Beds available now! Call for same-day admission.

Xanax Addiction Signs & Side Effects

Last Updated: October 26, 2022

Jump to Section

Xanax’s side effects can range from mild sedation to life-threatening slowed breathing, and they vary depending on what your Xanax prescription is for.

Xanax is a central nervous system depressant commonly prescribed for anxiety disorder and panic disorders. It enhances gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity in the brain, slowing brain activity. The drug is available in both short and long-acting dosage forms, and it typically takes about one to two hours to reach peak effectiveness. There are many side effects of Xanax, so it’s essential to understand the difference between symptoms of Xanax use and Xanax abuse.

Common Xanax Side Effects

Even when taken as prescribed, Xanax has a variety of side effects. These effects can be especially prominent in older adults who are more sensitive to the side effects of Xanax and other benzodiazepines. Generally, Xanax side effects are similar for both the short and long-acting versions of the drug. However, side effects can vary depending on the reason you’re taking Xanax.

Common side effects of Xanax:

When used for anxiety (both short and long-acting):

  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

When used for panic disorder (short-acting):

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Coordination problems
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Lightheadedness
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Headache
  • Memory problems 
  • Joint pain
  • Anxiety
  • Abnormal involuntary movements
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Depression
  • Confusion 
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Nasal congestion
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Sweating
  • Rash
  • Appetite changes 
  • Weight changes 
  • Problems urinating
  • Menstrual disorders

When used for panic disorder (long-acting):

  • Sedation
  • Sleepiness
  • Memory problems 
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Dry mouth

FAQs About Xanax Effects

Does Xanax cause weight gain?

Xanax can cause weight changes, including both weight gain and weight loss. These side effects are more common in people taking the short-acting version of the drug for panic disorder.

How does Xanax make you feel?

Xanax typically causes sleepiness and a relaxed mood.

How does Xanax Work?

Xanax works by enhancing the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA slows down brain activity, making a person feel calmer.

How long does it take for Xanax to kick in?

Short-acting Xanax typically kicks in within 1–2 hours after taking a dose, while long-acting Xanax can take up to five hours.

How Long Do the Effects of Xanax Last?

Xanax’s effects can last for different amounts of time in the body depending on whether you are taking the short or long-acting version of the drug. 

After reaching a peak level in the body after 1–2 hours, short-acting Xanax starts to wear off in the body. The half-life, or the length of time it takes the body to remove half the dose from your system, is 11–12.5 hours in most people. You will generally feel the drug wear off during this time. However, because it generally takes five half-lives to totally remove a drug from your body, you may still feel Xanax’s effects for several days.

Similarly, long-acting Xanax starts to wear off after about 11 hours. However, the half-life of long-acting Xanax is up to 16 hours, meaning that its effects may continue to linger for several days.

In addition, the elderly, people of Asian descent, obese people and those with alcoholic liver disease may all have increased Xanax half-lives, making them more sensitive to the effects of Xanax for longer periods of time.

Signs of a Xanax Addiction

There is a difference between Xanax misuse and Xanax addiction. The longer someone misuses Xanax, the more likely they are to develop a Xanax addiction. When someone has a Xanax addiction, they have progressed beyond misuse of the drug. They have a physical dependence and psychological addiction to it, meaning their body and mind don’t feel normal without the drug. 

When someone has a Xanax use disorder, they may show both physical and behavioral signs of their addiction. These include:

Physical Signs of Xanax Use

  • Sleepiness
  • Relaxed mood
  • Memory problems
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Vivid dreams

Behavioral Signs of Xanax Use

  • Stealing from friends or family
  • Going to different doctors or pharmacies to get Xanax 
  • Lying to obtain Xanax
  • Making Xanax their main priority in life
  • Taking Xanax in spite of negative consequences
  • Taking it without a prescription 
  • Unsuccessfully trying to stop taking Xanax

Short-Term Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

Over the short term, symptoms of a Xanax use disorder can include drowsiness, memory problems and confusion. However, the risk of Xanax overdose is also present, especially when the drug is combined with other central nervous system depressants like opioids.

Long-Term Effects of Xanax Addiction

Over the long term, people with a Xanax addiction have a higher risk of cognitive impairment, motor vehicle crashes and hip fractures. Some side effects, like cognitive decline, may not be reversible.

Can You Overdose on Xanax?

It is possible to overdose on Xanax. The FDA has a Boxed Warning on Xanax for this reason, cautioning against combining the drug with other central nervous system depressants like opioids. Even compared to other benzodiazepines, Xanax has a high risk of potentially deadly side effects like slowed breathing in overdose. For this reason, it is important not to exceed the dose of Xanax that your doctor prescribed. For anxiety, the maximum dose of Xanax is 4mg daily, and for panic disorder the maximum dose is 10mg daily.

Next: Side Effects of Stopping Xanax → 


Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.