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Xanax Addiction: History, Types, Uses And Effects

Xanax is a part of a drug group called Benzodiazepine that is often prescribed to treat Anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia.  Xanax (Alprazolam) is a controlled substance, along with benzodiazipines it is characerized as a Schedule IV drug by the DEA.

Schedule IV means that it has a low risk of being abused and is not as easily habit forming as other drugs. However, it can still be habit forming and when combined with other drugs like opiates and or alcohol it can even be deadly.

How is Xanax Used?

Just like with any prescription drug, it’s important to read the guide provided by your therapist every time you have a refill and also ask your pharacist if you have any questions. Xanax is taken orally and comes in the pill form. The dosage is based upon your clinical diagnosis and at the discretion of your psychiatrist.

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Other Similar Drugs To Xanax (Alprazolam)

  • chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)
  • oxazepam

When to not take Xanax

It should also not be taken if you have:

  • a severe respiratory problem
  • current or past coma episode caused by drugs or alcohol
  • liver disease
  • sleep apnea
  • narrow-angle glaucoma
  • Bronchitis
  • Emphysema
  • Addison’s disease
  • kidney disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • myasthenia gravis
  • history of depression or mental illness

Is Xanax Addictive?

It is extremely addictive when used long-term which makes Xanax addiction a serious problem in the united states since it is the number one prescribed psychiatric medication for millions who suffer from insomnia and panic attacks. Xanax (generic name: alprazolam) belongs to a group of drugs called benzodiazepines, and it has been used successfully as a treatment option for insomnia and other disorders since the 1970s.

70% of teens with a Xanax addiction get the drug from their family’s medicine cabinet. Xanax affects the way you feel by slowing down activity in your central nervous system. This includes areas of the brain involved with sleep, mood, anxiety, and fear.

Benzodiazepines can become habit-forming because they have this effect on your daily life. If you want to quit taking the drug but don’t know how or are worried about experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, talk to your doctor so they can guide you through the process safely.

This medication may be habit-forming if misused. It should not be used if you are allergic to alprazolam or similar medications, some similar drugs to Xanax are listed below.

The withdrawal symptoms for Xanax can be severe which is why it is best to detox in a medically monitored rehab setting.


Xanax is a powerful Benzodiazepine that is often prescribed to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorders, and insomnia. It is extremely addictive when used long-term, making Xanax addiction and abuse a serious concern.

Stopping Xanax suddenly may result in seizures. This is why addiction and withdrawal from psychoactive drugs like Xanax is difficult — not only does the drug itself cause imbalances in the brain, but abrupt withdrawal after chronic use may result in severe mental and physical problems.

It’s important to understand xanax addiction because the longer the prescription is taken, the more likelihood of it it is for an individual to experience withdrawal symptoms and be at risk for addiction. Taking the amount your doctor prescribes is one part but just like prescription painkillers, even taking what the doctor orders can sometimes lead to dependency.

Xanax Addiction Infographic

Xanax Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

An addiction occurs when your body develops a tolerance to the drug, meaning that higher concentrations of Xanax are needed for you to feel the desired effects.

Eventually, if you continually increase how much Xanax you take due to tolerance, you will reach a point where it is no longer safe for you to take more than was originally prescribed by your doctor. At this point, an addiction has developed.

If these symptoms are present after stopping or reducing the use of the drug then there may be an addiction present. Here are some of the most common symptoms as defined by medical literature for those addicted to benzodiazepines:

  • Taking Xanax longer than originally intended
  • Inability to control the use
  • The need to take more Xanax in order for it to have an effect
  • Tolerance, which is a sign that your body has become desensitized and needs more of the drug for you to achieve the desired effects.

These symptoms are common among those with Xanax addiction, but not everyone will show these signs of SUD.



Treatment for xanax addiction typically starts with detox and later transitions to an outpatient setting.

Some people who are addicted to Xanax do require at least some form of residential treatment because it is difficult to deal with withdrawals without significant support from medical professionals.


Finding help for a Xanax addiction is the first step toward recovery. There are many options available:

Xanax treatment and rehab programs

  • 12 step programs
  • alternative therapies such as meditation or acupuncture
  • detoxification under a doctor’s supervision.

The most important part of finding help for Xanax addictions is making sure that you choose the right program.

You can talk to your doctor about the different Xanax treatment and rehab options that are available and discuss if one or another type of program is right for you. If outpatient care is the best option then you may be able to attend therapy sessions while still keeping up with your daily life and maintaining a job.

Xanax FAQs

How much Xanax is habit forming?

There is a danger of becoming addicted to Xanax at doses ranging from 0.75 mg to 4.0 mg every day, although users on 4.0 mg or more per day had significantly greater withdrawal symptoms. Use over a period of 12 weeks with dosages above 4 mg/day raises the risk and intensity of dependence considerably.

What is Xanax typically prescribed for?

Xanax is a popular drug used to treat anxiety disorders such as GAD and panic attacks. It works by acting on your central nervous system, which causes you feel relaxed in short order while producing an effect that lasts longer than traditional medication. The problem with xanax is that it is addictive and the withdrawal symptoms can also be painful and dangerous. It is recommended to seek inpatient rehab in a substance use treatment center is you are struggling with xanax addiction.

What is the most effective in treating Xanax addiction?

After withdrawal symptoms subside once you are through detox, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a powerful treatment tool for Xanax addiction. CBT is also used to help individuals with many different types of addiction including food, alcohol, and prescription drug addictions. CBT therapy has been proven as an evidence-based treatment modality that works well for treating long-term addiction & abuse and helping individuals through recovery. 

Is xanax addiction more severe than opioid addiction?

Xanax and prescription painkiller addiction are both dangerous. One is not better, easier or less harmful than the other. Individuals usually become addicted in the same way; an individual has an underlying issue and become dependent upon the medication. Benzodiazepines stay in your system longer many individual experience protracted withdrawal symptoms that can last for months which is different from opiate addiction withdrawal which can be extremely intense but has a faster timeline. 

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Glod, C. A. (1992). Xanax: Pros and cons. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 30(6), 36–37.

Retardation, P. (2000). Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines—side effects, abuse risk, and alternatives. Am Fam Physician, 61(7), 2121-2128.

Hauck, T. S., Rochon, S., Bahra, P., & Selby, P. (2021). Outpatient treatment of chronic designer benzodiazepine use: A case report. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 16(2).

Purse, M. (2022, October 12). Learn about the potential side effects of Xanax. Verywell Mind. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from

WebMD. (2022). Is Xanax Addictive? WebMD. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from

Medical Advice Disclaimer

Magnified Health Systems aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

Dr. Bickley graduated from U.C. Irvine with honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key International Honor Society, Cum Laude. He has been featured on national radio and print media. He is also a frequent lecturer at National Conferences. He holds an A.S. degree in Drug & Alcohol Studies, and two B.A. degrees in Criminology & Psychology, and masters and doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. He is a licensed California Drug & Alcohol Counselor Level II, a licensed Clinical Supervisor and is certified in treating Eating Disorders.

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