Alprazolam Addiction Treatment

You can quit alprazolam for good! Learn how medical detox and psychotherapy can get you on a path to a drug-free life.

minute read
Reviewed by: Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

ARTICLE SUMMARY: Addiction is a medical condition. As such, it can be treated. Here, we review the BEST PRACTICES in addiction treatment for problems with alprazolam. Then, we invite your questions at the end.

Table of Contents

Is Alprazolam Addictive?

Yes, alprazolam is a highly addictive benzodiazepine. It is the main active ingredient found in the popular medication, Xanax. In fact, anyone who takes alprazolam can become addicted to it, even when taking it for legitimate medical need.

Alprazolam has been known to be addictive since the late 1960’s. This is why aprazolam is a controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act, enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration. As written on the FDA approved Xanax drug label, the benzo has been assigned as a Schedule IV drug.

The medical term for addiction is “Substance Use Disorder”.

The Causes of Addiction

Addictive behavior studies began in the early 1930s. The disease of addiction was viewed then as a moral failing, a character flaw created by lack of willpower. But this was only because researchers didn’t yet know what happens in the brain during addiction. Since then, we’ve learned how psychoactive substances affect key areas of the brain that control and shape our thoughts and behavior.

Thanks to science, the views of addiction have evolved. Discoveries about the brain have revolutionized the understanding of compulsive substance use, enabling addicted individuals many treatment option to receive the proper care and for their addiction problems. In fact, scientific research theorizes that addiction is a disease. It affects both our brain and our behavior, as a result of various genetic and environmental factors.

This knowledge is the base of today’s treatment approaches, which are effective in the treatment of addiction. Additionally, we think that addiction is caused by a combination of genetics (50%) and environment (50%). Plus , addiction can be influenced by:

  • the body’s response to a specific drug of choice
  • emotional trauma
  • dysfunctional family dynamics
  • related health conditions

Who’s most at risk of addiction?

Struggling with alprazolam? You are not alone!

According to this 2008 medical journal article and review of abuse liability of benzos, three main groups of people are at risk of becoming addicted to alprazolam. These groups include

  1. People who use or abuse multiple drugs.
  2. People with a history of drinking problems.
  3. Older people.

In fact, benzodiazepine drugs are often used with opiates and alcohol. More than 1/3 of opiate-addicted individuals have reported taking benzodiazepines in combination with opioid drugs, particularly with methadone. Why? Mainly alprazalom is used to “boost” a high.

Facts and Statistics

Since 2006, there has been a rapid increase in the number of people who enrolled into drug rehab for sedative or tranquilizer use. These cases include Xanax, in particular. This increase goes closely with the increase in legal prescriptions for alprazolam products during the same period.

IMS Health has made a list of top 25 psychiatric medications mostly used in the US. Alprazolam (Xanax) was first on the list, and its growth in yearly prescriptions goes like this:

  • 2006 – 37.6 million prescriptions.
  • 2007 – 39.8 million prescriptions.
  • 2008 – 41.7 million prescriptions.
  • 2009 – 43.9 million prescriptions.
  • 2010 – 46.3 million prescriptions.
  • 2011 – 47.8 million prescriptions.

As you can see, the number of prescriptions for alprazolam products is constantly increasing.

Also, the CDC Report on Emergency Department Visits Involving Nonmedical Use of Selected Prescription Drugs 2004-2008 reported that the benzodiazepine with the highest number of emergency department visits, alprazolam, was the most prescribed benzodiazepine in the United States in 2008, with an estimated 44 million prescriptions.

Moreover, the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2016, an estimated 618,000 people aged 12 or older could be diagnosed with a tranquilizer use disorder, including alprazolam-related problem in the past year. The same report shows an estimated 2.0 million people aged 12 or older in 2016 were current misusers of tranquilizers:

  • 121,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17.
  • 536,000 young adults aged 18 to 25.
  • 1.3 million adults aged 26+.

