Can taking Xanax cause depression to develop? Learn how the benzodiazepine connects to depression and find out what happens if a substance use disorder develops.

If you or a loved one takes Xanax, you may wonder about mood changes that may be linked to the drug. Specifically, you may wonder if Xanax can impact or cause depression.

Article at a Glance:

  • The link between Xanax and depression is complex
  • Studies are inconclusive about the role of Xanax; it was found to worsen depression, improve depression, and even cause manic symptoms
  • The anxiety which Xanax treats may be the central cause of depression
  • Xanax withdrawal is linked to depression, which can be treated with therapy and antidepressants

Xanax is the brand name for the benzodiazepine alprazolam and is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration because of its risk for abuse and dependence. Additionally, Xanax is linked to mood changes. These changes can include mania in people with depression. Many symptoms of mania exist, such as:

  • Being hyperactive
  • Euphoria
  • Lack of sleep
  • Racing thoughts and speech
  • Being overly confident

However, Xanax is also linked to people developing depression or worsening existing depression. Therefore, the relationship between Xanax and depression is complex. Regardless, it is important to know about the risks of Xanax and depression.

Does Xanax Make You Depressed?

Although depression is listed as a side effect of Xanax, it is unclear if Xanax itself can make you feel depressed or if the depression is due to the problem that Xanax was prescribed for. Xanax is mainly used to treat anxiety and panic disorder. In studies of people with anxiety who took Xanax or placebo, 13.9% of people on Xanax developed depression, while 18.1% of people with anxiety on placebo developed depression. In studies of people with panic disorder who took Xanax, 13.8% of people on Xanax developed depression, while 14% of people with panic disorder on placebo developed depression. More people taking placebo developed depression than people taking Xanax.

Anxiety, with or without the use of Xanax, is a major risk factor for depression. Although people without anxiety have a 16.2% risk of having depression, people with anxiety have a 62% risk of having depression. Many people with anxiety live with chronic depression: a study found 59% of people with anxiety had depression during the year before the study. Therefore, it can be difficult to know if Xanax causes depression, or if it is the anxiety that Xanax is being used to treat that causes depression. Some studies even show that Xanax may help improve depression.

Does Depression Lead To Xanax Use?

Depression is often linked to anxiety, which may be the reason for a doctor prescribing Xanax. Xanax works to control anxiety symptoms, even when the anxiety is caused by depression. Therefore, if you have depression with anxiety, your doctor may prescribe Xanax to help the anxiety. Depression itself is not the reason to take Xanax; the anxiety from the depression is.

However, drugs like Xanax can also be bought illegally on the street. Someone with depression might attempt to self-medicate with Xanax. Substance abuse and depression are linked. Doctors think that having a mood disorder makes a person more vulnerable to substance abuse. One of the reasons for this belief is that people may try to self-treat their mood disorder with drugs. Studies show that someone with a mood disorder is twice as likely to struggle with drug abuse than someone who does not have mood disorders.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax withdrawal and depression may also be linked. Xanax has many withdrawal symptoms, including depression and rebound anxiety. The depression symptoms from Xanax withdrawal may last a few months. However, this type of depression responds well to antidepressants. If you need an antidepressant, your doctor can help you choose the drug that is best for you.

Treatment for Xanax Abuse and Co-Occurring Depression

If a person needs to stop Xanax use, their doctor can help them figure out how to quit the medications and treat depression. Therapy may be involved and may help people quit Xanax as well as treat their mood disorder. Sometimes, doctors may prescribe a Xanax taper, which is a slow decrease in the Xanax dosage. The length of the taper may depend on how long a person took Xanax for, and their reason for doing so. Their doctor may also prescribe a drug to help you with Xanax withdrawal symptoms. These drugs can include:

  • Carbamazepine
  • Valproic Acid
  • Trazodone
  • Imipramine

If you or a loved one struggle with Xanax use and addiction — with or without depression —you do not have to go through it alone. Professionals at The Recovery Village can help you every step of the way toward sobriety. Contact The Recovery Village today to learn more

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. 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

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Xanax-alprazolam Tablet.” September 13, 2018. Accessed May 27, 2019.

Reddy J., Khanna S., Anand U., Banerjee A. “Alprazolam-induced Hypomania.” The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, August 1996. Accessed May 27, 2019.

Coplan JD., Aaronson CJ., Panthangi V.,  Kim Y. “Treating Comorbid Anxiety and Depression[…]cological Approaches.” World Journal of Psychiatry, December 22, 2015. Accessed May 27, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses.” September 2010. Accessed May 27, 2019.

Van Marwijk H., Allick G., Wegman F., et al. “Alprazolam for depression.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, July 11, 2012. Accessed May 27, 2019.

Parks, J. “Safe & Effective Use of Benzodiazepi[…]in Clinical Practice.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, May 31, 2017. Accessed May 26, 2018.

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.