Is Xanax a narcotic?

NO. Xanax is neither a medical nor a legal narcotic. But Xanax is a controlled substance narcotic. This means that if you take Xanax without a prescription, legal consequences are possible. More on the classification of Xanax as a narcotic here.

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 No.  Xanax is neither a legal nor a medical narcotic.

Will one Xanax get you high?  Probably not.  But using Xanax use outside of a prescription is illegal as Xanax is a Schedule IV benzodiazepine under the Controlled Substances Act .  Still,  Xanax is not  a medical narcotic. Narcotic drugs are used for pain management, have a high abuse potential and are generally classified as a Schedule I, II or III drugs by the Controlled Substances Act.  More on Xanax as a narcotic here, with a section at the end for your questions about Xanax.

Looking for drug addiction help but don’t know what the rehab process entails? Learn more in our A-Z guide on Narcotic Addiction Treatment Programs and Help to get better prepared.

Xanax is not a legal narcotic

Why is Xanax a Schedule IV narcotic drug?

Xanax is a Schedule IV narcotic because although Xanax has a medical use, the drug is still considered to have potential for abuse.  The potential for abuse of Xanax, however, is rather low and has been assigned Schedule IV status due to its limited physical or psychological dependence, relative to drugs in Schedule III.  Still, making Xanax an scheduled drug means that taking Xanax without a prescription or other than prescribed is illegal.

Xanax is not a medical narcotic

The main ingredient of Xanax (alprazolam) is in the benzodiazepine class of drugs. Alprazolam is prescribed for the management of anxiety disorder and can cause central nervous system depressant effects. Once more commonly prescribed for generalized anxiety, doctors are beginning to notice the abuse potential of Xanax. Xanax is now recommended as a short term treatment for anxiety and panic attacks.

Furthermore, the benzodiazepine class of drugs is called tranquilizers or sedatives, since they depress the central nervous system. Xanax is perhaps one of the safest benzodiazepines in terms of addictive potential, but users should still use caution when taking Xanax.

Xanax narcotic abuse

You are abusing Xanax if you take Xanax to get high. If you are using Xanax as an emotional or mental coping mechanism for dealing with life, you risk both physical and psychological dependence on Xanax. The risk of psychological dependence may also increase at doses greater than 4 mg/day and with longer term use.   But can you die from Xanax?  Yes, it is possible to overdose on Xanax, especially when combined with other central nervous system depressants.

Is Xanax addictive?

Can you get addicted to Xanax bars? Yes.  Xanax can be addictive.

Especially if you are using Xanax to get high. Although Xanax addiction occurs after chronic use of Xanax over time, some people may need to take Xanax on a daily basis. Be sure to monitor your Xanax prescription use with your doctor. And BE AWARE that even medically advised use of Xanax can develop into addiction over time. Furthermore, if you are taking Xanax without a prescription or are using Xanax other than prescribed your risk of Xanax addiction increases. Xanax addiction risk is further increased in people with a history of alcohol or drug abuse.

Should Xanax narcotic classification change?

According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), Xanax is one of the most commonly abused prescription medications, second behind pain medications. Perhaps people believe that because a drug is prescribed and is not a medical analgesic, it is not addictive or dangerous. But according to the National Survey for Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), millions of people aged 12 and older have misused benzodiazepines in their lifetime.

We cannot assume that simply because Xanax is a Schedule IV drug and is “not medically narcotic” that Xanax is a safe drug. Taken illicitly, for extended periods, in higher and higher doses, tolerance to Xanax can occur, with serious effects.  And given the addictive nature of Xanax, perhaps its scheduling should become more strict.  So what do you think?  Should Xanax be more strictly regulated?  Is the Schedule IV classification for Xanax enough?  Your comments and opinions are welcomed and will be published at the bottom of this article.

Xanax narcotic questions

Do you still have questions about the status of Xanax as a narcotic? Do you have questions about the possession or Xanax or how to use it? Please let us know. We are here to answer questions about alprazolam or Xanax. We try to respond to all legitimate questions with a personal and prompt reply.

Reference Sources: Facts on drugs
DEA schedules for drugs
NIDA for Teens: Prescription Drugs
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 have been using zanax for over one year I normally take it at bedtime to sleep but in some occasions I take the same dosage when me and my cat lay on our futo . If I take the dosage with my cat but then don’t take it at bedtime am I abusing it ?

