Xanax Side Effects
When used as directed, Xanax can be a highly effective medication, but there may be risks associated with taking it. This page will provide information and answer the following questions:
- Why is Xanax prescribed?
- How long can I take Xanax for?
- What are the effects of Xanax abuse?
- Is Xanax dangerous to use short-term?
- Does Xanax cause weight gain?
- Does Xanax make you paranoid?
- What does Xanax do to your brain?
- Can you take Xanax long-term safely?
- What are the long-term effects of Xanax?
- How can I get help for Xanax use?
Why is Xanax Prescribed?
Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine, a class of drugs that are central nervous system depressants.1,2,3 Xanax is FDA-approved to treat generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia, and may be used off-label to treat insomnia, depression, and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.1,2,3,4 Xanax works by affecting levels of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.5 By altering neurotransmitter levels, it can lower anxiety levels, induce a sense of sedation, and if taken in large doses, create a feeling of euphoria.3,5,6 In addition, Xanax can also help to relax muscles and reduce the likelihood of seizures.3
Xanax Side Effects
Xanax can effectively treat symptoms of anxiety.1 However, it is only intended to be used for short periods of time.1,4 Taking Xanax for years, or even months, can make it more likely that a person will experience side effects.4 Long-term daily Xanax use, especially in high doses, can cause some side effects to linger well into sobriety.4 Common side effects may include:4,6,7
- Balance issues.
- Blurry vision.
- Involuntary eye movements.
- Lowered libido.
- Mouth dryness.
- Stomach problems, like stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, or vomiting.
- Stumbling or falling.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Muscle weakness.
Xanax & Mental Health
The dangers of Xanax can include harm to your mental health.1,2 Xanax can cause new symptoms of depression or worsen it in people who already have symptoms, and may lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.1,2It can also cause manic episodes in people with depression.1 Xanax can also increase anxiety in some people.1 Mood swings may occur while under the influence of Xanax.6 Xanax withdrawal can also affect mental health.6 Once a person stops taking Xanax, panic attacks or anxiety can return and may be worse than it was before starting Xanax.4 Withdrawal symptoms may include hallucinations or a loss of touch with reality.6
Xanax’s Effect on the Heart
When taking or withdrawing from Xanax, dangerous side effects can affect the heart.1,3,4 Xanax use can cause heart palpitations or make the heart beat faster than normal.1 ,2 It may also lead to a decrease in blood pressure, which can make you faint.1 (p15) A Xanax overdose can make the pulse very fast and weak.3 Xanax withdrawal can significantly increase heart rate and blood pressure.4 This can place you at risk for a stroke and requires immediate medical care.4
Xanax’s Effect on Your Brain
People who take Xanax may experience negative side effects affecting the brain.1,2 In people who have taken long-term, high doses of Xanax, brain damage may occur.4,5 These lasting effects of Xanax on the brain may improve once use is stopped, but do not always fully go away.4
While under the influence, people on Xanax may experience confusion, difficulty with coordination, and trouble concentrating.1,2,3,4,6 Memory loss is common, and people may participate in activities while asleep, like driving, calling people, or cooking and eating meals, and then have no recollection of it when they wake up.1,2,3,4,6
Over time, Xanax use can lead to long-term or permanent cognitive issues.1,4,8 Impairments in processing sensory data, various aspects of memory, solving problems, focusing on tasks, gross and fine motor control, reasoning skills, language skills, and overall intelligence were seen with chronic benzodiazepine use.8Using benzodiazepines such as Xanax for shorter periods has been linked to an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; using higher doses over a longer period causes an even greater risk.5The risk is increased after 3 months, and taking Xanax for 6 months or longer increased the risk by 84%.5
Can Xanax Cause Seizures?
