Xanax is the trade name for the short-acting anti-anxiety medication alprazolam, a powerful minor tranquilizer (a type of benzodiazepine). It’s commonly prescribed to people with anxiety disorders, anxiety caused by depression, various phobias and panic disorders. In 2011, it was one of the most prescribed sedative medications, with approximately 49 million prescriptions.

With its desirable calming effects, Xanax is often misused by people with and without a prescription. In fact, the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported more than 6 million Americans used Xanax for non-medical purposes. Xanax can result in some unwanted effects, just as with any other medication, but misusing it can result in even more, some of which may be long-lasting or life-threatening.

Minor Xanax Side Effects

If taken as prescribed, Xanax provides several short-term benefits. As a sedative, it treats behavioral disorders by reducing the activity level in the brain, binding to stereospecific receptors in the central nervous system. This can result in a temporary reduction of physical tension, anxiety and restlessness. However, Xanax can also bring various adverse reactions.

The negative side effects are usually temporary and disappear as the body adjusts to the medication. They also don’t typically require medical attention. However, if you have any questions or concerns about these Xanax side effects, contact your doctor to determine if you should seek treatment. Some of the minor unfavorable symptoms include:

  • Decreased or increased appetite
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Watering of the mouth
  • Increased or decreased interest in sexual intercourse
  • Difficulty having a bowel movement
  • Irregular or missed menstrual periods
  • Pain
  • Cracked or dry skin
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Double vision

Major Xanax Side Effects

There can be various major Xanax side effects as well, even when taken as prescribed. If you experience any of the following effects, notify your doctor immediately, as many of these signs could indicate a medical emergency:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Clumsiness or unsteadiness
  • Shakiness
  • Irritability
  • Trouble speaking or sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Feelings of discouragement
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear congestion

Overdose of Xanax may occur if someone takes more than the prescribed dose, whether intentionally or unintentionally, or when someone takes the recommended dose more frequently than what was prescribed. It can also happen when someone intentionally misuses Xanax, such as in cases where there is no medical purpose or valid prescription. This is why it’s so important to contact your health care professional if you ever experience any of the aforementioned major side effects, as they may be symptoms of an overdose.

Lasting Side Effects of Xanax (Alprazolam)

When someone uses Xanax chronically or for extended periods of time — or both — the risks of long-term side effects greatly increase, including:

  • Memory impairment
  • Psychotic experiences
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Aggressive or impulsive behavior
  • Depression
  • Increased rate of cognitive decline for older people
  • Sedation lasting up to four days
  • Chemical dependency or addiction (see below)

When addiction is a factor, the risk of withdrawal becomes a factor, too. Those who are addicted to Xanax increase their chances of suffering from withdrawal. What’s even more dangerous is the fact that this medication has a very short half-life, which means it doesn’t stay in the system for very long. This makes the withdrawal symptoms the most dangerous when compared to other benzodiazepines. Xanax withdrawal symptoms include seizures, muscle cramps and uncontrollable shaking.

Considering these and the many other negative Xanax side effects, it’s best to take the medication only as prescribed and only for the length of time that it’s prescribed. If you need help with Xanax addiction or any other substance use disorder, call The Recovery Village® to speak with someone who can assist you with getting treatment. If you’re in need of immediate medical attention, call 911.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.