What is Xanax?
Xanax is an antianxiety medication in the benzodiazepine family. This is the same family that includes diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), flurazepam (Dalmane), and others.
Xanax works by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it in October 1981.
Benzodiazepines act on the brain and central nervous system (CNS) to produce a calming effect.
Xanax slows down the movement of brain chemicals that may have become unbalanced, resulting in a reduction in nervous tension and anxiety. Xanax works by boosting the effects of a natural chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is made in the brain.
XANAX Tablets contain alprazolam which is a triazolo analog of the 1,4 benzodiazepine class of central nervous system-active compounds.
The chemical name of alprazolam is 8-Chloro-1-methyl-6-phenyl-4H-s-triazolo [4,3-α] [1,4] benzodiazepine.
The structural formula is represented to the right:
Alprazolam is a white crystalline powder, which is soluble in methanol or ethanol but which has no appreciable solubility in water at physiological pH.
Each XANAX Tablet, for oral administration, contains 0.25, 0.5, 1 or 2 mg of alprazolam.
XANAX Tablets, 2 mg, are multi-scored and may be divided as shown below:
Cellulose, corn starch, docusate sodium, lactose, magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide and sodium benzoate. In addition, the 0.5 mg tablet contains FD&C Yellow No. 6 and the 1 mg tablet contains FD&C Blue No. 2.
How should I take Xanax?
Take Xanax exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Never use Xanax in larger amounts, or for longer than prescribed. Tell your doctor if you feel an increased urge to use more of this medicine.
Never share this medicine with another person, especially someone with a history of drug abuse or addiction. MISUSE CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH. Keep the medication in a place where others cannot get to it. Selling or giving away this medicine is against the law.
Swallow the Xanax XR extended-release tablet whole. Do not crush, chew, or break the tablet.
Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, or if they get worse.
If you use this medicine long-term, you may need frequent medical tests.
Do not stop using Xanax without asking your doctor. You may have life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if you stop using the medicine suddenly after long-term use.
Store Xanax at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light. Keep your medicine in a place where no one can use it improperly.
People should not use Xanax if they are allergic to alprazolam or other benzodiazepines, such as:
Precautions and Contraindications
You should not take Xanax if you have a hypersensitivity to benzodiazepines or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Xanax has also not been shown to be effective for people under age 18, and elderly people may be more susceptible to adverse side effects. Xanax may also be less effective for people who smoke.
People with liver or kidney problems also should not take Xanax. The medication is processed by these organs, and if they are not working correctly, Xanax may build up in your body leading to the possibility of overdose or heavy sedation.
You should also avoid Xanax if you're currently taking the antifungal medications ketoconazole or itraconazole.
What’s Xanax Used For?
Xanax is used for short-term relief for anxiety and panic. Only a qualified medical professional can determine whether you have an anxiety disorder, a diagnosis that is typically based on an evaluation of your symptoms and tests to rule out other medical causes for your anxiety—if necessary.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, there are several types of anxiety disorders. Among them:
Generalized anxiety disorder, marked by chronic, unrealistic worry, fear, and apprehension.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, which comes with recurrent, unwanted thoughts and/or repetitive behaviors (obsessions and compulsions).
Panic disorder, characterized by episodes of intense fear and physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, restlessness, and trouble concentrating.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, often linked to events in which profound harm occurred or was threatened—from an assault, natural and man-made disasters, an accident, or war.)
Social phobia disorder, which triggers overpowering anxiety and atypical self-consciousness in day-to-day social situations.
Xanax Abuse and Addiction
Although safe and effective when prescribed by a medical professional and taken as directed, there is a growing concern over the abuse of Xanax and drugs like it.
Headlines in recent years suggest that teen use of Xanax is rising. An article in the Journal of Addiction Medicine1 calling Xanax one of the most widely-prescribed drugs for anxiety and panic disorders noted too that “many primary care physicians continue to prescribe it for longer periods than recommended.” One big concern is dependence. “This cannot be overstated,” Dr. McGee continues. “People who start on Xanax often have a really hard time getting off it.” The same is true for other benzos,” he adds.
How long does Xanax last?
Most people notice that Xanax will start to work within 1 to 2 hours. For healthy younger adults, half the dose of Xanax has left the body somewhere between 6.3 to 26.9 hours. The average is around 11 hours.
It takes a little longer for Xanax to leave the body of healthy elderly people. Half the dose of Xanax has left the body in elderly people somewhere between 9 to 26.9 hours. The average is around 16 hours for this group.
However, people stop feeling the effects of Xanax long before it leaves the body, which is why it is often taken more than once a day. It’s important to take it as prescribed. Taking too many doses can lead to dependence and accidental overdose.
Living with an anxiety disorder can have a significant impact on your life. However, there are other treatments you can try before starting Xanax.
Other anti-anxiety medications. Several anti-anxiety medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be safely used for a longer period of time than Xanax. SSRIs, taken daily, can help people with anxiety manage their symptoms. They are taken around the same time every day, not just when you feel anxious. However, it can take a few weeks before you notice your anxiety symptoms lessen on these medications.
Psychotherapy. Talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, has also been shown to be helpful for treating anxiety and insomnia. With this type of therapy, your therapist helps you understand how your thoughts and emotions about your anxiety can worsen your symptoms. You and your therapist also explore more adaptive thoughts and behaviors to help ease your anxiety symptoms or sleep problems.
Other benzodiazepines. If you and your provider decide that a benzodiazepine is the right choice for you, your provider might try one with less risk of side effects and misuse than Xanax such as oxazepam (Serax). They might also limit the number of pills prescribed and use the medication for a short amount of time.