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Signs & Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

Signs of Xanax abuse include using it in ways not prescribed, like snorting, and combining it with alcohol or other drugs. Addiction may manifest as personality changes, risky behaviors, and physical symptoms like slurred speech and insomnia.

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Signs and symptoms of Xanax abuse include any use of the drug outside of prescribed instructions (such as crushing and snorting the drug), combining Xanax with other substances like alcohol, and increasing use.

While Xanax (alprazolam) is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, just as with any benzodiazepine, it comes with the risk of developing tolerance and dependence, especially when used outside of prescribed guidelines.

What Is Xanax?

When following prescription guidelines, Xanax (alprazolam) can help curb episodes of fear, panic, and/or anxiety. 

Xanax comes in two forms: extended-release and regular form. Both forms of Xanax can work quickly and influence the central nervous system (CNS). Xanax calms the brain as well as nerves by increasing GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) levels in the brain. 

Classified as a central nervous system depressant, Xanax has the ability to slow down vital functions, such as the respiratory system as well as heart rate. Taking this drug outside of prescription guidelines and/or mixing Xanax with other drugs (especially alcohol and other prescription medication) can result in oversedation, overdose, coma, and even death.

Due to Xanax being popularly portrayed in entertainment, it is being used and abused by younger individuals. It has become a serious problem in the United States as well as around the globe.

Common Symptoms of Xanax Abuse 

Since Xanax is categorized as a tranquilizer or anxiolytic, sedative effects will start to occur shortly after use. Individuals who abuse Xanax will often exhibit symptoms with varying severity, depending on the magnitude of the misuse.

Someone who is abusing Xanax might act differently whenever they are under the influence of the drug. They may spend more and more time using the drug and on activities related to getting it. Since benzodiazepines are associated with relaxation and sedation, they may doze off suddenly and exhibit other irregular sleeping patterns.

Those who abuse prescription drugs often forge or steal medication to maintain their use. This may involve visiting multiple doctors in attempts to get multiple prescriptions for the drug. 

With continued use, tolerance to the drug will build, necessitating increasingly higher doses of Xanax. The user may also use it in alternative ways, such as chewing the tablets or crushing and snorting them. They may also begin to combine Xanax with alcohol and other drugs, especially opioids. 

Physical, Mental & Emotional Effects of Xanax Abuse

Xanax abuse can eventually affect virtually every area of a person’s life, including physical, mental, and emotional effects. 

Physical effects include slurred speech, poor motor skills, damage to internal organs, respiratory issues, and balance problems. Regular abuse can affect sleep patterns and muscle tone.

Xanax abuse can also result in mental and emotional side effects, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, hallucinations, suicidal ideation, mood swings, and even psychosis.

How to Recognize Xanax Addiction

Similar to other kinds of addiction, Xanax addiction eventually results in changes in various areas of a person’s life, including relationship problems, issues at work or school, physical health complications, and mood swings.

Someone who is addicted to benzodiazepines will often exhibit slurred speech and irregular sleep patterns. They may frequently appear out of it and have trouble carrying a conversation. Addiction can also manifest in increased risk-taking behaviors, such as forging prescriptions for Xanax and stealing prescription drugs from friends or family members. Ultimately, the desire to always have Xanax on hand begins to trump logic.

People who are addicted to benzodiazepines may also act strangely when they are not using the drugs. When they are not on Xanax, they may appear fidgety, excessively sweaty, or irritable. If you notice major personality changes, it can be a sign of addiction.

Withdrawal Symptoms 

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can vary, though the severity of symptoms is linked to the level of substance abuse. Those who used the drug for longer and in higher dosage amounts are at higher risk of more intense withdrawal symptoms due to heightened physical dependence.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritable mood
  • Mood swings
  • Body pain
  • Insomnia and other sleep issues
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts

In some cases, Xanax withdrawal symptoms can become so severe that medical intervention is required. As a result, medical professionals generally do not recommend quitting Xanax cold turkey if you’ve been using the drug for a while. Instead, tapering off the drug over a period of around eight weeks is recommended for safely discontinuing use.

Xanax Overdose

Symptoms of Xanax overdose include the following: 

  • Intense relaxation
  • Slurred speech 
  • Poor mobility
  • Reduced motor skills
  • Drowsiness 
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Coma

Chances of overdosing on Xanax increase exponentially when the drug is used outside of prescription guidelines and in conjunction with alcohol and/or other prescription medications, such as opioids. It’s rare for benzodiazepine overdose to be fatal on its own, but it is not uncommon when benzos are combined with other depressants like opioids.

Crushing and snorting Xanax also increases the chances of an overdose.

Help Is Needed

If you or someone you know has been abusing Xanax, it’s important to get treatment right away in order to avoid serious health issues as well as potential overdoses.

Addiction is a disease, and it’s not enough to simply want to stop misusing benzodiazepines like Xanax. Professional help is generally needed to effectively reach and maintain recovery from substance abuse. 

Since benzodiazepine withdrawal can be potentially life-threatening in some situations, medical detox is always required. Consult a doctor or addiction treatment specialist before you attempt to suddenly stop taking Xanax. Instead, they will likely recommend a gradual taper over a period of weeks to months.

In therapy, you’ll identify triggers that led you to abuse Xanax, and you’ll develop strategies to avoid or manage those triggers so you don’t return to substance abuse. You’ll gain support from peers in treatment as well as support groups. In treatment, professionals will help you to build a life that supports your recovery, so you can leave Xanax abuse in your past.

Updated November 21, 2023
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