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Xanax Side Effects: What Does Alprazolam Do?

xanax use side effects

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Medications do not always precisely target the problem on hand. They affect the body in many ways and sometimes cause problems ranging in severity from mild to severe to life-threatening. These unwanted, unintended, and unfavorable signs and symptoms are known as side effects.
Like all medications, there are some unwanted symptoms of alprazolam. These effects of Xanax are not always welcome. In fact, Xanax effects can occur in practically every organ system, including the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, respiratory, genitourinary, and dermatologic systems. Read on to learn more about the long- and short-term effects of Xanax.

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Table of Contents

Side Effects of Xanax on the Brain

Xanax is one of the most frequently prescribed pharmacologic therapies for anxiety, insomnia, and panic disorder. The drug acts by enhancing the action of a calming neurotransmitter.

It is a highly-addictive substance which can quickly lead to dependence and addiction if taken without medical supervision.

While this medication has proven efficacy in treating anxiety and other mental health disorders, there are some unwanted Xanax side effects associated with it. Some of the most common effects of Xanax on the brain include:

  • Side effects medical conceptSedation and drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Impaired memory
  • A headache, lightheadedness, and dizziness
  • Difficulties with cognition
  • Abnormal voluntary movements
  • Attention problems
  • Problems with balance
  • Lethargy and excessive sleepiness
  • Abnormal sensations (paresthesias)

Some of the less common Xanax effects on the brain include amnesia, coordination problems, autonomic manifestations such as fainting upon standing up, and intellectual impairment.

Side Effects of Alprazolam on Other Organ Systems

It is not surprising that a medication which is prescribed to treat generalized anxiety disorder has a powerful impact on the human brain. However, Xanax effects on the body cannot be ignored. Alprazolam can produce unwanted effects in some organ systems, the most common of which are listed below:

  • General: Fatigue, weakness, sluggishness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), feeling cold or warm
  • Psychiatric: Irritability, insomnia, decreased libido, confusion, agitation, disinhibition, nervousness, depression, agitation
  • Gastrointestinal: Alterations in saliva production, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, abdominal pain, dyspepsia
  • Metabolic: Changes in appetite, weight gain or weight loss, anorexia
  • Cardiovascular: Tachycardia (fast heartbeat), chest pain, palpitations, hot flush, chest tightness, low blood pressure
  • Genitourinary: Difficulties with urination, menstrual problems, sexual dysfunction, incontinence
  • Dermatologic: Rash, excessive sweating, dermatitis, itching
  • Respiratory: Nasal congestion, upper respiratory tract infection, allergic rhinitis
  • Ocular: Blurred vision, photophobia
  • Musculoskeletal: Muscle stiffness, cramps, rigidity, twitching, pain
  • Immunologic: Infection, influenza, allergy

It is noteworthy that not every individual who takes alprazolam will suffer any or all of the above-listed Xanax effects and dangers. If one is experiencing Xanax side effects, consult healthcare provider for medical advice.

Short-Term Effects of Xanax Use

Alprazolam is prescribed to treat feelings of anxiety, restlessness, nervousness, and unease. The unwanted short-term effects of Xanax occur due to many reasons, such as non-adherence to the prescribed schedule or non-compliance with dosage. A person is most likely to experience these adverse symptoms when they first begin taking the medication, when the dosage is changed, or when they stop taking the drug.
It is worth remembering that every individual has a unique reaction to a medication, including alprazolam. Besides, Xanax side effects depend on its interaction with other prescription drugs, food, and over-the-counter preparations. The most common Xanax short-term effects include:

  • Man has a headache at homeDizziness or lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness or sedation
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Increased saliva production
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Changes in sex drive
  • The trouble with cognition or difficulty concentrating
  • Slurred speech or sounding intoxicated
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Dry mouth

Some of the more severe Xanax effects and dangers include alterations in mood, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, difficulty speaking, slurred speech, impaired coordination, and memory problems. It is essential to seek immediate medical help if one is experiencing any severe side effects of alprazolam.
Sometimes an unintended symptom of medication is favorable. This is demonstrated by the interesting relationship between Xanax and blood pressure. Anxiety can cause a person’s blood pressure to rise dramatically over a short period. Therefore, in individuals who are suffering from anxiety-induced hypertension, alprazolam can indirectly lower blood pressure by treating the underlying anxiety.

Long-Term Side Effects of Alprazolam

Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam, are potent substances that can result in serious health consequences if taken in large doses over a long period of time. Xanax long term effects are most pronounced if an individual takes the drug in large quantities, on a rapid schedule, or for a prolonged duration. Abruptly starting or restarting the medication is also dangerous. Some of the common Xanax long-term effects include:

  • Delirium
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Impulsive or aggressive behavior
  • Depression
Xanax overdose can lead to effects and dangers such as weakness, blurred vision, slurring of speech, respiratory depression, and coma.

One of the most frequently reported long-term effects of Xanax on the brain is memory impairment. This deficit is usually mild and primarily affects short-term recollection, but can last for a long time. It is believed that Xanax and memory loss are related due to an inability to concentrate and retain information while taking this drug.
Another long-term effect of alprazolam on the brain is sedation. This depressive action is amplified when benzodiazepines and alcohol are consumed together. For this reason, it is not advisable to drink alcoholic beverages while on treatment with sedative medications.

Dangers of Xanax Abuse

Alprazolam is a highly-effective and easily available treatment for anxiety, panic disorders, and phobias. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most abused drugs in America and around the world. Many people do not realize the dangers of abusing this widely prescribed medication. What are the Xanax side effects that make it so dangerous? Which alprazolam effects could put an addict’s life in danger?
The reason alprazolam is so dangerous is its short half-life. Half-life refers to the time it takes for the blood concentration of the drug to fall to half its peak level. A shorter half-life indicates a quicker-acting medication. Due to its short half-life, the effects and side effects of alprazolam are felt rapidly, creating the potential for abuse.
After it is metabolized, alprazolam makes its way to the brain and quickly produces a calming effect by increasing GABA neurotransmitter activity. Over time, addicts stop producing GABA naturally. They develop a tolerance to the drug, needing progressively higher doses to get the same effect. This makes recreational Xanax use extremely dangerous due to the high potential for chemical and physical dependence.

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Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN
Nena Messina

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.


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