  2. I am congenital hypothyroid, have been on the medication since I was three months old and am
    Now 61, I am
    Not addicted to thyroid, nor can you become addicted to the medication as it is a Horne replacement therapy for something needed by the body but not produced in sufficient quantities by the body. I also take Xanax, .5 for the last twenty years to help with anxiety after severe trauma. I have never felt the need to have the dosage increased as these knock me out. Xanax are often traded on the street for other drugs like heroin or meth, I have also known of someone to have seizures due to sudden withdrawal, but they were taking more than the prescribed amount. With all medications, caution should be exercised.

  3. Yes I believe that it should be reclassified. The dangers of long term use and also the psychological attachment to this drug should change it’s level. I’m worried about the Xanax I’m taking and it’s long term effects. I suffer from anxiety and times my heart just races. What else could I take that is safer?

  4. Are There patients who require long term treatment with a Benzodiazepine and who do very badly without one and very well while taking one?When did Benzodiazepines become Schedule 4 medications?

  5. I started taking generic Xanax about 6 or 7 years ago. I had experienced multiple physical injuries in a short period of time, and fell in to mild depression with random panic attacks. My family doctor prescribed Zoloft (I’m now at 2-100MG tablets per day) and Xanax (I’m now at 5-1MG per day as needed, a 30 day prescription usually lasts 31 or 32 days). It took some time to “balance” things, but I am now able to function normally and have not missed a day of work due to depression/anxiety for over 5 years. Under my doctor’s direction, I’ve tried to slowly back off the dosage every so often, but I can feel myself slipping back. I was afraid I was addicted, but my family doctor has assured me that this is a sign the med,s are working as they are supposed to. Now my insurance wants my prescriptions changed to 90 day mail away. I’m uncomfortable having a controlled substance mailed to me (and I’d rather not have 3 months worth in the house). Can they make me do that?

  6. I am a 65 yr old woman diagnosed with bi-polar 11 disorder and suffer severe anxiety. I have been prescribed Xanax for the last 16 years and take 3 one mg tablets per day, prescribed by my psychiatrist. I have never felt “high” or needed to take more than the required dose sometimes I get by on 2mg per day.
    I don’t understand why this drug is now put in the same class as morphine and other highly dangerous drugs.
    I am now treated with suspicion when I go to a new doctor or try to get my scripts dispensed at a pharmacy, I feel I am labelled a drug addict for taking a tranquilliser that helps me cope with my medical condition.
    I have never taken an illegal drug in my life.

  7. Your article said that Xanax is not a narcotic, but how does it affect my obstructive sleep apnea? I went from OSA to using a ASV machine for sleeping. I’m wondering what caused this change and have eliminated Xanax-use daily. But, I really could use it for my anxiety. Please tell me what you recommend. Thank you.

    1. Hi Laurie. Xanax is classified as a Schedule IV benzodiazepine under the Controlled Substances Act, and it is not a medical narcotic. Moreover, narcotic drugs are used for pain management, have a high abuse potential and are generally classified as a Schedule I, II or III drugs by the Controlled Substances Act. Xanax is recommended as a short term treatment for anxiety and panic attacks. I suggest you consult with your doctor about your concern.

  8. I’ve been scouring the internet looking for legislature concerning the prescribing of Xanax to persons currently enrolled in a methadone treatment plan. “Someone” was told by their primary care physician that there have been recent laws in the state of Nebraska that says they can’t, yet it seems that every other person in this treatment facility is on this medication along with the methadone. I just want to know….I’m going thru some short term (God willing) stress and the anxiety is affecting every aspect of my daily life up to and including my ability to sleep. But as I’m currently enrolled in the methadone program will I be turned down and meant to suffer further panic attacks and sever anxiety ?

  9. I have Fibrmyalgia, chronic fatigue, restless leg syndrome and PLME (jerking of all joints). Anyway, my doctor had me on morophine for almost a year and the remainder of the many many years on oxicodone. It started out 10 mg. in the end I was taking 20 mg. three times a day. In the end I doubled up on the oxicodone and the pain was not getting any better. When I told my doctor the truth…he sat there and snickered at me and told me I need a rehab.

    Right then and there I told him I couldn’t leave my husband (72) to go in a rehab. So three weeks ago I stopped ALL MY 6 PERSCRIPTIONS. I changed doctors and she gave me several
    Different antidepressants and Requip for my restless legs and my jerking joints in all my limbs. There were several days that were really rough. Now I’m experiencing a great deal of uneasiness all over my body. I would like to take a Xanax (generic) but I’m Leary. Is this uneasiness and total insomnia (3-5)nights without sleep part of withdrawing ? I never thought that I would be detoxing at 65! But with Gods help and a new good doctor and a lot of prayer…I know I’ll get thre this.

