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Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit (IP: will be answered by American Addiction Centers (AAC) or a paid sponsor.
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Dependence on Xanax

Are you worried you may be dependent on Xanax (alprazolam)? Thinking that you could develop Xanax addiction? In this article, we’ll explore how Xanax works in the brain. We also discuss the difference between dependence on Xanax and addiction, and we’ll also look at the strategies used to treat each problem. We invite your questions about Xanax at the end.

What is dependence on Xanax?

Simply put, dependence on Xanax is just what it sounds like. If you take Xanax for more than a week or two, your brain and body become dependent on Xanax in order to function normally. And if you stop taking Xanax or drastically reduce dosage, you will go through withdrawal symptoms. So, dependence is not a matter of how long Xanax lasts, but how it builds up in your system over time.

Dependence on Xanax symptoms

Xanax dependence has a few main symptoms:

1. continued use of a substance to avoid withdrawal
2. experiencing withdrawals when you haven’t taken Xanax
3. needing to take Xanax regularly
4. needing to take higher doses for the same relief of anxiety

These symptoms don’t necessarily indicate an addiction to Xanax – they’re just signs that your body is used to Xanax being in your system. Nonetheless, severe withdrawal reactions and adverse consequences come with long term use of Xanax and require medical supervision if and when you decide to get Xanax out of your system.

Xanax dependence time: How long to be dependent on Xanax?

The main ingredient in Xanax, alprazolam, is known to be habit forming. This is why Xanax is not usually prescribed for long periods of time unless there’s not a good alternative available. In fact, Xanax dependence can develop after only 1-2 weeks of taking the drug regularly. Plus, the longer you take Xanax and the higher the dose, the more likely you are to develop a dependence.

Xanax dependence withdrawal

Xanax withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant and can occasionally be dangerous, including:

  • anxiety
  • diarrhea
  • insomnia
  • muscle cramps
  • seizures

The only way to treat Xanax withdrawal is to SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE. Your prescribing doctor will most likely gradually decrease the dose until you can safely go off the medication. Because of the risk of seizure, it’s not safe to simply “wait out” or go cold turkey through Xanax withdrawals.

Treating physical dependence on Xanax

Becoming physically dependent on Xanax can be troubling for someone who wants to go off the medication for whatever reason. When the decision is made to stop Xanax, expect to develop withdrawal symptoms unless care is taken to slowly taper the drug using a standard detoxification or withdrawal protocol. In fact, withdrawal symptoms can be severe and you MUST SEEK MEDICAL HELP when you want to stop taking Xanax.

Xanax dependence vs addiction

Dependence on Xanax happens when the drug is taken in high doses or for long periods of time. Xanax dependence mostly means you can’t stop taking the drug abruptly without withdrawals. However, during the detoxification or withdrawal period from Xanax, symptoms of abuse or psychological dependence may emerge. These symptoms of psychological dependence are characteristic of addiction.

Xanax addiction is basically characterized by psychological symptoms on top of physical need. Xanax addiction is more likely if you’re not taking Xanax as directed. Plus, snorting or smoking Xanax increases your addiction risk, as does taking large amounts of Xanax.

Treating psychological dependence on Xanax

Xanax dependence can become an addiction when you begin to feel psychologically dependent on the medication. If you’re psychologically dependent on Xanax, you will:

* feel the need to take Xanax to cope with everyday stress
* need to take Xanax “in case” of a panic attack
* worry about leaving the house without your Xanax
* feel a compulsive need to use Xanax
* experience strong Xanax cravings
* continue to use Xanax even if it has negative consequences

A psychological dependence on Xanax won’t respond to the same treatment as a physical dependence. Therapy and support groups may be recommended by your doctor to help you deal with the mental and emotional aspects of drug addiction. Only by dealing with the psychological dependence can you begin to slowly taper your dosage and quit Xanax entirely.

Xanax dependence questions

Do you still have questions about Xanax dependence and addiction? We welcome all questions in the comments below.

