Xanax is popular because the short-term effects create a euphoric feeling. Unfortunately, many people misuse Xanax, resulting in death or addiction.

You have more than likely heard of Xanax or maybe even been prescribed it yourself, but have you ever wondered why Xanax is so popular or commonly used? This article will give you a glimpse behind how Xanax can make you feel and why it has gained so much popularity in clinical, and unfortunately, recreational settings. 

Article at a Glance:  

  • Xanax has been around since the mid-1970s and is one of the most prescribed benzodiazepines.  
  • Xanax is effective in treating anxiety and fear in many people.  
  • However, Xanax causes a euphoric high, which leads people to take it who don’t really need it. 
  • Xanax abuse can lead to memory impairment and overdose deaths.  
  • Xanax should never be taken recreationally or without a prescription.  

When did the popularity start?

Xanax is a powerful benzodiazepine that was introduced in the mid-1970s, and it is one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the benzodiazepine class in the United States, since it is prescribed at significantly higher rates than other benzos such as Ativan and Klonopin.

What Does Xanax Feel Like?

Xanax slows the central nervous system, creating a depressant effect. The depressant effect impacts brain neurotransmitters in a calming way. Most addiction specialists consider Xanax to be highly addictive. Along with the sedative effect, Xanax releases dopamine and affects the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. Anytime there’s an activation of the pleasure center of the brain, addiction can occur. The brain wants to continue seeking out substances that create a pleasurable effect. 

What Does Xanax Do To You?

Taking Xanax increases the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a brain chemical that produces feelings of calmness and relaxation. Because of these effects, Xanax reduces the level of excitement in the brain, helping with panic and anxiety disorders.The effects on the brain can also include pleasant relaxation or even euphoria. When someone uses Xanax or similar drugs, it relieves anxiety and muscle tension and helps with insomnia. Some people may temporarily lose their memory, experience vivid dreams, or have feelings of irritability or hostility when using Xanax.

Reasons for Popularity – The Good and Bad

One of the key considerations to understand why Xanax is so popular is its effects on people when they use it. There can be plenty of negative side effects, particularly with long-term abuse, but in the short-term, people often have positive feelings that come from using Xanax.

Good: Treatment for Anxiety

Xanax is prescribed for issues related to mental health disorders and, more specifically, anxiety. It can be used to treat general anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and phobias. It can also be used to treat seizures. For people who suffer from anxiety, Xanax can create a sense of relief to allow them to focus on their lives without issues of anxiety or phobias plaguing them. When used as prescribed, it can calm people down and make them feel relaxed.

Xanax can also reduce physiological symptoms of anxiety and fear, such as a racing heart or hyperventilation. Xanax and other benzo drugs are so often prescribed because they work well on anxiety, and they’re cheap.

Bad: Euphoric Highs & Abuse Risks

Unfortunately, Xanax is also popular among people who don’t have a legitimate need for it, or who take it in larger doses or more frequently than prescribed. In these cases, Xanax is popular because it can create a euphoric feeling, especially at higher doses. Xanax tends to start acting quickly after a person takes it, with the euphoric effects of the drug usually appearing within an hour.

A tendency has grown in some social circles to view benzos, like Xanax, as a type of “alcohol” in pill form. It’s become socially acceptable among these groups of friends to get together and share Xanax with one another. Of the 30.5 million people who used benzos in 2015, 17.1% misused them. Misusing Xanax or combining it with other substances like alcohol can amplify its effects, but the results can also be deadly.

Along with recreational use, many people rely on Xanax to deal with issues like situational anxiety without having to commit to therapy, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Xanax is popular in America, for example, because there is a tendency for people to love things that are looked at as a quick-fix. Taking Xanax that’s been prescribed to you alongside therapy can be medically beneficial, but using it without additional therapy or a prescription is Xanax abuse that lead to an addiction.

Xanax has become so mainstream that people don’t see the potential harm it can bring. The popularity of Xanax has also led to an increase in overdoses as a result. Benzodiazepines and opioids are the two most common types of prescription drugs involved in fatal overdoses.

When it’s mixed with alcohol, the sedative effects are amplified. Mixing Xanax with other substances, especially alcohol or opioids, also significantly increases the risk for overdose.

Long-term Xanax use also has consequences. People who use Xanax for extended periods of time can experience long-term side effects like memory impairment. They tend to develop a dependency on it, and then they can’t function properly without its presence. As people develop that tolerance, they need more and more Xanax to get the same effects, which increases their likelihood of an overdose or even death.

For people with debilitating anxiety disorders, Xanax can be life-changing when taken as prescribed. However, it shouldn’t be viewed as a casual drug or a quick fix. It doesn’t matter how popular Xanax is, it shouldn’t be taken without a prescription, or taken with friends as a social drug. It is a serious drug that can have potentially deadly consequences when misused, intentionally or unintentionally.

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Editor – Melissa Carmona
Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Dr. Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has over seven years working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health diagnoses. Read more

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Ait-Daoud, Nassima et al. “A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal.“>A Review[…]d Withdrawal.” Journal of Addiction Medicine, March 12, 2018. Accessed July 22, 2022. 

Tan, Kelly R et al. “Hooked on benzodiazepines: GABAreceptor subtypes and addiction.“>Hooked o[…]nd addiction.” Trends in Neurosciences, May 14, 2014. Accessed July 22, 2022.

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.