Xanax Addiction Treatment

Those who suffer from anxiety may receive a prescription for Xanax to help relieve their symptoms. Is Xanax addictive, and what are the side effects? It is important to understand the risk of taking Xanax to protect against overdose. If an addiction to Xanax is suspected, it is crucial to seek treatment like the inpatient treatment program at Unity Behavioral Health.

Xanax and It’s Intended Use

Xanax is also known as alprazolam, a medication used to treat anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder. Xanax is a short-term treatment to manage the symptoms of anxiety. Nearly 44 million prescriptions for Xanax were written in the U.S. last year. 

Xanax may be referred to as a sedative-hypnotic, a tranquilizer, or a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Xanax is a benzodiazepine that has calming and sedating effects. These effects make benzodiazepines useful in treating conditions other than just anxiety and panic attacks. Some of these conditions include:

  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Mania
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Alcohol withdrawal

Xanax travels through the bloodstream to the brain and interacts with a protein complex (GABA) on some brain cells’ surface. The interaction increases the activity of an inhibitory neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). By triggering the increase of GABA activity, Xanax slows down normal brain function and communication. The stronger the GABA effect, the slower the brain functions and communicates. The effects of Xanax are similar to the effects of alcohol on the brain. 

Side Effects of Xanax

When taken as prescribed, the short-term effects of Xanax are very beneficial for many people. But, a person doesn’t have to take Xanax long before they begin feeling some of the adverse effects. Some common side effects of Xanax include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Increased salivation
  • Change in sex drive
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Appetite changes
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems


Serious side effects can include:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal behaviors
  • Dependence
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Swelling
  • Liver damage


Lasting health effects from chronic use of Xanax can include:

  • Cognitive defects
  • Psychomotor impairment – slowing down of thoughts and physical movement
  • Dependence 
  • Abuse


Even when individuals stop using Xanax, chronic use can cause unrepairable cognitive issues such as:

  • Visuospatial cognition – visual perception
  • Attention and concentration 
  • Psychomotor speed – reaction time

Is Xanax Addictive?

Xanax can be highly addictive if used on a regular basis. According to the National Institue of Drug Abuse, Xanax is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. Xanax provides relief from anxiety and panic attacks. Still, if used over a long period of time or without cognitive behavioral therapy, it can become addictive. 

Facts about Xanax use, abuse, and addiction include:

  • 55% of individuals who use Xanax have acquired it from a friend
  • 11.4% bought them from a friend or relative
  • 4.8% stole them from friends and family
  • 70% of teens that abuse Xanax took it from their parents
  • 50 million prescriptions for Xanax were written in 2013
  • Prescription rates for Xanax are increasing by at least 9% every year

Addiction occurs when Xanax makes a person emotionally unstable. A person needing a larger dose to achieve the same effect indicates tolerance. And when a person can not get Xanax, they may have drastic mood swings. If a person lies to friends and family or doctors about the amount they are taking, they have developed a dependence. 

Signs of Xanax Abuse

Xanax is a highly potent and highly addictive benzodiazepine used to treat severe anxiety and panic attacks. It is a short-acting benzodiazepine with a potential for abuse. The majority of Xanax effects occur within an hour of consumption and last up to 6 hours. Most doctors prescribe Xanax for 2 to 6 weeks to prevent addiction. Even when taken as prescribed, a person can become addicted because tolerance to Xanax builds quickly. 

Signs of Xanax abuse include:

  • Experiencing cravings or intense urges to use
  • Using for reasons other than prescribed
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Using more frequently than prescribed
  • Consuming for a longer duration than prescribed
  • Mixing Xanax with alcohol and other drugs
  • Crushing or snorting the pills
  • Taking Xanax to get high
  • Using someone else’s prescription or buying off the street

A person who abuses Xanax will appear tired. They may have a lack of motivation and energy to interact with friends and family. Sometimes individuals who abuse Xanax may lose interest in hobbies or normal everyday activities. 

