Xanax is a commonly prescribed benzodiazepine primarily used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Doctors frequently prescribe opioids and benzodiazepines simultaneously, and the possible adverse side effects of each become more dangerous. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers found “the overdose death rate among patients receiving both types of medications was ten times higher than among those only receiving opioids.”

Xanax Addiction


What Is Xanax Addiction?

Xanax is one brand name of the drug alprazolam. Other terms used when prescribing this substance are Xanax XR and Alprazolam Intensol. Despite the highly addictive nature of Xanax, it remains one of the top prescribed medications worldwide. Addiction experts have attempted to raise the alarm about using this drug for longer than the recommended period. However, doctors often give Xanax to patients as a long-term solution to their panic and anxiety symptoms. Many people face the transition to potential addiction.

Xanax is highly dangerous because even taking prescribed amounts can cause a tolerance buildup and dependency over time. The recommendation for Xanax and alprazolam use is six weeks or less. Unfortunately, doctors often prescribe this medication well beyond the recommended limit. 

Co-Occurring Disorders and Xanax 

Most people abusing Xanax use it to treat symptoms of other disorders. When attending rehabilitation for substance use disorder (SUD), additional conditions and disorders must be considered and treated. Doctors often prescribe Xanax for the following:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorder 
  • Acute and Chronic Stress 

Treatment facilities like White House Recovery and Detox use psychotherapies to treat multiple disorders when they co-occur. Risk factors often overlap, making it essential to your recovery that all conditions get treated simultaneously to prevent relapse. 

Alcohol, Xanax, and Other Drugs

Xanax is incredibly hazardous when taken with alcohol and can lead to severe injury or death. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) often stems from self-medicating to cope with life issues or health conditions. Xanax treats anxiety and panic; many people also self-medicate with alcohol to lessen the symptoms and impact of panic and anxiety disorders. 

Combining Xanax and alcohol or certain other drugs causes respiratory distress and slows brain activity to a dangerous level. Research provided by the United States National Library of Medicine states “alprazolam may increase the risk of serious or life-threatening breathing problems, sedation, or coma if used along with certain medications,” including:

  • Codeine: Triacin-C, Tuzistra XR, or Fiorinal
  • Hydrocodone: Anexsia, Norco, or Zyfrel
  • Fentanyl: Actiq, Duragesic, Subsys, and others
  • Hydromorphone: Dilaudid or Exalgo
  • Meperidine: Demerol
  • Methadone: Dolophine or Methadose
  • Morphine: Astramorph, Duramorph PF, or Kadian
  • Oxycodone: Oxycet, Percocet, or Roxicet
  • Tramadol: Conzip, Ultram, or Ultracet

Mental and Physical Health Complications

Side effects of Xanax, when taken in a way not prescribed, varies depending on the dose and how long you have misused it. The mental and physical impact of abusing any form of alprazolam includes the following:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes to sleep patterns including sleep disturbances, insomnia, and oversleeping
  • Unusual mood swings
  • Depression 
  • Self-harm or suicidal ideation
  • Risk-taking behaviors, including unsafe sexual practices
  • Increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s
  • Slurred speech and blurred vision
  • Lack of coordination
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Sexual dysfunction or disinterest

Signs and Symptoms Related to Xanax Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research indicates “benzodiazepines cause addiction in a way similar to that of opioids, cannabinoids, and the club drug gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB).” Addiction causes physical changes to the brain leading to erratic and obsessive behaviors. Not everyone taking Xanax, even illicit versions of the drug, automatically forms a dependency or addiction. However, you may notice some signs of misuse over time. 

  • Taking more than the trended dose or using illegally procured Xanax
  • “Doctor shopping” to get more prescriptions, including using online options
  • Asking to use or stealing Xanax from friends and loved ones
  • Purchasing illegal Xanax or other drugs
  • Distracted from life responsibilities by thoughts and behaviors surrounding providing Xanax
  • Other changes in behavior leading to trouble at work, school, or with social groups
  • Withdrawal symptoms begin after a period without the drug 

You can become physically dependent on Xanax without forming an addiction. On the other hand, some individuals become addicted without creating dependency. Xanax addiction also contains a genetic component that may impact how your brain reacts to the drug. Risk factors and other variables associated with an individual play a role in when or if addiction occurs. Find more information about benzodiazepine risk factors by visiting our Benzodiazepine Addiction page.

Therapy and Medication Treatment Options

Medication-assisted therapy (MAT), relapse prevention education and psychotherapy are the primary treatment options for Xanax abuse. Due to the nature of the drug, you cannot simply stop taking Xanax, as the withdrawal stage might take longer than with most substances. You must taper off slowly to avoid dangerous health side effects. The prolonged period of withdrawal makes relapse prevention crucial. To avoid falling back on old habits, you will undergo treatment that includes MAT and behavioral modification through psychotherapy. Standard therapy options are: 

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 
  • Family Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • MAT

The general withdrawal effects are similar to those seen in other benzodiazepines.

We are here for you

You can avoid the slippery slope from Xanax dependency to addiction by getting help when symptoms begin to emerge. If you have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder, successful treatments include therapy and MAT. The expert staff at White House Recovery and Detox offer personalized care designed to help you cope and build a solid foundation for a sober future. We have the resources and training to guide you toward recovery. Xanax does not have to control your life. Choose to get help today.