Reference Sources:DailyMed: Xanax XR
PubMed Health: Alprazolam
ToxNet: Alprazolam
PubMed: Alprazolam use and dependence. A retrospective analysis of 30 cases of withdrawal.
SAMHSA: Prescription Medications: Misuse, Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction</h6>
Leave a reply

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

You mentioned that Xanax dependence can develop after only 1-2 weeks of taking the drug "regularly". Please define regularly. One or twice a week is regularly or is everyday use considered regularly? Thanks
Addiction Blog
Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Hi Gio. My (unprofessional) understanding, is that regular use = daily. But for benzodiazepines with a long half life, I wonder if even every-other-day dosing can cause the dependence effect. I'd suggest that you call a pharmacist or consult with your prescribing doctor for clarification. And please share what you learn!
Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Hello, My doctor basically said that I can get hooked with only 10-15 days of everyday administration of the drug. He said that i could be taking xanax daily for ten days and everyday I will wake up in the morning feeling great but sooner or later I will wake up one day and feel like all hell broke loose and that is when the problem starts. He also said that due to the high levels of relief that the drug is offering, even with 2-3 times per week administration a rebound anxiety may occur that will drive someone to take more. That is what he said more or less.
Sunday, January 26th, 2014

I had a operation Jan 6 2014 and was prescribed Norco 7.5 and oxycodone 5mg and stop taking them because my pain can now be controlled by Tylenol. I am having minor withdrawels. My surgeon wrote me a prescription for Xanax only twelve 1 every 12 hrs can I develope a dependence on that amount if taken as directed.
Addiction Blog
Friday, January 31st, 2014

Hello Gene. Dependence on Xanax occurs after regular dosing over a period of 1-2 weeks. How long is the prescription written for? Also, have you consulted (even on the phone) with a pharmacist? I'd suggest you seek a professional opinion and make a decision based on your findings.
Thursday, March 24th, 2016

If i have had xanax withdrawl seizures in the past, would one mg of xanax hurt me if i havent taken any in years? (Im flying and would like to take 1 mg for the flight if it is safe) its been over 2 years since ive taken any sort of benzo
Lydia @ Addiction Blog
Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Hi Chichi. I suggest you speak with your doctor who knows your medical history and can give you the best advice.
Sunday, February 19th, 2017

My grandma is taking the alprazolam tablet 0.25 since 28 yrs period twice a day seeking some clinic without following up consultant, as she passed from some sort of anxiety disorder and depression. Now, i got to know about the tablet, and its dosage with its function. Can my grandma get rid off from this drug addiction and reduce its use so as to get normal?
Monday, August 14th, 2017

If you have been taking 2mg Xanax 4 times a day for yrs now and you are cut to 2 2mgs a day how will this affect you? Concerned! Thanks¡
Ivana @ Addiction Blog
Monday, August 14th, 2017

Hi Rita. This might be an abrupt decrease. Do you have enough Xanax to do a more gradual taper? You will experience withdrawal symptoms either way, but they will be far more manageable and less intense if you do it more slowly. You can talk with your doctor and ask him/her to help create a custom tapering schedule for you. Still, some general Xanax tapering guidelines include: - A Xanax taper is recommended to occur over a period of eight weeks. - Doses of Xanax should be lowered no more the .5mg every three to four days. - You should let people know what’s going on, so they can support you during your withdrawal process. Read more on what you can expect during Xanax withdrawal and ways to address symptoms, here:
Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

How do I deal with the withdrawal at home cold turkey ...what will help me?
Lydia @ Addiction Blog
Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Hi Queen. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is one of the most severe and harsh to overcome. First, I suggest you speak with a pharmacist who can recommend some over-the-counter medication, home remedies, teas and hot baths to ease withdrawal symptoms. Moreover, you may look into the Ashton Manual:
Monday, December 11th, 2017

If I took .5 a week ago. Took .25 last night and a few nights before ( opiate withdrawal ) am I at risk for seizures?