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Is Xanax Addictive?

Xanax is one of the most addictive benzodiazepines. It is a fast-acting drug that changes brain chemistry quickly. You can become physically dependent on Xanax in less than six weeks of daily use. Once physical dependence forms, you have to taper off gradually to avoid potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Xanax is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine. Doctors write about 50 million prescriptions for Xanax a year, typically for anxiety and panic disorders. It is also cheap. There is a lot of Xanax floating around, which means it’s easy to get, even without a prescription. Because it can be taken on occasion and starts working in about an hour, many people take it casually or share with friends.

Xanax works by enhancing the effect of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which has a calming effect. After several weeks of daily use, the brain starts producing less GABA in response to the constant presence of the drug. At this point, someone taking the drug for anxiety will start to feel the anxiety return as their brains return GABA concentrations to their normal levels. This is the beginning of physical dependence. Once this happens, you have to take more of the drug to have the same effect. Eventually, this will cycle will repeat.

Addiction happens when you start to think about the drug and crave it. You may fear the return of anxiety or the possibility of withdrawal symptoms. Finding and taking the drug may begin to interfere with other commitments, such as work, school, or spending time with family and friends. Xanax is one of the few drugs women are more likely than men to become addicted to. It’s also a drug far more likely to be prescribed to older patients, which may put them at higher risk of addiction.

Withdrawal symptoms from abruptly quitting Xanax can be dangerous. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and if GABA levels drop too low, as they do when you stop taking a GABA-enhancing drug, you are at a high risk of seizure. To avoid this, you have to taper off Xanax gradually, ideally under medical supervision.

Long-term use of Xanax can create problems as well, including memory impairment, slurred speech, impaired concentration, lack of balance, and lack of coordination.

About 40 percent of regular Xanax users will eventually become addicted. Most people taking it will build a tolerance and require more. There are other ways to manage anxiety that don’t involve addictive drugs. If you or a loved one is struggling with Xanax addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.