Alprazolam (A complete guide)

In this blog, we will discuss how alprazolam is used, what disorders it treats, common side effects, and important precautions regarding usage. 


Alprazolam is a medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Alprazolam is commonly prescribed to patients who have been diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder, including panic disorder.

It can also be prescribed to patients who have anxiety caused by depression as well as seizure disorders. 

Anxiety disorders can be diagnosed by a physician, usually a psychiatrist.

Common symptoms of anxiety disorders include hypervigilance, irritability, restlessness, fear of impending doom, nausea, trembling, and more. For support and insight on anxiety disorders, click here. 

How does alprazolam work? 

Alprazolam works by activating receptors for the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.

GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, which means that it reduces the firing of neurons.

When receptors for GABA are activated by alprazolam, neurons are “quieter” and thus elicit a calming and sedative effect in the patient. 

Alprazolam is usually taken as needed, such as when the patient feels a panic attack coming on.

It should not be used as a recreational drug or in combination with alcohol. 

What are some things I should know about taking alprazolam? 

Alprazolam can be used for short-term relief of anxiety. It is available in short-acting or long-acting tablets, oral solution, or orally dissolving tablets. 

The extended-release form of alprazolam is released slowly into the bloodstream and is only used to treat patients with panic disorder. 

In addition, alprazolam can be taken as needed and supplemented with more long-term treatment for anxiety, such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).  

Additional note: If you are a woman who is breastfeeding you should not breastfeed your baby while taking alprazolam. 

What are the risks associated with taking alprazolam? 

Alprazolam has addictive potential.

The risk of addiction may be enhanced if you have a preexisting substance use disorder such as opioid or alcohol use disorder.

In addition, people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are more likely to use alprazolam recreationally.

Alprazolam and other benzodiazepine use account for 35% of drug-related hospital and emergency care visits.

Men and women are equally as likely to use alprazolam or other benzodiazepines recreationally. 

It is imperative to take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor in order to prevent the possibility of developing an addiction. 

What are the side effects of alprazolam? 

During the first few hours after taking alprazolam, you may experience dizziness or drowsiness.

Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how this drug affects you. 

Taking alprazolam may cause a number of side effects including drowsiness, dizziness, and changes in sex drive. 

Other common side effects include:

• Trouble concentrating

• Sleep disturbances

• Muscle weakness

• Gastrointestinal problems (i.e., upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea)

• Increased sweating

• Dry mouth

• Stuffy nose

• Changes in weight 

• Changes in appetite

These side effects usually go away within a few days to a few weeks. If they become more severe or do not go away, talk to your doctor. 

More serious side effects include changes in mood (hallucination, suicidal ideation), slurred speech, little or no urination, loss of coordination and balance, and memory problems.

In rare cases, heart problems such as chest pain and abnormal heartbeat may occur.

In addition, yellowing eyes and skin are rare but can occur.

This yellowing of the eyes and skin is known as jaundice and indicates a serious liver problem.

If you notice any of these problems, consult your doctor as soon as possible. 

If you are between the ages of 18 and 60 and have no other medical conditions, common side effects include low blood pressure, dizziness on standing, and heart palpitations. 

You may also experience the following: 

• Upset stomach (i.e., nausea, constipation)

• Dry mouth

• Headache

• Impaired reaction time

Are there any interactions between alprazolam and other drugs?

Some drugs that are known to interact with alprazolam are kava and sodium oxybate.

Certain medications affect how your body metabolizes alprazolam, including antidepressants such as fluoxetine and fluvoxamine.

Some antifungals (itraconazole and ketoconazole) can increase drowsiness when taken with alprazolam. 

The risks of serious side effects from alprazolam are increased if taken with other drugs that cause drowsiness.

These include opioids such as codeine or hydrocodone as well as alcohol and other drugs for sleep and anxiety, muscle relaxants, or antihistamines. 

If you are taking other medications and have questions about whether or not they will interact with alprazolam, consult your doctor immediately. 

How do I know if I should take alprazolam? 

Be sure not to confuse normal everyday anxiety with an anxiety disorder.

If you are experiencing a problem at work, a big exam coming up, or an important decision, you are probably having a normal anxious reaction to life stressors.

Anxiety disorders, however, are chronic and usually centre around irrational fears and worry. 

There are many different types of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder, to name a few.   

Symptoms of GAD usually include: 

·      Feelings of restlessness or on edge

·      Difficulty concentrating and racing thoughts

·      Muscle tension

·      Irritability

·      Trouble sleeping

·      Difficulty controlling feelings of worry

·      Easily fatigued 

Alprazolam is commonly prescribed to people suffering from panic disorder because the calming effects help subside panic attacks.

Symptoms of panic attacks include:

·      Heart palpitations or accelerated heart rate 

·      Sweating, trembling, shaking

·      Shortness of breath 

·      Feelings of impending doom 

Phobia-related disorders are another set of anxiety disorders that are characterized by an intense fear or aversion to specific situations or objects.

