Free Consultation
1 (800) 301-3753

Xanax (Alprazolam) Side Effects, Withdrawal and FAQs

Xanax (alprazolam) is a tranquilizer in the benzodiazepine drug class, used as a sedative to treat anxiety and panic disorders.
The drug is potent and short-acting and has a risk for dependence after as little as 2 weeks. Cessation from Xanax should never be abrupt, due to significant health risks.
Xanax is the brand name for the generic drug alprazolam. This tranquilizer is a commonly prescribed medication primarily used in the treatment of anxiety disorders and panic attacks.

Below we have provided some information on the most frequently requested topics that are highly recommended to research before starting or stopping Xanax.

A surprisingly overlooked fact is the tenfold increased risk of overdose deaths when benzodiazepines are combined with opiates. (1)

Understanding safe medication withdrawal is vitally important as a prescription to Xanax should only last for a limited time, as little as a few weeks, and it will become necessary to correctly withdraw from the drug at that time to avoid potential health risks. More information is available below.

What is Xanax (Alprazolam) Used For?

Xanax is primarily prescribed to treat anxiety disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or Panic Disorder. Day to day tension or stress does not usually require a benzodiazepine prescription. (2)

Xanax (Alprazolam) Alternative Names and Slang

Xanax is a brand or trade name for the generic drug, alprazolam. Other brand names in the US include Gabazolamine-05 and Niravam.

Xanax has developed a presence as a street drug, possibly due to its sedative effects and pleasurable sensation of mild euphoria.

Numerous street names have evolved, including:

  • Zanbars
  • Blue footballs, footballs
  • Upjohns
  • Yellow boys, white boys, white girls
  • Zanbars
  • Zannies
  • Z-bars
  • Bars
  • Handlebars
  • Tranx
  • Benzos
  • Schoolbus
  • Planks

Xanax (Alprazolam) Side Effects

Xanax can cause mild as well as more serious side effects. Always let your doctor know if you experience unusual or uncomfortable symptoms when taking any benzodiazepine. These side effects can include:

  • Sedation
  • Drowsiness
  • Vertigo or dizzy feeling
  • Loss of memory, amnesia
  • Mood changes, i.e., irritability, depression, anger, apathy
  • Loss of libido
  • Insomnia
  • Cognitive impairment, reduced clarity or problem solving ability
  • Loss of coordination, losing balance
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Unusual sweating
  • Appetite changes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Flu-like symptoms, headache, cough, stuffy nose, aches, weakness
  • Vision problems, blurring of the vision, perception changes

Due to the sedaative effects, a person taking Xanax should not drive a car or operate machinery where alertness is required for safety reasons.

Xanax should not be taken along with other CNS suppressants as the effects can be significantly intensified, sometimes leading to unconsciousness, coma, or death.

Xanax (Alprazolam) Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal from Xanax can produce the following:

  • Seizure
  • Drug cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Rebound insomnia
  • Muscle pain, cramping
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Mood changes
  • Depression
  • Crying spells
  • Memory lapses

These are not all the withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced while coming off Xanax. Never stop using benzodiazepine drugs suddenly. Withdrawals can be eased by gradually tapering down instead of stopping all at once.

Discontinuing/Quitting Xanax (Alprazolam)

Quitting Xanax or any benzodiazepine drug can be deadly if done abruptly, i.e. all at once. A gradual taper is the FDA recommended approach to avoid these severe and sometimes deadly withdrawal symptoms. (2)

Xanax (Alprazolam) FAQs

Below are some of the most frequently asked topics about Xanax, including safety, health risks, mechanism of action in the brain, and other important subjects of interest. It is recommended that a person learn as much as possible about a drug before starting or stopping a prescription.

How Does Xanax (Alprazolam) Work?

The mechanics of action of benzodiazepines is not completely understood. Drug lab and other research shows that benzodiazepine drugs likely activate GABA, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter, which has a sedating or inhibitory effect on the central nervous system.

Xanax alters how natural brain chemicals work. After a short time, the body can become used to these effects, and will need some time and careful tapering for readjusting to reduced doses. If not done correctly, cravings for the drug can lead to continued usage and addiction.

Can You Overdose on Xanax?

Yes. Benzodiazepines are significantly linked to overdose deaths. This is especially documented where benzodiazepines were taken in combination with other CNS depressants such as opiates or alcohol; even histamines obtained over the counter can severely react with Xanax, requiring immediate emergency intervention to prevent coma or death.

Symptoms of Xanax overdose include slowed breathing, slow heart rate, blue color in the lips or face, confusion, weakness or loss of muscle control, slurred speech, loss of consciousness and death.

How Addictive is Xanax?

Xanax has a high risk for dependence or addiction if taken for more than several weeks. Clinical tests have not been performed for more than four months.

After dependence or addiction sets in, abruptly stopping Xanax can produce severe withdrawal symptoms, sometimes deadly in their effect.

