Treatment for Xanax Addiction and Misuse: Detox, Therapy, and More

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Alprazolam (Xanax) is a controlled substance (C-IV) because it may cause a substance use disorder and can lead to dependence in many cases.1 It’s important to seek treatment for Xanax addiction if you or someone you know struggles with discontinuing use.

In 2019, the Federal Drug Administration reported that approximately 35 million prescriptions for Xanax were distributed in the United States,4,5 demonstrating just how prevalent Xanax use is in our society. Luckily, there are ways to combat any substance use disorder and resources available to help you start your journey.

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment for Xanax Addiction

As with the treatment of most drug disorders, inpatient and outpatient therapies are options to treat Xanax abuse. Various factors come into play when deciding which type of rehab is the best, such as the severity of the disorder and how long the problem has been present.

You probably haven’t been able to treat your Xanax addiction by yourself so far, so doing it yourself as an outpatient is very difficult. Outpatient care for a Xanax addiction exposes you to many dangers because of the risks involved with detoxification.

If you develop hallucinations, confusion, seizures, or difficulty breathing, you will need immediate medical attention. Even if you do not experience serious side effects with your treatment for a Xanax addiction, you need the constant support that a trained team of professionals gives you on a regularly scheduled basis.

Inpatient treatment for a Xanax addiction is safer than trying to do it yourself at home. An inpatient setting allows for close observation by medical specialists who are trained to handle emergencies.

Inpatient treatment may be the safest option if you:

  • Have been using Xanax for a long time
  • Use high doses of the medicine
  • Have other severe disorders

Xanax Detox

After you consent to treatment, the next step involves completely stopping the use of Xanax. Detox is safer under medical supervision as an inpatient. Many serious problems can occur at home, and it is less dangerous to undergo detox as an inpatient. This is usually performed slowly to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

It is recommended that Xanax use isn’t stopped cold turkey but instead tapered off to avoid serious withdrawal symptoms. The tapering speed will depend on the amount of Xanax you have been taking and how long you’ve been using it. The average time it takes to stop using Xanax completely is approximately 4 weeks. If the tapering causes major discomfort, the previous dose is increased for a short time.14

Klonopin for Xanax Addiction Treatment

Short-acting benzodiazepines like Xanax are more likely to cause problems when discontinued than long-acting benzodiazepines such as clonazepam (Klonopin). Klonopin is used as a substitute for Xanax when detox begins—they are basically switched.

Medicines like Klonopin have a slow onset of action and are eliminated from the body slower than Xanax. There is less mid-dose anxiety with Klonopin than with Xanax, so when Klonopin is substituted for Xanax, it is easier to taper the Klonopin.

Klonopin has a smoother time-release than Xanax, so you will experience fewer withdrawal symptoms than when Xanax is tapered. You will find it easier to discontinue Klonopin and have fewer side effects and anxiety than with the stoppage of Xanax.15

It may seem illogical that one benzodiazepine is being substituted for another, but the two medicines have major differences, especially when Klonopin is used for a short period of time. Klonopin is not taken for an extended period.

Other medicines treat withdrawal symptoms and/or seizures. Specific drugs are effective for tremors, anxiety, agitation, and other conditions associated with withdrawal.

Counseling, Therapy, and Other Programs

Counseling is essential in this healing process, and both individual and group sessions are beneficial. Counseling helps patients identify underlying problems and triggers that contribute to their disorder. Coping skills help alter behavior and get better outcomes.

A comprehensive evaluation and treatment plan is instituted for you by trained medical staff. You may be resistant to counseling at the onset of your program, but you will later realize how important and helpful this part of the recovery process is.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

One of the methods used is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. Unlike some therapies that deal with the past, CBT focuses on the present and how you can modify your thought process to change an undesirable outcome.

Strategies allow you to cope with high-risk situations that otherwise might be harmful. You are taught how to deal with situations that otherwise would become tragic.

It is just as easy to make a wise decision instead of a choice that will lead to misery. The poor decision will not only affect you but your family and friends. CBT is a technique that you can use for the rest of your life in various circumstances.

Family Therapy

Family therapy plays an important part in overall well-being during treatment for Xanax addiction and misuse. Family and friends are an important part of your life, and these relationships can either help or sabotage your progress during rehab.

These connections are very complicated and must be closely evaluated if progress is to be made. These are people that you come into contact with on a regular and intimate basis. Are they providing a healthy environment or conditions that will lead to failure?

Sometimes difficult choices that affect long-term relationships must be made. You may have to make certain decisions if you have family members who are abusing drugs. Some relationships may have to be severed for your long-term well-being. You can’t choose your relatives, but you can make decisions that affect your contact with toxic individuals.

12-Step Programs Used in Treatment for Xanax Addiction

Twelve-step programs from the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), are recommended to treat Xanax addiction. With this method, you recognize that you are powerless to solve your drug problem without help.

Peer-to-peer guidance is prominent in this therapy, and meetings take place regularly. Continuous support and strong relationships can help you as you start your treatment journey. The 12-step program can be an ongoing process and continued indefinitely. You will find it helpful to have a support group that is always available should you need help.

