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Xanax Addiction: Effects of Xanax on the Brain

What is Xanax?

Xanax, or Alprazolam, is a legal medication that is prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety disorders and panic disorder. Xanax is a benzodiazepine, which is commonly referred to as a “benzo” and classified as a sedative. This prescription medication is to be used as directed, and even then it can have negative long-term effects. People who have an anxiety or panic disorder use this medication to calm their anxiety, but long term use of this medication will cause a tolerance and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if taking the medication is abruptly stopped. In 2006, Xanax was named the most abused prescription drug on the U.S. market by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Short Term Effects

Xanax is used to treat anxiety disorders and panic disorders. The short term effects of Xanax include:

  • anti-anxiety (calming effect)
  • anti-convulsant
  • muscle relaxing
  • sedating
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • appetite changes
  • decreased coordination and motor skill functioning
  • dry mouth
  • difficulty concentrating
  • confusion
  • low blood pressure
  • slurred speech
  • changes in libido

Prescription Pill Abuse

Because anxiety disorders are so common, Xanax is not a hard medication to get. Although Xanax, or the generic name Alprazolam, is only recommend to be taken for up to six weeks or on an as needed basis, many people procure a long term prescription. Alprazolam is only recommended for short term use because it can cause rebound anxiety, life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, and other severe side effects if used for a long period of time.


Many people will take advantage of their prescription and sell their pills of Xanax on the street, because they hold a street value. Even worse, some dealers will press their own Xanax “bars” (usually the most “desired” 2mg version of the pill). Pressed Xanax is extremely dangerous as it can contain chemicals like fentanyl— which is 100 times stronger than morphine and lethal even in a small amount. One wrong street Xanax pill can end your life, and even taking the real prescription pill can produce a range of consequences on your brain and body.

How People Abuse Xanax

People abuse Xanax in many ways. The first way would be taking the medication on a long-term basis, like daily use for multiple months in a row, even if it were prescribed. “Most users of Xanax can fall prey to dependency in a month or less, even on small doses” (Watkins). The next way would be taking the medication not as directed. People abuse Xanax usually by taking the pill orally, but some people also crush up the pill and “snort” it (intranasal use). Users may also smoke the crushed up pill, or even dissolve it in a solution to be injected intravenously.

Can You Overdose on Xanax?

Yes. Xanax can greatly effect the central nervous system which slows the heart rate and breathing. Signs of a Xanax overdose include:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Difficulty walking, talking, and/or breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

(“Dangers of…”).

What Xanax Does With Continued Use

With continued use, Xanax will cause the brain to adapt to its presence; this causes the brain to forget how to operate in its absence. Xanax will effect emotional responses, your thought processes, memory, consciousness, muscular coordination, and nerve impulses that will lead to emotional expressions of anxiety and panic. Abusing Xanax will cause a tolerance to develop, and the medication will become less effective at treating your anxiety and/or panic disorder (Watkins). Xanax can also cause severe mood swings that can “result in violent, aggressive or hostile behavior” (Watkins). Essentially, continued use and abuse of Xanax will change the way your brain operates and even damage brain cells in the process.

Xanax has some serious effects on the brain, including:

  • Depersonalization
  • Manic episodes
  • Epileptic episodes
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Impaired speech
  • Seizures
  • Somnolence (state of sleepiness or drowsiness)
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

What Can Happen If You Take Xanax?

Taking Xanax will can cause you to engage in risky behavior, decrease your inhibitions, cause combative behavior, and engage in unsafe sex practices, to name a few things. Users can experience hallucinations, suicidal ideations, and paranoid delusions also. Xanax can cause users to be extremely forgetful, often leading to consequences like missing major commitments and failure to fulfill obligations at home, at work, or in school. People who abuse Xanax are more likely to have a seizure, and discontinuing the use of Xanax or rapidly reducing its intake can induce seizures as a symptom of withdrawal.

Xanax can cause a variety of undesirable long term effects, including:

  • Dependency
  • Damaged brain cells
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Amnesia
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficultly concentrating
  • Nightmares and abnormal dreams
  • Problems with coordination and balance
  • Insomnia
  • Turbulent mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Light-headedness
  • Nervousness
  • Lack of judgement
  • Restlessness
  • Talkativeness
  • Unusual risk-taking behavior

Xanax/Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax and other benzos can have severe withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can grow in severity if the substance is abruptly discontinued or the dose decreased. Symptoms of withdrawal for Xanax include:

  • insomnia
  • headache
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • difficultly concentrating
  • blurred vision
  • muscle cramping
  • paresthesia (extreme numbness/tingling)
  • digestive upset
  • sweating
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • tremors
  • seizures
  • death

Addiction Treatment

Royal Life Centers at Spokane Heights is experienced in treating a Xanax addiction, in addition to alcohol and substance use disorders. Our comprehensive addiction treatment programs help guests by guiding them, offering them support, and assisting them with various services and intensive therapies. Addiction treatment should always begin with our medical detox program, where guests will safely remove a substance from their system. Our medical detox program in Royal Life Centers at Spokane Heights will make the detox process as safe and comfortable as possible. We provide 24/7 direct supervision of guests by medical professionals to ensure their safety and attend to any needs or concerns they may have.


“Dangers of Snorting, Smoking, or Injecting Xanax.” American Addiction Centers, American Addiction Centers, 14 Feb. 2019,

Watkins, Meredith. “Xanax Side Effects from Long-Term Use.” American Addiction Centers, American Addiction Centers, 7 Feb. 2019,

Weber, Lee. “Negative Effects of Xanax on the Brain (INFOGRAPHIC).” Addiction Blog, American Addiction Centers, 1 June 2015,

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, please reach out to us at (888) 907-0898. Our team of addiction specialists are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.

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