Symptoms of Xanax abuse include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Light-headedness
  • Increased sleeping
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Delirium
  • Slurred speech
  • Vertigo
  • Isolation
  • Legal issues
  • Loss of job

Combining Xanax and Other Depressants

It is extremely dangerous to take Xanax in large doses or mix them with alcohol or other drugs. Xanax mixed with alcohol can be fatal due to respiratory failure or coma. Combining the two depressants severely depresses the central nervous system.

Because Xanax is a sedative, it can cause decreased alertness and response time. Taken in large doses, it can cause severe sedation lasting a few days. Working in a dangerous environment while taking large doses can lead to catastrophic dangers. 

Long-term use of Xanax can lead to serious side effects. Some of these side effects can be permanent. Serious side effects include:

  • Depression
  • Delirium
  • Aggression
  • Impulsivity
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Risk of dementia
  • Psychosis

There is a distinct difference between Xanax abuse and Xanax addiction. With the recreational use of Xanax, like at a party, the individual may combine Xanax with other drugs or alcohol to achieve the “high” they are looking for. These people can generally stop taking Xanax without severe side effects and still have some control over their life. An individual with an addiction to Xanax will require the drug to function normally and not have any control over their life. 

Xanax Overdose Risk

Xanax has such a high risk of overdose because the effects occur quickly after the dose is consumed. Xanax is absorbed into the bloodstream shortly after taking it. If too much Xanax is consumed at once, it can overwhelm the brain and the central nervous system. 

Xanax is a highly addictive drug that individuals use to calm down after a stressful day, when feeling anxious, and as a sleep aid. Because of the effects of Xanax, it is highly used and highly abused. Research suggests that Xanax is significantly more toxic than other benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety. For this reason, it results in more severe and complicated cases of overdose. 

Because Xanax’s effects appear quickly, early signs of overdose may resemble the regular side effects of Xanax. It is crucial to be aware of the side effects of being experienced and seek medical attention if they worsen. Some individuals experience severe side effects and warning signs of an overdose and can include:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory problems
  • Unusual behaviors or mood
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes


If a person is overdosing from Xanax symptoms may include:

  • Profound confusion
  • Severe lack of coordination
  • Severe inability to stay awake
  • Drastically slowed breathing
  • Unresponsive
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Xanax overdoses can result in death. In 2015, benzodiazepines, including Xanax, led to 8,700 overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Benzodiazepines are responsible for 30% of all prescription overdose deaths.

If someone is experiencing an overdose or suspected of an overdose, it is crucial to call 911.

Xanax Withdrawal and Medical Detox

Withdrawal occurs when an individual who is dependent on Xanax stops taking it or reduces their dose. Without Xanax, a person can not function or feel “normal” and often experiences physical and psychological issues. 

For some people, withdrawal symptoms developed after only a few weeks of use and prescribed doses. Individuals who abuse Xanax long-term or in larger doses may experience severe side effects like hallucinations and seizures. Withdrawal symptoms can begin hours after the last dose and appear suddenly. 

Common and severe withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Increased anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Cravings
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle pain
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures

The withdrawal symptoms from Xanax can be life-threatening. Medical detox is the safest way to withdrawal from Xanax. Detoxification is the process of removing unwanted substances from the body. Medical detox offers many benefits to help a person successfully complete detox such as:

  • Lower risk of relapse
  • Medical care and monitoring
  • Mental health support
  • Medication to relieve some symptoms of withdrawal
  • Continued treatment planning
  • Safe drug-free environment

Medical detox is the first step to Xanax addiction treatment. Medical detox alone is not enough to maintain sobriety. Individuals with an addiction to Xanax need continued drug treatment to address addiction’s psychological and behavioral issues. 

There are two categories of professional addiction treatment, inpatient and outpatient treatment. Within each category, there is a variety of program intensities. As the end of detox approaches, a therapist will help an individual choose the best treatment method that will fit their needs. 

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient or residential treatment is the most effective and offers the best chance of continued sobriety. Inpatient addiction treatment centers typically offer medical detox, mental health services, and other complex issues accompanying addiction. 

