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Xanax – a branded version of alprazolam – is an anti-anxiety medication in the benzodiazepine family and a dangerous prescription drug that has been shown to lead to abuse and addiction problems.

Between 1998 and 2008, there was a 300% increase in the number of people seeking treatment for addiction to benzos.

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Today’s guide will outline the dangers of Xanax addiction as well as the safest and most effective method of detoxing from alprazolam.

What is Xanax?

Xanax (alprazolam) is a branded benzodiazepine from the same class of medications as Valium (diazepam) and Klonopin (clonazepam). 

Alprazolam is one of the most prescribed psychotropic medications in the United States. 

Xanax is primarily prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders and panic disorders. The medication can also be used to treat alcohol withdrawal and seizure. 

The medication, like all benzos, reduces activity in the CNS (central nervous system) and the brain. When you take Xanax, the medication intensifies the effects of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a chemical that occurs naturally in the brain. This serves to induce a sense of calmness and relaxation. 

Many people taking Xanax find a variety of negative side effects present at the beginning of treatment. These include: 

  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Depression

Approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) in 1981. Data for 2020 shows that over 3.6 million people in the United States received 16.7 million prescriptions for Xanax. The FDA approves several different types of benzodiazepines for prescription use. 

Unfortunately, although Xanax can be highly effective if used short-term and exactly as prescribed, the medication is not designed for long-term use. 

Is Xanax addictive, then? 

Is it Addictive?

Xanax, like all benzos, can rapidly relieve acute symptoms like rapid-onset anxiety or panic attacks. Regrettably, the medication also has a strong potential for abuse and addiction. 

Misuse of Xanax – any use without a supporting prescription – can trigger aggression, depression, and impulsive or reckless behaviors. Long-term Xanax abuse can easily cause dependence to form. Addiction often but not always follows.

Using Xanax daily means tolerance to the medication will form. When this occurs, the medication becomes less effective, often prompting an increase in doses or in the frequency of doses to achieve the same effects. 

How long does it take to get addicted to Xanax, then? 

This will depend on many variables, although taking even small doses of Xanax as prescribed could trigger physical dependency in a month or less. Both tolerance and physical dependence are diagnostic criteria for addiction. 

If you are concerned about an addiction to Xanax developing, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you made unsuccessful attempts to moderate or discontinue use of Xanax?
  • Do you require higher doses of Xanax or more frequent doses of Xanax?
  • Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the medication wear off?
  • Do you spend large chunks of time thinking about Xanax and using Xanax?
  • Are you preoccupied about maintaining a constant supply of Xanax?
  • Do you continue to use the medication despite obviously adverse outcomes?
  • Are you spending less time doing things you once enjoyed?

Xanax addiction is classified and diagnosed as a substance use disorder according to the criteria outlined in DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The above questions are among the diagnostic criteria for Xanax addiction. Several positive responses indicate the possibility of addiction and suggest it would be worthwhile consulting your healthcare provider for a diagnosis. 

If you become addicted to Xanax, a variety of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms will manifest, from anxiety and tremors through to restlessness and disrupted sleep patterns. Experiencing Xanax withdrawal symptoms indicates physical dependence on the medication. Tolerance to Xanax accompanied by physical dependency and withdrawal symptoms indicate the development of Xanax addiction.

The safest way to safely stop using Xanax when addiction has developed is to engage with a supervised medical detox. You should not attempt to stop using Xanax or any benzodiazepine without consulting your healthcare provider. 

Why is Xanax addiction so dangerous and what does it entail? 

Is Xanax a Barbiturate?

Xanax is not classified as a barbiturate. Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine, frequently abbreviated to benzos. 

Benzos and barbiturates are both depressants of the CNS (central nervous system) that act similarly. Both medications trigger drowsiness, and both medications are used to treat insomnia and seizure. 

Both benzos and barbiturates affect GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a chemical messenger that nerves use for communication. GABA helps to control stress response and reduces activity in the CNS.

An image of a man at a table with his hand on his face, he is experiencing the adverse effects of a Xanax addiction

The Dangers of a Xanax Addiction

Xanax is especially dangerous because it can cause both tolerance and physical dependence to set in. This often but not always leads to benzo addiction. 

Abusing Xanax long-term triggers functional and structural changes to the brain. Over time, the brain becomes unable to operate effectively without Xanax. You require the medication simply to feel normal and to stave off withdrawal symptoms. At the same time, the therapeutic benefit of the medication diminishes. 

