Chances are you’ve heard of Xanax and possibly even taken it yourself for anxiety. If not, you likely know someone close to you who has at one point or another taken Xanax, but how do you know when someone is on Xanax? Also, how do you know when Xanax use has become a problem? Are there signs someone is abusing Xanax, and if so, how can you recognize them?

These are all common questions and concerns people have, particularly with how pervasive the use of Xanax, both prescribed and illicit use, has become.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is the brand name of a drug called alprazolam, which is used in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. This medication belongs to the broader class of drugs, benzodiazepines, frequently just referred to as benzos. Xanax is considered a potent benzo, and it’s taken as a tablet or an extended-release capsule.

Xanax impacts the brain and central nervous system to create a sense of calm by increasing the effects of GABA, which is a chemical found naturally in our bodies.

It’s the most prescribed benzodiazepine in the U.S., and it’s prescribed at a much higher rate than similar drugs like Ativan and Klonopin. There are tens of millions of prescriptions written for Xanax written each year and this drug absolutely has the potential for abuse and addiction, which is why people often wonder what the signs are of someone on Xanax.

Common Side Effects of Xanax Use

Even if you’re prescribed by a doctor to take Xanax, some negative side effects may occur with the use of this drug. These common side effects aren’t necessarily always signs of abuse, rather they may occur with any use of this drug. Regardless of the reason someone takes Xanax, the effects usually start to occur within about an hour and last for around six hours in total.

  • Other Physical Symptoms of Xanax Use:

    • Drowsiness and sedation
    • Sleeping for long, unusual periods of time
    • Feeling lightheaded
    • Concentration and memory problems
    • Sluggishness
    • Nausea
    • Headache
    • Blurred or double vision
    • Irritability
    • Lack of coordination
    • Dry mouth
    • Tremors

Common Signs of Xanax Addiction

So, what if you’re wondering whether or not someone is not just on Xanax but abusing it? The more Xanax a person takes, the more likely they are to experience the following signs of abuse. Common signs of Xanax addiction that are visible to observers include trouble with cognition and also trouble forming words properly. A lot of times people who are on Xanax will sound similar to someone who is intoxicated from alcohol because of slurring.

Behavioral Signs

Psychological Signs

Overdose Signs

As someone continues to use Xanax, they may build a tolerance to the drug, requiring them to take higher doses to get the desired effect. When this happens, the signs someone is on Xanax can become not only more apparent to observers but also potentially more dangerous.

When someone takes high doses of Xanax or is regularly abusing the drug, they may have mental problems including thoughts of suicide or hurting themselves, aggression or hostility, or depression. Also possible are chest pains, involuntary muscle movements, hallucinations and even seizures.

Xanax overdose is also possible when someone takes too much or takes it too frequently in a short window of time. Signs that someone is on Xanax and experiencing an overdose can include blurred vision, extreme slurring, weakness, slowed breathing and possibly, in severe cases, coma.

If someone is both drinking and taking Xanax the likelihood of an overdose becomes higher.

Other Signs of Being on Xanax

If you’re concerned someone might be on Xanax, especially if they’re using it without a prescription or they’re abusing, other red flags can include seeing pill bottles lying around, even if they’re not labeled as the drug. With any drug addiction there tends to be typical behaviors that the person using will exhibit.  Xanax is no exception.

Xanax itself is a pill shaped like a bar, and there are generic versions that are green or yellow, while the brand Xanax is white in color.

  • Tolerance:

    In addition to the physical side effects of Xanax named above, if someone is abusing the drug, they will often start to feel not only as if they need more to get the same effect, but that they can’t function without it. They will start to concentrate a lot of their energy on Xanax and its role in their life.

  • Changes in Interests:

    A person who is not just on Xanax but also addicted to Xanax will often lose motivation and interest in everyday activities, and with this drug in particular, they may retreat socially, preferred to sleep or spend time alone. It tends to damage their relationships with friends and family.

  • Isolation & Secrecy:

    Often people with addictions to prescription pills will even resort to stealing medications from people around them, including elderly relatives. They may also visit many doctors in their area trying to get multiple prescriptions for the drug.

    There tends to be a lot of lying and secrecy among people who are on Xanax or abusing any drug, and they will often respond with defensiveness when confronted with the issue.

One of the tricky things about recognizing the signs that someone has a Xanax addiction is the fact that since it is a prescription drug, people taking it tend to see it as safe. They feel like their doctor told them to take it, therefore it’s not a problem.

When you recognize the signs that someone is on Xanax and potentially has a problem with the drug, it can be good to speak with an addiction specialist who can help you talk with that person and develop a course of action.