As with all short-acting sleep aids, by the morning their sedating effects will have worn off. One of the considering factors regarding Xanax is that it is short acting. If someone takes Xanax at night, it can be that by morning they are no longer feeling the sedating effects, and, in addition, may be troubled by daytime anxiety. Daytime Inter-dosing to mitigate these manifestations may be initiated by the prescribing doctor, whereupon the patient may find they are taking the medication 3 or more times each day as well as at night, but with no resolution in sight to these symptoms.

Always seek competent medical guidance and advice when it comes to the time that stopping Xanax is desired.

Is Xanax a Controlled Substance?

Yes. All benzodiazepines are Schedule IV drugs. These drugs have a risk for dependence, and they also have valid uses in treating certain medical or psychiatric conditions.

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?

Xanax is a relative short-acting benzodiazepine compared to other drugs in this class. However, urine tests will show the drug as present for up to 7 days after taking Xanax. Saliva tests will test positive for between 2 and 3 days, and a blood test will be reliably read up to about 6 days.

Alprazolam has a half-life of approximately 12 hours, with many factors that can shorten or lengthen that time frame, including liver health, age, diet, and certain genetic factors affecting metabolization.

Can Xanax Cause Liver Damage?

There have been some rare reports of alprazolam usage leading to liver damage. Elevated liver enzymes have been seen in some cases. When the drug was stopped the conditions reversed and symptoms such as jaundice were observed to disappear within one month of stopping Xanax. (7)

Can Xanax Damage Kidneys?

The National Kidney Foundation reports that taking Xanax (alprazolam) should not cause kidney damage even if taken over a long period of time. However, if kidney impairment is already present, taking a benzodiazepine can cause the drug to build up in the system excessively, due to the inability of the drug to be broken down or metabolized quickly.

Discuss any known kidney damage with your prescribing physician before starting a prescription of Xanax or other medications that could be affected. (6)

Can Xanax Cause Dementia or Memory Problems?

It is not known definitively what causes dementia but environmental factors including lifestyle as well as genetics are considered as possible contributors. This is a condition primarily seen in elderly populations, but there is younger onset dementia, more rarely seen. Symptoms of dementia include cognitive impairment, memory loss, confusion, and personality changes. There is some consideration that heredity may play a part in this disorder.

Since Xanax can also cause similar symptoms, and is regularly prescribed to this age group, it is unclear whether Xanax causes dementia or whether is causes a similar set of symptoms that may be unrelated to genetics and heredity.

Xanax can cause amnesia and retrograde amnesia, and these side effects may pass after the drug is stopped. (3) (4) (5)

Treatment for Xanax (Alprazolam) Abuse and Addiction?

At the Alternative to Meds Center, we specialize in safe medication withdrawals, and also provide testing and therapies to relieve symptoms for which prescription drugs may have been prescribed in the first place.

The FDA recommends that for day to day stress or tension, such as workplace stress, or family discord, etc., that benzodiazepines should not routinely be prescribed in these cases. (2)

However, it is known that benzodiazepines are prescribed more commonly than almost any other medication in the US. It is also known that symptoms such as anxiety could have environmental causes and are documented as being related to poor diet, sleep deprivation, and certain chemical pollutants that we are commonly exposed to. These are factors that can create a host of symptoms including anxiety, tiredness, weakness, depression, and other unwanted feelings that drugs may only mask temporarily.

A particularly popular aspect of the Alternative to Meds program is investigative lab testing to detect accumulated toxins and facilitate their removal from the body.  It is true that some symptoms like anxiety and insomnia could be related to neurotoxicity, especially troublesome in our industrialized world. Pollutants, including pesticides, food additives and heavy metals, do have the capacity to damage and interfere with normal healthy hormones, reproductive systems, neurochemistry and innumerable parts of the complex body. Clearing these is a positive step toward natural mental health improvements and long term success.

Safe tapering is another specialty that can help those who have found limited or no success in drug-based treatments and who wish to discontinue them.

We invite you to contact us for further information if you are struggling with Xanax addiction or dependence, and wish to find holistic answers to these problems.


This content has been reviewed, and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Michael Loes, M.D.

Dr. Michael Loes is board certified in Internal Medicine , Pain Management and Addiction Medicine. He holds a dual license in Homeopathic and Integrative Medicine. He obtained his medical doctorate at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1978. Dr Loes performed an externship at the National Institute of Health for Psychopharmacology. Additionally he is a well published author including Arthritis: The Doctor’s Cure, The Aspirin Alternative, The Healing Response and Spirit Driven Health: The Psalmist’s Guide for Recovery. He has been awarded the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s “Excellence in Research” Award.

View Bio

Holistic Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Articles

News, media and up to date information on medications, symptoms and side effect, addiction and treatment for substance abuse from our expert staff.