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Xanax Abuse In Teens: Signs and Treatment


teenager holding Xanax pills

The generic name for Xanax is alprazolam, which belongs to a group of medications called benzodiazepines. Xanax is an anti-anxiety medication that is commonly used to treat panic attacks and anxiety disorders. Xanax is a central nervous system depressant that works by acting on certain neurotransmitters in one’s brain, specifically the GABA-A (gamma-aminobutyric acid-A). When ingested, Xanax binds to this receptor, which slows down excessive brain activity, reduces feelings of panic and/ or stress and elicits a calming effect. Xanax is fast acting, and typically begins working within one to two hours after ingestion. 

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the half-life of alprazolam (i.e. the length of time the substance will remain in one’s system until the concentration in one’s blood has been reduced by half) is ranges between 6.3-26.9 hours, averaging approximately 11.2 hours. Xanax can be a highly effective medication when used properly and under the direct supervision of a medical professional. However, Xanax is known to be a drug with high addiction potential, and when abused could result in a teenager developing to a myriad of adverse short and long-term physiological effects. 

Signs and Symptoms

There are a variety of signs and symptoms with which a teenager abusing Xanax could present. Common examples of signs and symptoms a young person may exhibit could include but are not limited to, any combination of the following, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Delirium
  • Nausea and/ or vomiting

Every teenager is different and will exhibit a unique set of signs and symptoms with varying levels of severity and duration when it comes to Xanax abuse. Often teens that abuse Xanax will develop a tolerance to the substance, meaning they will require more of the drug (e.g. higher dosage, more frequent use, etc.) to achieve the same desired effects that was once accomplished using less of the substance. If left untreated, Xanax abuse can lead to severe long-term consequences, including overdose. 


Regardless of whether a teen is abusing Xanax or is addicted to Xanax, his or her body has become accustomed to functioning with the presence of Xanax in its system. The first step in a young person’s recovery is to cleanse his or her body, ridding it of all foreign substances. This process is known as detox. Following the successful completion of detox, attending a formal substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment program is recommended. Many young people struggling with substance abuse or drug addiction will also have underlying emotional issues that must be addressed as part of their recovery process. 

At Pacific Teen Treatment, we offer a residential treatment program that utilizes a variety of therapeutic approaches, such as talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), expressive arts therapy and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Each of our residents will work with our on-staff, board certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist as well as our other phenomenal resident therapeutic staff members to co-create a productive and nuanced treatment plan. We also encourage our residents to participate in various relaxation methods, such as meditation or yoga to help learn to manage stress in a healthy, sober way. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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