Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam. The effects of the drug come on quickly and disappear rapidly. Some people take it recreationally for its calming effects. The fast acting properties of Xanax can lead to its misuse.
Xanax is an effective medication for controlling panic and anxiety. However, using it recreationally can pose health risks, especially if people combine it with other depressants, such as alcohol.
How Does Xanax Work?
Xanax belong to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, a group of medicines that produce a state of calm in users. There are around 13 types of benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as “benzos,” that are approved for use as prescription medications by the FDA. They’re typically prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders and insomnia. To be considered one of these drugs, the substance must have certain properties in addition to providing relief from anxiety. For example, these drugs also act as muscle relaxants, anticonvulsants and have hypnotic effects.
What many people either don’t understand or may ignore is that benzos aren’t designed as a long-term treatment option for anxiety and other disorders. These medications are prescribed and intended for short-term use for acute symptoms, such as rapid-onset anxiety or panic attacks. If it’s taken for anything else or in any other way, there is the potential for abuse and dependency.
How Does Xanax Work on the Central Nervous System?
Xanax and other benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants. The central nervous system is what’s responsible for maintaining the primary functions of our bodies, including the regulation of heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and body temperature. When taken, Xanax slows down these functions somewhat. Many of its effects are similar to drinking alcohol. The level of impairment, sleepiness and slow reaction time one may feel from Xanax are similar to drinking too much.
Some of the side effects of short-term Xanax use include physical and mental relaxation and reduced feelings of fear, agitation and anxiety. Adverse side effects of taking Xanax can include extreme drowsiness, coordination problems, feeling dizzy or lightheaded or experiencing emotional problems.
How Does Xanax Work for Anxiety?
When you experience excessive stress or anxiety, the brain increases certain nerve signals that lead to feelings of anxiety. During these times, the brain produces an unbalanced amount of chemical signals, increasing brain activity, feelings of fear and anxiety and restricting the ability to calm the mind.
Xanax works by creating a calming effect by impacting the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally-occurring chemical in the brain. GABA is meant to be our natural tranquilizer and is found in 80% of the brain’s nerve connections. If you become anxious or nervous, your brain releases it to calm down the negative activity. If you have anxiety or panic disorders, Xanax works by binding to these receptors and stimulating its signals.
How Fast Does Xanax Work?
Once ingested, Xanax takes 1-2 hours to reach peak levels in the bloodstream. Taking Xanax regularly may increase tolerance levels, so it may take more time to feel the effects. How quickly the drug is absorbed and eventually leaves the body is also affected by the person’s age, weight, alcohol use, liver function, metabolism, race and whether or not they smoke.
Xanax XR, an extended-release form of Xanax, reaches peak levels at the same speed as Xanax, roughly 1-2 hours. However, concentrations remain constant in the bloodstream for between five and eleven hours. High-fat foods up to 2 hours before taking the medication can increase the amount absorbed.
How Long Does Xanax Work?
When you take Xanax, the effects tend to take hold quickly, but they don’t last long. Xanax has a relatively short half-life, meaning it doesn’t take long for its effects to reach a peak after it is ingested. That’s one of the reasons Xanax has such a high abuse potential; drugs with a short half-life tend to be more commonly misused.
The effects of Xanax usually last about four hours, and that’s why it’s prescribed on an as-needed basis, rather than as long-term therapy for anxiety. The short half-life and duration of effects are why Xanax is often prescribed to manage infrequent panic attacks.
How Much Xanax Will Kill You?
Alprazolam is relatively more toxic than other benzodiazepines. Because this effect remains after adjustment for dose, co-ingested medication and age, this greater toxicity appears due to intrinsic toxicity of alprazolam. A recently completed study led by Professor Shane Darke reported a big increase in the number of sudden deaths and overdoses where the alprazolam (Xanax ) was involved. According to him, the main types of deaths were overdose deaths and the two major ones, mostly, overwhelming, accidental overdoses. People that weren’t intending to die but using alprazolam in conjunction with other drugs, in particular such as the opiates or alcohol, were indeed dying.
In clinical studies in rats, the LD50 — the dose that caused half of the rats to die — ranged from 331 to 2,171 mg per kilogram of body weight. This suggests that a person would have to take several thousand times the maximum prescribed dose to fatally overdose. However, the results of animal studies don’t always translate directly for human specifications. Overdose is possible at any dose higher than your prescribed amount.
People older than 65 have an increased risk for serious side effects, including an overdose. Older adults are typically prescribed lower doses of Xanax because they’re more sensitive to its effects.
In General, the amount of Xanax needed to overdose can vary, especially when the drug is mixed with other substances. Most Xanax overdoses happen when Xanax is taken alongside CNS drugs like alcohol or opioids.
Fake Xanax which is prevalent in many communities further complicates the calculation of the amount of Xanax that can kill a person. This is because these counterfeit pills contain the opioid fentanyl, which is in the same class of drugs as morphine or hydrocodone but is about 50 to 100 times more potent. Just 2 to 3 milligrams of this drug can kill a person. It blocks opioid receptors and its most dangerous side effect — like other opioids — is respiratory depression, which can quickly lead to coma and death.
Users may not realize the street drug they are buying from a dealer contains this potentially lethal compound. Over 70,230 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017. Between 2013 and 2016, overdose deaths involving this drug increased by 113% annually.
How To Use Xanax Safely
Do not buy or use Xanax purchased from the streets or from drug dealers no matter how much you trust them. Obtain genuine Xanax by prescription from registered pharmacies and take the medication by mouth as directed by your doctor. Dosage is based on your medical condition, age, and response to treatment. Your dose may be gradually increased until the drug starts working well. Follow your doctor’s instructions closely to reduce the risk of side effects.
If you suddenly stop using this medication, you may have withdrawal symptoms (such as seizures). To help prevent withdrawal, your doctor may lower your dose slowly. Withdrawal is more likely if you have used alprazolam for a long time or in high doses. Tell your doctor or pharmacist right away if you have withdrawal.
Though it helps many people, Xanax may sometimes cause addiction. This risk may be higher if you have a substance use disorder (such as overuse of or addiction to drugs/alcohol). Take this medication exactly as prescribed to lower the risk of addiction. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more details.
When Xanax is used for a long time, it may not work as well. Talk with your doctor if this medication stops working well.
Tell your doctor if your condition persists or worsens.