"If I keep doing this, I'm gonna die soon": Lil Xan describes his struggles with anti-anxiety drugs

Rapper Lil Xan started taking benzos when he was 18 to treat what he described as "intense anxiety." Eventually, his usage ballooned to roughly 50 times his initial prescription.

Lil Xan's battle with anti-anxiety drugs
Lil Xan's battle with anti-anxiety drugs 03:29

Xanax is taken globally and is one of the most prescribed psychiatric drugs in the U.S. It's part of a group of anti-anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepines -- or benzos. They're commonly prescribed for anxiety, panic disorder and insomnia. And you've probably heard of some of the brand names: Klonopin, Ativan, and Valium. In 2020, 91 million prescriptions were written for benzos -- roughly one in eight American adults use them.

What's less known is that there's a subset of users who experience brutal withdrawal symptoms. A quick search on Facebook can easily find communities like "Beating Benzos" and "Benzo Recovery" with thousands of members trying to help each other to wean off the drugs.

Rapper Lil Xan, short for "Xanax," told 60 Minutes+ correspondent Seth Doane he was first prescribed half a milligram of a benzo when he was 18 to manage what he described as "intense anxiety."

"It'll jump out at the-- the weirdest points in life," Xan said. "I can do a show for thousands of people and I won't have a drop of anxiety. But the minute I'm in, like, a closed environment, it could just be the most random thing will just set me off."

As Lil Xan, whose real name is Nicholas Diego Leanos, built a tolerance to the drug Ativan, he switched over to Xanax and started ramping up his consumption.

"At the peak, how many milligrams were you taking?" Doane asked.

"I was probably taking-- 12 two milligrams to 14 two milligrams a day," Xan said. "I was really bad. It was really bad... I was taking enough benzos to take down an elephant."

"How did you get them?" Doane asked.

"Just through, like, dealers on the street," Xan said.

Xan's benzos use was morphing into addiction and he knew he needed to stop.

"I looked in the mirror and I'm, like, it was just that moment you know, like, if I keep doing this, I'm gonna die soon," Xan said. "So I just quit, cold turkey. And I actually ended up having a few seizures. And I landed in the hospital."

After numerous attempts, Xan, now 24, said he got clean and has since used his platform to caution his generation about the dangers of benzos.

"So I wanted to create a movement, Xanarchy, about, just, nothing, but anti-xan use, and that's really what I'm trying to promote," Xan said on MTV.

"Looking back, do you regret fueling that fire a bit?" Doane asked Xan.

"I get that my name, in-- in itself, is-- is popularizing it," Xan said. "I always made that known that I didn't like that my name was popularizing it. But it's what worked for me."

Other benzo users told Doane they weren't aware of the dangers of the drugs before they started taking them. And one doctor drew parallels between the overprescribing of benzos and the overprescription of painkillers that led to the opioid epidemic. See Doane's full report on 60 Minutes+, streaming now on Paramount+.