Xanax (Alprazolam) Use Signs, Withdrawal Symptoms, and Side Effects

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Xanax is a brand name for the generic drug alprazolam, which belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It is primarily prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders and sometimes for the short-term relief of anxiety symptoms. Xanax works by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which helps to reduce excessive brain activity and promote a calming effect.

As with any medication, Xanax can cause side effects. Common side effects may include drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, impaired coordination, confusion, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, dry mouth, changes in appetite, and changes in sex drive. Some individuals may also experience changes in mood, such as increased irritability or aggression. It’s important to note that not everyone will experience these side effects, and some individuals may experience different or more severe reactions.

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Xanax (Alprazolam) Use Signs, Withdrawal Symptoms & Side Effects

Xanax is a medication for anxiety and panic disorders. While it can benefit those who require it, it’s important to be aware of its potential for misuse, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms.

Here are some signs of Xanax use, as well as common withdrawal symptoms and side effects:

Signs of Xanax use:

  • Sedation and Drowsiness – Xanax can cause drowsiness and may make the user appear excessively sleepy or lethargic.
  • Impaired Coordination – Xanax can affect motor skills and coordination, leading to unsteady movements or clumsiness.
  • Slurred Speech – Xanax can cause difficulties, leading to slurred or slowed speech patterns.
  • Memory Problems – Xanax may impair memory and cognitive function, resulting in difficulty remembering recent events or conversations.
  • Mood Changes – Xanax can cause changes in mood, including increased irritability, agitation, or emotional instability.
  • Social Withdrawal – Some individuals may withdraw from social activities and isolate themselves more when under the influence of Xanax.

Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Rebound Anxiety – When stopping Xanax abruptly, individuals may experience a return of heightened anxiety, which can be more intense than before starting the medication.
  • Insomnia – Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is a common withdrawal symptom.
  • Restlessness and Irritability – Agitation, irritability, and restlessness are frequently reported during Xanax withdrawal.
  • Physical Discomfort – Headaches, muscle aches, sweating, and gastrointestinal discomfort can occur during withdrawal.
  • Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure – Some individuals may experience elevated heart rate and blood pressure during Xanax withdrawal.

Side Effects:

  • Drowsiness and Sedation – Xanax commonly causes drowsiness, fatigue, and a feeling of sedation.
  • Dizziness and Lightheadedness – Xanax can lead to feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness, especially when standing up quickly.
  • Memory and Concentration Issues – Xanax may impair memory, concentration, and cognitive function.
  • Dry Mouth – Xanax can cause a dry or sticky feeling in the mouth.
  • Changes in Appetite – Some individuals may experience changes in appetite, leading to increased or decreased food intake.
  • Sexual Side Effects – Xanax may affect libido and sexual performance.
  • Paradoxical Reactions – In rare cases, Xanax can cause paradoxical reactions, such as increased anxiety, restlessness, or aggression.

It’s important to use Xanax strictly as a healthcare professional prescribes and to be mindful of the potential risks and side effects. If you have concerns about Xanax use, withdrawal symptoms, or side effects, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider for guidance and support.

Physical & Psychological Side Effects of Using Xanax

Using Xanax can lead to various physical and psychological side effects. Physically, Xanax can cause drowsiness and sedation, impairing coordination and resulting in unsteady movements or clumsiness. It may also lead to headaches, dizziness, and a dry or sticky mouth. Gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea can occur, along with changes in appetite. Some individuals may experience muscle weakness or fatigue.

Psychologically, Xanax can have cognitive effects, impairing memory, concentration, and attention span. Emotional blunting may occur, leading to a sense of emotional detachment or reduced responsiveness. Confusion, disorientation, and difficulties in clear thinking can also be observed. Mood changes such as increased irritability, agitation, or emotional instability are possible. Rarely, paradoxical reactions may occur, causing heightened anxiety, restlessness, or increased agitation instead of a calming effect. Memory impairment, especially in memory formation and recall, is another potential psychological side effect of Xanax use.

Short-Term Side Effects

When using Xanax in the short term, several side effects may occur.

