What is Xanax? How does it work
Alprazolam (Xanax XR, Niravam), is an anti-anxiety medication in the benzodiazepine drug family, the same family that includes diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), flurazepam (Dalmane), and others. Alprazolam and other benzodiazepines act by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter (a chemical that nerve cells use to communicate with each other) that inhibits activity in the brain. It is believed that excessive activity in the brain may cause anxiety or other psychiatric disorders
What are the uses for Xanax?
Xanax is used for the treatment of anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Anxiety disorders are characterized by:
- Unrealistic worry and apprehension
- Symptoms of restlessness
- Shortness of breath
- Smothering sensation
- Cold clammy hands
- Exaggerated startle responses
- Problems concentrating
Xanax also is used for treating anxiety associated with panic attacks. Panic attacks occur either unexpectedly or in certain situations (for example, driving), and can require higher dosages of Xanax
What does Xanax feel like if you’re using it recreationally?
Many people who take Xanax recreationally, or without a prescription, describe the feeling as sedating or calming.
Unlike some drugs, such as cocaine, that produce a “high” or euphoric feeling, Xanax users describe feeling more relaxed, quiet, and tired. These feelings may lead to falling asleep or passing out for a few hours.
Some people have also reported memory loss or blacking out and not remembering what happened for several hours. Higher doses will have stronger effects.
What if you’re using it to treat an anxiety or panic disorder?
If you take this medication as it’s intended — it’s commonly prescribed to treat anxiety or panic disorders — you may feel “normal” after your first dose.
The sedating effect can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and calm your body’s response to the anxiety or stress.
What if you drink alcohol after taking Xanax?
Alcohol increases the effects of Xanax and slows down how quickly your body can clear the drug from your system. If you take the medicine and then drink alcohol, you may experience extreme lethargy and prolonged memory loss.
It’s advised that you avoid combining the two substances. It’s possible that the combination will lead to dangerous, even deadly side effects. These include:
- difficulty breathing
- extreme drowsiness
What if you combine Xanax with another drug or medication?
You should avoid combining Xanax with several other drugs due to their interactions. Xanax can interact with many medications, including some:
- oral contraceptives
- heartburn drugs
These drugs can prevent the pathway that’s responsible for eliminating Xanax from your body from removing it as quickly as should happen. Over time, this may lead to a toxic buildup of the drug and eventually an overdose.
Speak with your doctor or a pharmacist about all the medications you’re currently taking to ensure that they won’t have an interaction. They can assess the risks and discuss them with you.
You should also avoid combining Xanax with drugs — even over-the-counter ones — that can make you sleepy, slow your breathing, or cause extreme lethargy. The compounded effects of combining these drugs may be dangerous and put you at risk for health issues or death
What shouldn’t you feel when taking Xanax?
The effects of Xanax should be mild, but detectable. If the drug appears to be having a significant impact on you, you should seek emergency medical attention.
Symptoms to watch for include:
- extreme drowsiness
- muscle weakness
- loss of balance
- feeling lightheaded
You should also seek emergency medical attention if you experience signs of an allergic reaction. Signs may include swelling of the face, lips, throat, and tongue and difficulty breathing.
Likewise, if you experience signs of withdrawal, you should contact your doctor immediately. Xanax is a potentially habit-forming drug, so some people may develop a dependency or addiction without realizing it.
Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal can be serious. They include:
- depressed mood
- thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- racing thoughts
- uncontrolled muscle movements
How long will its effects last?
The effects of Xanax are brief. Most people will feel the strongest impacts from the drug for two to four hours. Lingering effects or “fuzzy feelings” may stretch out beyond that for several more hours.
How long it takes for the drug to impact you will depend on several factors. They include:
- your weight and metabolism
- your age
- other medications you may be taking
It’s possible to build up a tolerance to Xanax quickly. If that happens, you may begin to notice it takes longer for you to feel the sedative effects of the drug, and the feelings may wear off more quickly
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