Xanax Addiction: Symptoms, Signs and Side Effects
By The Orlando Recovery Center
Last Updated: September 25, 2023
Xanax is a brand-name prescription medication, classified as a benzodiazepine. Xanax is most often prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorder and in some cases, it might be prescribed as a short-term treatment for insomnia. When someone uses Xanax, it affects a naturally-occurring brain neurotransmitter called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Symptoms of Xanax
Xanax increases the effect that GABA has on brain activity and creates a sense of calm or relaxation. In addition to the sedative effects of Xanax, some people can experience high or pleasurable feelings of euphoria when they use it. Because of its effects, Xanax is considered an addictive substance.
To reduce the risk of someone becoming addicted to Xanax, it should only be prescribed for short-term use. For most people, this means Xanax shouldn’t be used more than two to four weeks. The longer someone misuses Xanax, the more likely they are to develop an addiction.
Xanax side effects include drowsiness and loss of energy. Someone who is misusing Xanax may seem sleepy at odd times or may even fall asleep. They may not appear to have much motivation to engage in daily activities. Other symptoms of Xanax abuse can include:
- Sleeping for long periods of time
- Memory or cognitive impairment
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
Xanax abuse refers to any situation where someone is not using the drug as prescribed by a physician. For example, if someone takes Xanax from a family member or uses it for longer than prescribed, it’s considered abuse. The higher the dose someone uses, the more apparent the physical signs of Xanax abuse are likely to be.
Side Effects of Xanax
What are the side effects of Xanax? Whether someone is using Xanax as prescribed or they’re abusing it, side effects are possible. Some of the possible Xanax side effects that can occur include:
- Increased production of saliva
- Changes in sex drive
Severe side effects of misusing Xanax can include:
- Changes in mood
- Thoughts of suicide
- Difficulty speaking
- Loss of coordination or problems walking
There is a type of Xanax that’s referred to as “bars”. Some other street names for Xanax bars are “planks” or “Zanies”. These slang terms refer to the highest dose of Xanax available. It’s usually a long pill that can be broken into fourths or it can all be taken at once.
Xanax bars side effects are similar to the side effects of other doses of the drug but because the dose is so high, side effects can be more intense. The higher dose of Xanax found in these bars can also increase the likelihood of an overdose.
Side Effects of Long-Term Xanax Abuse
Addiction and dependence are considered two long-term side effects of Xanax abuse. Addiction refers to a chronic disorder characterized by compulsive and out-of-control use of Xanax. Addiction occurs because Xanax can trigger dopamine to be released into the brain, creating a reward response.
Dependence is different from addiction, although the two often occur together. Dependence occurs when someone stops using Xanax abruptly and experience symptoms of withdrawal. Some other potential long-term side effects of Xanax can include:
- Cognitive deficits
Signs of a Xanax Overdose
It is possible to overdose on Xanax but it’s more common that combined with other central nervous system depressants lead to an overdose. For example, a significant percentage of reported opioid overdoses also include a benzodiazepine. When someone overdoses on Xanax, whether on its own or in combination with another depressant, their breathing and heart rate slow to a dangerous or deadly level. Signs of a Xanax overdose can include:
- Extreme dizziness
- Blurry vision
- Slurred speech
- Respiratory depression
If an overdose of any kind is suspected, emergency medical help should be sought immediately.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a Xanax use disorder, help is available. At Orlando Recovery Center, a team of professionals offers a comprehensive addiction and co-occurring disorders treatment programs. Call and speak with a representative to learn more about which program could work for you.