These can include:

  • Drowsiness and Sedation – Xanax has a calming effect on the central nervous system, which can result in drowsiness and feeling excessively sleepy or tired.
  • Impaired Coordination – Xanax can affect motor skills and coordination, leading to unsteady movements, clumsiness, or difficulty maintaining balance.
  • Slurred Speech – Xanax can cause speech difficulties, resulting in slurred or slowed speech patterns.
  • Memory Problems – Some individuals may experience memory impairment while taking Xanax, leading to difficulties remembering recent events, conversations, or other details.
  • Concentration Difficulties – Xanax can affect cognitive function, including concentration and attention span, making it challenging to focus or stay mentally alert.
  • Dizziness and Lightheadedness – Xanax may cause dizziness or lightheadedness, particularly when standing up quickly or changing positions.
  • Dry Mouth – Xanax can result in a dry or sticky feeling in the mouth due to reduced saliva production.
  • Changes in Appetite – Some individuals may experience changes in appetite while using Xanax, leading to increased or decreased food intake.
  • Mood Changes – Xanax can influence mood, and while it is intended to help alleviate anxiety, it may occasionally cause changes in mood, such as increased irritability or emotional instability.

Long-Term Effects

When using Xanax over the long term, there can be potential effects on both physical and psychological health. It’s important to note that long-term use of Xanax is generally discouraged due to the risk of dependence, tolerance, and other adverse outcomes.

Here are some possible long-term effects:

  • Physical Dependence and Withdrawal – Xanax has a high potential for dependence, meaning the body relies on the medication to function normally. Abruptly stopping or reducing the dosage after long-term use can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as rebound anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, muscle tension, sweating, and even seizures.
  • Cognitive Impairment – Prolonged use of Xanax may result in cognitive effects, including memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and impaired decision-making abilities. These cognitive impairments can persist even after discontinuing the medication in some cases.
  • Emotional and Psychological Effects – Xanax can influence mood and emotions. Long-term use may lead to emotional blunting, decreased motivation, and apathy or indifference. Some individuals may experience psychological symptoms such as depression, increased anxiety, or personality changes.
  • Increased Risk of Accidents and Falls – The sedating effects of Xanax can impair coordination, balance, and reaction times, increasing the risk of accidents, falls, and injuries, especially in older individuals.
  • Medication Tolerance – Over time, the body may develop tolerance to the effects of Xanax, requiring higher doses to achieve the same level of anxiety relief. This can escalate doses and increase the risk of side effects and dependence.
  • Interactions with Other Substances – Xanax should not be combined with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants as it can intensify sedation and respiratory depression, potentially leading to life-threatening complications.

How Long Do Xanax Side Effects Last?

The duration of Xanax side effects can vary depending on several factors, including individual metabolism, dosage, duration of use, and overall health.

Most short-term side effects of Xanax, such as drowsiness, impaired coordination, slurred speech, and dizziness, tend to be acute and transient. These effects typically occur shortly after taking the medication and may last several hours, gradually resolving as the drug is metabolized and eliminated from the body.

Long-term side effects associated with prolonged Xanax use, such as cognitive impairment, emotional changes, and physical dependence, can persist for an extended period. These effects may continue as long as the medication is being used and can potentially persist even after discontinuation. The duration and severity of these effects can vary widely among individuals.

If Xanax use is abruptly stopped after long-term use or high dosage, withdrawal symptoms can occur. The onset and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on dosage, duration of use, and individual factors. Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within a few days to a week after discontinuation and can last for several weeks or longer. The intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary widely among individuals, including rebound anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, muscle tension, sweating, and other symptoms.

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Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms Associated With Dependence & Addiction

Xanax is a medication that can lead to dependence and addiction when used for an extended period or in higher doses than prescribed. If dependence or addiction to Xanax develops, discontinuing the medication or reducing the dosage can result in withdrawal symptoms.

Here are some common Xanax withdrawal symptoms associated with dependence and addiction:

  • Rebound Anxiety – When Xanax is discontinued, individuals may experience a rebound effect where anxiety symptoms return and may be heightened compared to their initial level before starting the medication.
  • Insomnia – Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is a common withdrawal symptom. Sleep disturbances can range from mild to severe.
  • Restlessness and Irritability – Many people experience restlessness, agitation, and irritability during Xanax withdrawal. They may feel unable to relax, have an intense urge to move, or be constantly on edge.
  • Physical Discomfort – Headaches, muscle aches, sweating, tremors, and gastrointestinal discomfort, such as nausea or diarrhea, can occur during Xanax withdrawal.
  • Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure – Some individuals may experience elevated heart rate and blood pressure during Xanax withdrawal. This can lead to feelings of palpitations or increased awareness of the heartbeat.
  • Cognitive Difficulties – Xanax withdrawal may cause difficulties in concentration, memory, and attention. Individuals may experience foggy thinking or find it challenging to focus.
  • Sensory Disturbances – Some individuals may report heightened sensitivity to light, sound, or touch during Xanax withdrawal. They may feel easily overwhelmed by sensory stimuli.
  • Mood Changes – Xanax withdrawal can cause mood swings, ranging from irritability and agitation to depression and hopelessness. Emotional instability and increased emotional sensitivity are also possible.

