Before Taking this Drug
Inform your doctor if you have any of the following conditions before taking Xanax (alprazolam):
- If you are suffering from narrow-angle glaucoma
- If you are pregnant
- If you are allergic to Xanax or any of its alternatives such as Ativan, Tranxene, Serax, and other drugs from the same class.
- Epilepsy or convulsions
- History of drug abuse or alcohol addiction
- History of depression or suicidal behavior
- Liver or kidney diseases
- Any breathing problems such as asthma
- Taking narcotic medicine
Dosage and Storage
Xanax (alprazolam) should be taken exactly as prescribed by the doctor. All directions should be followed according to the prescription label. It should not be taken in larger amounts or for a period longer than prescribed. Xanax should not be crushed, chewed, or broken. The tablet should be taken orally as a whole. If the medicine does not work as it should, then immediately call your doctor. Xanax should be maintained at normal room temperature, and kept away from heat and moisture.
If a person is suffering from anxiety, then the initial dose would start from 0.25 mg to 0.5 mg three times a day. This medicine should be taken as whole orally. Gradually, the dose can be increased by the doctor if needed. The maximum daily dose the doctor would recommend is 4 mg, which would be divided during the course of the day.
For a person suffering from panic attacks, the initial dose would start from 0.5 mg to be taken orally as a whole, three times a day. This limit would gradually increase in every 3-4 days as required. For the extended-release tablets, the initial dose starts from 0.5 mg to 1 mg once a day, which would gradually increase by not more than 1 mg if needed by the patient.
Taking Xanax would be supervised by the doctor. In cases of people suffering from depression, the dose would start from 0.5 mg orally to be taken three times a day. This dose would gradually increase to 1 mg at the most every 3-4 days. The maximum dose a person would take is 4.5 mg orally.
Xanax can show up with severe withdrawal symptoms if stopped all of a sudden. Thus, it is best to check with the doctor on how safely this medication can be stopped. Do not abruptly stop using this medicine without your doctor's consent.
If Xanax is taken more than prescribed, it can start off as a habit. When habit-forming drugs are misused, it can cause addiction, and at times, an overdose that can lead to death. This medication should be stored in a safe place away from anyone else’s reach. Also, keep a check on your dosage level every time you take it.
If there are times when you miss a particular dose, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is close to your next scheduled dose, then avoid taking the missed dose since it can cause an overdose. In case of an overdose, urgently seek medical attention. Some of the overdose symptoms include muscle weakness, loss of coordination, drowsiness, feeling confused, and fainting.
Xanax has a side effect of impairing your thinking or reactions. Hence, be careful if you are driving or carrying out any work that requires mental alertness. You also need to avoid drinking alcohol.
Side Effects of Xanax
The effects of this drug usually start within 25 minutes of having it and provide relief for up to a few hours. If there are any signs of allergic reaction after taking Xanax, please inform your doctor at the earliest. The effects would be difficulty in breathing, swelling of the face, tongue, lips, and throat.
Common Side Effects of Xanax:
- Tiredness and drowsiness
- Feeling anxious early in the morning
- Sudden weight changes
- Muscle twitching
- Lack of balance
- Difficulty in remembering things or memory problems
- Slurred speech
Apart from the above-mentioned side effects, the drug's major side effects include:
- Irregular heartbeat or pounding heart
- Feeling of hostility
- Sudden change in behavior, which would include risk-taking behavior
- Racing thoughts and displaying energy more than needed
- Suicidal thoughts
- Always reflecting depressing mood
- Feelings of confusion, anxiety, or getting very anxious all of a sudden
This drug has serious repercussions if taken with other drugs. It could make you feel sleepy, drowsy, have problems in breathing, or at times, may lead to death. Inform your doctor about all of your current medications so he or she can suggest if any of them needs to be stopped and can modify dose limits if necessary. Inform your doctor if you are taking the following medications:
- Ritonavir or other medicines to treat HIV or AIDS
- Antifungal medicine such as fluconazole and voriconazole
Since Xanax is a prescription medicine and also a part of the benzodiazepine class, it should be taken for short-term only to cure panic attacks and anxiety. However, if this medicine is taken for longer than the prescribed duration, it could cause certain repercussions, which can also be severe if not controlled on time.
If the person has taken an overdose of Xanax, then he or she might start showing symptoms such as:
- Feeling dizzy
- Blurry vision
- Irregular breathing
- Muscle weakness and loss of coordination
If it gets more serious, one's speech is affected along with respiratory depression. If the overdose is severe, then it could be life-threatening for the person since it can cause hallucinations, and at times, lead to coma or death.
Overcoming a Xanax Overdose
The most important thing to note is that one should not take Xanax unless specifically prescribed by the doctor. Moreover, if it is prescribed, then it should not be taken more than the required dosage. Xanax should not be combined with other drugs or alcohol since it can have fatal consequences. One should ensure taking this medicine at the same time daily for better results. Avoid skipping a dose as well.
