Xanax (Alprazolam) Addiction: Symptoms, Effects and Treatment

Written by Brennan Valeski

& Medically Reviewed by Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

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Xanax (alprazolam) is a widely prescribed medication in the United States, with over 20 million prescriptions filled in 2018 alone, making it one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for anxiety. While Xanax can effectively treat anxiety and panic disorders, it also carries the risk of misuse and dependence. Understanding its uses, effects, and available treatment options is crucial for those who may be struggling with Xanax-related issues.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax, also known as alprazolam, belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These medications act on GABA receptors in the brain, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. Xanax is primarily prescribed to manage anxiety disorders by calming the nervous system.

Street Names for Xanax

Xanax is a prescription medication, but it is sometimes illicitly obtained and abused under various street names. Some common street names for Xanax include:

  • Bars
  • Benzos
  • Blue Footballs
  • Bricks
  • Upjohn
  • Zanbars
  • Z-Bars

Xanax Dosages

Xanax is available in different forms and dosages, tailored to individual needs and administration preferences. It comes in solid, orally disintegrating, and extended-release formulations, with doses ranging from 0.25 mg to 3 mg. A liquid solution containing 5 mg per teaspoon is also available. It is essential to accurately identify Xanax tablets to avoid the dangers of counterfeit or mislabeled drugs.

What Does Xanax Look Like?

Xanax tablets can vary in appearance based on the manufacturer that produces them and the different variations in dose that the manufacturer uses. You should only take Xanax that has been prescribed to you and filled by a pharmacy you trust, so there shouldn’t be any question about whether a pill is Xanax or not in normal circumstances. The appearance of Xanax pills can vary significantly, so it is advisable to use a reliable pill identifier to confirm authenticity if there is any question. Taking unidentified drugs is risky, as they may contain harmful substances.

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?

The elimination of Xanax from the body depends on various factors, such as gender, age, weight and overall health. Xanax has an average half-life of 11.2 hours, indicating the time it takes for the drug’s concentration in the bloodstream to decrease by half. A drug is typically considered to not be present in levels that have an effect in the body after 4-5 half-lives. Extended-release Xanax formulations release the drug gradually over several hours, prolonging its presence in the system. Xanax can be detected in urine for several days and in hair for up to 90 days, even after its effects have worn off.

Xanax Use and Addiction

While Xanax serves as a valuable medical tool, its use can lead to addiction. Xanax stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain, creating feelings of reward and relaxation. Long-term use or misuse can result in changes in the brain’s reward system, contributing to addiction.

Xanax addiction carries significant risks, including the potential for a fatal overdose due to respiratory depression. Excessive use can lead to dangerously relaxed breathing and, in severe cases, respiratory failure. Moreover, abrupt discontinuation of Xanax can trigger withdrawal symptoms, which may include seizures, posing further health hazards.

Read More: Learn About the Dangers of Mixing Ativan (Lorazepam) and Alcohol

Recognizing Xanax Addiction

Identifying Xanax addiction involves recognizing general signs of substance abuse and specific symptoms associated with Xanax use. Common signs of addiction include:

  • Constant preoccupation with Xanax
  • Deterioration in work, school, or personal life
  • Altered appetite or sleep patterns
  • Unexplained behavioral changes
  • Neglect of appearance and responsibilities
  • Secretive or dishonest behaviors
  • Legal or financial troubles

Specific symptoms of use of drugs like Xanax may encompass:

  • Slurred speech
  • Excessive drowsiness or fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constricted pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Difficulty maintaining conversations

Xanax use may also lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, flu-like sensations, and seizures. Overdose is a severe risk, potentially causing extreme fatigue and impaired breathing. If an overdose is suspected, immediate medical attention is crucial.

The Dangers of Combining Xanax and Alcohol

Xanax and alcohol both affect GABA receptors, albeit differently. Combining these substances can enhance their effects and impair the body’s metabolization ability. This increases the risk of overdose and other serious health complications.

Seeking Help for Xanax-Related Issues

Xanax addiction can be challenging, but treatment options are available to help individuals regain control of their lives. Professional treatment programs typically start with detoxification to safely remove the drug from the system. Subsequently, individuals can enter rehabilitation programs to acquire the skills and support needed to live a healthy, Xanax-free life.


Statista. “Number of alprazolam prescriptions in th[…]S. from 2004 to 2018.” 2021. Accessed November 17, 2023.

American Psychiatric Association. “Study Finds Increasing Use, and Misuse, of Benzodiazepines.” December 17, 2018. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Olsen, Richard W.; DeLorey, Timothy M. “GABA Receptor Physiology and Pharmacology.” Basic Neurochemistry: Molecular, Cellular and Medical Aspects, 1999. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Connecticut State Department of Consumer Protection. “Alprazolam.” 2021. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Medscape. “Alprazolam (Rx).” 2021. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Drugs.com. “Pill Identifier.” 2021. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. “XANAX.” June 2011. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Haldeman-Englert, Chad; Foley, Maryann; Turley, Raymond. “Benzodiazepines (Urine).” University of Rochester Medical Center, 2021. Accessed November 17, 2023.

O’Malley, Gerald; O’Malley, Rika. “Anxiolytics and Sedatives.” Merck Manuals, May 2020. Accessed November 17, 2023.

Hallare, Jericho & Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls. June 20, 2023. Accessed November 22, 2023.


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