Causes & Effects of Xanax Addiction

Understanding Xanax Addiction

Learn About Xanax Addiction & Abuse

Xanax is the brand name for a prescription medication containing alprazolam, which is drug in the benzodiazepine category that serves as a central nervous system depressant. Xanax is most often prescribed to people who have been struggling with symptoms that are associated with anxiety disorders. Xanax, which comes in pill form, is consumed orally, and induces feelings of relaxation and sedation. Because of these pleasant effects, and also because Xanax is fairly easy to obtain, this medication is also popular among those who are trying to self-medicate or who are looking to obtain a recreational high.

The pleasurable effects of Xanax and widespread legal use should not be viewed as meaning that this drug can be consumed without risk. Those who abuse Xanax can develop tolerance, meaning that they will need to use increasingly larger amounts of the drug to achieve the desired effect. Xanax abuse also leads to chemical dependence, or addiction.


Xanax Abuse Statistics

Xanax is regularly one of the 10 most commonly prescribed medications in the United Sates. According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the prevalence of prescription anti-anxiety medication abuse among young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 is approximately 0.5 percent of that population. The National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) states that over two million Americans abuse Xanax and/or other prescription tranquilizers each year. Between 2005 and 2011, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) recorded over 900,000 emergency room visits that included Xanax or other prescription medications containing benzodiazepines.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Xanax Abuse

Below are some of the many factors that can predispose an individual to be at heightened risk of Xanax abuse and dependence:

Genetic: Substance use disorders possess a powerful genetic component. Individuals whose parents or siblings have battled with a substance use disorder are at heightened risk for a similar experience. Also, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has recognized heritable personality traits such as novelty-seeking and impulsiveness as genetic factors that can increase an individual’s risk for developing addiction.

Environmental: One environmental factor that can increase the risk of abusing or becoming addicted to Xanax is ease of access to this medication, including having the medication prescribed for a valid medical purpose. Associating with individuals who abuse Xanax is also an environmental risk factor for Xanax abuse and addiction.

Risk Factors:

  • Novelty-seeking personality
  • Easy access to Xanax
  • Co-occurring mental health disorder(s)
  • Impulsivity
  • Family history of substance abuse and/or mental illness
  • Prior substance abuse
  • Being female (women are more likely than men to be prescribed Xanax)
  • Age (most cases of Xanax abuse begin in individuals under the age of 30)

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

Xanax abuse and addiction can be seen through various symptoms, including but not limited to the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Using Xanax when it is clearly unsafe to do so, such as in combination with alcohol or other drugs or prior to operating a motor vehicle
  • Secrecy or deception about one’s activities or whereabouts
  • Attempting to borrow or steal someone’s Xanax
  • Continuing to abuse Xanax even after experiencing negative repercussions as a result of prior Xanax abuse
  • Taking Xanax more frequently or in larger doses than intended
  • Visiting multiple doctors in search of Xanax prescriptions
  • Trying but failing to stop or reduce use of Xanax

Physical symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Tolerance to Xanax
  • Weakened muscles
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor coordination
  • Vision problems

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Impaired judgment
  • Powerful cravings for Xanax

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of interest in significant activities
  • Uncharacteristic aggressiveness
  • Dramatic mood swings

Lasting Effects

Effects of Xanax Abuse

The untreated abuse of Xanax can cause a series of negative consequences, including:

  • Other forms of substance abuse
  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Homelessness
  • Mania
  • Jaundice
  • Onset or worsening of mental health symptoms
  • Disinhibition
  • Amnesia
  • Organ damage
  • Job loss
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Strained or ruined interpersonal relationships
  • Diminished performance at work or in school
  • Academic failure
  • Family discord

Co-Occurring Disorders

Xanax Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

Those who abuse or become addicted to Xanax might be at greater risk for experiencing the following co-occurring mental health disorders:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Panic disorder
  • Social phobia
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Other substance use disorders

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Xanax Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Xanax withdrawal: When an individual becomes dependent on Xanax, stopping or reducing the use of the substance can trigger the onset of various unpleasant symptoms, including the following:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizure
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors and twitching
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Powerful drug cravings
  • Nausea

Effects of Xanax overdose: Anyone who shows the following symptoms after consuming Xanax might have overdosed and should obtain immediate medical attention:

  • Delirium
  • Unconsciousness
  • Extreme confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Diminished motor skills
  • Lack of coordination
  • Faint pulse
  • Muscle weakness
  • Problems with vision
  • Impaired ability to speak clearly
  • Slowed or irregular breathing
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I struggled with a Xanax addiction for several years. Originally to help me sleep, I began to use it under any kind of stress. Eventually, I couldn't even function in social situations without it. Serenity Knolls helped me recover from my Xanax addiction and taught me ways to manage stress without relying on medication.

– Sarah T.