Xanax Rehab and Addiction Treatment

All types of benzos can be addictive, causing both mental and physical harm when used long-term.

What is Xanax Prescribed For?

Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam and is often prescribed to help treat insomnia, panic attacks and anxiety disorders. While an effective psychiatric medication, it is a potent benzodiazepine, a type of prescription medication often called “benzos,” and a type of sedative. Another type of benzodiazepine is diazepam (Valium), and both Valium and Xanax abuse are extremely dangerous. 

All types of benzos can be addictive, causing both mental and physical harm when used long-term. Xanax addiction can happen when it is taken as instructed or abused for recreational use or the side effects. But Xanax abuse is highly likely to lead to tolerance and addiction.

Prescription drug addiction is on the rise in the UK, with many people looking for ways to deal with symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks caused by depression. Xanax’s tranquilising effects are why it is prescribed to people suffering from these disorders. However, a large number of people obtain Xanax without a prescription to abuse it recreationally, often combining it with other substances, the consequences of which can be life-threatening. 

Xanax abuse is as severe as the use of and addiction to drugs, such as heroin, and needs to be effectively treated as soon as you suspect you may have a problem. You can speak to your GP or contact your local NHS addiction treatment service for help and addiction treatment. You can also call our team on 0800 170 1222 at Step by Step Recovery for free, non-judgemental advice about treating prescription drugs and Xanax addiction.  

How Xanax Affects the Brain

Xanax is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that slows down brain functions. Addiction can occur rapidly due to its fast-acting properties, which is why it’s considered the most addictive benzodiazepine available today. Xanax increases the effects of a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).  Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) blocks specific signals to reduce brain, and nerve cell stimulation, promoting feelings of calm and producing a relaxed mood. 

This is an effective drug for treating anxiety and panic attacks. However, the side effects make Xanax abuse very tempting. Even when prescribed, long-term use of Xanax can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Once your body becomes dependent on Xanax, you will need to take it to function normally and prevent the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that may start within eight hours of your last dose.

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Xanax Addiction Symptoms

Xanax abuse refers to either recreational use, not on prescription or taking more tablets at once, or more often than instructed when it has been prescribed to treat a psychiatric disorder. Addiction refers to the compulsive need to find and use Xanax despite any harmful consequences that might occur as a result. Many people associate drug addiction with illicit drugs, such as cocaine addiction; however, any substance that changes brain functions carries a risk of addiction and dependence. 

Symptoms of Xanax addiction may not occur immediately, and signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction may not be obvious. This is why it is important to be aware of the common signs of Xanax addiction, which include:

  • Drowsiness and fatigue 
  • Trouble with cognitive function 
  • Lack of coordination and dizziness
  • Difficulty forming sentences and slurred speech

Someone suffering from a Xanax addiction may also present some of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sleep
  • Seizures 
  • Vertigo
  • Delirium (sudden mental confusion)
  • Lack of interest in activities they previously enjoyed or did regularly
  • Missing school or work
  • Isolating from friends and family.

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Xanax Abuse — Withdrawal Symptoms

Like other depressants, Xanax impacts the central nervous system (CNS), slowing down essential functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature. Frequent use of Xanax causes these functions to slow down more regularly, and when you stop taking it, these functions may rebound, causing withdrawal symptoms.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms can manifest within eight to 12 hours after your last dose, typically peaking in severity after 72 hours. Some of the most common symptoms of Xanax withdrawal include the following: 

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle pain
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhoea
  • Numb fingers
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety.

If your detox is not medically managed and you experience any of the above withdrawal symptoms, you should speak to a healthcare professional to arrange to have your dose slowly tapered. Xanax can produce some of the most severe withdrawal effects of all benzodiazepines. 

Therefore, the best way to avoid a difficult and distressing withdrawal period is to slowly reduce the dose over some time. You should do this with the assistance and recommendations from your prescribing doctor.

If you take Xanax recreationally, you can speak to your GP, who may be able to prescribe it and assist you to taper off to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Alternatively, you can use this link to find an NHS addiction service to access medications for withdrawal and support.

Xanax Abuse — Xanax Overdose

Taking large doses of Xanax can result in an overdose. However, when mixed with other substances, the risk of overdose is especially high. While symptoms will vary from person to person, Xanax abuse can result in overdose and death if medical treatment is not given quickly enough.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of Xanax abuse and overdose can save lives. Whether you have taken Xanax by itself or combined it with other substances, recognising the dangers is vital. 

