What Does Xanax Do To Your Brain?

For people who struggle with extreme anxiety or panic disorder, Xanax can seem like a miracle. Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S., with millions of new prescriptions being written each year, but despite the pervasiveness of its use, a lot of people don’t understand how it works, and the find themselves wondering “what does Xanax do to your brain?”

It’s important before taking it to understand what Xanax does to your brain because having this understanding can help reduce your risk of abusing it or becoming dependent on the anti-anxiety medication.

What Does Xanax Do To Your Brain?
Xanax is part of a general class of drugs called benzodiazepines, or benzos. They’re used mostly for the treatment of anxiety, but in some cases, they may be prescribed to treat insomnia or seizures. A lot of understanding the answer to the question of what does Xanax do to your brain is knowing that it plays a role in your brain’s neurotransmitters. In the general sense, Xanax and other benzos create a sense of calm and sedation when someone takes them.

This is because they affect how nerves communicate with one another, and specifically relevant to the discussion of what Xanax does to your brain is understanding the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

The role of GABA in the brain is to suppress neuron activity, and it’s a main neurotransmitter. GABA plays a role in the communication of neurons to the point that it helps people regulate how they think, feel and function in a variety of situations. GABA fits into receptor sites and works as an inhibitor of new impulse activities, and that’s what allows the human brain to stabilize itself and avoid over-activity that can lead to feelings of anxiety or panic.

The proper regulation of GABA in the brain leads to balanced emotions for people, but for people with excessive anxiety, there is often the need to supplement the neurotransmitter with the use of drugs like Xanax and other benzos.

What Xanax does to your brain is affect the way nerves communicate with one another, and nerves are suppressed when you take it. This means less anxiety, and more of a sense of calm and sedation is produced.

Because of what Xanax does to your brain, it’s only intended to be used for short-term treatment of excessive anxiety, ranging from two to four weeks. This is because Xanax can signal to your brain that it needs to produce even less natural GABA than it did before, so you would need more Xanax to achieve the same effect, which is what contributes to the development of tolerance to the drug.

The information above is really indicative of what Xanax does to your brain in the short-term, or shortly after taking it.

People often also wonder what does Xanax do to your brain in the long-term?

Information and research are somewhat mixed on this currently.

First was an issue that was touched on above, which is the fact that the brain adjusts relatively quickly to the presence of benzos like Xanax, and if they are stopped suddenly, withdrawal symptoms can occur including extreme anxiety.

As far as long-term changes to the brain, there has been some evidence pointing to the fact that long-term use of this benzo and others like it can contribute to cognitive impairment. For example, for people who were long-term users of benzos like Xanax, even after they discontinue their use, they may experience something called brain zaps, which is like an electric shock in the head, particularly as the brain is trying to readjust without the presence of these drugs.

When you stop using Xanax, you may also experience a feeling of brain fog, and there have been some indications that the use of benzos over the long-term could heighten the risk of eventually developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The same may also be true for developing dementia.

While there will undoubtedly be more research that comes out in the next years and decade regarding what Xanax does to your brain, the best thing people can do is ensure that they’re taking this medicine exactly as prescribed by their physician.

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Sky News. (2015, July 8). Inside Mexico’s Infamous Meth ‘Super Labs’. Retrieved from http://news.sky.com/story/inside-mexicos-infamous-meth-super-labs-10353255
Drug Info. (2016, December 14). Ice, speed & other methamphetamines. Retrieved from http://druginfo.sl.nsw.gov.au/drugs/a-to-z-of-drugs/ice-speed-other-methamphetamines

National Drugs Campaign. (2017, May 24). The facts about ice. Retrieved from http://www.drugs.health.gov.au/internet/drugs/publishingcp.nsf/content/facts-about-ice

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013, September). What is methamphetamine? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-methamphetamine

Sky News. (2015, July 8). Inside Mexico’s Infamous Meth ‘Super Labs’. Retrieved from http://news.sky.com/story/inside-mexicos-infamous-meth-super-labs-10353255

What Does Xanax Do To Your Brain?
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What Does Xanax Do To Your Brain? was last modified: July 26th, 2017 by The Recovery Village