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Xanax Overdose: 5 Facts You Should Know

By Ashley Hinson
Xanax abuse is common, but can you overdose on Xanax? Here are the facts you need to know.

The benzodiazepine Xanax is used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and panic disorders, but abuse of the drug is common. It's also possible to overdose on Xanax, which could result in long-term health impacts. Read on to discover how Xanax misuse affects your body and what the symptoms of it are. 

Yes, you can overdose on Xanax.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 67,000 Americans died due to drug overdose in 2019. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has also noted that, in that same year, 16% of overdose fatalities involving opioids simultaneously involved benzodiazepines such as Xanax. 

And while overdose death rates were higher for synthetic opioids than for benzodiazepines, Xanax abuse rates are on the rise

“You can overdose on Xanax, just like all other benzos. It affects the central nervous system by causing first the relief of anxiety, which is the therapeutic benefit. But in higher doses, you start to have sedation,” Daniel Brown, DO, State Medical Director for Pinnacle Treatment Centers, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

An overdose can look like nodding off.

It’s important to catch an overdose early. At first, Xanax abuse may look like recreational alcohol use.

“People can have confusion, impaired coordination, unsteady gait—things associated with someone intoxicated on alcohol. But with higher doses, you’re going toward overdose, and breathing could cease. It's on a spectrum,” Brown says. 

According to American Addiction Centers, signs that someone you know may be abusing Xanax are:

  • Slurred speech
  • Risky behavior
  • Drowsy disposition
  • Poor motor skills

The long-term effects of an overdose can impact major organs.

“The longer-term effects of an overdose can be brain damage, kidney, liver, and heart damage if someone has a significant overdose event,” Brown says.

Long-term consequences can occur when someone’s overdose goes unnoticed.

“[People who overdose] spend a long period of time with hypoxia, which means low oxygen levels in the blood. A person who is revived after a longer period of an overdose can have multi-system organ failure and brain damage from low oxygen, [and] heart, liver, and kidney damage if they’re in a state where blood oxygen is not supporting organs,” Brown says. 

Other drugs and alcohol can impact your risk of overdose.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fatal overdose deaths occur higher in rates when Xanax is combined with synthetic opioids, like Fentanyl. One sign of a fatal overdose is when someone who appears drowsy stops breathing. 

“When someone takes too much, they just become drowsy, fall asleep...but it’s fatal when they take so much they stop breathing. Most of those instances occur when people may have abused alcohol with benzos. This can increase overdose risks,” Brown says.

Abuse can lead to addiction.

Also known as substance abuse disorder, addiction can occur in association with both prescribed and recreational Xanax use. 

“Oftentimes, misuse leads to full-blown addiction. Addictions occur with use, illicit or licit use. A person has feedback that they feel good taking the medication or drug, so they start to use it more frequently,” Brown says.

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.