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Xanax Addiction: What You Need to Know

Xanax Addiction: What You Need to Know - brunette girl about to take blue pill with water

Xanax, known by the medical generic name of alprazolam, is one of the most highly prescribed drugs in the United States.

According to an article in PsychCentral, it is the number one psychiatric medication prescribed in the U.S. with doctors writing almost 50 million prescriptions a year. Xanax is often prescribed as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), insomnia, anxiety caused by depression, and panic disorders. In some cases, it is also prescribed for the treatment of seizures. When used long term, Xanax is extremely addictive.

About Xanax

Xanax is classified as a benzodiazepine, commonly referred to as benzos, and has a sedative effect on the person using it. It is categorized as an anxiolytic or tranquilizer and works by acting as a depressant on the central nervous system.

The drug interacts with different neurotransmitters and boosts a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric (GABA). This decreases the overall activity in the brain. As the nerve cell activity slows down, the person feels a sense of calm and relaxation.

Common Street Names for Xanax

You may have heard Xanax referred to by its more common street names Zannies (or Xannies), Xanbars, Bars, Z-bars, or Totem Poles. These names all refer to the 2 milligram Xanax pill’s bar shape. Two other common street names are Blue Footballs, referring to the oval shape Xanax pills, and Benzos, which refers to the family of drugs.

Additional popular street names for this drug include:

  • Upjohns
  • Bicycle parts
  • School bus
  • Plank
  • White girls
  • White (or Yellow) Boys

The Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

There are many signs and symptoms of Xanax abuse and they vary from person to person due to several factors. The areas that must be considered include:

  • Whether or not the drug was originally prescribed for the user and if it was, the reason for the prescription
  • The length of time the person has been taken the drug
  • The amount prescribed and the actual amount being taken
  • The individual’s genetic makeup

The signs and symptoms of Xanax abuse fall into four categories: physical, psychological, behavioral, and cognitive.


The most common physical sign of Xanax abuse is constant and extreme drowsiness, lethargy and fatigue. The individual may experience blurred or double vision, headaches, dizziness, a stuffy nose, or swelling in their hands or feet. Their mouth may be very dry, they may have a decrease in urination, and an increase in sweating.

Several additional physical signs of Xanax abuse include:

  • Difficulties with coordination
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heart palpitations or tachycardia
  • An increase or decrease in weight or the amount of food consumed
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors
  • Jaundice


An individual abusing Xanax may be confused, disoriented, or have trouble concentrating. They may have mood swings, be aggressive, agitated, or anxious. They could become withdrawn or depressed.
The following are several other psychological signs of Xanax abuse:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Hostility
  • Rage
  • Euphoria
  • Mania


A person abusing Xanax may increase the number of pills they are taking or take them more often than prescribed. They may chew the pills to make them work faster or crush and snort them to increase their effects. They might go to several doctors to get multiple prescriptions for Xanax or forge prescriptions for the drug.
The following are other common behavioral changes:

  • Borrowing or stealing Xanax from family or friends
  • Buying Xanax on the street
  • Loss of interest in work, school, or social activities
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Neglecting personal responsibilities or family
  • Decreased inhibitions
  • Increase in talkativeness
  • Suicidal thoughts


Xanax abuse affects a person’s cognitive ability. They may have difficulty concentrating or focusing on what they are doing. Some individuals may experience forgetfulness, be confused, or have difficulty forming cohesive thoughts.

Additional cognitive signs of Xanax abuse include:

  • Memory problems
  • Short and long-term memory loss directly related to the use of Xanax
  • Slurred or nonsensical speech
  • Coordination and balance problems
  • Poor motor coordination

An article in the United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health on the effect of chronic Xanax use on memory, attention, and psycho-motor performance states that even after individuals stop using the drug, certain kinds of cognitive impairments remained. “These include sensory processing, verbal memory, speed of processing, motor performance, working memory, and verbal speed.”

The Effects of Benzos Abuse

There are many additional effects of long term Xanax abuse besides those already mentioned. Serious health issues could develop from the prolonged use of the drug. For example, heart palpitations could develop into a serious cardiac condition, the liver may have difficulty processing large amounts of Xanax, or breathing difficulties could develop.

The long-term use of Xanax also:

  • Puts people at a higher risk for falls and increases the chance of older people fracturing their hip by 50%
  • Increases the risk of being in a motor vehicle accident
  • Increases the chance of an accidental overdose
  • Increases the risk of people mixing Xanax with another drug or alcohol, which could be a deadly combination

There Is Help Available

If you or a loved one has an addiction to Xanax, there is help available. Call and speak to one of the staff at Canyon Vista Recovery Center in Mesa, Arizona. There you will find professionals to guide you on your path to recovery offering a full continuum of care that combines traditional and holistic therapies with an extended care treatment program.

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