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Is Xanax a Narcotic? Side Effects of Taking Xanax & Addiction Potential

Xanax is one of the many prescription medications, classified as benzodiazepines, that is widely prescribed to treat depression, anxiety disorders, and panic attacks. It lowers overexcitement in the brain by calming down the central nervous system. Xanax is not a narcotic, but it can be harmful.

Whether a drug is considered a narcotic, they all come with risks. Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed benzos, but that does not mean there are no side effects that can be experienced. Generally, if used within your doctors’ instructions, Xanax can be a safe way to manage anxiety and panic attacks. Still, when misused, it can lead to serious adverse side effects, including heart problems, dependency, and even addiction.

Is Xanax a Narcotic?

While Xanax is not a narcotic, the main active ingredient, alprazolam, is a Schedule IV controlled substance. This means that it is not as addictive or likely to be abused as a Schedule III drug, but the risk is still there. Other common benzodiazepines include Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin.

Benzodiazepines can calm and relax the brain by depressing the central nervous system. As a result, they slow down the brain and cause overwhelming feelings of anxiety. In addition to depression and anxiety disorders, Xanax is prescribed to help with insomnia.

As one of the most commonly prescribed prescription medications, it is not surprising that the addiction rates, especially amongst younger people, are so high. Alprazolam has several common street names, including Xans, bars, blue footballs, and xannies.

Side Effects of Taking Xanax & Narcotics

Xanax is not a narcotic but can come with similar side effects that narcotics cause. Within minutes of ingestion, the short-term side effects of Xanax become noticeable.

Short-term side effects can include:

  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Difficulty forming sentences
  • Slurring of words
  • Depressions
  • Seizures
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty urinating

Long-term side effects of Xanax use can include:

  • Seizures and tremors
  • Memory issues
  • Hyperactivity and agitation
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Sedative effects that last up to 4 days

These side effects can happen when Xanax is taken on its own. You can run into serious problems when you mix other drugs, such as opiates, alcohol, or benzodiazepines. The side effects can be much more intense and be reinforced by other substances that have been introduced into your system.

Addiction Potential for Xanax & Narcotics

When good things happen, such as winning a race or eating a tasty snack, your brain releases the feel-good chemical dopamine. Not only does this release make you feel happier, but your brain also wants it to happen again. This results in repeating the action to feel that release. Unfortunately, this process can quickly lead to an addiction, especially with Xanax, since it alters the brain’s signals to release dopamine and produce larger amounts.

In addition to the increase in dopamine, Xanax also increases GABA activity, which gives people feelings of disinhibition, relaxation, and light-headedness.

As a fast-acting benzodiazepine, it does not take long at all for significant changes to the brain to take place. Therefore, taking Xanax regularly for a short time can easily lead to dependence, as it is a highly addictive medication.

Over time, your brain will begin to build up a tolerance to the drug. This can begin to happen in as short as a few days. When your body has a tolerance built up, it takes more of the drug to get the same effects you were getting initially. This leads to taking a larger amount, making withdrawal symptoms much more intense when you try to quit.

A Xanax addiction can present itself in many ways. Despite what movies and television show, addiction is not always obvious and can often be hard to spot until you or your loved one are deep into it. There are many signs and symptoms of addiction.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one are experiencing an addiction to Xanax, keep an eye out for some common signs of an addiction.

These signs and symptoms can include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Unusual sleeping patterns
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • The impulse to hurt yourself
  • Suicidal thoughts

Before noticing physical and emotional changes, there are often behavioral signs that show up first:

  • Stealing from and lying to family and friends
  • Isolation and decrease in socialization
  • Being defensive when asked about their Xanax use
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities or hobbies

Addiction to antidepressants and benzodiazepines can be tricky to spot initially, especially for those struggling with mental health for a long time, as many noticeable changes overlap with the side effects of many mental illnesses. However, if you are even concerned that someone is dealing with an addiction, checking on them is never a bad plan.

Narcotic & Xanax Addiction Help

Drug addiction is a hard thing to get through. Long-term heavy use can take a serious toll on your mental and emotional health, and taking large amounts of Xanax means the withdrawal symptoms may be worse than expected. Getting clean is always a good idea, though.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleeplessness
  • Anger
  • Insomnia
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The withdrawal symptoms could become severe and potentially dangerous, but you do not have to face this process alone. The emergency room at your local hospital can help if you are experiencing serious withdrawals. Otherwise, get in touch with a recovery facility to devise a plan to get you through detox and keep you sober. Seeking help through a premier rehab facility is the most effective way to ensure long-term sobriety. In addition, it can help you get to the root of why you were using drugs and help prevent the chances of returning to drugs. 

When it comes to getting clean, the first step is admitting you have a problem and need help. Once you have a plan to get you through detox, the rest of your life is waiting. You deserve the opportunity to live a life free from the bondage of addiction.

Sources:

Ocean Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial policy.

  1. Preuss CV, Kalava A, King KC. Prescription of Controlled Substances: Benefits and Risks. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022. Accessed July 30, 2022.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537318/
  2. Nichols H. Xanax: Warnings, uses, and side effects. Published November 8, 2020. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263490
Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Infinite RecoveryAscendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed July 30, 2022