Xanax for Anxiety: Is it a Good Long-Term Solution? - River Oaks (2023)

Xanax for Anxiety: Is it a Good Long-Term Solution? - River Oaks (1)

Written by: Editorial Staff

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

Xanax for Anxiety: Is it a Good Long-Term Solution? - River Oaks (2)

Xanax is the brand namefor a fast-acting benzodiazepine medication, alprazolam. This medication is prescribed for short-term treatment of generalized anxiety, panic disorders, anxiety associated with depression, and social anxiety disorder. Rarely, it is used to treat insomnia or seizures, but among benzodiazepine medications, Xanax is not the most efficient at this. Even more rarely, alprazolam can be prescribed to treat more intense and immediate symptoms of depression. However, it is important to remember that benzodiazepines, especially Xanax, work rapidly, so they are prescribed to treat the intense and sudden symptoms associated with panic or related conditions; they are no longer seen as a long-term treatment.

There are many reasons that Xanax and other benzodiazepines arenot considered appropriate long-term treatmentfor most conditions. Most people rapidly develop a tolerance to the drugs; they can cause euphoria so may lead to compulsive or addictive behaviors; and they can take time to detox from.People who abuse Xanaxmay doctor shop, steal prescriptions from friends or family, or get multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors. This increases therisk of addiction to Xanax, which can lead to long-term health problems.

The Long-Term Harm of Abusing Xanax

Xanax is one of the fastest-acting benzodiazepines available. It works on the brain within 15 minutes after being ingestedand lasts for up to six hours. Although the immediate effects wear off fairly quickly, metabolites of the drug remain in the body for up to 15 hours, so drinking alcohol, taking more benzodiazepines, or taking other sedatives like Ambien or opioids can be very dangerous.

Most physicians or therapists will prescribe Xanax for “as-needed” treatment. When someonesuffering from anxietyfeels a surge of panic, or their anxiety prevents them from performing a task like driving or sleeping, taking a dose of Xanax can be extremely helpful.

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Taking Xanax regularly is very rare since the medication acts on the brain so quickly, and most people who frequently take Xanax are misusing or abusing their prescription. People who misuse Xanax are at risk of developing an addiction to this drug or at least a physical dependence on it to regulate their brain chemistry. This can lead to long-term abuse, which includes taking this medication for months or even years without appropriate medical supervision.

This may lead to chronic health problems, including:

  • Paradoxical reactions:A long-term side effect of abusing Xanax is symptoms that mimic the underlying conditions the drug is prescribed to treat, like insomnia, panic attacks, or intense anxiety. People who misuse Xanax are at risk of taking even more in an attempt to treat paradoxical symptoms rather than seeing their doctor; this can lead to addiction and even overdose.
  • Physical side effects:Xanax and other benzodiazepines are sedatives, so slow heart rate, irregular or slowed breathing, and low blood pressure are associated with taking too much of these drugs. While these can also be overdose symptoms in their most extreme forms, mild versions of these symptoms can lead to memory problems, cognitive difficulty, and damage to organs due to slow, steady oxygen deprivation.
  • Brainatrophy:Xanax has been associated in some studies with enlargement of an area of the brain called thecerebral ventricular, which is associated with brain atrophy that can lead to dementia-like symptoms.
  • Psychological changes:Drug abuse and addiction change behaviors, so people who struggle with addiction may make poor decisions, become abusive, stop taking care of themselves, or display other problems. Xanax in particular can trigger narcissistic personality traits, hyper-confidence, and carelessness. By depressing neurotransmitters, the brain chemistry associated with empathy is reduced, according to some small-scale studies. This can lead to problematic behaviors that strain personal relationships, making other psychological problems worse.
  • Tolerance anddependence:With tolerance, the original dose no longer produces the same effects, and the person feels like they must take more of the drug to compensate. This is especially harmful if the person changes their Xanax dose without consulting a doctor first. Tolerance often leads to physical dependence on the drug.

Solutions for Treating Anxiety or Insomnia without Xanax

Xanax is a great prescription drug for as-needed purposes, and it can be helpful for some people who need to take the drug regularly for certain panic disorders with a doctor’s oversight. But findingways to manage and understand anxietywill provide the best foundation for people suffering from these conditions.

Ultimately,approaching anxiety or insomnia treatment without medicationis the best long-term solution.

Dozens of areas of medicine involve benzodiazepinesin some capacity: anesthesiology, emergency rooms, and immediate psychiatric treatment. Half of people who take any benzodiazepine do so for short-term insomnia treatment, and about 26 percent take this class of drugs to treat general restlessness, agitation or tenseness, or consistent, intense nervousness.

