What is Xanax® Medication for?

Harriette Halepis
Harriette Halepis
Recurring nightmares are a symptom of Xanax withdrawal.
Recurring nightmares are a symptom of Xanax withdrawal.

Alprazolam is a type of benzodiazepine drug that goes under the trade names Xanax®, Xanor®, and Niravam®. All of these drugs are intended to treat panic attacks and anxiety disorders. Out of these three trade names, Xanax® is the most commonly prescribed. Xanax® may also be used to treat symptoms of severe depression, which makes this drug unique within the benzodiazepine drug category.

Xanax is often prescribed to help with panic attacks.
Xanax is often prescribed to help with panic attacks.

Scientists began experimenting with benzodiazepine during the sixties. Alprazolam was originally created by a company called Upjohn, which was later acquired by Pfizer. Upjohn marketed the drug as a cure-all for panic disorder, and when the drug was released in 1981, it became an instant hit. Before its release, panic disorder was an ailment that was largely untreatable.

Xanax® is also prescribed and sold under the generic name alprazolam.
Xanax® is also prescribed and sold under the generic name alprazolam.

Xanax® medication works through absorption within the gastrointestinal system. When a Xanax® pill is swallowed, it is absorbed by the gastrointestinal track. Once the medication has reached this tract, it is then dissolved by digestive liquids. A vast majority of the medication attaches itself to plasma protein within the body, while the rest of the medication is absorbed by the liver.

Visual hallucinations may be experienced when withdrawing from Xanax.
Visual hallucinations may be experienced when withdrawing from Xanax.

Whether the drug winds up in the liver or attached to plasma proteins, the effectiveness of the drug remains the same. Following absorption, Xanax® medication works to directly impact the brain's GABA receptors. These receptors are responsible for communicating with the brain's neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Xanax® medication effectively numbs these reactors, causing a patient to feel calm.

Xanax® is a fast-acting benzodiazepine.
Xanax® is a fast-acting benzodiazepine.

While benzodiazepine drugs have been proven highly effective, there is some controversy surrounding the long-term effects of the drugs on patients. When patients are prescribed a high dosage of Xanax® medication over a long period of time, side effects such as euphoria, hallucinations, jaundice, rage, and many others can occur, though these side effects are often rare.

Before the introduction of alprazolam in 1981, panic disorder was an ailment that was largely untreatable.
Before the introduction of alprazolam in 1981, panic disorder was an ailment that was largely untreatable.

Also, physical dependence can occur when Xanax® medication has been prescribed for a more than eight weeks. Any patient that wishes to discontinue the use of Xanax® medication should speak with a doctor. Most patients must slowly discontinue use of this medication in order to avoid any unwanted physical dependency side effects. No patient should abruptly stop using any kind of benzodiazepine medication.

In addition, this type of medication should be monitored by a trained physician. Only a qualified medical expert can determine whether or not a patient should continue use of Xanax®. Without this drug, many people suffering from anxiety, depression, and panic attacks would not be able to function normally, though this doesn't meant that Xanax® should be taken liberally.

Discussion Comments

ddljohn

@ysmina-- I'm not sure. I never felt like a zombie either. In fact, I felt great because I could actually function, get through the day and fulfill my responsibilities.

Obviously this is not a cure for general anxiety, no medication is. But when anxiety becomes so bad that you can't get up in the morning, be positive, go to work and take care of your family, you need to do something.

I was in a horrible condition when I started taking Xanax and it made all the difference. It helped me take care of things until I had the time and money to go to therapy. I also waned myself off after close to a year as I didn't want to have dependency issues. Therapy helped me a lot and I don't have anxiety anymore.

candyquilt

@ysmina-- I didn't have very bad side effects when I first took it, but Xanax does make you dependent and as your body gets used to it, you have to increase the dose to accommodate. So you can't take Xanax forever because eventually you'll get to the maximum dose you can possibly take and when that's not enough, what will you do?

Xanax is a good drug but I agree with that ER doctor you mentioned that it should be used for emergency situations and not long-term. It works wonders for general anxiety disorder and panic attacks for the most part. It's also used for social anxiety disorder and depression like the article said.

But like all medicines, this has its downsides too. I know there are many people who've been taking Xanax for years and are struggling with withdrawal. That's why I think use of Xanax requires extra caution. I consider myself lucky because I was able to quit the medication in a couple of months.

ysmina

My very short experience with Xanax left me the impression that it's a pretty strong medication. I was prescribed it by an Emergency room doctor. My roommate took me in when I had several anxiety attacks in the same day. I even had one at the hospital and the doctor wanted to make sure that the medication she gave me would be enough.

She prescribed Xanax but told me not to take it for more than a week. She said that she was giving it to me as an emergency and that I would need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist for long-term drug treatment for anxiety.

The several days that I took Xanax I was calm but totally out of it. I was sleeping most of the day and felt like a zombie when I wasn't. I stopped taking it after four days, I didn't even wait for the entire week.

Does Xanax do this to everyone? How do people take this drug for years?

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    • Recurring nightmares are a symptom of Xanax withdrawal.
      By: sebra
      Recurring nightmares are a symptom of Xanax withdrawal.
    • Xanax is often prescribed to help with panic attacks.
      By: Astrid Gast
      Xanax is often prescribed to help with panic attacks.
    • Xanax® is also prescribed and sold under the generic name alprazolam.
      By: LoloStock
      Xanax® is also prescribed and sold under the generic name alprazolam.
    • Visual hallucinations may be experienced when withdrawing from Xanax.
      By: auremar
      Visual hallucinations may be experienced when withdrawing from Xanax.
    • Xanax® is a fast-acting benzodiazepine.
      By: nadezhda1906
      Xanax® is a fast-acting benzodiazepine.
    • Before the introduction of alprazolam in 1981, panic disorder was an ailment that was largely untreatable.
      By: Lisa F. Young
      Before the introduction of alprazolam in 1981, panic disorder was an ailment that was largely untreatable.