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The Effects of Alprazolam Use

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Is Alprazolam Harmful?

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Alprazolam (trade name: Xanax) is a sedative drug in the benzodiazepine class, indicated for the management of some forms of anxiety and panic disorders.

The substance – like all benzodiazepines – has central nervous system depressant effects on the user. Its use results in inhibition of certain brain processes and an overall slowing down of various body functions, while eliciting a subjective feeling of warmth and inflated well-being in some individuals.

When used as prescribed for the short-term management of a specific health problem, alprazolam can be a drug with benefits that outweigh the associated risks. However, because of the“high” it can create, the drug can be addictive, even when taken as prescribed—and potentially dangerous when misused.

Data from SDI Health revealed that alprazolam was number 8 on the list of the most prescribed medications in 2010. In 2011, alprazolam was the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepine—with about 49 million prescriptions written.

Long-term use of this substance can lead to:

  • Tolerance—The  phenomenon of needing increasing amounts of the medication is to produce the result the user has grown accustomed to.
  • AddictionWhen abuse of the substance persists despite the negative outcomes; those in the throes of an addiction will sometimes take extreme, dangerous, or illegal measures to obtain more the drug.
  • DependenceWhen the person’s body and mind function sub-optimally without the presence of substance in their system.

Short-Term Effects of Alprazolam

When users get high on alprazolam, the short-term effects can cause them to feel completely calm, euphoric, and free from worry.

This drug works for people suffering from anxiety and panic disorders because it begins to relieve their anxious feelings and settle their minds soon after taking the medication.

Compared to other similar substances, alprazolam is known for its quick action. Its effects may be felt within 30 minutes and can last for around 6 hours. If taken in large doses, the depressant effects are stronger and may cause lapses in memory.

Side Effects

Using alprazolam can bring about a variety of side effects. Most alprazolam side effects are not life-threatening, but some may require medical care attention.

Typical Side Effects

  • Somnolence.
  • Dyspnea or shortness of breath.
  • Nausea.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Hypersalivation.
  • Excessive talking.
  • Decreased motivation.
  • Irritability.
  • Decreased libido.

More Serious Side Effects

  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Memory problems.
  • Confusion.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Paranoia.
  • Depression.
  • Strange dreams.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Seizures.

If you suffer from any serious medical problem, you should see your doctor right away. If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from a health issue associated with drug use or addiction to Xanax, help is just a phone call away.

Drugabuse.com is a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, a leading provider in Xanax or alprazolam addiction treatment. Call today. Our hotline is open 24/7—call to speak confidentially with someone who will provide helpful information about recovery program options. If you have health insurance, then use our free and confidential online insurance checker to see if you’re covered for treatment at one of our facilities.


The following short video provides an overview of the growing Xanax epidemic in the US.

Credit: Newsy Science

Long-term Effects of Alprazolam

One serious long-term effect of alprazolam use is the possibility – if not inevitability – of physical dependence and addiction. You may begin to grow dependent on the sedative effects of this substance in a short period of time, and tolerance can begin to develop remarkably quickly with persistent use.

When a patient becomes tolerant to the effects of alprazolam, he or she must take more of the drug to get the same calm feeling. This can kickstart a dangerous cycle of compulsive use, and can ultimately result in sedative addiction. Naturally, continually upping one’s dose of alprazolam raises the risk of overdose.

Alprazolam Overdose Symptoms and Signs

  • Vertigo or dizziness.
  • Profound or difficult-to-rouse-from drowsiness.
  • Syncope or fainting.

  • Marked muscle weakness and/or uncoordinated motor functions.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Shallow breathing.

Although rare, coma and death can occur as a result of alprazolam overdose. Any drug overdose is a serious problem, but overdoses of legal drugs have become more common in recent years.

The risks associated with using alprazolam over an extended period are great. The problem becomes compounded when the substance is used with other drugs or alcohol.

For example, combining alcohol and Xanax can result in serious health conditions like coma or death because they each act as a depressant. Together, the cumulative effect can slow breathing to dangerous levels. This, paired with impaired judgment and decision-making, can have grave consequences.

Alprazolam Dependence

Substance dependency occurs when you begin to feel like you need the substance to function normally. A person struggling with alprazolam dependency will typically take the drug every day regardless of symptoms.

Someone with an alprazolam addiction, or Xanax use disorder, may demonstrate a number of problematic behaviors. These may include:

  • Taking more of the drug than they need at one time.
  • Ignoring doctor recommendations when taking the medication.
  • Mixing alprazolam with other drugs or alcohol.
  • Continuing to take the drug even after it is medically necessary.
  • Using the substance without a prescription.

Becoming dependent on prescription drugs is a serious problem for many. A situation of prescription drug abuse presents its own unique set of challenges, because many people begin taking the drugs in question for a legitimate, underlying medical purpose. This makes an addiction even harder to accept and understand, as many people do not intentionally set out to misuse their medication.

Other signs of dependence to alprazolam include:

  • Feeling uncomfortable, irritable, or anxious without the substance.
  • Experiencing mood disturbances, such as depression.
  • Believing that the substance is vital to your everyday functioning.
  • Using the substance to escape, avoid, or ignore reality.

Alprazolam Withdrawal Treatment

In some instances, withdrawal from alprazolam and other benzodiazepines is a medical emergency. People taking a high dose of the medication or those that have been using the substance for an extended time should never stop use of this medication suddenly without first consulting with a medical professional; doing so can result in seizures, coma, or death.

Alprazolam Withdrawal Symptoms and Signs

  • Headache.
  • Sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Muscle cramps.

  • Sweating.
  • Nervousness.
  • Agitation.
  • Seizures.
  • Convulsions.

It is strongly recommended that one consult with an addiction treatment or medical professional prior to embarking upon a substance abuse treatment process.

Supervised Medical Detox

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For the aforementioned withdrawal dangers, stopping alprazolam will require a period of supervised detoxification services to usher the patient safely through this difficult process.

During this period, one’s status will be monitored to avoid any negative consequences. Because of the severity and duration of alprazolam withdrawal symptoms, detox from this drug should be completed at a reputable treatment center under the care of trained medical professionals. Inpatient rehab centers can treat your alprazolam addiction effectively and confidentially.

Withdrawal from an alprazolam addiction typically involves a process of weaning, or tapering the body off the drug. Weaning is when a medical professional continues to provide the substance to you at lower doses until the medication is reduced to zero. This process can take longer, but the symptoms of withdrawal will be diminished.

Follow-Up Care

Following the detoxification process, follow-up care will be essential to maintain sobriety, adjust to life without the substance, and improve one’s overall well-being. A range of options like outpatient drug and alcohol treatment, mental health care, and community services will aid in this process. Addiction is a chronic issue and often must be continuously managed in the long-term to maintain the progress made during the initial treatment period.

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Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC, is a professional counselor who has been working for over a decade to help children, adolescents, and adults in western Pennsylvania reach their goals and improve their well-being.

Along the way, Eric worked as a collaborating investigator for the field trials of the DSM-5 and completed an agreement to provide mental health treatment to underserved communities with the National Health Service Corp.

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