Have you ever wondered how Xanax affects the body? What is it about Xanax that creates certain effects and does the way Xanax works increase the likelihood of this drug being misused?
Key to understanding how Xanax affects the body is looking at what this commonly prescribed drug is, and how its chemical makeup lends to the effects users feel.
Xanax is a drug that’s part of a large class of anti-panic and anti-anxiety medications called benzodiazepines. Initially introduced as a safer alternative to barbiturates, benzos include not only Xanax but also similar drugs like Ativan and Klonopin.
Xanax can be prescribed for the treatment of a range of anxiety disorders and panic disorders, and tablet doses range from 0.25-2 mg in most cases. The total dosage for Xanax in a day wouldn’t exceed 6 mg typically. When a doctor prescribes Xanax to someone, the objective is to start them with the lowest possible dose and have them use it for the shortest amount of time possible, to help prevent dependence and addiction.
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Xanax is a drug that works on a particular receptor in the brain called a GABA receptor. The GABA receptor is the natural way the brain creates a feeling of calm, and it has its own natural sedative and muscle relaxant capabilities. When you take Xanax, these effects are maximized.
If you were, for example, experiencing a really stressful situation and your body had started the physiological response to this situation, such as a rapid heart rate and tingling scalp and you took Xanax, it would relatively quickly start working to alleviate these symptoms. Xanax affects the body by making you feel not just calm and relaxed, but in many cases tired as well, which is why so many people take it as a treatment option for insomnia.
Xanax starts working pretty quickly after you take it, and it has a relatively short half-life. When you take Xanax, it affects your body for around three to four hours in most cases, and it stays in your system for around eight hours. Also important in the conversation of how Xanax affects the body is understanding when the peak effects of the drug occur, which is usually 1-2 hours after taking it. This is a relatively short period of time, which is one of the big reasons Xanax has such a likelihood of abuse and dependence.
Once you take Xanax, it makes the GABA that naturally occurs in your brain work better, slowing or stopping the effects of panic or anxiety.
With that being said, Xanax tends to lose some of its effectiveness and show diminished benefits in as little as two weeks after taking an initial dose. The doctor may increase doses as a result, or people may do this on their own, which is dangerous and can lead to dependence more quickly.
When you take Xanax, it also leads your brain to make even less GABA naturally than it did before, contributing to the feeling that you need to take more Xanax and higher doses.
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When you first start taking Xanax many of the outward signs of your use may be similar to what you would experience if you were to drink alcohol. You’ll feel calmer, but your body will also feel more relaxed since it does have properties of a muscle relaxant. You may have problems with coordination or slurred speech as well.
How Xanax affects the body also necessitates a conversation about dependence. When you take Xanax even for a short period of time, there is a high chance of your body building a physical tolerance to the drug. This is because your brain’s GABA production slows even more as you use Xanax, and you’ll feel the need to take higher doses of Xanax to achieve the same results you did initially.
When that happens, your brain becomes used to the presence of Xanax, and if you were to stop suddenly, there would likely be adverse side effects, which are known as withdrawal.
When Xanax affects the body and leads to withdrawal, some of the symptoms can include amplified anxiety and panic disorder, sleep problems, nervousness, aggression, depression, tingling and in serious cases, suicidal thoughts, seizures or death.
Understanding how Xanax affects the body begins by looking at what effect it creates in the brain. That brain activity then lends to the physical effects of using Xanax, and ultimately this is a drug with a high potential for abuse and dependence because of how it works in the brain and the body.
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.