Article at a Glance:

  • Xanax (alprazolam) is a Schedule IV controlled substance, meaning it has a low risk of abuse and dependence.
  • It is classified as a benzodiazepine and is prescribed for anxiety and panic disorder.
  • Xanax can be deadly when an overdose occurs, especially when combined with opioids.

Is Xanax a Controlled Substance?

Xanax is a controlled substance. Along with other benzodiazepines, it is currently characterized as a Schedule IV drug, meaning that it has a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence compared to other controlled substances. Nonetheless, these drugs can be habit-forming and deadly, especially when combined with opioids.


  • Is Xanax an amphetamine?

    Xanax is not an amphetamine, which is a stimulant. It is a benzodiazepine, which is a central nervous system depressant.

  • What is a controlled substance?

    A controlled substance is a drug that is tightly controlled by the government because its use can lead to abuse, dependence and addiction.

Xanax Drug Class

Xanax is a benzodiazepine and a Schedule IV controlled substance. By law, this means that a prescription for Xanax is only good for six months and that it can only be refilled up to five times within that period.


  • What are benzodiazepines?

    Benzodiazepines are a class of central nervous system depressants used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms and seizures. They are usually Schedule IV controlled substances.

  • What are other benzos besides Xanax?

    Other benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin).

  • What are Xanax's side effects?

    Xanax’s most common side effects include coordination problems, low blood pressure, problems speaking clearly and decreased sex drive.

  • What is Xanax’s addiction risk?

    Xanax has a low addiction risk compared to other controlled substances, but its addiction risk is still high enough to warrant a controlled substance status.

Does This Mean That Xanax Shouldn’t Be Used?

When the benefits of Xanax outweigh the risks, it can be used under the supervision of a physician and with a prescription. Xanax can help people, and as a Schedule IV drug, the DEA doesn’t consider it highly habit-forming. It is important to discuss your full medical history with your doctor, including any personal or family history of substance abuse, before taking Xanax.


  • Who shouldn’t take Xanax?

    Xanax shouldn’t be taken by people on medications classified as CYP3A inhibitors, like ketoconazole. Your pharmacist will be able to tell you if any of your medications fit into this category.

  • What is Xanax prescribed for?

    Xanax is prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

What Should I Know About Xanax’s Classification?

First, everyone’s experience with Xanax can be different. Some people may be able to use it temporarily to ease symptoms of anxiety with few complications. For other people, it can be an addictive drug that’s difficult to stop using. Xanax is frequently used recreationally and abused by people without a prescription. Xanax tends to lead to physical dependence pretty quickly as well, and withdrawal from this drug can be difficult and severe.

For most people, even when they take Xanax as prescribed, it is necessary to taper off when they stop using it. For some people who use benzodiazepines, particularly when they’re used for an extended period, a medically supervised detox may be necessary. None of these factors are heavily considered in the current drug schedule.

Again, Xanax’s classification as a Schedule IV drug doesn’t address how dangerous it is. Benzos like Xanax are very often involved in visits to the emergency room and in overdose deaths related to opioids. This can happen when they’re used on their own, but it is especially likely when they’re combined with alcohol or opioids.

If you’re concerned that you or a loved one might be abusing Xanax, reach out to The Recovery Village. Our licensed clinicians offer personalized treatment plans that address substance abuse and any co-occurring mental health conditions. Help is just a call away. 

  • Sources

  • 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.

    View our editorial policy or view our research.

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