Xanax abuse and addiction can disrupt the following functions and processes: 

  • Emotional response
  • Thought processes
  • Memory
  • Muscular coordination
  • Consciousness

Xanax addiction is also associated with a variety of adverse health outcomes, including an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease

The withdrawal symptoms that present during Xanax detox can be dangerous. The seizures sometimes triggered by benzodiazepine withdrawal can induce potentially fatal coma. 

Additionally, Xanax has the potential for lethal overdose. The risk of overdose increases when you use Xanax in high doses. You also increase the likelihood of overdose if you use Xanax in combination with alcohol or other depressants of the CNS (central nervous system).  

Why is it so dangerous to combine CNS depressants, though? 

Well, Xanax and alcohol will both depress the CNS in the same way, and both substances will also inhibit GABA activity. Taking a combination of substances in this class can easily lead to over-sedation. When this occurs, expect any of these adverse side effects to present: 

  • Impaired coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed pulse
  • Delirium
  • Slurred speech
  • Extreme respiratory depression
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Death

Although Xanax has proven therapeutic benefits, the risks of abuse, dependence, addiction, and acute health risks over the long-term mean the medication is unsuitable for sustained use. 

What happens if it’s too late and you are already addicted to Xanax?

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?

Different benzos stay in the system for various amounts of time. Codeine is a short-acting benzo, while Klonopin is a long-acting benzo. Xanax falls in the middle of the spectrum. 

Xanax has an elimination half-life of 11 hours. At this point, blood concentration levels of the substance will have decreased by half. It takes up to 5 half-lives for a drug to fully eliminated from the system. 

Different types of drug screen may detect the presence of a Xanax bar for different lengths of time. 

  • Blood: Xanax may be detectable in the blood for up to five days.
  • Hair: Xanax may be detectable in the hair for up to three months.
  • Saliva: Xanax may be detectable in the saliva for up to three days.
  • Urine: Xanax may be detectable in some urine screens for up to three days.

How Long Does Xanax Last?

When you ingest a Xanax bar, your body absorbs the benzo, with much of the substance binding to circulating proteins. 

Xanax reaches peak concentration after one to two hours in the system. After this point, the body starts breaking down the substance, diminishing the effects.

Common Xanax Side Effects

These are the most common side effects associated with Xanax. Symptoms usually present at the initiation of Xanax therapy, soon subsiding as you become accustomed to the benzodiazepine.

  • Headaches
  • Light-headedness and dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Nervousness
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired coordination
  • Restlessness
  • Fainting
  • Decreased libido
  • Abnormal involuntary movements
  • Anxiety
  • Memory impairment
  • Irritability

Detoxing from Xanax

If you are addicted to benzos, it is always inadvisable to discontinue use abruptly. Home detox and the cold turkey method are not the safest ways to detox from Xanax. 

Quitting Xanax or any other benzodiazepine once addiction sets in will lead to the presentation of acute withdrawal symptoms like those experienced during barbiturate withdrawal or alcohol withdrawal. The intensity of these symptoms depends on how long you have been using Xanax and how much of the medication you have been using. In the worst scenarios, Xanax detox can be life-threatening.

The most Xanax withdrawal process involves gradually tapering the dosage. Often, a long-acting benzo is prescribed as a substitute for the short-acting alprazolam. The tapering approach will significantly reduce the severity of withdrawal, while at the same time mitigating many of the inherent risks. Dosage will be tapered once every three days in increments of 0.5mg. 

Connecting with a supervised medical detox at a licensed medical detox center followed by an inpatient or outpatient treatment program for benzo addiction provides the firmest foundation for recovery from Xanax addiction. We can help you with this here at California Detox. 

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Xanax Rehab at California Detox

At California Detox, we can help you with a tapered Xanax detox here at our luxury rehab in Laguna Beach.

The most effective Xanax addiction treatment can be delivered in either an inpatient or outpatient setting. We provide the following programs:

Whatever level of intensity makes the right fit for you, you can engage with evidence-based treatment here at California Detox. Through a combination of MAT (medication-assisted treatment), counselling, and psychotherapies (talk therapies like CBT or DBT), you can manage your symptoms without requiring an addictive medication like Xanax.

Schedule an appointment with your prescribing physician and then detox from Xanax as safely and comfortably as possible here at California Detox. Call admissions right now at 949.567.8790 and our team will guide you every step of the way.


Research indicates that up to 44% of those who use benzodiazepines like Xanax long-term will develop Xanax addiction.
Xanax should not be used long-term as a daily drug. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), benzodiazepines should only be used short-term and as directed. Tolerance to Xanax quickly builds, typically leading to physical dependence on the medication. The sustained abuse of Xanax often leads to the development of an addiction to Xanax in the form of substance use disorder.


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