Xanax, or alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine medication used to treat short-term anxiety.

Benzodiazepines work by prolonging the activity of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that carries signals between neurons. In patients with anxiety, this function has an almost immediate calming effect which might feel euphoric. The euphoria can be very intense when a person takes more than what they were prescribed.

Xanax and other benzodiazepines are also used in patients with seizure disorders. In patients with seizure disorders, prolonging the effects of GABA slows down electrical signals in the brain, and causes the random and chaotic impulses of an active seizure to stop.

Regular abuse of Xanax causes withdrawal and physical dependence. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can cause seizures, which are a medical emergency. Withdrawal should always happen with the support of a trained medical professional in a structured environment. In general, it is unsafe to attempt a “cold turkey” detox and detox and withdrawal must occur very slowly with all benzodiazepines.

Xanax and Organs

Xanax begins working within 1 to 2 hours of taking it. Xanax absorbs rapidly into the bloodstream before the liver quickly breaks it down. The immediate release version of Xanax is by far the most commonly prescribed form. The half-life of immediate release Xanax is about 11 hours, so it completely leaves the body in about two-and-a-half days or 60 hours.

Overall, Xanax is a relatively safe drug on its own. Most of the toxicity and damage Xanax causes is to the central nervous system (CNS) and brain.

Xanax and the Liver

Xanax and other benzodiazepines are most commonly associated with toxicity to the liver. Liver damage from Xanax is rare and is probably not permanent. Xanax might cause liver damage because it is metabolized mostly by enzymes in the liver. It is unclear how benzodiazepines cause liver toxicity.

For someone with liver damage, Xanax takes about twice as long to metabolize and remains in the body for about 100 hours, or five days. Therefore, Xanax is most dangerous when mixed with other drugs toxic to the liver, like alcohol.

Xanax and Kidneys

Xanax and kidney damage are not linked. However, if you already have kidney damage, Xanax should be used with caution because it might not metabolize as well. Xanax is weakly uricosuric, which means it increases how much uric acid the kidneys filter into the urine. Urinating more uric acid is probably not harmful, and may decrease the risk of developing gout.

Xanax and Bloodstream

Xanax does not cause damage to the heart, but it can affect blood pressure. Some people experience hypotension or low blood pressure when they take Xanax. Hypotension is blood pressure below 90/60 mmHg. Normal blood pressure is about 120/80 mmHg.

Symptoms of hypotension include dizziness and fainting. A person may feel the need to sit or lie down because not enough blood is reaching the brain during hypotension.

Xanax and Overdose

Compared to other drugs, Xanax is even safe, even when overdosed. With slow breathing and heart rate, it is difficult to fatally overdose on benzodiazepines. Most cases of overdose happen by mixing benzodiazepines with alcohol or opioids. Mixing benzodiazepines and other CNS depressants significantly increase the chances of a fatal overdose.

Key Points: Xanax Abuse and the Body

When considering how Xanax abuse affects the body, consider the following key points:

  • Xanax is relatively nontoxic to most organs, even during an overdose
  • Xanax can be toxic to the liver, but these effects are rare
  • Xanax is most harmful when mixed with other substances, like alcohol
  • People with impaired kidney or liver function might break down alprazolam slowly, so it has more of an effect on them

If you or a loved one live with a substance use disorder, contact The Recovery Village today. Call to speak with a representative about how personalized treatment plans best benefit patients long-term success. You deserve good health, call today.

  • Sources

    LiverTox. “Alprazolam.” 2017. Accessed May 20, 2019.

    Mayo Clinic. “Alprazolam (Oral Route) Before Using – Mayo Clinic.” 2019. Accessed May 20, 2019