How Much Xanax Is Too Much?

Xanax, a prescription drug used for anxiety and panic disorders, is one of the most misused medications in the United States. As a brand name of alprazolam, Xanax is considered a benzodiazepine, a class of psychoactive drugs that provide tranquil and calming effects for a person’s brain and central nervous system.

Benzodiazepines alter the movement of chemicals in the body in order to prevent certain imbalances that cause people to feel nervous or anxious. Xanax, in particular, boosts the presence of a relaxation-inducing chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When this chemical’s effects are heightened in the body, the imbalance is eliminated. As of 2010, around 46,000 people relied on a Xanax prescription to handle their anxiety or panic disorders.

Despite the benefits of using the drug, Xanax can be extremely addictive. Regularly taking the drug can create a tolerance, since the body becomes accustomed to the level of GABA produced. This tolerance requires a larger dose of Xanax to achieve the intended calming effects.

Xanax should be used in a safe manner. Knowing more information about the use of the drug — including the proper dosage and a recommended frequency — can help people to understand how much Xanax is too much.

man looking concerned about how much xanax to take
Each person’s unique physical attributes can affect the dosage of Xanax that a doctor recommends when providing a prescription for the drug. The usual Xanax dosage is between 0.75 and 1.5 mg per day with each daily amount broken up into three 0.25–0.5 mg doses. However, this is just the normal dose of Xanax. Depending on the severity of a person’s anxiety or panic disorder, the dosage can be increased. The maximum daily dose is recommended at 4 mg, although the lowest-possible dose that is effective for treating a disorder should be used. Taking a larger dose can be dangerous and includes the risk of building a dependence on the drug or even overdosing.

There are four different types of Xanax. Each of the four types of Xanax are distinguished by name based on their strength in mg:

  • Xanax 0.25
  • Xanax 0.5
  • Xanax 1.0
  • Xanax 2

Xanax 0.25 is a white, elliptical-shaped pill. Xanax 0.5 has the same oval shape as 0.25 but is an orange color. Xanax 1.0 is a blue pill with the same elliptical shape. Xanax 2 is a rectangle-shaped pill and white.

People who are interested in asking their doctor for a Xanax prescription or who have just received one might ask, “How often can I take Xanax?” The answer depends on the doctor’s orders.

People usually spread their daily Xanax dose throughout the day, often in four increments. Doing so prevents someone overdosing on Xanax. Since the daily dose can change for different people, based on their physical attributes and the level of their disorder, there is no decided maximum dose of Xanax. The recommended limit is 4 mg per day but some people might receive a prescription that allows them to take more in a day or restricts them to less.

When a dependence forms for Xanax, the dosage must be increased for the drug to provide the same calming effects. Increasing the dosage can lead to a dependence, as the body becomes used to Xanax’s presence to produce enough GABA to achieve a chemical balance. When someone does not take Xanax for a period of time, withdrawal symptoms such as extreme anxiety or nervousness could emerge. Experiencing these effects can result in someone taking too much Xanax, an amount that differs for each person. If this occurs, a Xanax overdose could happen.

Xanax overdose is a problem in the U.S. The Chicago Tribune reported that the use of benzos, a drug class that also includes prescription medications Valium and Ativan, accounted for approximately 7,000 overdose deaths in 2013.

Knowing the Xanax overdose symptoms can help someone determine if they or their loved one needs immediate medical assistance. The common signs of a Xanax overdose are:

  • Abnormal breathing, often changing between fast and slow frequencies
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Blurry vision
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint

If you or someone you know has experienced any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance immediately. Taking Xanax has helped many people who struggle with anxiety or panic disorders. However, the medication can be dangerous when misused, or even used as prescribed. The drug can be addictive and many people face a challenge of no longer taking the drug when their prescription ends or sticking with the prescribed amount. 

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.