Benzodiazepines increase gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter, last longer in brain cells. In patients with anxiety, this increase has an almost immediate calming effect, which can feel euphoric. The euphoria can be very intense when a person takes more Xanax than they were prescribed.
Many benzodiazepines treat seizure disorders, but Xanax usually is not used for such disorders. People having an active seizure cannot swallow medications, and Xanax does not come in injectable or rectal forms that are used during seizures.
What Is Xanax Prescribed For?
Xanax has two labeled indications. A labeled indication is a disease or condition that the Food and Drug Association (FDA) has approved reviewed with this drug and considers safe and effective. Xanax is used on-label for anxiety disorders and panic disorder.
Xanax is also used off-label for preoperative anxiety. Many people become anxious before they go into surgery, and symptoms of anxiety can make the patient harder to sedate.
Panic disorder is a sense of extreme fear or terror that hits suddenly with no warning. The symptoms peak within 10 to 20 minutes and last for about one hour. Panic attacks can be mistaken for heart attacks because many of the symptoms are the same.
Some common symptoms of panic disorder include:
- Fast heartbeat
- Feelings of being out of control
- Feelings of impending doom
- Pounding heartbeat
- Shaking or trembling
Other physical signs of panic attacks include sweating, chest pain, the sense of not being able to breathe or a choking feeling. Xanax is a good treatment for panic attacks because it works quickly. Xanax starts working within one hour and the effects last for about four hours.
Xanax is used during initial treatment for GAD but is not a good long-term medication because it is habit forming. Long-term medications for anxiety can take six to eight weeks to start working, so Xanax has the advantage of working immediately, but should be stopped once long-term medication starts.
Common Forms of Xanax Prescriptions
Some common forms of Xanax prescriptions include:
- Extended-release tablet: An oral tablet that slowly releases for 24 hours. The extended-release tablet is only used for panic disorder and works to prevent a panic attack before it happens.
- Immediate release tablet: The most common form is known on the street as “bars” because the tablets are sometimes long and thin. Xanax does not always have this shape because the generic alprazolam comes in different shapes and colors.
- Oral concentrate: An oral concentrate is a liquid form. The liquid form is useful for people with trouble swallowing or in pediatric patients.
- Orally disintegrating tablets: These are another option for people with trouble swallowing. Oral disintegrating tablets (ODT) dissolve on the tongue.
Common Reasons for Xanax Abuse
Abusing Xanax causes euphoria and relaxation. Many people abuse the drug because it makes them feel good.
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 not safe to try a “cold turkey” detox, and withdrawal must happen slowly with all benzodiazepines.
Left untreated or without gradual detox, Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be severe and sometimes fatal. Some common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Regurgitation, or spitting up food
- Sensitivity to noise or light
Key Points: Xanax Uses
Keep the following key points in mind when considering what Xanax is and how it is used:
- Xanax is a benzodiazepine
- Xanax is prescribed for panic and anxiety disorders
- Dosage forms include an immediate release, extended release, orally disintegrating tablet, and liquid
- Xanax is habit-forming
- Withdrawal from Xanax can be fatal