • Weight changes
  • Withdrawn behaviors
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Deterioration of relationships
  • Increased legal or financial problems
  • Sudden personality changes

Xanax Addiction Symptoms

Xanax addiction occurs when someone continues to use Xanax even though they would like to stop, or despite negative consequences. There are four main groups of symptoms that can occur with addiction to a substance like Xanax. These include:

  • Impaired control: The ability to control the use of Xanax decreases, and Xanax cravings eventually become too strong to overcome.
  • Social problems: Using Xanax creates tension and friction with social interactions or relationships, but its use continues despite these problems.
  • Risky use: Xanax is used in risky situations or in ways that increase the risk of problems. This may involve combining it with alcohol and opioids or taking it in larger, potentially unsafe doses.
  • Drug effects: Larger doses of Xanax become necessary to obtain the same effect, and withdrawal symptoms occur when Xanax use is stopped.

Xanax addiction requires a doctor to diagnose. If you or someone you know has symptoms of Xanax addiction, it is a sign that you should seek professional evaluation and potential treatment.

Xanax Addiction Treatment

Xanax addiction can be life-threatening, as there is a risk of fatally overdosing while using it. However, stopping can also be dangerous because it creates a risk for harmful seizures and other side effects. If you or someone you know may be struggling with a Xanax addiction, it’s important to seek professional treatment as soon as possible.

The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper is here to help people in the New Jersey area recover from Xanax addiction and achieve a drug-free life. Contact us today to speak with a knowledgeable representative and learn more about Xanax addiction treatment programs that can work well for your needs. 


Ait-Daoud, Nassima; Hamby, Allan Scott; et al. “A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal.” Journal of Addiction Medicine, March 2018. Accessed January 6, 2022.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indi[…]in the United States.” October 2021. Accessed January 10, 2022.

Medscape. “Alprazolam (Rx).” 2021. Accessed January 6, 2022.

MotherToBaby. “Alprazolam.” February 1, 2020. Accessed January 6, 2022.

Mancuso, Carissa E.; Tanzi, Maria G.; Gabay, Michael. “Paradoxical reactions to benzodiazepines[…]nd treatment options.” Pharmacotherapy, September 2004. Accessed January 6, 2022.

Herman, J.B.; Brotman, A.W.; Rosenbaum, J.F. “Rebound anxiety in panic disorder patien[…]ting benzodiazepines.” The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, October 1987. Accessed January 6, 2022.

Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “Warning Signs of Drug Abuse.” 2021. Accessed January 6, 2022.

Colon-Rivera, Hector; Balasanova, Alëna. “What Is a Substance Use Disorder?” American Psychiatric Association, December 2020. Accessed January 6, 2022.

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