Why Is Xanax So Addictive? The Truth About Xanax

What are Benzodiazepines?

Young people on group therapy session discussing why xanax is so addictiveBenzodiazepines are drugs that act as central nervous system depressants or sedatives. They are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. Benzodiazepines work by slowing down the brain and nervous system, which can help to relieve anxiety, muscle tension, and seizures. 75% of prescription abusers receive the drugs from a friend, relative, or healthcare provider. 36.7% of people who suffer from substance abuse misuse their prescriptions.

What are benzo prescriptions typically for?

Benzo prescriptions are usually for short-term use only. This is because they can cause tolerance, dependence, and addiction. However, some people may need to take them for longer periods.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine medication that the FDA first approved in 1981. Also referred to as “xans” or “xannies,” Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam, a benzodiazepine. It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax can also treat other conditions, such as insomnia, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal.

How Is Xanax Abused?

Xanax can be abused through snorting, smoking, or injecting crushed pills. People who abuse Xanax often take higher doses than prescribed or take the drug more often than prescribed. Some people mix Xanax with other substances, such as alcohol, heroin, or opioids, which can have dangerous consequences.

How Addictive Is Xanax?

Xanax is a very potent medication and can be addictive even when taken as prescribed by a doctor. The risk of addiction increases when it is misused or abused. When used correctly, the risk of addiction is low. However, even if used correctly, there is still a small risk of developing an addiction.

How Does Xanax Work?

Xanax works by slowing down the central nervous system. This calms the body, which can help to reduce anxiety and panic. However, it also has the potential to cause drowsiness, confusion, and impaired coordination. These effects make it difficult to drive or operate machinery while under the influence of Xanax.

Why is Xanax so addictive? Mainly because of its effect on the body and mind. Xanax slows down the central nervous system. This depresses the brain’s activity and can lead to feelings of relaxation and drowsiness. High doses can cause slurred speech, impaired coordination, and difficulty breathing.

Xanax also affects the mind by causing changes in mood and perception. It can create euphoria, which can be why people abuse the drug. Xanax can also cause hallucinations and delusions.

What Are the Effects of Xanax Abuse?

The effects of Xanax abuse can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Poor coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slow breathing
  • Seizures

Which Substances Are Commonly Abused With Xanax?

Xanax is commonly abused with other substances, including alcohol, heroin, and opioids. Mixing Xanax with other substances can have dangerous consequences.

Who is at Most Risk for Xanax addiction?

Those most at risk for Xanax addiction are:

  • People with a history of substance abuse
  • People with a family history of substance abuse or addiction
  • People with mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression
  • People who have easy access to Xanax, such as through a friend or family member

Which Demographic is Most Affected by Xanax?

The demographic most affected by Xanax addiction is young adults. This is likely because Xanax is often prescribed to young adults for anxiety and panic disorders. Young adults are also more likely to abuse drugs, as they are still experimenting with substances and have not yet developed a sense of responsibility.

Prescription drug abuse is most common among 18- to 25-year-olds. 5 of the top 10 reasons teenagers misuse prescription drugs have to do with accessibility. Some studies indicate that senior and elderly medicated patients may be at heightened risk of developing addiction due to the number and variety of drugs they take for health reasons. 16% of abused prescriptions are black market purchases.

Prescription Drug Addiction Rates

6% of Americans over the age of 12 abuse prescriptions in a year. 12% of prescription drug abusers are addicted. There are 4.8 million Benzodiazepine annual abusers. 45.8% of American adults used a prescription drug – legally or not – within the past 30 days. 

Healthcare specialists generally agree that a high rate of use and availability drives reported rates of prescription drug abuse, addiction, and, ultimately, overdose. 16.3 million people misuse prescriptions in a year. 22.6% of them, or 3.7 million people, misuse prescriptions for the first time. Prescriptions are the fifth most abused substance after alcohol (65.5% usage) and tobacco products (26.7% usage).

Women are 11% more likely than men to be prescribed medication, but men are 22.9% more likely to misuse prescriptions. Both men and women are most likely to use pain relievers, with 32.5% more men than women using them. Women are more likely to use stimulants as study aids or to increase alertness; men are more likely to use stimulants to get high or experiment. College initiates to stimulants are more likely to abuse them as study aids, whereas pre-college initiates are more likely to abuse stimulants for fun or out of curiosity.


