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Here's What Happens If Your Xanax Addiction Goes Untreated

By Jen Venegas
Xanax can be a dangerous and addictive drug if not used properly. Discover some key side effects of an untreated Xanax addiction.

Xanax (alprazolam) is one of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines for acute anxiety and panic disorders. The prescription medication, which is also abused as a street drug, is intended for short-term use but often prescribed for much longer than recommended. Xanax is also highly addictive and difficult to withdraw from. Read on for three key consequences of Xanax addiction. 

You can develop a physical dependence on Xanax.

Some doctors will prescribe Xanax for short-term use as a patient waits for antidepressants or talk therapy to start working, both of which can take weeks. People may develop a dependence on Xanax simply by taking it longer than recommended, or through recreational use and self-medication

“Dependence and tolerance can develop in a relatively short time,” Mercedes Kent, LCSW, CADC at Springfield Outpatient Program, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “People will need to continue to take more and more to feel the same effect.”

Kent explains that even if Xanax was originally prescribed by a physician, a dependent patient may turn to buying the drug illegally when they run out of the prescription. This can lead to using other substances that are also available through similar illegal pathways, like opiates, to alleviate anxiety, Kent adds. 

Xanax overdoses can be deadly.

In the United States, Xanax is one of the most widely prescribed benzodiazepines for generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder, according to a 2018 review published by the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

When used with other substances, especially alcohol or opioids, the body’s drive to breathe is considerably lessened. This is also known as respiratory depression. Because of this side effect, intentional or unintentional overdoses on Xanax can be deadly.

Xanax withdrawal is often difficult.

Stopping Xanax medication, even when tapering off as recommended, can prove difficult due to the severe withdrawal symptoms that often result. 

Anxiety and panic attacks are common in patients that withdraw from Xanax, and can be worse than before treatment or misuse. Xanax withdrawal can also cause sleep disturbance, irritability, and body weakness, according to the 2018 review in theJournal of Addiction Medicine

Don’t Wait. Get Help Now.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.