Benzodiazepines such as Xanax function similarly to alcohol.5 Long-acting benzodiazepines like Xanax are commonly used during alcohol detox to prevent withdrawal seizures.3,5,9 However, withdrawal from Xanax can also involve seizures.1,6 This is even more likely to occur in people who have an epilepsy diagnosis or have had seizures in the past.1 Xanax withdrawal seizures can be severe or even life-threatening and require medical treatment.9,10 In some cases, seizures as a result of Xanax withdrawal continue without stopping (status epilepticus) and can be extremely dangerous.1
Other Longer-Term Side Effects
Taking Xanax for long periods of time isn’t suggested for a few different reasons.1,4 Tolerance to the effects of this drug develops quickly, so higher doses are needed to get relief from symptoms or to get high, depending on why you are taking it.6 In turn, higher doses put you at risk of experiencing more side effects and long-term consequences.4,5
Over time, regular use can cause changes in appetite.7 Xanax and weight gain or loss can occur, depending on how your body reacts to the drug.7 However, overuse of Xanax can also put you at risk for developing tolerance, physical dependence, or an addiction.1 ,2 The risk of developing one or more of these issues increases with higher doses and longer periods of use, although physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms can occur after just 2 weeks of taking Xanax daily.1
Social Effects of Xanax Addiction
In addition to all the physical and mental effects, Xanax can have an impact on your personality. Xanax can cause moods to shift rapidly while intoxicated.6 A range of moods may appear when people are under the influence of Xanax. Irritability and agitation are commonly experienced.1,3,4,5 People who become irritable and agitated may progress to hostility and escalate into verbal altercations with friends, family members, or others.3,6 In some cases, this can escalate into violent physical altercations.6
One of the key features of Xanax intoxication is that it reduces inhibitions and impairs judgment.1,6 This can make people act in ways or do things that they wouldn’t normally do, such as acting socially uninhibited, engaging in risky sexual behaviors, taking unnecessary risks, having unprotected sex, or behaving promiscuously.6 These behaviors may result in an increased risk of additional unintended consequences, such as unplanned pregnancy or contracting a sexually transmitted infection.
Addiction takes a toll on social relationships in other ways as well. Xanax use may interfere with your ability to focus on tasks at school, work, or at home.6,11You may show up late or miss days at work or school, you may fall behind on assignments, or perform poorly, leading to disciplinary issues.6 If continued, you could potentially lose your job or have consequences at school.6 (p550) This can be a source of strain in relationships with family members or loved ones.6
Using Xanax can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships with friends and family members.6,11If a parent is abusing Xanax, they may prioritize getting the drug or being high over-focusing on taking care of chores or children, creating additional stress at home.6 Job loss or buying Xanax illegally can become a financial strain and may become a topic that is frequently argued about.6 Memory loss associated with Xanax use can be another source of fights, especially if the person using doesn’t remember doing something while under the influence.6
Xanax addiction has the potential to create legal issues as well. “Doctor shopping,” or obtaining Xanax prescriptions from multiple doctors at the same time is illegal, just as getting it without a prescription is. Driving while under the influence of Xanax can also result in legal charges, especially if a person is involved in an accident or has a minor in the car.6 This can result in heavy fines, mandated treatment, jail time, or loss of driving privileges.
Finding Help for Xanax Addiction
American Addiction Centers is one of the country’s foremost providers of Xanax addiction treatment, with treatment facilities across the United States.12 Our Desert Hope facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, and all of our treatment centers offer treatment that is tailored to meet the specific needs of each patient.12,13 All care is provided by compassionate staff members who are trained in effective, cutting-edge therapeutic techniques.14 To learn more about how to overcome Xanax addiction with the assistance of American Addiction Centers, call our free, private helpline 24/7 at 702-800-2682.
- Food and Drug Administration. (2016). Xanax alprazolam tablets, USP.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2021). Alprazolam (Xanax).
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2017). Drugs of abuse: A DEA resource guide.
- Ait-Daoud, N., Hamby, A.S., Sharma, S., & Blevins, D. (2018). A review of alprazolam use, misuse, and withdrawal. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 12(1), 4-10.
- Harvard Women’s Health Watch. (2015). Two types of drugs you may want to avoid for the sake of your brain.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- George, T.T., & Tripp, J. (2020). Alprazolam. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing.
- Crowe, S.F., & Stranks, E.K. (2018). The residual medium and long-term cognitive effects of benzodiazepine use: An updated meta-analysis. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 33(7), 901-911.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 45, DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 06-4131. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Gupta, M., Gokarakonda, S.B., & Attia, F.N. (2020). Withdrawal syndromes. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse.(2020). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third edition).
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). American Addiction Centers.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). Desert Hope Las Vegas treatment center.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). Substance abuse treatment services.
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