The Rise of Xanax Use

in Addiction
Published Apr 13, 2021
xanax bars

Alprazolam, also known as Xanax, is a benzodiazepine or benzo. Benzos are a class of powerful drugs prescribed to treat anxiety, panic, and other physical and psychiatric conditions. It has also seen a dramatic increase in recreational use over the past two decades and a corresponding spike in overdose rates.

Xanax bears the black box warning, the most serious notice by the FDA: “Using Alprazolam, even as prescribed, can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal if you stop taking the drug suddenly. Withdrawal can be life-threatening. Taking this drug can also lead to misuse and addiction. Misuse of Alprazolam increases your risk for overdose and death.”

The Increasing Popularity of Xanax Bars and Benzodiazepines

The popularity of Xanax use, both by prescription and recreationally, has risen considerably in recent years. A 2018 study published by the National Institute of Health reports that Xanax is the single most common psychotropic medication prescribed in the United States. The number of prescriptions written for Xanax and its generic Alprazolam increased from under 8.1 million in 1999 to over 48 million in 2013. The total quantity of benzos prescribed to Americans more than tripled in the same time frame and the amount of medication in each prescription rose by 140%. Over 8% of the American population filled a prescription for Xanax in 2016.

The New England Journal of Medicine delineates the explosive expansion of prescription and recreational use of benzodiazepines in the United States over the past two decades, calling it a hidden epidemic that has suffered obscurity due to the attention paid to the opioid epidemic. Numerous findings have indicated that most recreational users obtain Xanax bars from medical providers or friends or family who have a prescription. Many teenagers, among whom recreational benzo use has risen dramatically in the past decade, begin using Xanax that they access in their family’s medicine cabinets. However, part of the problem is that alongside medical prescriptions, more people are obtaining synthetic benzos that are made and sold illegally to meet the growing demand.

Xanax Overdose

As Xanax prescription rates have increased, overdose rates have risen disproportionately to an even greater degree; deaths by benzo overdose have risen 700% since 1999. Over 22,000 people are estimated to have died by overdose involving prescription drugs in 2013, with benzos making up roughly one-third of those deaths, and the numbers continue to rise. Over 6,000 overdose-related deaths were explicitly attributed to Xanax in 2016 by the CDC, making it account for nearly 10% of drug overdose deaths. Xanax was also involved in over 9% of intentional deaths by overdose in the same year.

Xanax produces a pleasantly sedative effect that lasts for several hours. It is highly addictive, even when taken as directed by prescription; the rise in its recreational use has led to more people taking it without proper medical supervision, resulting in adverse side effects, overdose, and death. At higher doses, or when combined with other drugs, Xanax can cause seizures, coma, heart attacks, impaired breathing, intense hallucinations, and distortion of reality. An overdose can be fatal without swift medical assistance.

The Dangers of Combining Benzodiazepines with Opioids and Alcohol

Xanax poses an especially significant danger of overdose and death when used in combination with opioids or alcohol. Taking Xanax in combination with alcohol or opiates significantly increases the risk of loss of consciousness, respiratory failure, grand mal seizures, coma, and death.

An 18-year study identified benzos and alcohol’s increasingly common involvement f benzos and alcohol in opioid overdose deaths, finding that 21% of opioid overdose deaths also involved benzos in 2017. They also found significant correlations between the rates at which a state prescribes benzos and the involvement of benzos in opioid overdose deaths. In short, benzos contribute to opioid overdose deaths, and the more they are prescribed, the more damage they do.

The Importance of Medical Supervision to a Safe Withdrawal From Xanax Bars

Because of its addictive potential and how it affects a person’s blood pressure, heart rate, and mental faculties, attempting to detox on your own can cause these parts of your body to rebound with severity, leading to potentially life-threatening consequences. Even in controlled environments with medical supervision, withdrawal from Xanax bars can include various intense symptoms, including:

  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Cramps
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Paranoia
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic
  • Depression


These risks can be mitigated with professional care. The best option for managing detox and withdrawal from Xanax is to seek help from medical professionals, especially for those who have been using Xanax for prolonged periods. Getting the help you need is paramount to safely and successfully making it through this challenge and minimizing your chances of future relapse.

Whether you take them by prescription or recreationally, Xanax bars and other benzodiazepines are highly addictive to your mind and body. The growing rate of Xanax use across the country has made it more critical than ever for you to stay informed on the dangers it poses. Attempting to go cold turkey or tackle the withdrawal process on your own can have destructive consequences that are easily preventable by accessing comprehensive medical care. Getting professional help in detox has been shown to produce more substantial results for keeping patients clean and healthy in the long term. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, reach out to Gallus Medical Detox Centers. We offer effective, evidence-based treatments that help you go through the detox process safely. We also help you find the services you need to help you overcome addiction, maintain your sobriety, and go on to build the life you want for yourself. You don’t have to fight this battle alone. Contact Gallus Medical Detox at (866) 296-5242 to learn more.