Inpatient treatment is an intensive program that not only treats Xanax abuse. It also addresses co-occurring mental health issues and trauma involved with an addiction to Xanax. An inpatient treatment program allows individuals to focus solely on themselves and their addiction. The stressors of work, family, and bills that trigger Xanax use are removed from the equation. 

Not all inpatient treatment programs are the same. It is vital to successful recovery to ensure that the facility chosen offers the following comprehensive programs.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment for Xanax addiction is not the recommended choice of treatment. But, for some individuals, it is the only way for them to attend treatment. Maybe a person can’t take a leave of absence from work or school or have children and families to care for. Outpatient treatment offers a variety of programs. Each program provides unique benefits to accommodate all individuals. 

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) 

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) also known as day treatment, are the highest level of outpatient Xanax addiction treatment. Individuals attend treatment 5 to 7 days a week for 4 to 6 hours a day. Some people start in a day program, while others use it as a step-down program after inpatient treatment. 

Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) 

IOP programs offer a more flexible schedule for Xanax addiction treatment. Day and evening options allow individuals to continue with their responsibilities and attend treatment for Xanax addiction. A person’s treatment schedule depends on the needs of the individual and their Xanax addiction. 

Sober Living 

Sober living homes are for individuals who come out of inpatient treatment and do not have a safe, drug-free environment to call home. Like Xanax addiction treatment, sober living has a variety of program options. 

  • Peer-run sober living homes are generally single-family homes that are run by the residents. House meetings and self-help meetings help keep residents accountable for their sobriety.
  • Monitored sober living homes have a house manager to monitor the residents. Residents participate in house meetings, 12-step meetings, and attend treatment.
  • Clinically supervised sober living homes are licensed and have administrative oversight. This program emphasizes learning life skills. Professional staff and house managers keep residents accountable. 

Xanax Addiction Treatment and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 45% of Americans struggle with co-occurring disorders. Individuals with mental health disorders are 50% more likely to suffer from a substance use disorder than the general public. Many individuals turn to Xanax to cope with mental health disorders, but this only further complicates symptoms. In some cases, mental health disorders and addiction can co-occur. 

The addiction to Xanax and any co-occurring disorders need to be treated in tandem to reach sobriety successfully. If not, the fight for sobriety might be a losing battle. When treating only the Xanax addiction, those with a co-occurring disorder are likely to drop out of drug treatment centers early or experience a relapse.

Most addiction treatment programs that specifically treat co-occurring disorders understand that an intensive, highly individualized approach is needed. Co-occurring treatment centers tailor each treatment plan to the individual’s diagnosis, medical history, emotional condition, and psychological needs.

Therapies That Are Beneficial For Xanax Addiction

Individual therapy for the treatment of Xanax addiction is broken down into specific methods. The two most common therapy methods are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Incorporating both of these therapy methods into a treatment program significantly increases the chance of life-long sobriety.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps people learn how to identify and change harmful and destructive thought patterns that negatively affect behaviors and emotions. CBT teaches a person to change the automatic negative thoughts that worsen emotional issues, depression, and anxiety. During cognitive-behavioral therapy, these thoughts are identified and replaced with realistic ones. 

Dialectical behavioral therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. The focus of DBT is teaching individuals to live in the moment, healthy coping skills, and regulate emotions. Dialectal behavior therapy provides therapeutic skills in four areas.

  • Mindfulness – improving a person’s ability to accept and be present
  • Distress tolerance – increasing a person’s tolerance to negative emotions
  • Emotion regulation – manage and change intense emotions that cause problems
  • Interpersonal effectiveness – healthy communication skills 

Beating an Addiction to Xanax at Unity Behavioral Health

At Unity Behavioral Health, we understand the struggles of an addiction to Xanax. We offer compassionate and individualized care. We offer a combination of medically assisted treatments and a variety of therapy options to help each individual beat their addiction to drugs and alcohol. 

To find out if Unity Behavioral Health is the right choice for you or your loved one contact us today. Our representatives are waiting to answer all your questions and get you started on the path to sobriety.

Get Help Now

Speak to one of our experienced and caring representatives at Unity Behavioral Health to learn about how our rehab programs can help your loved one defeat addiction.


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