Xanax Overdose

Xanax is a popular short-term treatment for anxiety and panic disorders. When someone takes it long-term or in high doses, though, the body can build up a tolerance, and the drug’s effects may become addicting. People often misuse Xanax or mixed it with alcohol and other drugs, increasing their risk of overdose. Symptoms of a Xanax overdose can be severe and sometimes even deadly.
Topics On this page
| | 5 sources

Xanax is a strong, fast-acting benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Doctors sometimes prescribe Xanax off-label — meaning for purposes other than those approved by the FDA — to treat premenstrual syndrome and agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces.

Xanax works by acting on certain neurotransmitters in the brain that produce a calming effect. But studies have proved that the accompanying dopamine surge that fuels the brain’s reward center and causes euphoria can lead to misuse and Xanax addiction.

Xanax is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine in the United States, which means it is also the most commonly abused drug in its class.

The improper use of Xanax can cause overdose, but people who use the drug as prescribed can also overdose on Xanax.

Xanax overdose can be serious and even life-threatening.

Can You Overdose on Xanax?

Because of its fast-acting effects on the body, Xanax can lead to overdose.

If a tablet is crushed, chewed or broken during ingestion, a person’s risk of overdose increases.

Xanax tablets are meant to be slowly introduced to the body as an extended-release tablet. If not taken whole, the drug is released into the body all at once increasing one’s chances for overdose.

Xanax should not be taken without a prescription. Your doctor will decide if the medication is right for you and how often you should take Xanax along with specific dosing recommendations.

Xanax Dependence and Addiction

Alprazolam — the active ingredient in Xanax — can cause dependence. Dependence can lead to addiction and overdose.

The longer a person uses the anti-anxiety medication, the greater their risk for developing a substance use disorder. These individuals may build up a tolerance to Xanax over time, meaning the body has adapted to the drug and experiences diminished effects.

Patients may start taking the drug at a higher dose than their doctor prescribed or use it more often than directed to achieve the same calming effects.

If the body is unable to sufficiently process the drug at the higher exposure levels, the result is an alprazolam overdose.

Signs and symptoms of drug dependence or addiction may mimic many of those conditions Xanax is prescribed to treat.

Chronic misuse of Xanax may cause anxiety, insomnia, anorexia, headaches and weakness. Anyone experiencing symptoms of addiction should seek benzodiazepine treatment and rehab immediately.

Risk Factors for Xanax Overdose and Death

Factors other than misuse and addiction can also increase a person’s risk of overdosing on Xanax.

The primary risk factor for Xanax overdose is combining the anti-anxiety drug with alcohol and other drugs.

Taking Xanax along with certain drugs, such as other sedatives or opioid pain medications, and alcohol can be fatal. The combined sedating effects of the substances can cause a person to stop breathing, resulting in Xanax overdose death.

Another risk factor for overdose is building up a tolerance to the drug. If the drug is stopped, the tolerance levels decrease over time. Taking the same dose of Xanax after stopping the drug for some time can cause an overdose.

Lastly, the older a person is, the higher their risk of overdose. Patients over age 65 should take lower doses of the anti-anxiety drug to prevent Xanax toxicity.

Xanax Overdose Symptoms

Because the drug acts quickly to calm the body and brain, early signs of overdose may be similar to normal Xanax side effects.

Symptoms of a Xanax overdose can also vary depending on how much of the drug is ingested and whether it is taken along with alcohol or other drugs.

As Xanax overdose becomes more apparent, the warning signs increase and the symptoms become more severe or even life-threatening.

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Overdose:
  • Sleepiness
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Impaired coordination or loss of balance
  • Slowed heart beat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty talking or slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness or coma
  • Death

Xanax Overdose Treatment

A Xanax overdose is a medical emergency. Symptoms can progress quickly, leading to death or other serious complications.

The sooner treatment is received, the better a person’s outcome.

Most Xanax overdoses that result in death involve the misuse of Xanax in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

Treatment for Xanax overdose depends on the following factors:
  • How much of the drug was ingested
  • Whether other substances were ingested as well
  • When the drug was ingested or how quickly the person sought treatment
  • The person’s height, weight, age and overall health

In most cases, symptoms are treated as they happen.

Studies have proved that Flumazenil, an antidote that reverses the effects of Xanax and other benzodiazepines, is an effective overdose treatment. But the patient must be monitored for side effects and the return of overdose symptoms. Xanax stays in the body longer than Flumazenil does, so a person can experience overdose symptoms again after receiving Flumazenil.

Emergency personnel can also use gastric lavage, commonly known as stomach pumping, to treat a Xanax overdose. During a gastric lavage, a tube is inserted into the stomach and the drug is pumped out.

Fluids may also be needed as a part of treatment. If this is the case, an intravenous (IV) line is inserted into the vein through which the fluids are administered.

Medical Disclaimer: DrugRehab.com aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.

Was this article helpful?

How helpful would you rate this article?


    DrugRehab.com logo

    Thanks for helping us make our website better for visitors like you!

    View Sources

    Ready to make a change?

    Get cost-effective, quality addiction care that truly works.

    Start Your Recovery
    We're here to help you or your loved one.
    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Calls will be answered by a qualified admissions representative with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), the owners of DrugRehab.com. We look forward to helping you!

    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Phone calls to treatment center listings not associated with ARS will go directly to those centers. DrugRehab.com and ARS are not responsible for those calls.