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Addiction and Treatment

How Addictive is This Common Benzodiazepine?


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What is Xanax?

Alprazolam, commonly known by the brand name Xanax, is a prescription medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.1 Alprazolam belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines which act on the brain and central nervous system to produce a calming effect. Alprazolam is a schedule IV-controlled substance because it has medical uses, but it can still risk addiction. Some people abuse Xanax for recreational purposes due to the high that it creates. However, doing this is very dangerous and can lead to many adverse side effects.2 Alprazolam is very addictive and should only be taken in recommended doses prescribed by a medical professional.

Xanax Street Names

When dealing with addiction caused by recreational use, you may hear Xanax called by different terms for the drug. Street names are often based on the color or shape of the pill. Pills may be white, yellow, or blue and come in varying doses. Some common street names are:

  • Xannies
  • Z-bars
  • Bars
  • School bus
  • Yellow boys
  • Footballs
  • Handlebars
  • White boys
  • White girls
  • Bicycle parts

How Long Does Xanax Last?

The effects of alprazolam are brief. Most people will feel the most potent effects in the first 2 to 4 hours after taking it. After that, there may be some lingering fuzzy feelings that last for several more hours. Because the effects are relatively brief, a binge-like pattern may develop to extend the Xanax high. A tolerance to alprazolam can also be developed, meaning that you need to take higher doses over time to get the same effect. This can lead to an addiction, along with many other adverse Xanax side effects.

History of Xanax

Alprazolam was first released in 1981 for the treatment of panic disorders. Xanax was created as an alternative to Valium, one of the most popular prescription medications in the 1970s. The main difference between Xanax and Valium was that Xanax was able to treat panic attacks.3 Since alprazolam was released it has become a very popular medication in the U.S. for treating anxiety and panic disorders. However, soon after its release, there also began a trend of people abusing the drug recreationally for the effect it created. Since this drug is widely prescribed and widely abused, it’s led to increasing amounts of people being admitted to treatment centers because dependence on the drug has developed.

Xanax as a Club Drug

Xanax is a common drug that is used in the club scene. When Xanax is taken as a club drug, it’s often combined with alcohol. The combination of Xanax and alcohol intensifies the effects of both substances. This combination lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, leading to increased risk-taking behavior and making irrational decisions. Xanax and alcohol can be a dangerous combination with many adverse effects such as blackouts and taking risks like driving while impaired. Alprazolam is one of the more accessible drugs that can make it one of the more common club drugs people abuse.

Xanax Side Effects

Short-Term Side Effects

Like any prescription drug, alprazolam comes with side effects. These side effects can be amplified if it’s taken in higher than recommended doses or is abused over a long period. Some common short-term Xanax side effects may include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Distorted vision
  • Nausea
  • Weight and appetite changes
  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability, depression, or mood swings
  • Difficulty breathing

Long-Term Side Effects

When taken over a long period, alprazolam use can alter how a person thinks or acts. One of the most dangerous long term Xanax side effects is seizures. Seizures are an intense brain disturbance that causes the body to spasm. Seizures can cause brain damage and can even be deadly if they frequently occur or for a long time. Both alprazolam abuse and withdrawal can cause seizures. Other long term Xanax side effects may include:

  • Visual or auditory hallucinations
  • Mania or irrational behavior
  • Violent or aggressive behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions


A Xanax overdose can be deadly, especially if taken with alcohol or other drugs. Xanax overdose can also be more likely to occur if pills are chewed or crushed when taken, as the tablets are designed to be time-released into the system. Xanax overdose treatment will depend on how much of the drug was taken and if other drugs are also present. When treated for a Xanax overdose, medical professionals may pump the stomach to remove as much of the unabsorbed Xanax as possible, or a medication such as flumazenil may be administered as an antidote. When treating an overdose, the medical staff must know precisely how much alprazolam and any other substances were taken to provide the right treatment.

During an overdose, it’s important to notice the signs and symptoms as early as possible to get medical attention early. Common signs of Xanax overdose may include:

  • Confusion
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fainting
  • Loss of balance
  • Muscle weakness


Xanax withdrawal can occur when its use suddenly stops. Both physical and psychological dependence can be formed on the drug when it’s taken over a long period. Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be intense, which is why starting a treatment program before the detox process is beneficial for complete recovery. Common Xanax withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Delirium

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

Many different Xanax side effects can signal an addiction. Signs of addiction may be physical, mental, or behavioral.

Physical Changes

Physical changes that may signal an addiction are:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Poor coordination
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Shortness of breath

Mental or Behavioral Changes

Mental or behavioral changes from addiction that may occur include:

  • Problems focusing
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Lack of ambition
  • Mood swings
  • Losing interest in enjoyable activities


If you or some you love show signs of addiction, it’s essential to get the help needed. There are many resources and treatment options available that can help address addiction.

Xanax Addiction Treatment

Inpatient Drug Rehab

Going to an inpatient treatment center is a standard treatment option that can help through the recovery process steps. Inpatient treatment involves staying at a treatment center for a duration of time during detox and the early skills for maintaining sobriety. A treatment center will provide around the clock medical attention, a positive support system, a clean living environment away from temptations, and therapy to learn coping mechanisms that help maintain sobriety long term.

Outpatient Drug Rehab

Outpatient treatment is another option to recover from addiction. Outpatient treatment involves going to a treatment center at designated times each week but only during the day. Outpatient treatment includes returning home at the end of each day. This can be beneficial if you don’t want to be away from family for an extended time. However, this option requires a special dedication to sticking to the program. There won’t be around the clock structure that an inpatient program would provide.


Behavioral therapy is also a valuable part of a treatment program. Therapy helps teach skills to deal with the stresses of life without the use of drugs. It can help reroute compulsive behaviors that lead to drug abuse into more positive avenues. Therapy may also uncover other underlying issues that are leading to drug abuse occurring.


Xanax is a prescription medication that is often used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Although alprazolam has many uses to treat medical conditions, it can also be addictive. Misuse and abuse of this drug can be dangerous and lead to many adverse effects. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, there are resources available.

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