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.

minute read

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.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?