Xanax (Alprazolam) Addiction Abuse Symptoms and Warning Signs

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 23rd 2021

Content Overview

As tolerance to Xanax can occur quite quickly, and even with therapeutic doses, it is important that you are aware of the symptoms of abuse and addiction. When use of a prescription drug crosses the line and becomes abuse, certain signs will appear. Being able to recognise these signs will mean that you have a good chance of acting before a full-blown addiction develops. This could prevent you from suffering the many devastating consequences and may mean avoiding a programme of detoxification and rehabilitation.

Xanax, a brand name of the generic drug alprazolam, is one of the most prescribed psychoactive drugs in the world. It is also one of the most abused. Along with other drugs in the same class, Xanax is wreaking havoc among people who start using it for legitimate prescription purposes and those who take it recreationally.

Before a person can know he or she needs help with Xanax, that person needs to know there is a problem. Learning to recognise the warning signs of Xanax abuse is the starting point. Fortunately, there are very definite symptoms and warning signs that are recognisable if you know what to look for.

Please understand that Xanax is a powerful sedative that is highly addictive. It is not recommended for long-term use, even under a prescription, because of how easily patients become addicted. If you or someone you love has been using Xanax for more than four weeks, pay close attention to what you read in this guide. Recognising any of the symptoms or warning signs described here is sufficient reason to seek professional help.

How Does Xanax Work?

Xanax is similar to the other drugs in its class in terms of its mechanism. Once introduced into the system, the drug increases the availability of a brain chemical known as GABA. The primary role of this chemical is to inhibit brain function. Its function is aided by something known as the GABA receptor.

By increasing the availability of GABA and enhancing the ability of its receptor to do its job, Xanax produces a sedating effect. It calms the mind; it reduces stress and anxiety; it causes muscle relaxation.

Xanax is considered a short-acting benzodiazepine because of its relatively short half-life – 11 hours, on average, for most people. The drug acts quickly enough that most people start feeling its effects in under 60 minutes. The effects of the drug peak after about two hours, then begin to subside. This combination of fast-acting effects and early peaking is what makes Xanax so addictive.

Xanax Abuse Warnings

Xanax is no different than most other addictive drugs in the sense that people can abuse it for a time before actually becoming addicted. Any time a person begins a Xanax prescription, it is important for loved ones and that person’s doctor to pay attention to what’s going on. There are early warning signs of Xanax abuse that, if caught in time, could help prevent an addiction scenario.

The first warning sign is taking the drug outside of the boundaries of the prescription. For example, if a person’s prescription calls for a dose of 0.5 mg three times daily to control anxiety, and that person takes a fourth of pill every day, the medication is being used outside of the boundaries of the prescription. This is a warning sign.

Another warning sign is a patient going back to the doctor for a new prescription even though it has been made clear that the drug should not be used beyond four weeks. A patient attempting to purchase Xanax online or on the street because another prescription is not available is also showing warning signs of abuse.

Lastly, anyone who is using Xanax without a legitimate prescription is abusing the drug. Xanax is a controlled substance from the benzodiazepine group that is not supposed to be used except under the direct supervision of a doctor.

Xanax Abuse Causes

There is no one cause that medical science can point to for explaining Xanax abuse. However, there are a number of contributing factors we now believe might all work together to some degree. These are:

  • Coping Difficulties – Some people are never taught how to cope with stress growing up. They may be born into families with a history of poor coping skills. At any rate, they tend to turn to sedatives to help them deal with their anxieties. A person who does not cope well may be at greater risk for Xanax abuse.
  • Genetics – People with a family history of Xanax abuse are statistically more likely than those without a family history to abuse the drug. This suggests there may be some genetic component involved.
  • Brain Response – In some people, the brain’s response to Xanax is enhanced for whatever reason. Once they start using, their brain never fully recovers – even when they attempt to stop using. This would indicate some sort of predisposition to the effects of the drug.
  • Environmental Factors – Environmental factors play a significant role in determining what we do in our daily lives. For some people, environmental factors can be stressful enough to encourage the use of mood-altering medications. They may show a greater desire to use Xanax because it helps them deal with their environment.

Why people abuse Xanax is not cut and dried. What is clear is that long-term use of this drug is not a good thing. It is highly addicting and damaging to both body and mind.

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Xanax Warning Signs & Dangers

When we speak of the warning signs and dangers of Xanax abuse, what we are really referring to are the behavioural issues and the long- and short-term physical and mental effects of using the drug. Warning signs tend to be behavioural in nature. The dangers of using the drug, which often manifest in physical and psychological symptoms, give us a glimpse into what Xanax does to the mind and body.

Below is a brief discussion of the behavioural warning signs of Xanax abuse followed by an explanation of both the long- and short-term effects of abusing the drug. Please pay close attention if you or someone you know is misusing Xanax.

The Signs of Xanax Dependence and Addiction

The sedating effects of Xanax are such that, on their own, they are not necessarily indicative of abuse or addiction. But we can look at certain behaviours that would suggest a problem exists. The first is what was described earlier in this guide: using Xanax outside the boundaries of a prescription.

