Xanax Abuse & Addiction Symptoms, Signs, Causes & Effects

Xanax addiction can rob you of your health, your dignity, and your hope for a better tomorrow. At Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center, you will reconnect with your best self, and begin to build the foundation for a more promising future.

What is Xanax Abuse

Learn More About Xanax Abuse

Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam which belongs to the benzodiazepine class of drugs and is used to manage anxiety disorders and produce short-term relief from anxiety symptoms. Xanax is a short-acting anti-anxiety agent that has a rapid onset and relief of symptoms. Over 90% of the effects are achieved within the first hour with the onset of anxiety relief beginning 8-25 minutes after ingesting the drug. The stress and anxiety associated with everyday life doesn’t often require the usage of Xanax or other anxiolytics. Xanax can be addicting if taken in large quantities or for a long period of time.

Xanax produces its effects by binding to specific sites on GABA receptors (also called benzodiazepine receptors) in the brain, modulating the effects of GABA receptors and GABAergic neurons. Long-term usage of Xanax can cause changes in these benzodiazepine receptors which makes them less powerful and less sensitive to stimulation. Usage of Xanax can lead to the development of tolerance, physical dependence, and withdrawal symptoms with an attempt to reduce consumption. With the potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms it is best that gradual dose reduction be enacted for individuals attempting to stop using Xanax.

There is a large risk for Xanax addiction and abuse by individuals who are prescribed Xanax and those who use it recreationally. The abuse potential for Xanax is largely due to its high potency, rapid-onset, and short-acting characteristics. It’s also likely that individuals who are addicted to Xanax are also abusing other substances, a condition called “poly-substance abuse.” Individuals who have a history of alcoholism or drug addiction have a higher rate of misuse of Xanax.

Some individuals who are addicted to “uppers” such as cocaine and methamphetamine often use Xanax to relieve the panic and distress associated with such stimulants. Others find that using Xanax along with alcohol or other opiate drugs enhance the effects of such drugs. Poly-substance abuse is dangerous as it can cause greater risks for overdose and other negative health consequences such as respiratory depression.


Statistics on Xanax Abuse

Many people are affected by Xanax addiction, a growing problem in the United States. According to information from the Treatment Episode Data Set Report in 2011, nearly 61,000 individuals sought drug abuse treatment for addiction to Xanax and other benzodiazepines. This is a marked increase from the nearly 23,000 individuals who sought treatment for benzodiazepine addiction in 1998.


Causes of Xanax Abuse & Addiction

Most addictions do not have a single identifiable cause. Instead, it’s likely a number of factors work together to create an addiction. These factors include:

Genetic: Many individuals who develop addiction problems such as a Xanax addiction have a parent or other close relative with an addiction problem. While not a defining characteristic, there is a correlation between addiction and close family members.

Brain Chemistry: Xanax works by affecting the central nervous system and activating the reward system in the brain creating feelings of pleasure and relaxation. One theory is that individuals with Xanax addictions lack a certain level of brain chemicals involved in the brains reward system.

Environmental: Individuals who are exposed to home environments which are chaotic and unstructured in their youth are at a higher risk for developing substance abuse problems later in life. This is compounded in the cases where a parent or other caregiver is an addict.

Psychological: Many addictions have a root in mental illness, especially if the mental illness has gone untreated for many years. Individuals with untreated mental illness may abuse prescription medication such as Xanax to control the symptoms of their mental illness in a process called “self-medicating.”

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders and the Complexity of Xanax Addiction

Many addictions are related to an undiagnosed mental illness that has gone many years without diagnosis or treatment. Some of these co-occurring mental illnesses may include:

  • Other substance addiction
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Alcoholism
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Conduct disorders
  • Schizophrenia

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

The symptoms of Xanax abuse are long-reaching and varied depending upon the amount of the drug taken and the frequency in which Xanax is abused. Some of the symptoms of Xanax abuse include:

Mood symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hyperactivity
  • Agitation
  • Mania
  • Restlessness

Behavioral symptoms:

  • “Doctor shopping,” or visiting a number of doctors to obtain more prescriptions for Xanax
  • Stealing or borrowing Xanax from friends and loved ones
  • Forging prescriptions for Xanax
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Decreased inhibitions
  • Hostility and violence
  • Neglecting family or personal responsibilities
  • Declining occupational or scholastic performance
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Rage
  • Taking higher doses than what was prescribed
  • Chewing pills to make them work faster
  • Crushing and snorting pills to increase effects
  • Taking more tablets more frequently than prescribed

Physical symptoms:

  • Decreased urination
  • Swelling in hands and feet
  • Coordination difficulties
  • Dry mouth
  • Stuffy nose
  • Increased sweating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Jaundice
  • Tachycardia
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

Psychological symptoms:

  • Hallucinations
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty forming cohesive thoughts
  • Memory problems
  • Other substance abuse


Effects of Xanax Addiction

The long-term usage of Xanax can result in a number of unpleasant effects as addiction has a habit of affecting every part of an addict’s life. These effects may include:

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Interpersonal relationship conflicts
  • Divorce
  • Legal problems
  • Mounting financial problems
  • Migraines
  • Muscle pain
  • Flashbacks
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Uncontrollable muscle twitches
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal ideation


Withdrawal Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

Withdrawing from Xanax abuse should only be done under the careful supervision of a doctor in a safe detox environment. Dosages should be tapered down rather than abruptly ceased to minimize the life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal from Xanax include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Sleep impairment
  • Intense sweating
  • Nervous feelings
  • Rebound anxiety
  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Weight loss
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Suicide

I would recommend BRMRC to ANYONE who needs help with addiction. Being there was a privilege and the best experience of my life.

– Michael
Marks of Quality Care
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
  • PsychArmor
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)