Millions of Xanax (alprazolam) prescriptions are written in the United States every year to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorder, trauma, and to help relieve insomnia.
Unfortunately, this drug can also become a substance of abuse. Without professional intervention, chronic misuse of Xanax can lead to severe drug dependence and addiction.
Signs Of Xanax Drug Abuse
Xanax abuse can be identified by a number of common signs and symptoms. Learn more about some of the most common warning signs of Xanax abuse:
1. Running Out Of Pills Early
One of the most common signs of prescription drug abuse is running out of your prescription earlier than expected, based on your prescriber’s instructions for use.
For instance, going through a month’s supply of Xanax in mere days, or half a month instead of the full month.
If someone is abusing Xanax—or giving pills to someone without a prescription—it’s very likely they’ll go through their supply faster than anticipated.
2. Lying About Drug Use
People who are misusing prescription drugs like Xanax can often become defensive, secretive, or even hostile when questioned about their drug use.
If someone is using Xanax without a prescription—or is misusing their prescribed supply—they may not be willing to be honest with others about it.
Drug abuse can become a source of shame, embarrassment, and guilt—in part due to social stigma.
However, this can also be a way to deflect attention away from their drug abuse and ensure others don’t get in the way of their continued use of Xanax.
3. Taking Xanax In Ways Other Than Prescribed
Prescription pills can be misused in a number of ways. For example, someone might take higher doses of Xanax than prescribed, or take doses more often.
Other common methods of Xanax abuse include:
- crushing and snorting Xanax
- dissolving and injecting pills
- plugging Xanax
- combining it with other drugs (including alcohol) to get high
4. Physical Symptoms Of Xanax Abuse
Xanax is a powerful central nervous system (CNS) depressant that can cause a myriad of side effects, due to its function of slowing down activity in the brain and body.
When misused, side effects of Xanax—including severe impairment—can become even more prominent.
Physical signs and symptoms of Xanax abuse might include:
- excessive drowsiness
- slurred speech
- blurred vision
- slowed reaction time
- poor balance and coordination
- muscle weakness
- sleeping more often than usual
- isolating from family and friends
- dry mouth
- unusual changes in weight or appearance
Physical side effects of Xanax can vary, especially if it’s taken with one or more other drugs. But this can also depend on the dose, method of abuse, and other personal factors such as body size.
5. Mental And Psychological Signs Of Xanax Abuse
While Xanax is known for its physical side effects, and ability to calm anxiety, misuse of this drug can also cause negative mental and psychological effects.
Xanax can become highly addictive if it is misused over long periods of time. That is, you can begin to feel reliant on it just to get through the day or otherwise feel “normal.”
Mental and psychological signs of Xanax abuse can include:
- mood swings
- increased anxiety
- craving Xanax
- memory problems
- difficulty concentrating
- obsession with Xanax
- less interest in activities previously enjoyed
- inability or difficulty completing simple tasks
6. Taking Xanax For Non-Medical Purposes
Xanax is legally prescribed as a short-term treatment for anxiety, feelings of panic, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
When taken as prescribed, Xanax can be effective for these purposes. One sign of drug abuse, however, is taking Xanax for reasons other than directed.
For instance, to experience euphoria (i.e. get high), or to self-medicate. Substance abuse commonly co-occurs with other mental health conditions, including those that Xanax is prescribed to treat.
7. Going To Multiple Doctors
People who abuse prescription medications may begin going to multiple doctors in order to get more prescriptions for Xanax. This behavior is known as doctor shopping, and is a large contributor to the opioid epidemic.
If you have developed a high tolerance for Xanax, severe dependence, or run out of Xanax early, you may go to two or more doctors for Xanax to try and get more.
The alternative is seeking Xanax through the unregulated drug market. This carries the risk of getting pills that have been manufactured or laced with other addictive drugs, like opiates.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam, a benzodiazepine (“benzo”) with sedative effects.
Xanax is chemically similar to drugs such as clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), and diazepam (Valium), which work by slowing activity in the brain.
Dangers Of Xanax Abuse
Xanax is generally safe when taken as prescribed by a healthcare provider. But abuse of this drug can carry with it serious health risks and dangers.
Xanax Dependence And Withdrawal
The repeated abuse of Xanax can lead to physical dependence on Xanax and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Dependence on Xanax can develop within as little as a few weeks of use, even when taken as prescribed. Long-term use of Xanax, for months or years, can create moderate or severe benzodiazepine dependence.
Without supervision and a tapering plan from a doctor, some Xanax withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
Xanax is commonly abused with other drugs, including alcohol and opioids. Unfortunately, this can be very dangerous, and carries a serious risk of overdose.
Mixing depressants can have severe effects on heart function, blood pressure, breathing, and other vital functions within the body.
Xanax can become psychologically addictive with chronic abuse. This can make it very difficult to stop taking Xanax or to cut down on your use of the drug.
Xanax addiction can become stronger and more debilitating with repeated misuse of the drug. This can disrupt your social life, relationships, and ability to work or complete everyday tasks.
Xanax Abuse And Addiction Treatment
Overcoming Xanax abuse and healing from its effects on your physical and mental well-being is possible. Often, this requires some form of professional treatment.
Treatment for Xanax abuse may involve detox for symptoms of withdrawal, as well as behavioral therapy, drug counseling, and other behavioral health services.
Severe Xanax abuse may require a drug rehab program, such as inpatient rehab or intensive outpatient treatment through a substance abuse treatment center.
Get Help For Xanax Abuse Today
Identifying Xanax abuse in yourself or a loved one is just the beginning. Your next steps will involve seeking help and starting the process of overcoming drug abuse and healing.
By calling us today, we may be able to help you get started. Call our helpline now to speak to a treatment specialist about Xanax abuse treatment options.
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These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- American Family Physician — Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines - Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — Sharp Increase in Fake Prescription Pills Containing Fentanyl and Meth
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Misuse of Prescription Drugs Research Report
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Alprazolam