The history of Xanax spans the 60 years since the drug was created.

Xanax is a benzodiazepine medication prescribed to treat anxiety. Xanax is one of the most widely prescribed anxiety medications in the United States and also one of the most commonly abused.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified Xanax as a Schedule IV substance. Schedule IV drugs have a low potential for abuse and dependence. It is still possible to abuse Xanax and develop an addiction, just less likely than drugs in lower schedules.

Compared to other drugs in the United States, Xanax’s history is short but interesting.

The Invention of Xanax

In 1955 the chemist Dr. Leo Sternbach discovered the first benzodiazepine, chlordiazepoxide (Librium) while trying to create a new dye. Librium was marketed by the Hoffman-La Roche company starting in 1960 and diazepam (Valium) in 1963. Much interest surrounded these new drugs because they appeared less toxic with less negative side effects than other depressant drugs were at the time.

Upjohn Pharmaceuticals was researching Xanax (alprazolam) as early as the 1960s. However, they held off on releasing it because benzodiazepines were starting to attain a bad name in the 1970s. Their other benzodiazepine, Valium, also received bad press. As a response, Upjohn released Xanax as a “safer” alternative to Valium. The FDA first approved the drug as a panic disorder treatment.

Original Purpose of Xanax

Tranquilizers and “downer” medications were popular in the 1950s and 1960s as a response to amphetamine use during World War II. The biggest downers of the time were barbiturates.

Barbiturates were popular drugs and used as “sleep cures” and treatments for epilepsy. Unfortunately, barbiturates are very addictive and deadly. For example, the barbiturate sodium thiopental is used as a component in lethal injections in prisons.

Benzodiazepines were supposed to be a safer and less deadly alternative to barbiturates. Benzodiazepines are safer than barbituates (they do not cause people to stop breathing), but they are just as addictive and cause serious withdrawal symptoms.

Facts About Xanax

Some interesting facts about Xanax include:

  • In 2016, Xanax was the second-most prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States
  • Xanax is referred to as “bars” or “zannies” in music and pop culture
  • Xanax does not cause overdoses on its own but it is very deadly when combined with alcohol
  • Xanax can also treat seizures, but is not used because it only comes as an oral form. People having a seizure cannot swallow medication.

When discussing Xanax facts, people should also consider Xanax abuse facts. Xanax is, as mentioned, consistently within the most-prescribed medications in the United States and is frequently a reason for emergency room visits due to an overdose. A 2011 study found that 10% of all emergency room visits due to prescription medication abuse involved alprazolam.

Xanax in Other Countries

Xanax is legal in most countries. Examples of how Xanax is prescribed in other countries include:

  • Germany: Not scheduled when prescribed up to 1 mg. Larger amounts are considered a scheduled medication.
  • Ireland: Schedule IV medication.
  • Sweden: Schedule IV medication.
  • United Kingdom: Class C (equivalent to the United States’s Schedule IV), but people cannot obtain it through the National Health Service. Xanax must be obtained by private prescription.
  • United States: Schedule IV prescription drug.

Xanax Statistics

Xanax statistics help people learn how the drug impacts the public. Xanax accounts for about one-third of all the benzodiazepine prescriptions in each state. In most states in the United States, it is the most-prescribed benzodiazepine. High rates of prescription mean the drug is also widely available on the street.

Xanax Consumer Statistics

Xanax abuse statistics can help people understand the impact it has on the United States.

  • Older adults, over 65 years old receive the most prescriptions for Xanax from their doctors compared to other age groups
  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 40 million Americans 12 years or older used prescription tranquilizers (including alprazolam) in 2015
  • Out of those 40 million Americans using prescription tranquilizers, Xanax products make up 20 million, or half, of all tranquilizer use
  • Between 1996 and 2013, the number of Xanax tablets prescribed to American adults has tripled

Xanax Overdose Statistics

Xanax death statistics and statistics on overdose reveal how dangerous the drug can be:

  • According to the CDC, 23% of people who die of an opioid overdose also test positive for a benzodiazepine in their system
  • Xanax is the most-mentioned benzodiazepine in drug-related emergency room visits, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN)
  • Xanax is involved in one-third of intentional overdoses and suicide attempts
  • Between 2003 and 2009, Xanax had a 233% increase in death rates, second only to oxycodone
  • In 2017, the number of deaths from benzodiazepine overdose in the United States was over 11,000 and has been increasing every year since 1999

Xanax Recovery Statistics

Federal and state governments do not track statistics on Xanax addiction and recovery.

However, since Xanax use is so widespread in people with substance use disorder (SUD), there are some general statistics about addiction:

  • About 20% of Americans with SUD receive treatment
  • Between 40% to 60% of people treated for SUD experience relapse, or a return to drug use
  • Relapse rates for other chronic medical disorders like hypertension and asthma are 50% to 70%, meaning SUD has relapse rates comparable to other chronic diseases

Key Points: Xanax History, Facts, and Statistics

Keep the following key points in mind when considering Xanax:

  • Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine
  • Xanax treats anxiety and panic disorders
  • Dr. Leo Sternbach discovered Librium, the first known benzodiazepine
  • Benzodiazepines gained popularity as an alternative to deadly and addictive barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines turned out to be less deadly but just as addictive as barbiturates
  • Upjohn Pharmaceuticals released Xanax as a safer alternative to other benzodiazepines during the 1970s
  • Xanax is just as dangerous as other benzodiazepines

If you or a loved one live with a Xanax addiction, contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative to learn how individualized treatment helps address addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders. You deserve a healthier future, call today.