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Xanax Abuse And Depression – Can Xanax Abuse Cause Depression?

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

June 10, 2019

People who abuse Xanax are at an increased risk of suffering from depression. Signs of depression as a result of Xanax abuse include mood swings and sadness. Seeking help for a Xanax addiction can help treat depressive symptoms and prevent other adverse side effects.

There are several medications used to treat symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, some of these medications can also cause the symptoms to get worse or bring about new symptoms. Xanax is one of these prescriptions that may negatively impact depression.

Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine most commonly used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. While anxiety often coexists with depression, Xanax is rarely used to treat depression on its own.

Xanax works by impacting the GABA receptors in the brain. GABA is responsible for calming the brain and body to reduce stress and symptoms of anxiety. By increasing GABA activity, Xanax can calm a person experiencing anxiety or a panic attack.

While this drug is certainly effective at managing anxiety, it is rarely recommended for the treatment of depression. Because of how Xanax works, it may actually increase symptoms of depression. Someone who abuses Xanax is at an increased risk of depressive symptoms.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a chronic mental illness that affects each individual differently. This condition is most commonly characterized by sadness and the inability to feel pleasure. This mental health disorder affects an estimated 10 percent of the U.S. population.

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There are several different forms of depression, including dysthymia, major depressive disorder (MDD), seasonal affective disorder, and atypical depression. Major depressive disorder is the most common type of depression and is classified as feeling depressive symptoms for two or more weeks.

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • fatigue
  • increased or decreased need for sleep
  • changes in appetite
  • isolation
  • withdrawal from friends or family
  • inability to experience pleasure
  • loss of interest in activities that the individual once enjoyed
  • feelings of hopelessness and despair
  • suicidal thoughts
  • trouble concentrating
  • irritability

Several individuals that suffer from depression also experience anxiety. As a result, someone with both depression and anxiety may be prescribed Xanax. However, Xanax is typically not the first line of defense to treat depression on its own.

Can Xanax Abuse Cause Depression?

People who abuse Xanax are at an increased risk of experiencing depressive symptoms. This is especially true for individuals who abuse the drug for an extended period of time. Even if a person did not have depression before taking the drug, he or she can develop symptoms of depression when abusing Xanax.

Depressive symptoms as a result of Xanax abuse are likely due to how the drug works in the brain. Xanax is a central nervous system depressant, meaning it slows down brain activity. When abused, the central nervous system can become significantly depressed, resulting in symptoms of depression.

Additionally, central nervous system depressants like Xanax can cause people to lose control of their emotions and certain behaviors. Long-term Xanax abuse can result in moderate to severe depression symptoms that include extreme sadness and mood changes.

Depressive symptoms caused by Xanax abuse may include:

  • extreme mood swings
  • impaired cognition
  • trouble with coordination
  • sadness
  • irritability
  • slurred speech

People who abuse Xanax and are experiencing depressive symptoms are at an increased risk of harmful behaviors. Co-occurring Xanax abuse and depression have been shown to result in higher incidents of suicidal behaviors.

Risk Factors Of Developing Depression As A Result Of Xanax Abuse

Benzodiazepines like Xanax have the potential to cause depressive symptoms, especially in individuals who abuse this drug. However, there are certain factors that increase a person’s risk of experiencing depression when abusing Xanax.

Factors that influence the development of depression due to Xanax abuse include:

  • abusing other medications or drugs with Xanax
  • individuals over the age of 65
  • prior history of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety
  • certain medical conditions like dementia and thyroid diseases
  • elevated metabolism
  • family history of depression

Treatment For Xanax Abuse And Depression

Seeking treatment for Xanax abuse and addiction can help prevent the development of depressive symptoms. There are several treatment options available to overcome Xanax addiction.

Many people find success through formal treatment programs. These often include a medically supervised detox program as well as an inpatient or residential treatment program. Programs that specialize in dual diagnosis are often recommended for individuals struggling with a substance use disorder and depression.

To learn more about Xanax abuse and depression, contact a treatment specialist today.

Journal of Addiction Medicine - A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal

Mayo Clinic - Depression (major depressive disorder)

WebMD - Benzodiazepine Abuse

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