Timeline for Xanax Withdrawal

The timeline for Xanax withdrawal can vary depending on factors such as dosage, duration of use, metabolism, and overall health. Here’s a general overview of the withdrawal timeline:

Early withdrawal symptoms: Within 6-12 hours after the last dose, some individuals may experience early withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and insomnia.

Peak withdrawal symptoms: Typically occurring within the first few days after discontinuing Xanax, withdrawal symptoms reach their peak. During this period, individuals may experience intensified anxiety, panic attacks, increased heart rate, sweating, tremors, muscle aches, gastrointestinal discomfort, and difficulty sleeping.

Subsiding acute symptoms: As the first week progresses, acute withdrawal symptoms generally subside. The intensity of anxiety, restlessness, and physical discomfort may decrease. However, symptoms like insomnia, mood swings, and cognitive difficulties might persist.

Lingering symptoms: Some individuals may experience lingering withdrawal symptoms for weeks or months after discontinuing Xanax. These include insomnia, mood disturbances, cognitive difficulties, and occasional anxiety.

What Symptoms Are Caused by an Overdose From Xanax & Benzodiazepines?

An overdose of Xanax or other benzodiazepines can have severe and potentially life-threatening effects. Symptoms of an overdose can vary depending on factors such as the dosage taken, individual tolerance, and whether other substances were involved.

Here are some common symptoms associated with a benzodiazepine overdose:

  • Extreme Sedation – Overdosing Xanax or benzodiazepines can lead to excessive sedation and drowsiness. The individual may have difficulty staying awake or may appear unresponsive.
  • Confusion and Disorientation – An overdose can cause confusion, disorientation, and impaired cognitive function. The person may have difficulty understanding their surroundings or communicating clearly.
  • Slowed Breathing – Benzodiazepines can depress the central nervous system, leading to slow and shallow breathing. Respiratory depression is a severe symptom of overdose and can be life-threatening.
  • Slurred Speech – Overdose can cause difficulties, resulting in slurred or unintelligible speech patterns.
  • Impaired Coordination – Benzodiazepine overdose can affect motor skills and coordination, leading to unsteady movements, stumbling, or difficulty maintaining balance.
  • Muscle Weakness – Overdose can result in muscle weakness and loss of muscle control.
  • Low Blood Pressure – Benzodiazepine overdose can cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to lightheadedness, dizziness, and potential fainting.
  • Coma – In severe cases, an overdose of Xanax or benzodiazepines can result in a coma, where the individual is unconscious and unresponsive.

What Do You Do if Someone Overdoses on Xanax?

If you suspect someone has overdosed on Xanax, it is important to take immediate action. Here are the steps you should follow:

  • Call Emergency Services – Call 911 (if in the United States) to request medical assistance. Inform the operator that you suspect a Xanax overdose and provide them with the necessary details and location.
  • Stay With The Person – While waiting for emergency responders to arrive, stay with the person and monitor their condition closely. Keep them awake and responsive, if possible.
  • Do Not Leave Them Alone – It is essential to ensure someone is always available to assist or perform CPR, if necessary.
  • Provide Information – If you have any information about the amount of Xanax taken, when it was taken, or if any other substances were involved, relay this information to the emergency responders. It can help them assess the situation more effectively.
  • Do Not Induce Vomiting – Unless directed by medical professionals or emergency services, do not attempt to induce vomiting. They will determine the appropriate course of action based on the individual’s condition.
  • Gather Medication Information – Gather any prescription bottles or relevant medical information about the person’s use of Xanax. This information can be helpful for medical professionals in providing appropriate treatment.

Xanax Abuse & the Effects on Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

Xanax abuse can significantly affect individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders. Co-occurring disorders refer to the presence of both a substance use disorder, such as Xanax abuse, and a mental health disorder, such as anxiety, depression, or other psychiatric conditions.

