What Is Xanax?

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What Is Xanax?

Xanax is an anti-anxiety drug and has the generic name of Alprazolam.  It belongs to the benzodiazepine class, the same class with flurazapam (Dalmane), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and others. Alprazolam’s action is to enhance the effects of gamma’“aminobutyric acid (GABA) on the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter – a chemical that our nerves use to communicate with each other. And since excessive activity in our brain is believed to cause anxiety or other psychiatric disorders, this neurotransmitter is stimulated by the drug to slow down brain activity.

Alprazolam is prescribed for the treatment of patients experiencing anxiety disorders or panic attacks. Anxiety disorders are characterized by apprehension and unrealistic worry, which in effect cause the patient to have symptoms such as restlessness, trembling, palpitations, aches, cold clammy hands, flushing, shortness of breath, insomnia, sweating, exaggerated startle responses, and smothering sensation. Panic attacks happen either unexpectedly or during certain situations, so they require a higher dose of the drug. But Alprazolam may also be prescribed by doctors for other purposes that relate to actions of brain chemicals.

Drug dosage depends on the symptoms and severity of the patient’s condition and doctors must be sought for proper prescription.  Xanax is available in tablet form at 0.25, 0.5, 1 and 2 mg and may be taken with or without food.  Benzodiazepines, such as Alprazolam, should not be taken by pregnant or nursing mothers as they may cause fetal abnormalities and parts of the drug may be excreted in the breast milk. Before starting treatment with Xanax, patients should also inform his/her doctor if alcohol or other medications are taken as these may have adverse effects.

Drowsiness or lightheadedness is the most frequent side effect of Alprazolam.  At higher dosages, like those prescribed for panick attacks, the drug may cause memory problems, constipation, fatigue, changes in appetite, weight changes, and speech problems.  Drug-dependency may also result if Alprazolam is taken in high doses for a prolonged period.

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