Another behaviour that instantly raises alarm is doctor shopping. A patient who goes from one doctor the next in an attempt to get new Xanax prescriptions is trying to bypass laws intended to prevent abuse and addiction. This is definitely a problem. Other behavioural warning signs include:

  • buying Xanax on the street
  • using the drug to cope
  • general apathy
  • mixing it with other substances (like alcohol)
  • being functionally unable to work or attend school.

Signs of Chronic Long-Term Abuse of Xanax

Long-term abuse of Xanax produces some very noticeable, and sometimes dangerous, health effects. One of the most easily recognised is long-term sedation. In other words, the Xanax abuser may exhibit pronounced signs of excessive sedation that last for days at a time. Regular occurrences of sedated episodes are not to be ignored, as each successive episode suggests a more fundamental problem. Other signs of chronic Xanax abuse include:

  • impaired memory
  • cognitive deficits
  • depression
  • periods of delirium
  • periods of psychosis
  • aggressiveness and impulsive behaviour.

Signs of Short-Term abuse of Xanax

In its earliest stages, Xanax abuse can present some signs and symptoms that would let you know a problem exists. These early onset symptoms include:

  • unusual mood changes
  • concentration problems
  • changes in sexual performance and desire
  • weight change (either loss or gain).

The signs are not necessarily indicative of abuse on their own, but when coupled with things like doctor shopping or buying Xanax on the street, they are unambiguous evidence of abuse.

Xanax Overdose

Xanax overdose is always possible. It occurs whenever someone takes more than the prescribed amount over a given period. It can be deadly, especially when Xanax is mixed with other substances. Never take this drug with another substance, like alcohol, in order to enhance its effects. You are risking overdose if you do.

Note that Xanax overdose is a potentially life-threatening situation. An overdosing person needs emergency medical care right away.

Xanax Overdose Symptoms

A person overdosing on Xanax will demonstrate a number of symptoms. These include:


Xanax Overdose Treatment

Getting someone who has overdosed on Xanax to the hospital is a medical imperative. Once there, medical staff may use one of several different treatments. The first is pumping the stomach to remove as much of the remaining drug as possible. The second option is administering intravenous fluids designed to dilute the concentration Xanax in the system. Finally, the third option is to attempt to reverse the overdose.

How to Reverse Xanax Overdose

Doctors may try to reverse a Xanax overdose by administering a drug known as flumazenil. When they do, they also have to carefully monitor vital signs and patient brain activity. This is because reversing the effects of Xanax can result in dangerous seizure activity. Flumazenil-induced seizures are more common in long-term Xanax abusers.

Attempting to reverse an overdose can be further complicated when other substances are involved. This is one of the reasons medical personnel attempt to assess what the patient has taken, and in what amounts, prior to beginning treatment.

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Xanax Withdrawal

Withdrawing from Xanax is not necessarily an easy thing to do. Withdrawal results in some very uncomfortable symptoms that can push a person back to taking the drug again. But withdrawal is necessary if a person is to overcome a Xanax abuse or addiction problem. We recommend withdrawing under the care of doctors and nurses at either an outpatient clinic or an inpatient rehab centre.

Symptoms of Withdrawal from Xanax

The symptoms of Xanax withdrawal are well known. They are similar to the withdrawal symptoms associated with most sedatives, and include:

  • headaches
  • muscle aches and pains
  • anxiety or depression
  • panic attacks
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • heart palpitations
  • tremors
  • cognitive impairment.

Withdrawal symptoms begin within 6 to 12 hours of the last dose. They gradually increase in severity until they peak – usually between the 5th and 10th day – at which point they begin to subside.

Xanax Withdrawal and Detox

If you believe you might have a problem with Xanax, we urge you to seriously consider withdrawal and detox. Both are necessary steps in the recovery process. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information; we can explain everything you need to know about withdrawal and detox.

Xanax Treatment and Rehab

Following withdrawal and detox, it would be a good idea to undergo rehab treatment. Again, we can answer all your questions. We also offer information about treatment and rehab programmes throughout the UK. We can help you find a clinic and get you enrolled in a programme that will work for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Xanax effect your eyesight?

Absolutely. One of the known side effects of this drug is blurred vision.

How does Xanax affect the brain?

Xanax interferes with the normal operation of certain brain chemicals and the receptors. This is what produces the drugs sedating effects. The altered brain function is also what often produces memory problems, loss of concentration, and cognitive impairment.

How does Xanax affect the body?

Xanax alters certain brain chemicals in both volume and their effectiveness. This results in a calming effect on the body, especially the muscles. It makes a person feel week, lethargic, and extremely relaxed.

When do Xanax withdrawal symptoms start?

Withdrawal symptoms tend to start appearing within 6 to 12 hours of the patient’s last full dose.

How long do Xanax withdrawal symptoms last?

The average patient begins to see a gradual subsiding of withdrawal symptoms somewhere between the 5th and 10th days. All but the most severe symptoms are completely gone within 15 to 21 days.

How long do the effects of Xanax last?

Due to its relatively short half-life, the effects of Xanax only last a couple of hours for most people.

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