Can you get addicted to Xanax?

Yes. You can get addicted to Xanax. We review Xanax addiction liability, including risk factors for getting addicted to Xanax here.

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Yes. You can get addicted to Xanax.

In fact, psychological dependence is a risk with all benzodiazepines, including Xanax. But who is most at risk of becoming a Xanax addict (people who take Xanax to get high)? And how is physical dependence on Xanax different than drug addiction? We review here.

Xanax chemistry and use

Xanax tablets contain alprazolam, which is a benzodiazepine and affects the central nervous system. Benzodiazepines were first marketed in the 1960s as anti-anxiety medications and have potent hypnotic and sedative qualities. Today, Xanax has been tested and can produce a beneficial drowsy or calming effect that benefits people who are diagnosed with anxiety or panic disorders. So how is Xanax used clinically?

Xanax is prescribed for the short-term relief of symptoms of anxiety or to manage anxiety disorder. Xanax is also prescribed in the treatment of panic disorder, with or without agoraphobia. This medicine may also be used for other purposes such as short term treatment of insomnia or in adjunctive management of anxiety associated with mental depression. Finally, Xanax may also be used in the treatment of familial, senile, or essential action tremors. Seek full prescription details from a pharmacist or prescribing MD.

Xanax and the brain

What does Xanax do in the brain and the body? You may be surprised to learn that experts still don’t know how the main ingredient in Xanax (alprazolam) works. What they do know is that Xanax acts as a central nervous system agent. And Xanax works by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain.  It is presumed that Xanax effects occur as the benzodiazepine binds at specific receptors at several sites within the central nervous system. Clinically, all benzodiazepines cause a dose-related central nervous system depressant activity. Effects vary from mild impairment of task performance to hypnosis.

How do you get addicted to Xanax?

Xanax addiction occurs after chronic use of Xanax over time. Nonetheless, you may need to take Xanax on a daily basis. Medical conditions that requires frequent use of Xanax can develop into addiction over time. Likewise, if you self-administer Xanax and increase Xanax intake without medical advice, you can get addicted to Xanax.  Or if you are snorting Xanax vs oral, or otherwise taking Xanax other than prescribed, you increase your risk of getting addicted to Xanax.

Xanax dependence vs. Xanax addiction

The risk of becoming physically dependent on Xanax is high. This is because alprazolam, the active ingredient in Xanax, is habit forming. In fact, you can become physically dependent on Xanax in the first few days if you are using this drug for the first time. This is why Xanax (alprazolam) is recommended for short term or intermittent use.  Furthermore, those who regularly take Xanax will most likely need Xanax withdrawal treatments if and when they abruptly stop using the drug.

But drug addiction is different than physical dependence. In fact, doctors expect daily Xanax users to develop physical dependence. The two main indicators of physical dependence on Xanax are tolerance and withdrawal.

1. Tolerance – First, if you use Xanax over a long period of time, the body will develop tolerance, and larger doses will be needed to achieve the initial effects.

2. Withdrawal – In addition, continued use of Xanax can lead to withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped.

On the other hand, Xanax addiction occurs when psychological dependence results from Xanax use. In other words, using Xanax to avoid emotional or psychological problems can result in Xanax addiction.

What increases Xanax addiction risk?

Psychological dependence is a risk with all benzodiazepines, including Xanax. But this risk increases when you consciously take Xanax to get high, or as an emotional or mental coping mechanism for dealing with life. The risk of psychological dependence may also increase at doses greater than 4 mg/day and with longer term use. Xanax addiction risk is further increased in people with a history of alcohol or drug abuse.

How to avoid Xanax addiction

To avoid Xanax addiction, only take the prescribed amount of Xanax (alprazolam). If you are taking Xanax as prescribed, and notice increasing tolerance to the drug, consult your prescribing physician. Your doctor can assess your particular situation and offer suggestions for other treatment options.

Questions about Xanax dependency

Always consult your doctor before discontinuing the use of Xanax (alprazolam). Abruptly stopping Xanax may cause withdrawal symptoms and is not recommended.

Do you think that you may be addicted to Xanax? If you think that you have a problem with Xanax, you probably do. Stopping an addiction can be very difficult for you and everyone close to you. But there are tools and treatments that can help. Please leave your questions, comments and feedback below. We answer all real comments with a personal and prompt reply, and can help refer you to local services, resources and treatment for possible Xanax addiction.

Reference sources: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (AHFS) Consumer Medication Information on Alprazolam
DailyMed info on XANAX (alprazolam) tablets
Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Prescription Monitoring Program Brochure: Anxiety Treatment with a Chance of Addiction
National Drug Intelligence Center: Kentucky Drug Threat Assessment


About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. I’ve been on 6mg a day for 27 years. I need to know the best way to ween off without cold turkey, I’ve tried cold turkey for 2 months and couldn’t handle it. There must be a better way than cold turkey. Anywhere you can point me to or tell me would be appreciated. How can I find the best method to get off of Xanax without going cold turkey.Thank you.

  2. My xanax use is long-term, or about 4 years.I am addicted and psychologically altered to an unacceptable level. I reduced dose from 3mg per day to 1mg per day for past 6 mo, and I am sill miserable to be around,aggrivation, impatience, insomnia when lowering dose.Generally miserable:
    restless, irritable and discontented.
    Should I stay on the reduced dose or discontinue the 1mg. per day dose?