Call 800-681-1058 (Info iconWho Answers?) to speak with a treatment specialist and find a rehab center.

Xanax Overdose Treatment

Xanax overdoses can be intentional or accidental. It has been found that those who overdose on Xanax have longer hospitalization stays, have more admissions to the ICU than the other overdoses, and are more likely to be in a coma. It has been concluded that Xanax is more toxic than other benzodiazepines.13

The combination of Xanax and alcohol or Xanax and opioids can be lethal. Your entire body is affected by these overdoses, and the respiratory system, the heart, and the neurological system are all particularly vulnerable.

Monitoring of your vital signs is important, and supportive measures must take place. Gastric lavage and intravenous fluids are standard procedures. A specific benzodiazepine antagonist can be used to counteract the sedative effects of Xanax. Since the possibility of seizures exists, you may require intubation.

Because of the possibility of misuse and overdoses, treatment for Xanax misuse and addiction is important.

Xanax Addiction

Pfizer, the manufacturer of Xanax, reports that Xanax can cause severe emotional and physical dependence6 with higher than average doses increasing the severity of withdrawal.

Because of how quickly the onset of Xanax occurs, you might think it’s safe to take more before your body fully processes your first dose.7 If you take additional doses of the medicine more often or earlier than prescribed, the effects will “wear off” sooner than you want and will likely lead to an unhealthy amount of doses taken per day.

If you notice compulsive, drug-seeking behavior and loss of control happen, you or your loved one may be dealing with Xanax addiction. If you or someone you know takes Xanax before operating heavy machinery or engaging in dangerous tasks, it’s a sign that your cravings are controlling your behaviors.

Taking more and more medication makes your tolerance to Xanax rise, and if you’re taking more than you should, your supply might run out early. You may spend a lot of time dedicated to finding other ways to buy Xanax if you are finishing your pills faster than you’re able to renew your prescription.

If you aren’t able to find more or higher doses, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. It can be extremely dangerous to ingest more Xanax than you are prescribed, and that practice can even lead to overdose.

Precautions for Xanax Use

Pfizer advises that taking benzodiazepines like Xanax with opioids, alcohol, or other depressants can cause severe drowsiness, breathing problems, coma, and death. Xanax should only be used as prescribed by your doctor, and be sure to follow all instructions for your safety.

You shouldn’t use Xanax:

  • When taking antifungal medicine
  • If you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant
  • If you are breastfeeding
  • If you suffer from narrow-angle glaucoma
  • If you are younger than 18
  • If you are taking erythromycin.9

Concentrations of Xanax become higher in users who are of Asian descent as compared to those who are Caucasian.10 Levels of Xanax decrease in smokers compared to non-smokers.11

You should not take Xanax if you are allergic to lorazepam (Ativan), triazolam (Halcion), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium), or clonazepam (Klonopin).

You should seek medical attention immediately if you develop any of the following:

  • Severe forgetfulness
  • Trouble speaking
  • Unsteadiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Labored breathing
  • Fainting
  • A seizure

Side effects of Xanax include:8

  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Irritability
  • Nasal congestion
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased appetite


  1. Viatris. (n.d.) Important safety information and indication. Retrieved 2021.
  2. Entringer, S. (2021). Alprazolam. Retrieved 2021.
  3. (2021). Xanax. Retrieved 2021.
  4. Pfizer. (2017). XANAX® (ALPRAZOLAM). Retrieved 2021.
  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2021). Drug Safety Communications.
  6. Pfizer. (2017). XANAX® (ALPRAZOLAM). Retrieved 2021.
  7. O’Brien, C. (2005). Benzodiazepine use, abuse and dependence. J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66 (sup 2). 2005.
  8. Pfizer. (2017). XANAX® (ALPRAZOLAM). Retrieved 2021.
  9. Viatris. (n.d.) Important safety information and indication. Retrieved 2021.
  10. Kitada, M. (2003). Genetic polymorphism of cytochrome P450 enzymes in Asian populations. J Clin Pharmacol Res. 23(1), 31-5.
  11. (2021). Xanax. Retrieved 2021.
  12. DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, ed.5. Arlington, Va. APA press.
  13. Isbister, G. et al. (2004). Alprazolam is relatively more toxic than other benzodiazepines in overdose. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 58(1), 88-95.
  14. O’Brien, C. (2005). Benzodiazepine use, abuse and dependence. J Clin Psychiatry. 66(2).
  15. Albeck, J. H. (1987). Withdrawal and detoxification from benzodiazepine dependence: a potential role for clonazepam. J Clin Psychiatry. 48(supply), 43-49.
Pen iconAuthor
Dr. Alan Lucks
Dr Alan Lucks, MD
Retired Physician, Writer
Dr. Alan Lucks is a specialist in Internal Medicine with over 30 years of clinical practice serving the New York community. After retirement, he has devoted his time to writing and painting in an attempt to broaden his artistic skills.