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Xanax Addiction: Effects of Xanax on the Brain

What is Xanax?

Xanax is a benzodiazepine, which is commonly referred to as a “benzo” and classified as a sedative. Also known as Alprazolam, Xanax is medication that is prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety disorders and panic disorder. While the DEA classified Xanax as a Schedule IV drug with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence, people who use the drug for long periods of time can develop a tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

Xanax addiction is a serious, life-threatening disorder with withdrawal symptoms that may result in seizures or death if a person abruptly stops taking the medication. 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).

Does Xanax Lead to Prescription Pill Abuse?

Due to the fact that anxiety disorders are so common, Xanax is not a hard medication to get. Although Xanax is only recommended to be taken for up to six weeks or on an as needed basis, many doctors still offer it to patients as a long term prescription.

While people with an anxiety or panic disorder use this medication to calm their anxiety, Alprazolam is only recommended for short term use because it can cause rebound anxiety and other severe side effects if used for a long period of time. Even when used as prescribed, long term use of this medication can develop a tolerance, addiction, and result in life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

How Do People Get Xanax?

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 Do 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).

Another way people abuse Xanax is by not taking the medication 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.

What Can Happen If You Abuse Xanax?

As with all benzos, Xanax can cause people to be extremely forgetful. This often leads to consequences as people miss out on major commitments and fail to fulfill obligations at home, at work, or in school. Due to its ability to lower inhibitions, Xanax can also increase a person’s participation in risky behavior, combative behavior, and engagement in unsafe sex practices.

Abusing Xanax and other benzos can result serious side effects such as hallucinations, suicidal ideations, and paranoid delusions. On top of this, 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.

Short Term Effects of Xanax Use

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

Long Term Effects of Xanax Abuse

Chronic Xanax abuse 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 and 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

Due to the life-threatening effects of benzo withdrawal, it is vital that those suffering from benzo addiction seek professional help when quitting the drug.

Dangers of Abusing Xanax

With continued use, Xanax will cause the brain to adapt to its presence. This causes the brain to forget how to function without the drug. Abusing Xanax will cause a tolerance to develop, and the medication will become less effective at treating your anxiety and/or panic disorder (Watkins).

As a result, Xanax abuse can effect emotional responses, your thought processes, memory, consciousness, muscular coordination, and nerve impulses that will lead to emotional expressions of anxiety and panic. 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

Can You Overdose on Xanax?

Yes, people can overdose on Xanax. 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

Xanax Addiction Treatment

Xanax addiction treatment should always begin with a medical detox program, where guests will safely remove a substance from their system. Benzo detox programs make the detoxification process as safe and comfortable as possible.

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. 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.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Xanax 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.


“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,

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