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Xanax Addiction: 4 Facts You Should Know

By Kyle Kirkland
Xanax can treat anxiety and panic disorders, but you must use it correctly to prevent addiction. Here’s what the experts told us about Xanax addiction.

Xanax, also known as alprazolam, is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, according to Mayo Clinic. The medication has some particular characteristics that you should keep in mind if you're using it. For example, dependence on the drug can develop in just a few weeks, and withdrawal from it can result in uncomfortable symptoms. Both of these factors should be considered in order to avoid becoming addicted to the medication. Read on for four key facts about Xanax addiction. 

Dependence can happen fast.

“Xanax dependence occurs very rapidly relative to other benzodiazepines,” Allen Masry, M.D. and medical director of All In Solutions Counseling Center, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Benzodiazepines are drugs that raise the level of a specific neurotransmitter called GABA, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This results in a more calm, relaxed state of mind.  

“Even when taken as prescribed, studies show that between 15 and 44% of people will experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms that can last months, even after taking the drug for just 3 to 6 weeks,” Masry says. 

Drug withdrawal can result in complications. In fact, a 2018 article published by the Journal of Addiction notes that alprazolam withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Rebound anxiety
  • Body weakness
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidal ideation

You can’t just quit.

“You can not safely stop using Xanax without medical assistance,” Cali Estes, PhD and Clinical Director of The Addictions Academy, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“Xanax is a very powerful benzodiazepine, and you can have a seizure if you stop without a proper detox protocol overseen by a medical doctor,” Estes says. 

There are signs you can recognize that show you could be addicted to a prescription drug like Xanax, such as:

  • Developing a tolerance to the drug, so you need more to get the same feeling
  • Changes in appetite or sleeping patterns
  • Mixing drugs and alcohol
  • Being unable to stop, even if you want to

Mixing alcohol and Xanax is deadly.

If you are addicted to Xanax, you may want to mix the drug with alcohol to reach the same sensation as before, but this could lead to death.

“Mixing Xanax with alcohol is a deadly cocktail that can result in your respiratory system shutting down and your heart stopping. Your body will literally forget to breathe, and you will be so intoxicated that you won't notice,” Estes says. 

Detox is challenging but worth it.

“Even when a patient is tapered down by their prescribing physician over several weeks, they are likely going to experience symptoms of withdrawal,” Masry says.

“Tapering” is when a person is slowly weaned off of a drug, and contrasts with a "cold turkey" approach, which is when you stop using a substance all at once. 

“Xanax is just a particularly difficult drug to detox fromthere's no way to guarantee a pain-free detox,” Masry says. Even with a potentially challenging detox and recovery, speaking with your doctor and having a clear plan can help reduce and eventually eliminate your dependency on the drug. 

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.