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  • Xanax is often a target of substance abuse. It may be abused by people with or without a prescription. The calming, relaxing feelings that come with a Xanax “high” may lead some people to see it as a mood stabilizer for bipolar disorder.

    Taking Xanax without a prescription, or without approval for treating bipolar disorder, are forms of substance abuse.

    Xanax abuse can make bipolar disorder worse, especially in the long term. Benzodiazepines are usually prescribed for short-term treatment. Taking or abusing benzodiazepines long-term can increase your risk of serious health problems.

    Is Xanax An Approved Medication For Bipolar Disorder?

    Bipolar disorder is a serious mood disorder that can make functioning difficult. 

    Approved medications for bipolar disorder include antipsychotic medications, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants. These medications treat symptoms of psychosis, the severity of mood swings, and depressive symptoms, respectively.

    Xanax is neither an antipsychotic nor a mood stabilizer. It is a benzodiazepine that slows down activity in your brain. Its approved uses are for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorders, which includes panic disorders.

    Xanax may still be prescribed for bipolar disorder treatment if your doctor or clinician thinks it’s appropriate. Long-term use of benzodiazepines is not recommended, especially for the treatment of bipolar disorder. You may want to look at more long-term treatment options with your doctor.

    How Xanax Abuse Can Affect Bipolar Treatment

    Xanax slows activity in the central nervous system, which includes the brain. Changes in brain chemistry can affect how you experience and process your bipolar disorder.

    Xanax & Hypomania

    Alprazolam can cause hypomania, which is a less severe form of a manic episode. Hypomania involves hyperactivity, elevated mood, racing thoughts, and increased energy.

    Hypomania caused by alprazolam or Xanax may be more likely if the patient has pre-existing depression.

    Other benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam, lorazepam, and diazepam are not known to cause hypomania. It may be possible that alprazolam is the only benzodiazepine that can cause bipolar symptoms, or make existing ones worse.

    Xanax & Depressive Episodes

    Depressive bipolar episodes, also known as bipolar depression, can cause a person to feel:

    • slowed down
    • unable to do basic tasks
    • increased appetite and weight gain
    • sleeping problems
    • hopelessness

    Decreased physical and mental activity are also associated with Xanax use. Side effects of Xanax, such as drowsiness and trouble concentrating, can overlap with depressive symptoms and make bipolar depression even worse.

    Instead of stabilizing your mood and managing mood swings, Xanax use can make depressive mood swings even more intense, leaving you with feelings of hopelessness or exhaustion.

    Xanax Withdrawal & Bipolar Disorder

    Xanax abuse can be a sign of chemical dependency, a substance use disorder, or other chronic drug use problems. If you’re abusing Xanax, you’ll likely experience withdrawal if you try to quit.

    Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be more severe than other benzodiazepines. Some withdrawal symptoms can overlap with mood episodes and make them harder to deal with. Withdrawal symptoms that can make dealing with bipolar disorder more difficult include:

    • worsened anxiety
    • dissociation
    • suicidal ideation
    • sleep disturbances such as insomnia

    Treatment Options For Xanax Abuse & Bipolar Disorder

    Xanax abuse and bipolar disorder have separate treatment programs. Dual Diagnosis treatment options may be combined in comorbid patients.

    Treatment For Bipolar Disorder

    Bipolar treatment can depend on the type of bipolar disorder you are diagnosed with. Bipolar I is a more severe mental illness than bipolar II, and may require more intense treatment.

    If you’re considering Xanax as a treatment for bipolar disorder, you may want to talk to your doctor first. They may prescribe you Xanax, but there is a significant chance they may prescribe you other approved medications that can act as mood stabilizers, including:

    • antipsychotics (quetiapine, olanzapine,
    • antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
    • anticonvulsants (lithium, lamotrigine)

    New forms of psychotherapy such as interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) and family-focused therapy are designed specifically to treat bipolar disorder.

    Treatment For Xanax Addiction

    If you are already struggling with Xanax abuse, you could benefit from a substance abuse treatment program. These programs can teach you life skills that include learning how to live drug-free while managing withdrawal symptoms.

    Common treatment methods for benzodiazepine abuse, which includes Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and others, can involve:

    Bipolar disorder and drug abuse can be harmful to both the person suffering from these conditions and their loved ones. Proper treatment can help a person get on the path to recovery. 

    To find the best treatment available to you, talk to your healthcare professional or contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription CNS Depressants DrugFacts
    National Institute of Mental Health - Bipolar Disorder
    PubMed Central - Alprazolam-induced hypomania
    PubMed Central - A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal
    U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Xanax Label

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on June 30, 2022
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