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Again, a medical professional will only prescribe a benzodiazepine like Xanax after speaking with their patient to understand the symptoms, and they will only prescribe these drugs for a short time. Other drugs, like Z-class drugs (e.g., Ambien, Lunesta) have been developed to replace benzodiazepines in some short-term treatments for sleep problems. Long-term anxiety disorders may benefit from a different medication regimen, involving antidepressants or similar drugs.

For those with insomnia, sleep therapy can be effective. Sticking to a set schedule of waking up and going to bed at the same time; restricting the bed to just sleep; avoiding stimulating entertainment, food, or devices before sleeping; and other approaches can be helpful. Anxiety disorders require more complex treatment, but working with a talk therapist using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or a similar evidence-based approach provides the most solid foundation for managing anxiety on a long-term basis. Complementary treatments like mindfulness meditation, yoga, visualization, exercise, nutrition, and more can manage more immediate responses to anxiety or sleep disorders. Sometimes, working with a therapist on exposure therapy for more intense panic disorders is helpful.

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Xanax Detox with Medical

Overcoming Xanax abuse or addiction begins with supervised detox.This process can start with a tapering regimenas prescribed by a doctor, or it may involve managing withdrawal symptoms as they appear if the person does not experience intense withdrawal. For short-acting drugs like Xanax, withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 1-2 days after the final dose, and they usually mimic the underlying psychiatric condition they were designed to treat, such as insomnia, anxiety, panic, and irritability. Some people who abuse Xanax for a long time may be at risk of seizures, so working with medical professionals is extremely important.

Other uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms may include:

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  • Restlessness
  • Jitteriness
  • Rebound symptoms like anxiety or insomnia
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Foggy thinking
  • Poor memory
  • Muscle aches and tensions
  • Agitation
  • New symptoms of psychiatric conditions if they did not exist prior

Don’t go through the pain of Xanax withdrawals alone. At River Oaks Treatment Center, we offer a variety of addiction and withdrawal treatment services including medical detox. We are here to help you face your addiction head on, call us today for more information.

These individuals may be placed on Valium (diazepam) rather than tapered off Xanax. Valium lasts longer, so it can be more effectively managed without several doses over the course of the day.

Detoxing from Xanax with medical help may take a couple weeks, but the slower process is important since the body must relearn to manage its own neurochemistry. Once detox has been completed, an evidence-based treatment program can continue the process of overcoming addiction. Detox by itself is not addiction treatment, and this is especially true for people who struggle with a co-occurring mental illness like panic disorder as well as addiction to a drug like Xanax.

Talk therapy in groups and individually is the best approach during rehabilitation. An aftercare plan is also key to staying sober and managing an anxiety disorder or insomnia.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse issues and are unsure of where to turn, call us today at . River Oaks, one of American Addiction Centers’ Florida prescription drug rehab centers, is ready to help you overcome addiction and find long-term recovery. Call us today to learn more about addiction treatment near you.

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What are long term anxiety medications? ›

Examples of SSRIs that are commonly used to treat chronic anxiety include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).

Does Xanax work for severe anxiety? ›

Benzodiazepines like Xanax reduce anxiety by attaching to a receptor in your brain called the GABA-A (gamma-aminobutyric acid-A) receptor. When Xanax binds to this receptor, it has a calming effect in the brain. Xanax is often prescribed for anxiety disorders because it can help relieve anxiety symptoms quickly.

How do you fix long-term anxiety? ›

8 long-term strategies for coping with anxiety
  1. Identify and learn to manage your triggers. ...
  2. Adopt cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) ...
  3. Do a daily or routine meditation. ...
  4. Keep a journal. ...
  5. Socialize. ...
  6. Try supplements or change your diet. ...
  7. Keep your body and mind healthy. ...
  8. Ask your doctor about medications.

What is the longest lasting anti anxiety medication? ›

Long-acting agents (diazepam, quazepam) act for 24 to 72 hours. Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), and Ativan (lorazepam) are the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepine anti-anxiety medications.

How long should you be on Xanax? ›

Xanax, a brand name for alprazolam, is a powerful benzodiazepine that is only recommended for use for up to six weeks.

When do doctors prescribe Xanax for anxiety? ›

Xanax (the brand name for alprazolam) is one of the most popular anti-anxiety medications in the United States. It has many legitimate medical uses—doctors often prescribe Xanax to treat anxiety, depression, panic disorders, and phobia.

Can you overcome anxiety forever? ›

There's no way to completely cure any anxiety disorder, but the right combination of solutions can provide much-needed relief. In fact, treatment helps most people with anxiety reduce their symptoms enough to regain full control over their daily lives.

