Alprazolam, more popularly known by the brand name Xanax, is a medicine that is mainly used for the suppression of restlessness, anxiety, and tension. Alprazolam does not cure the underlying causes of these complaints. It is a symptom-fighting drug: it is very effective in temporarily suppressing complaints.
The medication is therefore often prescribed for a short period of time. The period with reduced complaints can then be used to treat the underlying causes of the complaints with therapy or other medicines.
When taking Alprazolam, it is very important to always follow your doctor's directions carefully and consistently, as the risk of physical dependence (addiction) is very high if you take Xanax for longer than prescribed.
What is Xanax?
Xanax belongs to the class of drugs called benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, sleeping pills, or pampas (most benzodiazepines have names ending in -pam). Alprazolam has a calming, soothing, and relaxing effect and belongs to anxiolytics: medicines with an anti-anxiety effect. These types of medications are only available with a doctor's prescription.
Alprazolam, like all benzos, has a strong effect on a specific chemical in the brain: GABA. This neurotransmitter has a dampening effect on your brain: it inhibits the activity of overactive brain regions.
GABA is supposed to be produced naturally by your brain, but not everyone does this in sufficient amounts. Restless, anxious, and hunted feelings can be the consequences of this. Xanax helps to replenish the amount of GABA in your brain so that the hyperactive areas of the brain are suppressed and you feel calmer and relaxed.
Different Types of Benzodiazepines
Alprazolam is one of many different types of benzodiazepines available on the market. Other well-known and commonly used types of benzos are diazepam (also known as Valium), lorazepam, oxazepam, and temazepam.
All types of benzodiazepines work similarly: they increase GABA levels in the brain. The main difference between the different types is the speed at which they work.
Some types of benzos are absorbed faster by the body than others. The rate at which the active ingredient is broken down also differs. A distinction is made between short-acting, medium-acting, and long-acting benzos.
How long does Xanax last?
Short-acting benzos, such as Xanax, oxazepam, and temazepam, are mainly used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, and difficulty falling asleep. These agents work after about 30 minutes and the effect lasts for about 6 hours. For problems with staying asleep, medium-acting benzos such as lorazepam are mainly used. Long-acting benzos, including diazepam, begin to work after a few hours and provide relief for about 12 to 24 hours. These medications are mainly prescribed for chronic anxiety and restlessness.
Side Effects of Xanax
For the safest possible use of alprazolam, follow your doctor's instructions. Most people experience side effects to a greater or lesser extent: the most common are:
Drowsiness and drowsiness (daytime)
Flattened emotions and gloom
Decreased short-term memory
Do you suffer from one or more side effects? Discuss this with your doctor. There may be other medications that are better for you.
Is Xanax Addictive?
The short answer to this question is yes. By taking a benzodiazepine such as alprazolam for a longer period, your body becomes accustomed to the signal that these types of drugs give off and as a result, your brain will produce less and less GABA on its own. So, you need an increasingly higher dose of Xanax to achieve the same effect.
The moment you stop taking alprazolam after a longer period of use, your brain no longer receives a signal that the production of GABA has to increase. As a result, the GABA level drops below the normal, natural level. The restlessness, anxiety, and/or sleeping problems can come back just as violently, or sometimes even more violently. So, it is very important to follow your doctor's instructions carefully.
When the complaints come back just as severe, or even more severe, it is tempting to find your peace and calm again by continuing to take alprazolam. Do you feel you cannot resist this temptation, or have you been taking Xanax continuously for a long time? Then always contact your doctor.
Together with your doctor, you can look for an alternative treatment or medicine. Always remember that the longer you continue taking medicine like Xanax, the more withdrawal symptoms you will experience when you taper off.
Withdrawal Symptoms After Long-Term Use
Suddenly stopping the use of alprazolam can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and side effects. These withdrawal symptoms last an average of 1 to 2 weeks:
Muscle cramps and muscle pain
Diarrhoea and abdominal pain
Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch
Abruptly stopping alprazolam can therefore cause the same complaints as the complaints for which you initially used the medicine.
How long can You take Xanax without risk?
Xanax is intended to be used only for a short period. It is recommended to taper off the drug after 2 weeks and to stop taking it completely after 4 weeks. This prevents the development of physical dependence.
An alprazolam treatment provides a period of relaxation, rest, and calm. This makes it possible to tackle the underlying causes of complaints more effectively. This can be achieved through therapeutic or psychological treatments, but also through relaxation exercises, meditation, and lifestyle coaching.