  10. I take Xanax to help me sleep. It was given to my husband and I to help us quite smoking. It did not help, but after about 3 weeks what I did notice was I was sleeping deep and waking up refreshed. Never have understood how a person could get high on this drug. Yes I am addicted to this drug, but then I am also addicted to the thyroid medication I take. I am 73yr old, been on this drug for nine years and I am healthy, I don’t even take aspirin. I see the preventive medicine we are talked into does more harm to people then Xanax will ever do. Yes I still smoke and can still climb 15 flights of stairs without losing my breath ,probably because I am able to get deep sleep.

    1. Hello Mike. It isn’t recommended to detox from Percocet at home. So, suggest your friend to seek help at a clinic supervised by medical staff. If s/he is still detoxing at home, then to be there for him/her you might want to seek medical advice from a clinical hotline, emergency room doctor, or even the prescribing physician. Detox helps to medically supervise withdrawal to minimize discomfort (through Rx meds) and to address withdrawal symptoms as they occur.

  11. I have a friend whose family encourage shim to “take a happy pill” when ever he is feeling the least bit stressed. He is a senior and has seizures.I am concerned as he sometimes takes more than the recommended two a day. He also has very slurred speech with these. Does he have to have this medicine?

    1. Hi Jo. Is he prescribed these medications for any condition? If not, he should definitely not be taking any Xanax.

  12. Thank you for your response. I would like to share something with others that has helped me. Language is so important, my doctor tells me I am a addict, so I have thought a lot about that, and now have a response, I am dependent, sure makes a difference in the way I see myself as a responsible adult. I have a friend who is 96yr, she was put on thyroid medication at age 94yr. The price has doubled in the last year, but now she is dependent and will have to pay the price. Moral of the story is we all die, don’t let any doctor put you on any medication to help you quit smoking, the drugs will kill you faster then the cigarette.

  13. ive used marijuana for depression and pain for fifty yrs im 56 now been disabled from industial accident 2012 been on morphine fentenal oxycodone Vicodin my pain is severe beyond belief lost my insurance and got pulled off all pain meds and was dirty for THC went through 16 weeks of withdrawl. I need help without narcotics. Is there help? depression is so bad I have suicidal thoughts more and more. need pain relief with out narcotics have used marijuana for fifty yrs doesn’t help with sleep or pain any more and have been on opiats for five yrs clean after 16 weeks withdrawl no more narcs please help. sincerely Ray

  14. I have been taking xanax for panic/anxiety disorder since 1995. I have never had to increase the dose nor the quantity in all of those years. I requested a refill today from my Dr. and have been informed that it’s now more “controlled” and that they will need to see me MONTHLY in order to continue to prescribe it. Is this a mandatory requirement across the board? I’m in PA, USA, if that matters. I cannot imagine finding the time and the money (due to huge deductible on health insurance) to see my Dr once a month in order to continue taking a medication I’ve been on for 20 years now. Please advise.

    1. Hi Elaine. It’s true and other people have also reached out to us to confirm why doctors are suddenly asking them to visit the office for a monthly refill. So far, we are not aware of any alternatives.

  15. You are welcome, Shirley. I’m happy we helped put your mind at ease. And thank you for your feedback! Please write us again if you have more uncertainties, we’d be happy to help out anytime.

  16. Thank you for the information, never being exposed to the drug culture of this world I have wondered why Xanax has such a bad reputation, I can’t even imagine how anyone could use this to get high. I have been on 3MG for about 5yrs now and have not found I need to increase it.
    I take 5MG at 8;00 to relax m y mind, then 10MG at 10:00. this allows me to deep sleep until 4;00 I then take 5MG and I twilight sleep un till 6;00. I truly feel the ability to deep sleep is the reason at my age I have no medical problem of any kind and do not require over the counter drugs of any kind. Thank you again I feel safe taking this drug

  17. Hi Shirley. If a doctor advises me to do preventive tests, I would do them. If there is a silent problem I would like to have it discovered on time. But if you don’t feel the need to make all the tests, nobody should be forcing you. As for the medication being taken off the market, I don’t believe it can happen anytime soon. Xanax is still a big business.

  18. I have been on xnax for about 9yrs. It was given to me to help me quite smoking, well that id not work, but what I did find was it helped me deep sleep. I have always been a light sleeper, hearing every thing all night. Being young it did not effect my health, but now I am 72yr. Since I have been on Xanax I have not even had a bad cold, I believe the deep sleep allows my body to heal it’s self. Now my doctor wants me to start doing all of the preventive tests. I see no reason to spend money on test that tell me I am healthy, I feel like I am being blackmailed. I take no other drugs, prescription or over the counter. Is there a possibility that this drug will be taken off of the market. Is there a federal agency were I could obtain this drug

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