This fear is usually out of proportion to the actual danger imposed by the situation or object.

·      Irrational or excessive worry about encountering the feared object or situation 

·      Intentional avoidance of feared object or situation 

·      Intense and immediate anxiety upon exposure to the object or situation 

Specific phobias can be related to situations such as flying or heights, or related to animals such as spiders.

Some people also have phobias of receiving injections or blood.

Agoraphobia is another type of anxiety disorder where people have an intense fear of two or more of the following situations: 

·      Being in open or enclosed spaces

·      Standing in lines

·      Crowded areas

·      Using public transportation

·      Being outside of their home 

People with agoraphobia often avoid these situations out of fear that they will not be able to escape.

Some have an intense fear that they will panic or have other embarrassing symptoms.

In severe cases, people may avoid leaving their house altogether. 

If you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, do NOT start taking alprazolam from a non-reputable source such as a friend, consult a psychiatrist immediately. 

Alprazolam should be taken in combination with the right kind of psychotherapy, such as talk therapy or cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). 

These therapies teach the patient active coping mechanisms to manage anxiety symptoms. 

What happens if I suddenly stop taking alprazolam?

If you stop taking this medication “cold-turkey”, you may experience severe withdrawal effects, including seizures.

To prevent this, talk to your doctor about slowly tapering off alprazolam. 

Even if you think you don’t need alprazolam anymore, it is still necessary to consult with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan that is better for you. 

Is it possible to overdose on alprazolam?

Yes, it is possible. An overdose on alprazolam causes severe central nervous system (CNS) depression and may include one or more of the following symptoms: 

·      Coma

·      Fainting

·      Hypotension (low blood pressure) and hypoventilation (shallow breathing)

·      Impaired motor functions (I.e., dizziness, difficulty balancing, impaired or absence of reflexes, muscle weakness)

·      Drowsiness

So what can I take away from this blog post about alprazolam?

In this blog piece we discussed how alprazolam works in the brain, what it is used to treat, and common side effects.

If you have any questions about alprazolam in general or are wondering whether or not you need a prescription, consult your psychiatrist as soon as possible.  

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about alprazolam:

1. Are alprazolam and Xanax the same thing?

Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam.  

2. Is alprazolam a sleeping pill?

Alprazolam should not be used as a sleeping pill, however, it can help people with anxiety fall asleep.

If taken at night, alprazolam can cause drowsiness and sedation the next day. 

3. What is alprazolam used for?

Alprazolam is prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders.

It is part of a class of medications called benzodiazepines which act to enhance the effects of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

GABA acts in the brain to inhibit and produces a calming effect.

4. Is alprazolam a dangerous drug?

Most side effects of alprazolam are not fatal, but some may require medical attention.

If you notice any serious side effects such as changes in mood or trouble speaking, notify your doctor right away. 

5. What are the side effects of alprazolam? 

Some of the side effects of alprazolam include headache, memory impairment, drowsiness, fatigue, nervousness, skin rash, tremor, changes in weight, and blurred vision.

If you are taking alprazolam and are experiencing any of these side effects, consult your doctor immediately.

6. Can alprazolam make you sleepy?

Since alprazolam is used as a sedative medication to calm people with anxiety disorders, it can make you drowsy and decrease your ability to drive safely or operate machinery.

If alprazolam is taken with other drugs that induce drowsiness such as alcohol, you may become particularly sleepy. 

More questions or comments? Post below! 

Recommended reading

Want to learn more about alprazolam? Try these books! 

Panic Attacks and You-Methodology for recovery from anxiety and panic attacks disorder

Justin Burns writes all about how to deal with the long- and short-term issues that come with having panic attacks in this extremely powerful self-help book.

He identifies the causes of panic attacks and details how to prevent them.

This book also lists major symptoms of panic attacks, the differences between anxiety attacks and panic attacks, and effective treatments for panic attacks. 

Alprazolam 627 Questions to Ask that Matter to You

This is a must-have book for anyone who is concerned about beginning his or her journey with alprazolam.

It goes into detail on what exactly to ask your doctor to make sure you are getting all the correct information about this prescription medication.

This book also includes room to take your own notes as well as an extensive index so you can easily find answers to any questions you may have. 

The Neurotic Paradox, Volume 1: Progress in Understanding and Treating Anxiety and Related Disorders (World Library of Mental Health)

This is a collection of papers written by Dr David Barlow, where he discusses years of research on the treatment of anxiety disorders.

His research has resulted in new classifications of anxiety disorders as well as new treatments that have proven very useful to clinical psychologists. 


Alprazolam.WebMD. 2019 

Alprazolam: 6 things you should know. December 28th, 2018. 

Anxiety Disorders.National Institute of Mental Health. July 2018. 

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