  3. I have bp issues, primarily at night just before bedtime, and constant pulsatile tinnitus which keeps me up night. Two months ago my doctor prescribed .25 mg of Xanax to take at bedtime to help with the anxiety that these two issues cause. The Xanax helps with the anxiety about the higher nighttime bp, and dulls the pulsatile tinnitus to the point where I can sleep. I do not take it at any other time of the day, nor do I feel the need to. My concern is whether or not this is dangerous and addictive. I hope someone can offer me some advice here. Thanks.

    1. Hi Mike. Well, Xanax is one of the drugs that doesn’t clear very quickly from the body. Depending on the dosage, and the time of use, Xanax can be detected up to six weeks in urine tests. Also, it stays in the blood for several days.

  4. I am 72 years old my dr put me on alprazalam one or one and a forth tablet every night. 4 years ago , I know I am addicted. I am tired even tho the drug helps me sleep. I take one or one and ahalf every nite. it is o.5 mg. I am frightened for taking it so long. My Dr gave it to me for sleep and said it was not addictive. I am tired and weak most days can you help me? I had horrible insomnia and nothing over the counter worked nor did the precription sleep aids. I have low thyroid and was told that is what caused the insomnia. I want to get off of it but then i’ll be back to not sleeping.Thank you, Marci

    1. Hello Marci. I suggest you read the Ashton manual for quitting benzodiazepines. Slow taper is the way to get off benzodiazepines and any abrupt cut back in doses can trigger adverse withdrawal symptoms (not that they will be completely avoided by tapering). After the months of gradually lowering dosages your recovery will continue for some more time as your brain and body heal from the 4 years of treatment. I suggest you read this article written by our contributor who went through benzo withdrawal herself to get a better idea of what’s awaiting ahead.

  5. I have generalized anxiety disorder, but have gotten into the habit of taking a lot more than I should. What is the medical recommendation for reducing dosage safely? I’ve heard the best way to get off Xanax (if your are taking high doses) is to reduce by .5 mg every three days. Does that sound right?

  6. Hi Donna. I’d suggest that you call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for questions about possible overdose. To intervene with your son, seek the help of a family psychologist. You’ll need guidance to address a possible suicide attempt or drug abuse.

  7. I am on 1 mg Xanax 3 times a dsy, rarely do I take them that often, usually 1 at night, and 1 during the day if needed. I have gone through withdraw because my son was stealing my pills. It was the worse thing ever. My son moved away but is home now, I just got my script filled, plus had some leftovers so I had over 100 pills. I got up this morning to find 15 left. That means he took at least 90 at one time! what can happen to him. How do I handle this?

  8. Hello Marlo. It’s possible that your body is chemically and physically dependent on Xanax. But this is different than addiction. Addiction is characterized by craving a drug when you don’t have it.

    Your decision to stop taking Xanax will be personal. However, I’m of the opinion that anxiety can be managed using cognitive behavioral techniques as well as psychotherapy. Not to mention meditation. That helps alot! For sleeping and anxiety. Plus, Xanax is only meant to be used for about 6 weeks, or less.

    A slow taper off Xanax can AND SHOULD be supervised by your prescribing doctor. If you’re ready to try some other ways to manage anxiety, schedule an appointment and set up a tapering calendar soon. Best of luck to you.

  9. I have been taking zanax off and on for 2 yera’s now for anxiety and it helps me to sleep… when put on i was given 2 mg. my pharmacist said this was a high dose so to cut in half and i did i have been takind for the last 6 to 7 months 1 mg. before i go to bed… I never need or want or crave more… I did stop taking for a week and my body went through some different feelings of anxiety didn’t feel well and could not sleep went to the e.r. and that doctor told me i was going throuh withdrawls… Should i see my primary doctor and slowly get weened off… I don’t feel like i have to have it but it has treated my anxiety and allowed for a good nigh sleep… I have only taken as prescribed never more actually less than what was prescribed… Do u think I will be ok or do u think i might beaddicted or is my body use to it… I don’t know….

  10. Hello Jane. I’d suggest that you speak with a pharmacist about tapering Xanax. You’ll need medical advice and expertise to help you manage symptoms of withdrawal.

  11. for probably seven years have been using xanax .25 mg twice a day and then only at night for the last few months. now i have decreased this to taking .125 before going to bed. soon i hope to cut it even further. my question is how long does it take for the drug to totally leave the system? i am 72 years old and read somewhere that it takes longer for older persons. wanting to stop it completely and go to using kava but cannot do that as long as the drug is in my system and the combinatoin has been known to bring on coma. thank you for whatever informatiion you can give.

  12. I’m looking for a doctor who will prescribe the Xanax to me. I am an anxious, worrisome person, and the Xanax keeps me at a level…I have NEVER taken it to get high-at night is the only time I “feel” it-it helps me to go to sleep-period. I’m prescribed 4 a day, but I truly have taken 4 maybe twice since he changed the dosage to that last year(I was having a very rough “family problem).

  13. Hi Lana. Thanks for your question. Just to clarify – are you interested in Xanax cessation (stop taking Xanax totally) or are you looking for information about how to find a doctor who can prescribe Xanax to you?

  14. I’ve been prescribed 1mg Xanax by our Family Physician for 10 years. I just received a letter that he has closed his practice. Boom. The office is closed-phone disconnected. Any ideas about what to do about my Xanax?

  15. Xanax is a terrible drug.One thing at a time and it sounds like you’re on the way to sobriety with the opiate addiction. You’ve conquered one form, you have the power to conquer it again in another form!

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