- Xanax can help you feel calmer if you suffer from anxiety, but should not be used long term.
- Xanax is highly addictive and comes with many side effects, including dizziness and chest pain.
- Xanax can interact negatively with other drugs and should never be taken with alcohol.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference Library for more tips.
Xanax, generic name Alprazolam, can be used to treat short-term anxiety, but due to its highly addictive nature is not recommended for long term use.
Its effects are felt relatively quickly, about one to two hours after consumption. But this is also when you may begin to experience some of Xanax’s many potential side effects, such as sedation and dizziness.
Therefore, it is important to know the potential side effects – what is normal and when to see a doctor – before starting Xanax.
How Xanax Works
Xanax is a sedative and anxiolytic, which means it calms you down. It is part of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which work by encouraging the neurotransmitter GABA to attach to nerve endings, essentially blocking the path for other chemicals.
This is important because, with GABA in place, fewer anxiety-causing chemicals like cortisol can attach to your nerves, resulting in a more relaxed physical and mental state.
“Benzodiazepines, including Xanax, work on the brain to cause relaxation, anxiety reduction, and drowsiness. Sometimes benzodiazepines are used as muscle relaxants or to control seizures,” explains Kelly Johnson Arbormedical co-director of National Capital Poison Control Center and Medical Director of Hyperbaric Medicine at Georgetown MedStar University Hospital.
However, in the same way that GABA blocks chemicals that cause anxiety, it can also block other chemical messengers, which is what causes most of the drug’s effects. Side effects.
The side effects of Xanax
Xanax can cause side effects throughout the body, including places like the brain, heart, and muscles.
here is a list of side effects ranked from most common to least:
- Brain: drowsiness, headache, dizziness, memory impairment
- Digestive system: constipation, nausea, changes in appetite
- Heart: rapid heartbeat, chest pain
- Sensory organs : dry mouth, blurred vision, tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- muscles: stiffness, tremors, cramps
- Respiratory systemm: respiratory depression which can lead to slow, shallow breathing and shortness of breath
Xanax can also cause what is called anterograde amnesia, which is when the brain has a harder time forming memories. A little study 2016 found healthy male participants who took Xanax for two weeks scored lower on memory tests that required them to match objects and patterns. The researchers, however, did not investigate whether this effect lasted after the participants stopped taking Xanax.
Additionally, many people who take Xanax suffer from mood disorders, which can also affect memory. However, researchers have not yet determined whether the drug’s effects on memory are permanent or not.
It is important to note that each person’s body is different, so you may experience a lot of side effects from Xanax or none at all. Clinical tests suggest that people using Xanax to treat panic disorder are more likely to report side effects than those treating another anxiety disorder.
If your side effects seem severe or do not go away, you may want to see your doctor. They may prescribe another medicine for you.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax can be highly addictive due to the high they provide.
This high goes back to how Xanax works: by encouraging GABA neurotransmitters to bind to nerve receptors. Some of this GABA binds to e cellsare responsible to limit the amount of dopamine your brain releases.
Dopamine is a chemical that can boost our motivation and mood. So when GABA binds to these cells, it inhibits their ability to control your dopamine production. As a result, your brain receives a surge of dopamine, which makes you feel good.
“The strong pleasurable effect of Xanax is enhanced each time the user ingests the drug and can be addictive,” says Aaron Sternlichtprivate practice licensed alcohol and drug addiction counselor Family addiction specialist.
“Another reason for the addictive nature of Xanax is that it is extremely fast-acting, which means it doesn’t take long for the user to feel its effects,” says Sternlicht. Xanax kicks in about one to two hours after you take it and can stay in your system for much longer 11:00 (the half-life of the drug for healthy adults).
“Xanax is also widely available through legal and illegal means, leading to easy access that can fuel addiction.”
Who Should Avoid Xanax
According to Food and drug administrationXanax is riskier for certain populations.
You may want to talk to your doctor if you have:
- Planning to get pregnant or breastfeeding: Benzodiazepines like Xanax can travel across the placenta and harm your unborn child. The drug may also pass into your breast milk.
- Age 65 or older: You will probably digest Xanax more slowly than younger adults. You are also more likely to have serious side effects.
- Liver or kidney disease: Your liver and kidneys act as filters for your body. If they don’t work well, you may have a harder time metabolizing Xanax.
- Lung diseases: Xanax can affect your breathing, which is dangerous for people with low lung function.
- History of depression: Xanax can cause manic symptoms (irritation, hyperactivity, etc.) in some people with depression.
- History of addiction: You may have an increased risk of becoming addicted to Xanax if you have been addicted to other depressants like opioids or alcohol.
Xanax can interact with other medications including (but not limited to) the following:
- Antibiotics: erythromycin (EES 400), clarithromycin (Biaxin)
- Antidepressants: fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil)
- Opioids: codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone, tramadol
- Some herbs: St. John’s wort
These lists are not exhaustive. Nor are they an outright ban. You may still be able to take Xanax, but your doctor will likely monitor you closely for any signs of trouble.
When discussing a Xanax prescription, it is important to provide your doctor with a complete list of medications and supplements you are taking.
If you cannot take Xanax, there are alternatives that may be safer for you.
When to consult a doctor
In some cases, Xanax can cause serious health problems. The following signs suggest you need immediate medical attention:
- Severe skin rash
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficult breathing
- Difficulty staying awake
“If anyone has difficulty breathing or cannot be roused after taking Xanax, call 911 immediately. If you or someone you love takes too much Xanax or experiences other unwanted side effects after taking taken Xanax, contact the poison control center immediately,” Johnson-Arbor said.
“There are two ways to contact the poison control center in the United States: go online to www.poison.org or call 800-222-1222. Both options are free to the public, confidential and available 24 hours a day.”
Xanax is a powerful drug, but it can cause serious and highly addictive side effects. You can lower your risk by taking Xanax exactly as directed and contacting your doctor if you have a problem.