What is Xanax Used to Treat?

Xanax® is the brand name for the drug Alprazolam and is used for short term treatment of panic disorder and anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. In some chemotherapy patients, Xanax has been found to help nausea and vomiting. Xanax is the most widely prescribed and misused of all the benzodiazepines.

How Does Xanax Work?

Xanax is a fast acting, short lasting anxiolytic. 90% of its benefits for panic disorders occur within the first hour after taking it and all benefits are experienced within an hour and a half after ingestion. In treatment of anxiety disorders, full benefits may not be felt for up to a week after beginning medication. Xanax works mainly by calming the nervous system which in turn produces a calming emotional and physical feeling in the patient.

What are Xanax Side Effects?

Xanax side effects are usually benign but should still be taken seriously and with every precaution. Serious Xanax side effects that should be reported immediately include jaundice, allergic reaction such as swelling of the mouth, throat, lips and tongue, hives. Reactions that require immediate medical attention include: rage, mania, aggression, tremors/twitching. suicidal ideations, respiratory depression and hostility.

Other side effects associated with the use of Xanax include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Drowsiness/dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness/vertigo/impaired coordination
  • Urinary retention
  • Ataxia/slurred speech
  • Hallucinations
  • Constipation
  • Precautions/Interactions

Xanax has been found in breast milk and crosses the placental barrier in pregnant women and is believed to be related to fetal deformities. Women who have used Xanax in the third trimester of pregnancy have delivered babies with fetal drug dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, pregnant and nursing women or women considering pregnancy should not take Xanax.

Special precautions should be taken with the following populations when prescribing Xanax:

  • Children
  • The elderly
  • Drug or alcohol dependent persons
  • Persons with a history of drug or alcohol dependence
  • Pregnant women
  • Co-morbid psychiatric disorders

Patients who have any of the following conditions should avoid taking Xanax or have their Xanax use closely monitored by their health care provider:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Liver disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Pulmonary insufficency
  • Myasthenia gravis

As with all benzodiazepines, anyone who takes Xanax should avoid alcohol, driving and other activities that require vigilance.

For questions about whether Xanax is the best medication for you, please consult with your health care provider.

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