Can u fully recover from anxiety? ›

Anxiety disorders can be long-lasting, but full recovery is also possible. Some studies⁵ report that generalized anxiety disorder follows a pattern of recovery and relapse for up to 20 years.

Can you fully recover from anxiety? ›

Can you recover from anxiety disorder and feel completely normal again? Answer: Yes, anxiety symptoms and thinking about anxiety can completely disappear. In fact, you can go back to living a normal life again without any concern about anxiety.

Is there a non addictive anxiety medication? ›

Buspar® (Buspirone)

This non-addictive anxiety medication is similar to an SSRI in that it increases chemical messengers involving serotonin. Buspar only targets one subtype of the serotonin receptor, so it affects just one specific area of your brain.

What is the most addictive anxiety medicine? ›

Opioids (Oxycontin) and benzodiazepines (Xanax) are the most addictive prescription drugs, and their combined use can be deadly.

What will happen if I take Xanax everyday? ›

Are There Any Risks For Taking Alprazolam For Long Periods Of Time? Alprazolam is a safe and effective medication when used as directed. Benzodiazepines may produce emotional and/or physical dependence (addiction) even when used as recommended. Physical dependence may develop after 2 or more weeks of daily use..

Can you be prescribed Xanax everyday? ›

Xanax is prescribed as a daily dose. A starting dose of Xanax for anxiety is 0.25 mg to 0.5 mg that is taken three times daily. In many cases of therapeutic drug use, the drug is intended to be taken daily until you taper off it with the hope that it will help your brain return to normal.

How long does Xanax affect the brain? ›

The half-life of Xanax is 8–16 hours in a healthy person, with a mean half-life of 11 hours.

What does taking Xanax for anxiety feel like? ›

It produces feelings of calm and relaxes the muscles. Xanax is an effective medication, and some people use it recreationally. The drug can cause side effects, especially if people combine it with other CNS depressants, such as antihistamines and alcohol.

Can you take anxiety medication forever? ›

General guidelines for treatment suggest that for a first treatment episode, keeping people on medication once they fully respond and are essentially free of symptoms for somewhere around a year or two years seems prudent and reasonable.

Is there a non addictive anxiety medication? ›

Buspar® (Buspirone)

This non-addictive anxiety medication is similar to an SSRI in that it increases chemical messengers involving serotonin. Buspar only targets one subtype of the serotonin receptor, so it affects just one specific area of your brain.

Does anxiety return after stopping medication? ›

When people stop taking antidepressants, they may experience withdrawal symptoms or a relapse. According to one study, about 20% of people who suddenly stop taking antidepressants will experience symptoms, which doctors refer to as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome .

What is the best natural thing to take for anxiety? ›

Is there an effective herbal treatment for anxiety?
  • Kava. ...
  • Passion flower. ...
  • Valerian. ...
  • Chamomile. ...
  • Lavender. ...
  • Lemon balm.

Is taking anxiety medication worth it? ›

If you have severe anxiety that's interfering with your ability to function, medication may be helpful—especially as a short-term treatment. However, many people use anti-anxiety medication when therapy, exercise, or other self-help strategies would work just as well or better, minus the drawbacks.

What works better than Xanax? ›

Ativan treats more conditions than Xanax. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved the following uses: Xanax: Treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. Ativan tablets: Treatment of anxiety disorders.

What is the natural form of Xanax? ›

Magnesium is another great natural alternative to Xanax. Magnesium occurs naturally in many food sources, including avocados, nuts, dark chocolate, legumes, whole grains, tofu, and some fatty fish. Magnesium helps you relax by increasing GABA. GABA is an amino acid that works with the neurotransmitters in your brain.

What can replace anxiety medication? ›

Alternatives to Anti-Anxiety Medications
  • Essential Oils.
  • Meditation.
  • Change Your Diet.
  • Try Vitamins and Natural Supplements.
  • Therapies.


1. Klonopin
2. Podcast 415: Debunking the Serotonin-Depression Theory (with Dr. Joanna Moncrieff)
(Dr. Caroline Leaf)
3. Calm a Panic Attack in 3 Easy Steps
(The Doctors)
4. Lecture 36 Benzodiazepines
(Paul Merritt)
5. Sleep In God's Word [Christian Meditation To Let Go of Pain, Depression, Anxiety & Insomnia]
(Abide - Sleep Meditations)
6. Debunking the myth of the chemical imbalance with renown psychiatrist Dr. Joanna Moncrieff
(Dr. Caroline Leaf)
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