Many prescription drugs are considered controlled substances as defined by the DEA in the U.S. The drug schedule is based on whether or not a substance has potential medical uses and how habit-forming it is considered to be.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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Editor – Erica Weiman
Erica Weiman graduated from Pace University in 2014 with a master's in Publishing and has been writing and editing ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drug Scheduling.” Accessed October 31, 2021. “Xanax.” September 1, 2021. Accessed October 31, 2021.

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Benzodiazepines.” April 2020. Accessed October 31, 2021.

Gershman, Jennifer. “4 Controlled Substance Laws and Regulations You Should Know.” Pharmacy Times, July 24, 2017. Accessed October 31, 2021.

Bush, Donna. “Emergency Department Visits Involving No[…]edication Alprazolam.” The CBHSQ Report, SAMHSA, May 22, 2014. Accessed October 31, 2021.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Benzodiazepines and Opioids.” February 3, 2021. Accessed October 31, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.