What is Xanax used for?

Xanax is used and prescribed by increasing numbers of doctors. But what is Xanax and what does Xanax do? We review addictive-ness and medical reasons for taking Xanax here.

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What is Xanax?

Xanax is the brand name for a drug called alprazolam. Xanax is a type of medication called a benzodiazepine, which is a central nervous system depressant that decreases abnormal excitement in the brain. Doctors most frequently prescribe Xanax as a tablet, but it can also come in a liquid concentration as well. Xanax is a Schedule IV, non-narcotic drug as classified by the most recent version of the Controlled Substances Act and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

What is Xanax Used For?

Xanax is a drug doctors prescribe to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Xanax can also be used to treat mental health disorders and is currently being studied in the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by some cancer treatments.

  • Agoraphobia (fear of open spaces)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Cancer treatments (for nausea and vomiting)
  •  Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Non medical uses of Xanax

Benzodiazepines are widely used for recreational purposes. Alprazolam, the active ingredient in Xanax, has a calming effect and may be used non-medically to relax. Reasons people may use Xanax include:

  • Eliminate stress
  • Increase feelings of tranquility
  • Induce euphoria
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Minor anxiety relief
  • Reduce tension
  • Reduce irritability
  • Relaxation

Can I get addicted to Xanax?

Yes, Xanax can be addictive. This is because alprazolam, the active ingredient in Xanax can be habit-forming. You may even develop a physical dependence on Xanax, which can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the medication suddenly. However, many patients with anxiety disorders, do not develop clinical dependence on Xanax. And keep in mind that chemical dependence is difference than drug addiction. Xanax abuse when you take larger doses of Xanax than prescribed or take it more often or for a longer time than your doctor tells you to. Abuse can become addiction when you

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1. Begin to crave Xanax
2. Cannot stop taking Xanax
3. Take Xanax for non-medical or recreational purposes
4. Continue to take Xanax despite negative consequences


Do you think that prescription drugs like Xanax are addictive? Are doctors responsibly handing out prescriptions or driven by profit to hand out pills? Do you yourself have a potential problem with Xanax? Comment here, and we’ll respond to you as soon as possible. Or learn more about next steps and help for prescription drug abuse here.

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 taking Xanax as for years now I have severe anxiety disorder and panic attacks I’ve been prescribed them over the years I only take 1/2 mg a day but I just recently had a heart attack my doctor wants to keep me on them to keep my heart rate lower so that way I don’t have another heart attack but I’ve reached a point in my life and an age that I would like to come off of them I don’t get the feeling that other people do when they take them they don’t make me tired I function I’m completely normal so I don’t know if I’m just one of those people that truly need them my family feels that I’m taking them because I want to take them but the doctors are giving them to me to help me with my anxiety and my panic attacks after my mother passed is when I got prescribed them I haven’t left the house in 10 years I have really bad social anxiety I can’t be in large crowds of people without my heart racing and feeling very very on East but I don’t get that tired feeling I only take one at night with my heart medication and it just relaxes me enough to where my heart doesn’t pound and I’m able to sleep I’m looking for help I would like to pull myself off of them I don’t want to be one of these people on them forever I’ve been on them long enough I would like to come off of them but I am very very scared of having a seizure or the withdrawal symptoms I don’t know how to go about tapering myself down if somebody could please help me

  2. My 14yr old (3weeks off 15) committed suicide She was in long term foster care Please don’t judge me It was wrongful removal DOCS ripped her out of my arms at 11mths old because of DV Well actually they never did give me a reason??? I NEVER left her and was as much in her life as they would allow! Anyway since she passed I don’t wat to go out of my unit The world has hurt me too much I just don’t want to play anymore!! But I have beautiful grandchildren Does anyone think Xanex would help me? Obviously my brain is bruised and my heart is broken I don’t know what to do anymore Something is wrong with me I’m not depressed I’m just not happy?

    1. Hi, Donna. I’m really sorry for your loss. I suggest you speak with a therapist about your issues. Also, you may look for a support group where you can share your thought.