In case if the person has overdosed on Xanax, then seek medical help immediately. The doctor would first check the person's cardiac activity. The doctor may also check the glucose level, and if the level is less than normal, then the doctor may administer an intravenous dextrose to restore the levels of blood glucose in the body. The doctor would also pump a person's stomach if Xanax was taken within 1-2 hours.
In a few cases, the doctors can give certain medications like flumazenil, which acts as an antidote for the overdose. However, this drug is also very dangerous if given more than required.
Xanax is designed for short-term use since it has a high potential for addiction if used for more than the prescribed duration.
This drug can be dangerous if taken during pregnancy. It can cause serious birth defects. Moreover, since this is a habit-forming drug, there are chances that the baby would become dependent on the drug. If you stop having this drug post-delivery, the baby would start having severe withdrawal symptoms. Hence, one must inform the doctor before this drug is prescribed. If you are planning to get pregnant, then you would need to postpone it by taking effective birth control pills until your Xanax dose is completed.
Lactating mothers should also be very careful while taking this medicine. Xanax can harm the nursing baby since it can pass in the breastmilk of the lactating mother. Consult your doctor and let him know about you breastfeeding, so he can be careful before prescribing the medicine and its dose limit.
In the case of elderly patients, the use of Xanax should be strictly taken as told by the doctor. Make sure to follow the dosage. Since the effects of the sedative last longer when it comes to older adults, accidental falls are quite common to those who take Xanax.
During the course of Xanax treatment, avoid the consumption of alcohol. The alcohol's effects multiply if Xanax is simultaneously taken.
An individual younger than 18 years old is not approved to use Xanax.
An individual would experience the following signs and symptoms if he or she is addicted to Xanax:
- Mood swings
- Getting very agitated
- Getting very hostile
- Risky behavior
- Change in appetite
- Decreased urination
- Slurred speech
- Heart palpitations
- Puffy nose
- Dry mouth
- Memory loss problems
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal for each individual is unique. The withdrawal timeline may be affected by several factors. The more dependent the body is on Xanax, the more intense and longer are the withdrawal symptoms.
A variety of things can contribute to how strong is the dependence such as age at which the first dose of Xanax was taken, the amount of dosage, the length of Xanax use or abuse, if Xanax is taken as a mixture with other drugs or medications, method of ingestion, and use of alcohol along with Xanax.
Other factors that affect the duration of the withdrawal symptoms include:
- Family history of the individual
- Any prior history of Xanax addiction
- Mental health issues
- The person’s medical history and other health complications
- Environmental factors
Withdrawing from Xanax addiction can also be dangerous. Hence, it should be done under a supervised medical professional. The environment during withdrawal should be safe, so that the person does not get more aggressive. The process of detoxification slowly reduces the amount of Xanax in an individual’s body, which in turn, minimizes the chances of life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Benzodiazepine produces calming effects to specific sites on the GABA receptors, which are located in the brain. After a continuous use of Xanax for a longer duration, it can cause certain changes to the GABA receptors, which make them less susceptible to stimulation.
As time passes, the individuals usually build up a tolerance level for this medication, which requires them to take more of the medicine so that it produces the initial effects. Withdrawal in an individual starts when the medication leaves the bloodstream since the person has not had the medicine for a long time.
The brain struggles to find order and balance in its natural sense. Thus, the withdrawal should be strictly done under the guidance of a doctor to avoid any untoward incidence.
Xanax has the ability to slow down the heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure in the body. It also minimizes anxiety, stress, and panic attacks. Xanax also has the ability to reduce epileptic seizures. If the drug is suddenly stopped, these conditions tend to bounce back.
Within 6-12 hours of the last dose, the person would start experiencing withdrawal symptoms and would last for 1-2 days. Acute withdrawal symptoms come next and would last from a few days to a complete one month.
The individual’s temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate may suddenly rise up. The individual would experience seizures, which at times, can lead to coma or death in extreme cases. Below are the physical symptoms of Xanax withdrawal:
- Sudden weight loss
- Blurry vision
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle pain
- Nervous feelings
- Light and sound sensitivity
- Tingling sensations in the hands and feet
- Panic attacks
- Suicidal thoughts
- Other health complications
Apart from the physical symptoms, an individual would also experience psychological issues. When the brain is used to a certain kind of drug, and if it is stopped all of a sudden, the brain would need some time to return to its previous levels of functioning, which results in strong emotional or psychological side effects.
The person would start feeling lonely or depressed and there would be suicidal thoughts on his or her mind. An individual would be unable to control his or her emotions, gets very irritated, and jumpy. Anxiety, panic attacks, aggressive behavior, sudden mood changes, having trouble concentrating on a particular thing, hallucinations, and memory loss for a short period of time are also the potential side effects of withdrawal.
During these situations, the people battling withdrawal symptoms would need a lot of emotional support and backup from their doctor, family, and friends.