Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

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Xanax is one of the most popular prescription drugs, both in medical use and on the illicit markets. The popularity of Xanax or its generic version, alprazolam, means that there is a high quantity of this drug available to patients who might pass it along to the illicit market. The desirability of this drug among drug users and people who are addicted to it motivates many drug dealers to counterfeit the drug and sell these pills as real Xanax.1

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, however, versions of Xanax sold on the black market very often contain anything but alprazolam. The fake pills may contain fentanyl as well as non-drug ingredients. In 2021, up to the month of September alone, more than nine million fake pills had been seized by law enforcement personnel, including many fake Xanax pills.2


Xanax is a benzodiazepine which is a type of drug prescribed for panic attacks and anxiety. Other benzodiazepines include lorazepam, (Ativan) clonazepam (Klonapin), or diazepam (Valium) products.

Among drug users, Xanax is known for its ability to make opioids more potent. It’s very common for those abusing opioids to add Xanax to the mix to get a high more like that of heroin. This has resulted in combinations like the “Houston Cocktail,” a mix of hydrocodone, Xanax, and Soma (a muscle relaxant). Unscrupulous medical doctors know about the popularity of this combination and will prescribe the drugs together on request.

The percentage of misuse was highest among young adults aged 18 to 25 (3.7 percent or 1.2 million people), followed by adults aged 26 or older (2.2 percent or 4.7 million people), then by adolescents aged 12 to 17 (0.9 percent or 226,000 people).3

In 2020, more than 90 million prescriptions were written for Xanax. Add to this the fake pills circulating through the street market and you have a country awash in dangerous and addictive pills.

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Amnesia or confusion
  • Lack of coordination
  • Tremors
  • Hives
  • Twitching muscles
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face, tongue and throat
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Hostility
  • Nervousness
  • Sleeplessness

Long-Term Prescribing of Xanax and Dependence

While the Food and Drug Administration recommends prescribing Xanax only for four weeks to eight months, their prescribing information also notes that dependence can occur in 12 weeks.4 There have also been reports of dependence occurring after only ten weeks, with seizures resulting when use of the drug was ceased. So caution should be taken when these drugs are prescribed.

The Long-Term Damage of Xanax Addiction

Researchers in Denmark found that there was a doubled risk of Alzheimer’s disease among those who had taken benzodiazepines over a long period.5 The reason for this increased risk was permanent brain damage from the drug.

Further risks of long-term misuse:

  • Addiction
  • Overdose death
  • Suicide attempts
  • Intentional self-harm

Signs of Xanax Overdose

Doctors with patient on a gurny

Xanax suppresses the action of the central nervous system, slowing breathing. If a person mixes this drug with opioids, alcohol or sedatives, the result can be a fatal overdose because all three suppress the central nervous system. It is also possible to overdose on Xanax alone.

These symptoms may occur during an overdose:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Problems with coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death

Withdrawal from Xanax

Unsupervised withdrawal from Xanax can be fatal. It is important for a person to taper off this drug with medical supervision. Seizures have been reported after long use and high dosages, and even after low dosages and short use. Coma and death can also result from Xanax withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms may last from several weeks to more than 12 months and have been experienced after drug use for as brief as one week.6

These symptoms are also possible during withdrawal:

  • Malaise
  • Weakness
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness

Finding Help for a Person Addicted to Xanax

It’s vital that any person who wants to recover from Xanax addiction be supported by qualified medical personnel as they gradually come off their dosages of this drug, whether they were taking a prescribed dosage or they had access to an illicit supply. Once they are tapered off this drug, they can begin the process of restoring their sobriety and ability to think and make decisions without being affected by drugs.

The sooner this medical support and rehabilitation can occur, the better. It is apparent from the medical and scientific research into this drug that it can cause great harm. By being drug-free once again, a former Xanax user can restore their control over their life and their future.


  1. DEA. “Counterfeit pills.” Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA Publication (PDF) ↩︎

  2. DEA. “Sharp Increase in Fake Prescription Pills Containing Fentanyl and Meth.” DEA, 2021. DEA Article ↩︎

  3. SAMHSA. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States.” SAMSHA, 2021. SAMHSA Report (PDF) ↩︎

  4. FDA. “Xanax label.” FDA, 2016. [FDA Publication (PDF)](https://www.accessdata.fda. gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/018276s052lbl.pdf) ↩︎

  5. BMJ. “Benzodiazepines and risk of Alzheimer’s disease.” British Medical Journal, 2014. BMJ Article ↩︎

  6. Medline. “Alprazolam.” Medline, 2021. Medline Article ↩︎