  3. Obviously pills are not the answer. The side affects and addiction to them is far worse than the positive affects of the pills. I have nerve pain, burning, pins and needles and severe anxiety from it and insomnia as well. I want to get off all meds and use meditation, clearing the mind and deep breathing for relief. I quit smoking in the middle of a huge anxiety attack and went to a psychiatrist who prescribed me Xanax and Prozac. Get u in, get your money, give u pills, get u out. That’s the problem with modern day society. People just don’t really care about each other. Makes me sick. After reading all the comments here, all I know is just about are pills are addicting & habit forming and the side affects are usually worse than the ailment you are trying to cure. Depending on your problem, pills are not helping. I just wish I could get thru one day without worrying and anxiety and be able to sleep thru the night without taking pills.

  4. I’m taking Klonopin for my anxiety but it seems not to be working I ask the Dr about Xanax he said I couldn’t take it because the meds i take already. I’m on Norco and soma for pain and i all so I take adderall and provigil for my other problem. Do you know why he won’t prescribed the xanax?

  5. Hello Monica. Tapering off Xanax is the best way to quit. But it can take a long time, from 6 weeks up to 6 months, since the doses are gradually lowered. You should talk to your doctor and be under medical supervision during this period of time. After taking Xanax for that long, the withdrawal symptoms can be physically and psychologically challenging. Doctors suggest checking in a detox clinic or a treatment center for best results.

  6. I have been taking Xanax for about 7yrs. Once, without knowing about the withdrawal effects, stopped taking it and went through the worst withdrawal! MY doctor prescribed the drug due to anxiety attacks. However, he never informed me of the side effects and the dependence to the drug that can be developed. Now I want to taper off. I have been winging myself off by taking it only when needed. But my question is how long will it take to completely clean my body from this drug?

  7. The people that don’t need it take XANAX and that’s the main reason why it’s so hard for people like me (who have anxiety disorder) to get it.

  8. Hi pyrros. Thanks for your honesty. Changes in libido such as increased or decreased libido have occurred for people taking benzodiazepines like Xanax. Reference Source: http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+7207

    I’d suggest that you speak with your prescribing doctor about finding an alternative medication to Xanax, and discuss tapering your dose to minimize the intensity of any withdrawal symptoms that you may have if you decide to stop taking Xanax.

  9. itake a big amount of antidepressive pills. i found out letely that my intimate life is totally destroyed. i used to be a very attractive man. with a very good intimate life. this is a big shock for me, three weeks ago i found a marvellous person with whom i can not have intercourse. i was forced to take viagra but i only had an erect10n, with out climaxing. i am really very sad.

  10. Hi Jake. Xanax is mainly for anxiety. And while a known side effect for taking Xanax has been increased anxiety (when it doesn’t work for a person), I have not seen documented cases of anger. Plus, Xanax and alcohol make each other more powerful when taken together, so the end result is more central nervous system DEPRESSION, rather than excitement.

    Does that answer your question?

  11. Yes. I am asking if Xanax could create these emotions if loss of inhibition could be one of the side effects from using it?

  12. Hi Jake. Sorry. Are you asking if someone would use Xanax in order to access strong emotions, like anger? I’m not clear on your question. Can you please clarify?

  13. Loss of inhibition. That could be a problem if someone takes xanax and drinks. If you are out amongst people say in a bar or club and you end up in a situation you regret. Say an angry person who normally hides his or her feelings lashes out. Especially if a large amount is taken. So couldn’t xanax have the opposite effect of what it is prescribed for?

  14. Your attempting to define thought. That is impossible. Thoughts control emotions. You control your thoughts. If the “things” that “make” you; influence what you believe you consist of, if they become you, than who is you and who are they?

    Are we addicted to water?
    are we addicted to sustenance?

    I am more than xanax. I am more than a glass of water. I am more than a cup of soup.

    I use xanax to identify emotional patterns, which in turn give me insight on my thought patterns. I drink water because I get thirsty. I eat soup because it tastes good.

  15. Hi mariebk. I would like to add that drug addiction is becoming less and less stigmatized as more and more people are affected by it. So that going to a detox clinic for medical supervision of drug withdrawal IS NOT SHAMEFUL. It is simply a medical treatment.

  16. addiction is classified as a disease…..making or chasing their own prescriptions is part and parcel of this disease……sad in a sense that the person has this disease but also sad that people judge so harshly at this title….if there weren’t any drugs available maybe they would become alcoholics or maybe not…..but most likely still have a dis-ease inside that is confusing and hard to understand…..its sad that alcohol is socially acceptable if you have a problem while a drug addict is seen as scum…..at the end of the day both people have the same problem just with different drugs………more people are in jail for alcohol related violence, driving and social problems caused by drinking than drug addicts…..yet drug addicts are scum because they have to find a lot more money to support their habits whilst alcohol is cheap….crime rates reflect..
    throwing the line out ..hopefully their are some nibbles …maybe the wrong forum?????

