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Alprazolam structure.svg
Alprazolam ball-and-stick model.png
Clinical data
PronunciationAlprazolam /ælˈpræzəlæm/ or /ælˈprzəlæm/, Xanax /ˈzænæks/
Trade namesXanax, Xanor, Niravam, others
Routes of
By mouth
ATC code
Legal status
Legal status
Pharmacokinetic data
Protein binding80%
MetabolismLiver, via cytochrome P450 3A4
Metabolitesalpha-hydroxyalprazolam, 4-hydroxyalprazolam, beta-hydroxyalprazolam
Onset of actionless than an hour[1]
Elimination half-lifeImmediate release: 4–6 hours
Extended release: 11–16 hours
Duration of action6 hours[1]
  • 8-Chloro-1-methyl-6-phenyl-4H-[1,2,4]triazolo[4,3-a] [1,4]benzodiazepine
CAS Number
PubChem CID
ECHA InfoCard100.044.849 Edit this at Wikidata
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass308.77 g·mol−1
3D model (JSmol)
  • ClC1=CC2=C(C=C1)N3C(C)=NN=C3CN=C2C4=CC=CC=C4
  • InChI=1S/C17H13ClN4/c1-11-20-21-16-10-19-17(12-5-3-2-4-6-12)14-9-13(18)7-8-15(14)22(11)16/h2-9H,10H2,1H3 checkY

Alprazolam, probably better known by its trade name Xanax, is a short-acting drug. Xanax and other benzodiazepines first entered the market in 1960. Although it may have other illegal or nonclinical uses, Xanax is legally prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorder, and anxiety caused by depression. It works by decreasing abnormally high levels of excitement in the brain, which helps you feel more relaxed and increases feelings of calmness.[2]

Xanax (and all benzodiazepines) stimulate neurons in the brain that release or have receptors for the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and neurons for GABA are prevalent throughout the cerebral cortex.[3]

An inhibitory neurotransmitter reduces the firing of other types of neurotransmitters in the brain when it’s released. Thus, Xanax acts as a central nervous system depressant by way of its agonistic effect on GABA neurons in the brain.

Taking Xanax leads to a decrease in the excitability of other neurons in the brain, and this produces a reduction in anxiety and an increased feeling of relaxation.

Addiction[change | change source]

Xanax and other benzodiazepines are frequently abused because they are so commonly prescribed and therefore easily available. The severe withdrawal syndrome associated with Xanax abuse can make it difficult for people to stop using.[4]

Overdose may occur from Xanax alone, but the risk of overdose is higher when combined with other substances, such as opioids and alcohol, as this can increase the chance of respiratory depression.[5] This is a significant concern for many people, as benzodiazepines and opioids are commonly prescribed together.[6] Respiratory depression causes slow and ineffective breathing, potentially causing a person to die in their sleep.

Xanax side effects[change | change source]

  • weak or shallow breathing;
  • a light-headed feeling, like you might pass out;
  • a seizure;
  • hallucinations, risk-taking behavior;
  • increased energy, decreased need for sleep;
  • racing thoughts, being agitated or talkative;
  • double vision; or
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
  • Increased salivation
  • Tremor
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Hypotension

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Lilley, Linda Lane; Snyder, Julie S.; Collins, Shelly Rainforth (2016). Pharmacology for Canadian Health Care Practice. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 329. ISBN 9781771720663.
  2. "Xanax Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing - WebMD". Retrieved 2021-07-09.
  3. "How Xanax Works". Oxford Treatment Center. Retrieved 2021-07-09.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. Cornell, Rai; July 16; "lastReviewed": "2021-07-16T12:27:24"; Cornell. "Xanax addiction symptoms, signs & treatment". Retrieved 2021-08-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. "The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Xanax". Retrieved 2021-07-09.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. "What Are Opioids?". Greenhouse Treatment Center. Retrieved 2021-07-09.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)