Xanax is the brand name of a drug called alprazolam. Alprazolam, a medication that may cause physical dependence and, in some cases, addiction, is commonly prescribed.

Many people take this medication as their doctor recommends. It’s used to treat:

However, Xanax can also be obtained illegally.

Read on to find out more about Xanax addiction and recovery.

In the short term, Xanax relaxes the muscles and eases restlessness and anxiety.

It can also cause “rebound” symptoms. This occurs when the symptoms you’re taking Xanax to treat reappear in greater severity if you abruptly stop taking the medication.

Other common side effects include:

Mood

  • relaxation
  • euphoria
  • shifts in mood or irritability

Behavioral

  • loss of interest in sex

Physical

  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • erectile dysfunction
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • poor coordination
  • seizures
  • shortness of breath
  • slurred speech
  • tremors

Psychological

  • lack of focus
  • confusion
  • memory problems
  • lack of inhibition

Like other benzodiazepines, Xanax impairs driving ability. It’s also associated with an increased risk of falls, broken bones, and traffic accidents.

Dependence and addiction are not the same.

Dependence refers to a physical state in which your body is dependent on the drug. With drug dependence may also come tolerance, which is when you need more and more of a substance to achieve the same effect. You experience mental and physical effects (withdrawal) if you abruptly stop taking the drug.

When you have an addiction, you continue to use a drug regardless of any negative consequences. Physical dependence can occur with or without an addiction to the drug; however, it is a common feature of addiction.

What causes addiction?

Addiction has many causes. Some are related to your environment and life experiences, such as having friends who use drugs. Others are genetic. When you take a drug, certain genetic factors can increase your risk of developing an addiction. Regular drug use changes your brain chemistry, affecting how you experience pleasure. This can make it difficult to simply stop using the drug once you’ve started.

There are some common signs of addiction, regardless of the substance used. General warning signs that you may have an addiction include the following:

  • There’s an urge or craving to use that’s so intense it’s difficult to focus on anything else.
  • Needing to use more of the drug to achieve the same “high” (tolerance).
  • Taking more and more of the drug or taking the drug for longer periods of time than intended.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining the drug, using it, and recovering from its effects.
  • Continuing to use even though use affects your ability to fulfill duties at work, school, or home.
  • Continuing to use despite it causing social or interpersonal problems.
  • Giving up important activities or hobbies to use.
  • Using recurrently in harm-promoting situations.
  • Continuing to use despite it causing physical or psychological problems.
  • Lacking the ability to stop using the drug without the assistance of professional intervention.
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal once you stop using the drug.

Your loved one might try to conceal their addiction from you. You might wonder if it’s drugs or something different, such as a demanding job or a stressful life change.

The way a person behaves while living with an addiction can vary widely. You may notice changes in mood, behavior, appearance, or performance at work or school, but many of these can be attributed to other factors as well.

Addiction is a challenging diagnosis best left to a professional. But if your loved one is dealing with hardships or asks for help, it may be useful to open a dialogue on how and where to get help.

The first step is to identify any misconceptions you might have about addiction. Remember that chronic drug use changes the brain. This can make it more and more difficult to stop taking the drug.

Learn more about the risks and side effects of substance use disorders, including the signs of intoxication and overdose. Look into treatment options you can suggest to your loved one.

Think carefully about how best to share your concerns. If you’re thinking about staging an intervention, remember that it might not result in a positive outcome.

Although an intervention may encourage your loved one to seek treatment, it can also have the opposite effect. Confrontation-style interventions may lead to shame, anger, or social withdrawal. In some cases, a nonthreatening conversation is a better option.

Be prepared for every possible outcome. Your loved one might refuse to admit they take drugs at all or refuse to undergo treatment. If that happens, you may find it helpful to seek out further resources or find a support group for family members or friends of people living with addiction.

Asking for help is an important first step. If you — or your loved one — are ready to get treatment, it may be helpful to reach out to a supportive friend or family member for support.

You can also start by calling a doctor. Your doctor can assess your overall health by performing a physical exam. They can also answer any questions you have about Xanax use and, if needed, refer you to a treatment center.

Ask your doctor or another health professional for a recommendation. You can also search for a treatment center close to where you live with the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. It’s a free online tool provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal can be more severe than that of other benzodiazepines. Mild symptoms of withdrawal can occur after taking the drug for as little as 1 week if stopped abruptly. Xanax is safe when taken as prescribed.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • aches and pains
  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • blurred vision
  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • hypersensitivity to light and sound
  • insomnia
  • irritability and shifts in mood
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, or face
  • tremors
  • tense muscles
  • nightmares
  • depression
  • paranoia
  • suicidal thoughts
  • difficulty breathing

Detoxification (detox) is a process aimed at helping you safely stop taking Xanax while minimizing and managing your withdrawal symptoms. Detox is usually done in a hospital or rehabilitation facility under medical supervision.

In many cases, Xanax use is discontinued over time. It may be swapped for another longer-acting benzodiazepine. In both cases, you take less and less of the drug until it’s out of your system. This process is called tapering and can take up to 6 weeks.

In some cases, it can take longer. Your doctor might also prescribe other medications to ease your withdrawal symptoms.

The goal of treatment is avoiding Xanax use long term. Treatment may also address other underlying conditions, such as anxiety or depression.

There are several treatment options available for Xanax addiction. Often, more than one is used at the same time. Your treatment plan may include one or more of the following:

Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common form of therapy for benzodiazepine addiction. CBT addresses the learning processes underlying substance use disorders. It involves working with a therapist to develop a set of healthy coping strategies.

Research has shown that when used alongside tapering, CBT is effective in reducing benzodiazepine use over a 3-month period.

Other common behavioral therapies include:

  • self-management training
  • cue exposure
  • individual counseling
  • marital or family counseling
  • education
  • support groups

Medication

The detox period for Xanax may be longer than the detox period for other drugs. This is because the drug dose has to be tapered slowly over time. As a result, detox often overlaps with other forms of treatment.

Once you’ve stopped taking Xanax or other benzodiazepines, there’s no additional medication to take. You might be prescribed other medication to treat depression, anxiety, or a sleep disorder.

Xanax addiction is a treatable condition. Although treatment outcomes are comparable to that of other chronic conditions, recovery is an ongoing process that can take time.

Patience, kindness, and forgiveness are critical. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. Your doctor can help you find support resources in your area.

Relapse is part of the recovery process. Practicing relapse prevention and management can improve your recovery outlook in the long term.

The following can help you lower your risk of relapse over time:

Depending on your situation, reducing your risk of relapse might also include: