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What Are the Side Effects of Xanax?

Effects of Xanax Use

Xanax (alprazolam) belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. It is often prescribed to treat anxiety or panic disorders.

Xanax is sometimes abused because of its fast-acting, pleasantly calming effects. In fact, 6.6% of people aged 12 or older reported misusing alprazolam in the past year.1

Given that the drug can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction, it is important to understand all of the potential side effects of Xanax before using it.

What Happens When You Take Xanax?

Like other benzodiazepines, Xanax enhances the effect of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. This depresses the central nervous system and slows down physical, mental, and emotional responses. The effects can last between 4 to 8 hours.3

Xanax’s effects will vary from person to person. Factors that influence Xanax’s effects include:

  • An individual’s physical condition, such as their height and weight.
  • Whether they mix Xanax with other drugs.
  • Whether the person has already developed a tolerance to the drug.

Xanax has a half-life of 6 to 26 hours depending on the dose. A half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for the body to get rid of half of the dose.2

What Are the Short-Term Effects of Xanax?

The following include the main therapeutic effects of the drug, as well as other common short-term effects of Xanax: 4, 5

  • Sedation
  • Anxiety relief
  • Induced sleep
  • Drowsiness

Side Effects

Xanax can also cause a number of unwanted side effects.

In most cases, the prescribing physician will discuss and go over what the person can expect when using the drug. The doctor will also take other factors into consideration, such as other medications the person is using. This will help them prescribe a safe and appropriate dose.

When someone buys or obtains Xanax without a doctor’s prescription or misuses it, they may experience harmful side effects because they may not know what dose they are taking or how it will interact with their body. This type of Xanax abuse also increases the risk of dependence and addiction.

Side effects of Xanax include: 5, 7

  • Nausea.
  • Constipation.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Fatigue.
  • Joint pain.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Irritability.
  • Changes in sex drive.
  • Concentration problems.

Less Common Side Effects

Xanax can also cause more serious side effects, though these are rare. Someone who experiences any of the symptoms below should seek medical attention.

Less common side effects include but are not limited to:5

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Severe mood or behavior changes.
  • Confusion.
  • Seizures.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Depression.
  • Difficulties with speech.
  • Appetite changes.
  • Urinary incontinence.



Long-Term Effects

Xanax is not intended for long-term use, and chronic use may indicate a substance use disorder. The prescribing doctor should re-evaluate a person’s condition after 4 months to determine if they need to continue taking Xanax.6

Studies have found impaired memory and visuospatial ability in long-term benzodiazepine users, and long-term users may experience cognitive deficits up to 6 months after stopping use.

Additionally, chronic users are at risk of accident or injury due to the drug’s effects on reaction time and driving skills.8,9 People who abuse Xanax may also exhibit disinhibited behavior such as getting into arguments or fights. 8,14

Long-term effects from using Xanax may include:8,9

  • Cognitive dysfunction.
  • Depression.
  • Delusions.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Impulsiveness.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Hostility.
  • Learning and memory problems.
  • Coordination problems.

Chronic Xanax abuse can also affect other aspects of a person’s life. In some cases, abuse of the drug may lead to: 14
  • Marital problems.
  • Missed time from work.
  • Relationship issues with family and close friends.
  • Neglecting family and work responsibilities.
  • Financial problems due to the expense of drug-seeking behavior.

Effects With Alcohol and Other Drugs

Mixing Xanax with other substances increases the risk of harmful side effects.

  • Mixing Xanax with alcohol – another central nervous system depressant – can lead to slowed or difficult breathing or liver damage, and places the user at an increased risk for overdose.15
  • People might use Xanax in combination with cocaine or amphetamines to help ease their “come down.” Alternatively, people may combine high doses of Xanax with methadone to “boost” its effects. 17
  • Using Xanax with opioids is especially dangerous, as it has the potential to enhance respiratory-depressant effects. This places the user at a much higher risk of overdose.18
  • Mixing Xanax with other medications can be fatal. For example, taking nefazodone (Serzone) can increase alprazolam levels.16

Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction

When a person takes Xanax for a prolonged period of time, their body can develop a tolerance. Tolerance can lead the person to take larger doses of Xanax or use it more often to achieve the desired effects.

As a person develops a tolerance to Xanax and takes more and more, their body quickly becomes dependent on the drug. Once dependence takes hold, a person’s system cannot function properly without it. Users can become physically and psychologically dependent on Xanax in as little as 2 weeks.6 Some users can even experience rebound or breakthrough anxiety after taking a dose.

Users who develop a dependence may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using. Dependence can also lead to Xanax addiction, which is characterized by compulsive use and continuing to use the drug despite negative consequences.

Get Help for Xanax Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to Xanax, consider professional detox and substance abuse treatment. Rehab placement specialists are available 24/7 to provide you with information on recovery centers that meet your needs.

Call us today at .

[1]. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.

[2]. Drug Bank. (2016). Alprazolam.

[3]. Abadinsky, H. (2014). Drug Use and Abuse: A Comprehensive Introduction (Eighth Edition). Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

[4]. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2013). Benzodiazepines.

[5]. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Alprazolam. Medline Plus.

[6]. UpToDate. (2016). Alprazolam: Drug information.

[7]. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2013). Alprazolam (Xanax).

[8]. Longo, L. P., & Johnson, B. R. I. A. N. (2000). Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines-side effects, abuse risk and alternatives. American family physician, 61(7), 2121-2128.

[9]. Barker MJ, Greenwood KM, Jackson M, Crowe SF. (2004). Persistence of cognitive effects after withdrawal from long-term benzodiazepine use: a meta-analysis. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology 19(3):437-54.

[10]. Lydiard RB, Laraia MT, Ballenger JC, Howell EF. (1987). Emergence of depressive symptoms in patients receiving alprazolam for panic disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry 144(5):664-5.

[11]. Tien AY, Anthony JC. (1990). Epidemiological analysis of alcohol and drug use as risk factors for psychotic experiences. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 178(8):473-80.

[12]. Mathew VM, Dursun SM, Reveley MA. (2000). Increased aggressive, violent, and impulsive behaviour in patients during chronic-prolonged benzodiazepine use. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 45(1):89-90.

[13]. Tata PR, Rollings J, Collins M, Pickering A, Jacobson RR. (1994). Lack of cognitive recovery following withdrawal from long-term benzodiazepine use. Psychological Medicine 24(1):203-13.

[14]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

[15]. National Institutes of Health. (2014). Harmful Interactions: mixing alcohol with medicines.

[16]. Longo, L. P., & Johnson, B. (2000). Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines-side effects, abuse risk and alternatives. American family physician, 61(7), 2121-2128.

[17]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

[18]. Gudin, J. A., Mogali, S., Jones, J. D., & Comer, S. D. (2013). Risks, management, and monitoring of combination opioid, benzodiazepines, and/or alcohol use. Postgraduate medicine, 125(4), 115-130.