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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction?

The signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction can include:

  • Taking more Xanax than prescribed
  • Craving Xanax or thinking about it all the time
  • Failing to meet work, school, or familial obligations because of Xanax use
  • Spending money on Xanax even though you can’t afford it
  • Stealing or borrowing money to get Xanax

Why is Xanax so addictive?

There are several reasons why Xanax may be more addictive than other benzodiazepines. First, it has a high affinity for the GABA receptors in the brain. Xanax is addictive because the person using it feels a sense of euphoria, relaxation, and calm. The more the person uses Xanax, the more they need to take to get the same effect. Tolerance develops quickly, so larger doses are needed to achieve the same effects. 

Withdrawal symptoms can occur when a person suddenly stops taking Xanax or if they reduce their dose too quickly. These withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, tremors, and seizures.

If you or someone you know is addicted to Xanax, treatment options are available. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication and therapy. Medication may be used to help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Therapy can help address any underlying mental health issues that could have contributed to the substance abuse.

What Are the Withdrawal Effects of Xanax?

The withdrawal effects of Xanax can be severe and can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

If you or someone you know is addicted to Xanax, treatment options are available. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication and therapy. Medication may be used to help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Therapy can help address any underlying mental health issues contributing to the addiction.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to Xanax, please get help as soon as possible. Many resources are available to those struggling with addiction, including hotlines, support groups, and treatment facilities. Getting help is the first step on the road to recovery.

What’s the Difference Between Physical and Psychological Dependence?

Physical dependence on a substance occurs when the body becomes used to the presence of the drug and starts to experience withdrawal symptoms when it is removed. Withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, sweating, tremors, and nausea. Psychological dependence occurs when a person feels that they need to use a substance in order to cope with their everyday life.

Xanax addiction can occur because the drug is so effective at reducing anxiety and panic. This can lead people to take larger doses than prescribed or take the medication more often than they should. Over time, this can lead to physical and psychological dependence on Xanax.

What are the Consequences of Xanax Addiction?

The consequences of Xanax addiction can be serious. Overdosing on Xanax can lead to coma or death. People who abuse Xanax are also at risk for developing other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Long-term use of Xanax can also cause physical health problems, such as liver damage.

Xanax is a highly addictive drug because it creates changes in the brain that make it difficult for people to stop using the drug. When people abuse Xanax, they are at risk of developing an addiction. Addiction to Xanax can lead to serious consequences, including overdose and death. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to Xanax, get help from a professional treatment provider today.

What Are Some Treatment Options for Xanax Addiction?

The treatment options for Xanax addiction include:

  • Detox: Detox is usually the first step in the addiction recovery process. Through medical help, detox removes the toxins in the body built up from substance abuse.
  • Dual Diagnosis: Dual diagnosis is a form of treatment to help those with a co-occurring disorder or a combination of substance abuse and mental health disorder.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment: Medications can be offered to help those struggling with withdrawal symptoms and pre-existing conditions during addiction treatment.
  • Inpatient treatment: This type of treatment is typically reserved for people with severe addictions. Inpatient treatment involves staying at a residential facility where you will receive 24-hour care.
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment is a good option for people with less severe addictions. With outpatient treatment, you live at home and go to the treatment facility for therapy and counseling sessions.
  • 12-step programs: These programs are based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model and can be helpful for people who are struggling with addiction.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Xanax addiction, there is help available. Treatment can vary depending on the severity of the addiction, but there are options out there that can help. Achieve Wellness and Recovery is determined to be there for you when you need support. Xanax addiction can rob you of the best moments of your life and those around you. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, contact us today.

  1. Bounds CG, Nelson VL. Benzodiazepines. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022. Accessed January 2, 2023. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470159/
  2. Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics. NCDAS. Accessed January 2, 2023. https://drugabusestatistics.org/prescription-drug-abuse-statistics/
  3. Schmitz A. Benzodiazepine use, misuse, and abuse: A review. Ment Health Clin. 2016;6(3):120-126. doi:10.9740/mhc.2016.05.120
  4. Kurtz SP, Buttram ME, Surratt HL. Benzodiazepine Dependence among Young Adult Participants in the Club Scene Who Use Drugs. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2017;49(1):39-46. doi:10.1080/02791072.2016.1269978
Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being a mother to two beautiful children.

Last medically reviewed January 2, 2023

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