Is Xanax an Opioid? No | The Difference Between Benzos and Opiates

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Is Xanax an opioid?

The short answer is no — Xanax is not an opioid; Xanax / Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine.

What’s the difference?

Benzodiazepines (Like Xanax) vs. Opioids

Benzos and opioids / opiates are two very different classes of drugs that affect your mind and body in different ways.

What Benzodiazepines Are Like

Benzodiazepines (benzos) are a class of drugs that include Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Librium, and Ativan, among others.

Benzos are primarily used for anxiety and panic disorders, but they can also help with seizures and with alcohol withdrawals.

I abused benzos for close to a decade, and I can tell you that they’re worse than opiates in a lot of ways.

First, coming off benzos like Xanax can cause seizures. I’ve had one seizure as a result of detoxing from Xanax. That being said, I was abusing it at an extremely high dose — I would take 20mg at a time — so it would be more surprising that I wouldn’t have a seizure than that I would.

Benzos get you high for sure, but they do so in an odd way. They’re most similar to alcohol (they both work on the same receptors — GABA), but they don’t give you that heady feeling you get when you’re drunk.

Instead, Xanax and other benzos make you feel a little like you’re swimming, but strangely, you mostly feel them when you move around. If you’re sitting still, you can almost forget that you’re on them.

However, if you have legitimate anxiety, you’ll notice that you’re extremely calm. You might get giggly, just like with alcohol some people become happy and giggly, or you might become mean, just as some people are mean drunks.

Xanax also lowers your inhibitions. You’ll likely find yourself doing things you wouldn’t do if you were sober.

Xanax and benzos are considered Schedule IV drugs, which means that the government recognizes that, while they have legitimate therapeutic uses, they also have the potential for abuse.

Schedule IV is one of the lower schedules, which supposedly means they’re less dangerous, but I can tell you from personal experience — and from what the scientific literature shows — that they’re easily much more dangerous than opioids / opiates.

Benzos are dangerous — extremely dangerous — especially when mixed with other drugs. One of the worst possible things you can do is to mix your benzos with alcohol.

They’re both depressants and both work on the same receptor in your brain, so mixing them together is a great way to overdose.

That being said, benzos are almost always mixed with something when abused, likely because of how the high works. Because you don’t feel much when you take them on their own, mixing them with other drugs potentiates the high and makes it a lot stronger.

I can’t stress enough how dangerous benzos are. There are only 2 drugs that you can die from when you’re withdrawing from them — benzos are one, and alcohol is the other.

If you’re a benzo addict, you need to go to a detox center to come off them safely. Usually, they’ll taper you off, giving you lower and lower doses of less addictive benzos (usually Librium or Ativan) until you’re completely off.

Sometimes the taper can take 30 days or more because of how dangerous it is to come off them.

Opioids are almost nothing like benzos.

Xanax Is Not an Opioid — Here’s the Difference

Here’s a short list of some of the most abused opioids:

  • OxyContin
  • Morphine
  • Demerol
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Methadone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Suboxone
  • Tramadol
  • Heroin

Like any drug, opioids are dangerous to abuse, but they’re not nearly as dangerous as Xanax and other benzos.

That being said, the government disagrees — they’ve decided that opioids are Schedule II drugs because of their high potential for abuse.

Now I’ll agree that opioids are extremely addictive and dangerous — ODing on opioids happens often. Tens of thousands of people overdose on opioids every year.

That being said, withdrawing from opioids / opiates, which extremely uncomfortable, won’t kill you, and you can usually detox in about a week (except from Tramadol because it’s kind of a weird opioid).

In my opinion, benzos should be scheduled the same as opioids because of how dangerous they are to come off of.

That being said, opioids are extremely addictive. I started abusing OxyContin when I was 20 years old. I used oxy 3 weekends in a row, and by the third weekend, I was hooked.

I went on to abuse opioids for the next 6 years, and I was seriously hooked. I started experiencing withdrawal symptoms when I stopped after abusing it for a few months.

I eventually went on to use heroin before getting sober at the age of 26.

Opioids work on what are called opioid receptors, as opposed to the GABA receptors that benzos work on.

They block pain, among a variety of other effects, like making you feel high as fuck. They also depress your breathing, and when you OD on them, that’s how you die — you stop breathing.

Some people are allergic to opioids and can’t take them. I’ve always considered people like that lucky — opioids and opiates will absolutely destroy your life if you get addicted to them.

Now that’s not to say that benzos can’t do the same thing. I know plenty of people whose lives have been ruined by benzos — if they were lucky enough to survive the detox.

Plenty of people don’t survive that detox. Though I can never be sure, I think my best friend was killed by a seizure as a result of detoxing from Xanax or another benzodiazepine.

Xanax Is Not an Opioid, but They’re Both Dangerous

I can’t stress enough how dangerous these drugs are.

Most drugs that I’ve been addicted to (and I’ve been addicted to many of them) are extremely dangerous, either to use or to come off of. Even weed can be a serious problem for people like me.

Xanax is not an opioid — they’re very different drugs — but they’re both bad for most people.

Even if you need them for anxiety or pain, it’s not at all uncommon for people who take them for those reasons to eventually become addicted.

If you want to learn more about how I stay sober week after week, check out my guide to sobriety here.

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Adam Fout

Adam Fout is an addiction/recovery blogger who writes nonfiction and speculative fiction. He is a graduate of the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop and has been published in or has upcoming work in december, Another Chicago Magazine, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, J Journal, Pulp Literature, and DreamForge. And he LOVES when readers reach out to him! Always feel free to send me an email at awfout at gmail dot com. I can't wait to hear from you!