Signs of a Problem

The first sign of any kind of drug addiction is when you realize that you like the drug less, but you actually need it to function. Addiction is also present when you experience significant life problems caused by the recurrent use of a drug, including:

  • Failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  • Health problems.
  • Loss of control over Xanax use.
  • Persistent or increasing use.
  • Physical withdrawal.

Mainly, if your life has started revolving around drug use or if you’re taking alprazolam to avoid or relieve withdrawal…it might be time for professional help.

When left untreated, this condition can destroy your finances, health, relationships… your entire life. But recovery can get you get back on track! You can restore your brain and body to health. But you may need help to do this.

Consequences of Not Getting Help

If you wait to get help…you risk some of the long-term effects of a Xanax drug problem. This can include changes to the brain, body, and mental health. Even overdose or death.

The CDC Report on Drug Overdose Deaths showed that over 4,000 people who died of overdose in 2014 had alprazolam in their systems, while a few hundred more than previous year findings. Furthermore, in 2014, over 95% of drug overdose deaths involving alprazolam and diazepam, involved other substances. Alprazolam was involved in:

  • 26% of the drug overdose deaths involving hydrocodone.
  • 23% of the deaths involving oxycodone.
  • and 18% of the deaths involving methadone.

And overdose problems are on the rise. The 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network reported that emergency visits involving alprazolam and alcohol taken together, was over 45K while visits involving nonmedical use of alprazolam topped 123,000 in just one year. The same report states that benzodiazepines were involved in 28.7 percent of ED visits, with alprazolam (e.g., Xanax) indicated in about a third (9.9%) of such visits.

Need some more numbers?

The DAWN Report of 2014 states that during the 7 years from 2005 to 2011, almost a million (an estimated 943,032) emergency department visits involved benzodiazepines alone or in combination with opioid pain relievers or alcohol. Additionally, The CBHSQ Report shows that the estimated number of alprazolam-related emergency department  visits involving nonmedical use doubled from 57,419 visits in 2005 to 124,902 visits in 2010, but then remained stable in 2011.


How addiction is assessed

Addiction is assessed using one of several possible tools. Usually, you meet with a doctor, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or treatment center staff to begin the process. You can find an entire list of clinical tools and assessment guides that doctors use at the National Institute on Drug Abuse website.

The ASAM Criteria is an assessment guide used to match the appropriate treatment for each individual person. The guidelines of this tool include recommendations for the assessment of your:

  • Acute intoxication level as you begin rehab.
  • Risks that can occur during alprazolam withdrawal.
  • Emotional and behavioral conditions.
  • Home environment.
  • Physical health conditions.
  • Readiness to change or quit using substances.
  • Relapse dangers.

Guidelines like these are used to give addiction specialists a concept of the severity of the addiction and any problems that might occur during treatment.


There are two types of treatment programs which address patient needs:

1. Inpatient treatment.

Inpatient programs are mostly recommended for those who already tried and failed to quit using this medication. Residential settings like this are ideal for people who are dealing with a chronic or  severe addiction. When you or your loved one feel unable to handle alprazolam use by yourself a controlled environment… this type of rehab can help you. Inpatient rehab stays may last 30-60-90 DAYs – or more – depending on initial assessment and evaluation.

2. Outpatient treatment.

Outpatient treatment for alprazolam is mainly recommended before the brain and body have become severely dependent on the drug. Those who simply cannot leave their work and family obligations can also attend outpatient treatment. Nonetheless, a medically supervised detoxification is best carried out in an inpatient alprazolam rehab center. Even a 30-day stay in a facility provides an opportunity for a people to focus on their sobriety in an environment far away from the daily stresses that may trigger a repeated need for alprazolam ab(use).


Medical Detox

Medical detox is recommended for people who have been using alprazolam chronically, for a long period of time, and for those who have developed addiction to this drug.

Treating alprazolam addiction means resolving a number of physical and psychological issues that have arose as a result of alprazolam use. This is why the first step of treating addiction is often detox from alprazolam … under the supervision of medical experts.