Here are some key considerations regarding Xanax abuse and its impact on co-occurring mental health disorders:

  • Masking Symptoms – Xanax is often prescribed to manage symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders. However, when abused, Xanax can temporarily mask or alleviate these symptoms. This can make it challenging to identify and treat the underlying mental health condition properly.
  • Worsening Mental Health Symptoms – Prolonged Xanax abuse can lead to tolerance, meaning higher doses are needed to achieve the desired effects. As a result, individuals may experience a worsening of their co-occurring mental health symptoms. Anxiety and depression, for example, can become more severe and difficult to manage.
  • Increased Risk of Mental Health Complications – Xanax abuse can increase the risk of developing mental health complications or exacerbating existing mental health disorders. Substance abuse can contribute to the onset or progression of conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and psychosis.
  • Impaired Treatment Effectiveness – Xanax abuse can hinder the effectiveness of mental health treatments. It can interfere with therapeutic interventions, medications, and other evidence-based approaches to manage mental health disorders. The presence of Xanax in the system may complicate accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment planning.
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment – Treating co-occurring mental health disorders and Xanax abuse often requires an integrated approach. Dual-diagnosis treatment programs address both the substance abuse and mental health components simultaneously. These programs may include therapy, medication management, support groups, and other interventions tailored to individual needs.
  • Withdrawal Challenges – If individuals with a co-occurring mental health disorder attempt to stop or reduce Xanax use, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms, such as increased anxiety, panic attacks, or rebound depression, can be challenging to manage without proper medical guidance and support.

Xanax Addiction Treatment for Withdrawal Symptoms & Effects

Treatment for Xanax addiction typically involves a comprehensive approach that addresses addiction’s physical and psychological aspects. The goal is to safely manage withdrawal symptoms and address the underlying causes of addiction. Here are some common treatment approaches for Xanax addiction:

  • Medical Detoxification – Detoxification is often the first step in Xanax addiction treatment. It involves gradually tapering the dosage of Xanax under medical supervision to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Medical professionals may use longer-acting benzodiazepines or other medications to ease the withdrawal process and ensure the safety and comfort of the individual.
  • Inpatient or Outpatient Rehabilitation – Following detoxification, individuals may enter a rehabilitation program, either inpatient or outpatient. Inpatient programs provide a structured environment where individuals live at the facility for a specified period, receiving intensive therapy, support, and medical care. Outpatient programs allow individuals to receive treatment while living at home and attending therapy sessions and support groups on scheduled days.
  • Behavioral Therapy – Behavioral therapy is a crucial component of Xanax addiction treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can help individuals identify and modify thought patterns, behaviors, and triggers associated with drug use. These therapies aim to develop healthy coping strategies and relapse prevention skills and promote overall well-being.
  • Support Groups – Participation in support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can provide valuable peer support and a sense of community. These groups offer a platform for individuals in recovery to share experiences, gain support, and receive guidance from others who have faced similar challenges.
  • Medication Management – In some cases, medications may be used to manage co-occurring mental health disorders or address specific symptoms related to addiction. For example, medications for anxiety or depression may be prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
  • Individualized Treatment Plans – Each person’s journey to recovery is unique, and treatment plans should be tailored to their specific needs. Treatment providers work closely with individuals to develop individualized plans that address their addiction, underlying mental health issues, and other factors contributing to Xanax abuse.
  • Aftercare and Relapse Prevention – Continued support and relapse prevention strategies are crucial for long-term recovery. Aftercare programs may include ongoing therapy, support group involvement, regular check-ins with healthcare professionals, and lifestyle adjustments to support sobriety.

Medication-Assisted-Treatment (MAT) For Tapering & Managing Withdrawal Symptoms

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) can be an effective approach for tapering and managing withdrawal symptoms during Xanax (alprazolam) addiction treatment. MAT combines medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a comprehensive treatment approach. Here are some commonly used medications for Xanax addiction:

  • Long-Acting Benzodiazepines – In a controlled medical setting, a longer-acting benzodiazepine, such as diazepam (Valium) or chlordiazepoxide (Librium), may be prescribed to replace Xanax during the tapering process. These medications have a longer half-life, allowing for a smoother and slower withdrawal process.
  • Anticonvulsant Medications – Certain anticonvulsant medications, such as gabapentin or pregabalin, may help manage withdrawal symptoms during Xanax detoxification. These medications can help reduce anxiety, stabilize mood, and alleviate withdrawal-related discomfort.
  • Antidepressants – Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), may be prescribed to manage underlying mental health conditions contributing to Xanax addiction. These medications can help stabilize mood and reduce anxiety or depression symptoms.
  • Alpha-2 Adrenergic Agonists –Medications like clonidine may be used to manage symptoms of anxiety, restlessness, and increased heart rate during Xanax withdrawal. These medications target the adrenergic system, helping alleviate some of the physical symptoms associated with withdrawal.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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