The most identifiable signs of Xanax abuse and overdose include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Slurred speech and confusion due to the sedating nature of the drug
  • Respiratory depression (trouble breathing) often occurs when Xanax is taken with alcohol and other drugs
  • Lack of coordination and balance, even when performing simple tasks 
  • Feeling faint due to low blood pressure
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea
  • Delirium (sudden mental confusion).

The sooner you seek help if you suspect an overdose, the better, as deterioration can happen fast and result in coma and fatality. Overdose on Xanax is treated on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the amount of drug that has been taken and the method of use. 

Risks of Mixing Xanax With Alcohol and Other Drugs

You might mistakenly believe that combining depressants, one cancels out the other. However, this isn’t the case and taking Xanax with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as alcohol, is known to intensify the side effects of both substances. 

When combined with the sedative properties of other benzodiazepines or alcohol, Xanax can cause a lethal suppression of the respiratory system. Symptoms of abuse will vary by person depending on the combination of drugs taken, but if any symptoms or signs of a Xanax overdose (above) are present, call 111 immediately.

Long-term use of Xanax and alcohol also has other risks, including:

  • Impaired cognitive function 
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression
  • Liver failure
  • Heart disease 
  • Stroke.

Ultimately, if you take Xanax with alcohol or other drugs, you are significantly increasing your risk of experiencing an overdose. The risk of this occurring is even higher with counterfeit prescription medicine that is often sold online and cut with other harmful substances. 

Treatment for Xanax Addiction

There are various treatment methods for overcoming addiction, such as free drug and alcohol addiction services, support groups and outpatient treatment through the NHS. While each has its benefits, research has indicated that individuals who attend residential rehab have lower relapse rates. 

Due to Xanax’s high potency, we recommend that addiction treatment includes a medically assisted detox to help to reduce the effect of withdrawal symptoms. During this stage of recovery, if you try to stop taking Xanax, you are likely to experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms as your brain and body try to adjust.

Opting for a medical detox means receiving medication to decrease the unpleasant symptoms of Xanax withdrawal and minimise the risk of complications. In addition to a supervised detox, you should also have intensive counselling and therapy to help treat the psychological aspects of your addiction. 

At Step by Step Recovery, we offer free advice on treating prescription drug and Xanax addiction. We exist to provide non-judgemental support to help individuals beat addiction permanently. Please complete our online assessment form or call our understanding team on 0800 170 1222 for free, confidential advice to help you or a loved one.


Xanax is a prescription medication. However, it can also be obtained illegally and used recreationally. Addiction is often associated with illicit substances, but Xanax abuse or long-term usage puts you at risk of developing an addiction. 

Someone abusing Xanax every so often is capable of stopping, whereas a person suffering from Xanax addiction is unable to control their desire for the drug. 

If you are addicted to Xanax, you will generally need to increase the amount you take as you develop tolerance. 


Experiencing withdrawal symptoms indicates dependency and should be discussed with your GP. If you take Xanax without a prescription, we would strongly advise you to speak to your GP, FRANK, complete our online form or call our team on 0800 170 1222 for free, confidential advice about addiction treatment.

Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal typically appear around eight to 12 hours following your last dose. If you’ve been taking Xanax on prescription, your doctor will taper your dose to control withdrawal symptoms. You can also speak with your GP if you have been taking Xanax without a prescription. They can help you access a medically supervised detox, during which withdrawal symptoms are reduced with specific medications. Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax typically peak at around 48 hours and start to improve by the fourth or fifth day, after your last dose, without any medication or slowly reducing the dose. 

Xanax is a particularly potent benzodiazepine that can cause highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when stopped suddenly. For this reason, detoxing at a rehab facility is considered the safest option. While it is possible to receive outpatient care and medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, there is still a high risk of relapse occurring during this stage of recovery. 

Following treatment for Xanax addiction, it is critical to continue with aftercare. Relapse after any period of abstinence significantly increases the risk of suffering a life-threatening overdose from Xanax. At Step by Step residential rehab, we provide free lifetime aftercare programmes following a 30-day (or longer) stay. You can also arrange to continue with counselling at our London addiction clinic. 

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Page revised in March 2023, by Danielle Byatt, a Level 4 addictions counselling, Level 5 in Leadership & Management, BA applied social work. and Treatment Director at Step by Step Recovery.

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