Many people stay on alprazolam due to the fear of painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Medical detox programs address these withdrawal symptoms as they occur. In fact, supervising medical staff can help you decrease the severity or intensity of the following:

  • anxiety
  • blurred vision
  • diarrhea
  • headaches
  • heart palpitations
  • insomnia
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle pain
  • numb fingers
  • panic
  • paranoia
  • seizures
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • sweating
  • tremors

Most people will benefit from tapering down doses of alprazolam over the period of weeks or months. The step-down on doses is best managed under medical supervision, another reason to seek medical help.

Don’t let withdrawal avoidance prolong your addiction. Seeking drug detox is a necessary, and important step in the recovery process.

Main Treatments

Alprazolam treatment starts with a detox program However, detoxification is only the beginning of a lifetime recovery journey. Clinical settings are best at helping you get rid of drug dependence for good. After medical detox, expect to attend:

1. Therapy sessions. Therapy includes individual and family counseling sessions, during which you’ll work on the psychological issues around your addiction. Family therapy follows a philosophy that family systems share connections. By modifying one component of the family system, you affect the other components. This means that your family and loved one’s support and wellbeing play a major role in the success of recovery.

2. Joining support groups. Support groups and 12-step programs are a part of the process of recovery from alprazolam. These programs use a collaborative approach to encourage addicts to become and remain abstinent from alprazolam. Alternatives to 12 Step support groups are gaining recognition in recent years, especially SMART Recovery. Check out the self-help, peer supported groups online or face-to-face meetings.

3. Education on the disease model. Learning as much as you can about the influence of alprazolam on your brain and behavior is essential to have a better understanding about how this drug impacts your health. The disease model of addiction is a key tool for education and prevention on further involvement in drug addictive behaviors.

Getting The Best Treatment

What are some key ideas to keep in mind as you seek help?

NOTE HERE: A one-size-fits-all recovery program is not enough. In order to reach long term sobriety, the best addiction programs need to be created just for you. The best recovery programs match patients with the right services according a few factors:

  • the severity of the addiction
  • the history of drug abuse
  • the family history of addiction disorders
  • co-occuring mental health disorders

In short, each person who checks into a rehab program should be carefully evaluated FIRST! Successful treatment addresses addiction on every level, including physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects.

How To Help Someone With Alprazolam Addiction

Having an addicted loved one is not an easy situation to deal with. But, the good news is that you can learn how you can help…with some basic guidelines.

How? The best thing you can do is to help them to find a treatment program. If you feel scared or misguided about what to do, apply these strategies for aiding your loved one in recovery:

#1. Educate yourself about alprazolam addiction. They say you can’t fight an enemy you don’t know. Learn as much as you can about alprazolam, the effect’s it produces when abused, and the consequences it has over your loved ones health and behavior.

#2. Resist the urge to criticize, judge, and label. Instead of losing time in useless arguments and looking for the person to blame, gather all your energies into showing support, understanding and readiness to participate in your loved ones addiction treatment. Check out the CRAFT Model for family intervention, as well…you’ll learn how and when to encourage treatment…in an effective way.

#3. Participate. Be an active participant in all family programs that are offered at your loved one residential treatment facility. Be a constant support source.

#4 Stage an intervention. In case you are unable to talk to you addicted loved one seek help from a licensed therapist or interventionist. Addicts sometimes need several people to get the message across. An intervention is a gathering during which loved ones confront an addict about the consequences of his/her behavior and present him options for getting help.

Addiction Is Treatable, NOT A Moral Failing

Addiction studies and countless individuals have proven that addiction is a manageable condition… when trusted in the hands of professionals. In order to overcome a compulsion for alprazolam you’ll need:

  • strong devotion to get better
  • family support
  • the intervention of medical professionals in a safe and controlled environment

You have a chance for a happy and drug-free life! Do not let it pass you by!

Reference Sources: NCBI: Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence
NCBI: The treatment of benzodiazepine dependence
NIH: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction
NIH: Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the Texas Healt...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.

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