What is Xanax?

Xanax is a prescription sedative (a benzodiazepine), most commonly used to treat severe anxiety-related disorders. Those who are prescribed Xanax are often instructed to take the drug in case of emergencies – for example, if they are in the middle of a panic attack. Benzodiazepines like Xanax work by blocking certain receptors in the brain and the central nervous system, producing feelings of calmness and relaxation. When taken as prescribed, Xanax is taken orally in a pill form. Those that abuse the prescription might crush it into a powder and snort it in order to feel the effects more quickly. In extreme cases, the drug might be taken intravenously. Those who are prescribed the drug will be given a dosage appropriate for their age, medical condition and personal background/history with controlled substances. It is very unlikely that someone who has struggled with a substance abuse disorder in the past will be given a habit-forming drug like Xanax. However, it isn’t always possible to tell who is prone to drug abuse and who is not. If you or someone you love was prescribed Xanax and began to abuse it – or if you have developed an addiction to Xanax through any other set of circumstances – reach out to us today. At Guardian Intensive Outpatient Program we focus on healing those who have developed physical and mental dependencies on Xanax or any other prescription medications, and we are dedicated to paving the way for years and years of fulfilled and meaningful sobriety.

Xanax Abuse and Addiction

Those who are addicted to Xanax will exhibit a specific set of symptoms. Those who are abusing or addicted to drugs or alcohol will start to exhibit a wide range of psychological, behavioral and physical symptoms. While many symptoms of drug abuse are the same across the board, some of these symptoms are specific to Xanax abuse. Those that aren’t specific to Xanax abuse include behavioral, psychological and physical changes such as:

  • The building of a physical tolerance. 
  • A lack of motivation. 
  • Interpersonal problems.
  • Problems at work or at school. 
  • An inability to stop using a chemical substance despite serious interpersonal consequences. 
  • Mood changes, unexplainable bouts of agitation and irritability.

These could all be symptoms of Xanax abuse – or the abuse of any other chemical substance. Those that are abusing Xanax or another benzodiazepine will likely experiencing the following – more specific – symptoms:

  • Doctor shopping. Those who are abusing Xanax will likely run out of their original prescription sooner rather than later. Instead of returning to the same doctor (for fear of being found out), they will go around to different doctors attempting to acquire as many prescriptions as possible. This behavior is called “doctor shopping” and it is a very good indication of a serious Xanax problem.
  • Raiding through medicine cabinets at other people’s homes. If doctor shopping is unsuccessful (even if it is), those who are abusing Xanax will often search through other people’s medicine cabinets in search of more pills. If you live with someone who you think may be struggling with a Xanax addiction, take notice of whether or not your medicine cabinets have been rummaged through. If you believe that one of your close friends is struggling with a Xanax addiction, invite him or her over and remember to take a careful look at your medicine cabinet once the visit has concluded.
  • A mental obsession with Xanax. If your loved one seems preoccupied with a certain drug or talks about it constantly, this could be a very good indication of a serious problem.
  • “Blacking out” or failing to remember significant chunks of time. A telltale symptom of Xanax addiction is memory loss. When an individual takes more than the allotted dose, blackouts become extremely common. They could last for several minutes up to several hours depending on the amount taken and whether or not it was combined with any other substances (this is especially true when the drug is combined with alcohol). If your loved one can’t recall certain conversations or experiences, there is a good chance that they are struggling with a serious substance abuse disorder.
  • Polydrug abuse. As just mentioned, those that consume other drugs – like alcohol – at the same time that they use Xanax might be struggling with an addiction. Doctors who prescribe benzodiazepines will always recommend that alcohol is completely avoided. Together, the two substances can cause serious damage. If you have a loved one who continuously fails to heed this advice, he or she is actively abusing Xanax.
  • Significant weight loss. The sad truth of the matter is that those struggling with a Xanax addiction often forget to eat. Drastic weight loss is one of the most common, long-term effects of Xanax abuse and addiction.
  • Denial and defensiveness. While these are symptoms of substance abuse in general, denial and defensiveness are especially common amongst those misusing a prescription medication. Because most medications were initially doctor prescribed, those who are abusing them might defend their habit by saying things like, “If it was dangerous, a doctor wouldn’t have given it to me in the first place,” or, “I only take more than the doctor recommended when I need to.” If you suggest concern, the addict will likely grow defensive. “How do you know what the proper dosage is? I’m the one with the anxiety disorder.” Defensiveness is definitely a symptom to keep an eye out for.

Long-Term Effects of Xanax Use

Those who abuse Xanax for an extended period of time will start to experience serious, long-term effects. These effects might include (but are not limited to):

  • Serious interpersonal issues. Long-term Xanax addiction will cause lasting interpersonal problems. Family members will distance themselves and friends will move on. Fortunately, these relationships can be remedied with time and long-term recovery.
  • Legal issues. Those who abuse Xanax will often face serious legal issues. They may engage in illicit activities in order to support their habit or get caught doctor shopping.
  • Financial issues. The street value of drugs like Xanax is pretty significant – those who develop an addiction to benzodiazepines will typically spend quite a lot of money supporting their habit. Couple this with the inability to adequately budget or save and you’ve got a recipe for financial insecurity.
  • Irreparable personal consequences. Some personal consequences of long-term drug addiction will be difficult to bounce back from, like the loss of a longtime career.
  • Lasting psychological issues like anxiety and depression. Even though Xanax is prescribed for anxiety-related disorders, long-term abuse results in the worsening of anxiety-related symptoms. Long-term Xanax abuse also causes depression.

Xanax Withdrawal

Our Program of Xanax addiction recovery covers every single step of the treatment process, from medically monitored detox and inpatient rehab to aftercare services and ongoing alumni support. During medical detox, an individual will undergo Xanax withdrawal in a safe and supported environment. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be extremely dangerous when not overseen by a team of experienced medical professionals. Once a patient has been deemed physically fit to enter into inpatient treatment, he or she will transfer to a residential facility and stay for an extended period of time – generally between one and three months depending on the severity of the Xanax addiction. Guardian Intensive Outpatient offers a comprehensive partial-care program geared towards those with very mild addictions or those who have already completed inpatient treatment. No matter how severe your addiction is, we will help you find an appropriate and effective level of care. For more information on our comprehensive program of Xanax recovery, give us a call today – we will gladly answer any and all questions you may have.


Reviewed for accuracy by:

Anna earned her Masters of Social Work at Barry University in Miami, FL in 2017 and completed her internship in co-occurring disorders. Anna has a Bachelors of Art in Religious Studies from Naropa University and is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Anna has received specialized training in somatic counseling with an emphasis on body-centered psychotherapy.