  17. @Sandy Sue I never take nothing with out searching before for what it is and if it’s going to give me any dependance or it’s not easy to get off even if was precibed by a doctor, some times doctors don’t know what they are doing believe me. Quick question: did you tell people that you are more out-going, can speak up in meetings and cope with work, spouse, aging parents and children only because you are on drugs? It don’t seams that you took the pills as your doctor precibed to you and also I don’t think you doctor prescribed Zanax for 20 years. What it seams is that you was the one who decided to took Zanax for more than 20 years. Thats the big problem when people want to make their own presciption and took pills as much as they want not folowing what doctor said. Now you have only one option, going to a detox center to stop taking Zanax, don’t stop by your self because you can have other desease. How sad is going to a detox center and people think that you are a drug adicted.

  18. it most definitely is a human characteristic…. i guess if helps then yes its good…..i do believe doctors prescribe things too easily to people with out asking enough questions….to get them in and out…also a $$$$(GPs that is) Xanax is responsible for many deaths in australia when used as an add on drug …( alcohol, heroin, morphine) and these problems are not easily faced…..it would be great to see an emphasis on community again rather than self-gain….this would also help people with dis-ease.
    Again just thinking aloud! thanks for the response!

  19. Hi John. I think that there is probably both the greed for money and the desire to help people behind the manufacture of Xanax. And I agree that many prescription drugs are just covering deeper symptoms of emotional and psychological dis-ease. People run rather than face problems…and I think that this is a human characteristic. Just my opinion…maybe there are others who want to join the discussion.

  20. Xanax is very hard to acquire in australia…..do you really have advertising for it? for its purpose its a good drug if controlled but many people these days don’t want to sort through to the core issues from anxiety. Is the medical world assisting people with problems or a disservice to society by allowing people the option to an easy fix based on dopamine levels knowing they will result in long term dependency in the majority of cases which could lead to weakening the patient on other mental issues individually…all for what, profit? Is this the best the human race could come up with…..profit, profit, profit……hiding behind helping people! the lines are blurred and no one takes responsibility….im not almighty, I’m just interested to hear peoples thoughts……please comment!

  21. Hi Marie. Good question. Pharmaceutical companies do not really have the public interest in mind. They do have the bottom line in mind. And the more people who take Xanax, for them, the better. I do think that Xanax commercials influence the sales…otherwise, they would not have them on TV!

  22. If people use XANAX is a drug addicted why they are doing free comercial tv and encouraging people to take the pills if they have this or does simptoms? Think more people are taking the pills and getting addicted to XANAX because the commercial tv.

  23. I was looking into the sie effects of 2 new prescriptins given to my spouse for depression. We have been through death of his father, my mother and take care of his mother whom is amputee and he has had lung cancer, knee replacement, lost remodel business and I lost my job a year later due to it went to Inda. I have taken Xanax for at least 20 years when my doctor(now Deceased) put me on it for stress, anxiety and shyness. I found after one little pink pill I was able to keep my thoughts in order, be more out-going, speak up in meetings and cope with work, spouse, aging parents and children. Now I have found it is really easy to get larger amounts of this medication. Getting off or lowering the amount is VERY difficult. I requested help and it was expensive…..Easy to get the pills difficult to get off. It should be the other way around. I was originally told they were not addictive. That OLD DOCTOR was WRONG!!!

  24. doing some research im a caregiver and see that my client pops these pills once sometimes twice and acts really different from other days and im concern thaks for the info

  25. Xanax is definitely an addictive drug, and one of the few drugs that can be life-threatening if stopped abruptly. If you have been taking any of the benzodiazepine family of medications, such as Valium, Ativan or Clonazepam, see your doctor or pharmacist to get a tapering regime, otherwise you run the risk of seizures.

    Addiction is continuing to use a drug or a behaviour,to change the way you feel, despite negative consequences. It is time to Rethink Rehab.

    My name is Jane Derry, and I am an addiction recovery specialist, helping people learn the tools for recovery. Addiction Recovery; it is not what you think.

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