What is Alprazolam and how does it work?

Alprazolam is a type of medicine called benzodiazepine. This is used for the treatment of anxiety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved this medication. 

Benzodiazepines work by acting on receptors in the brain called GABA receptors. This causes the release of a neurotransmitter called GABA in the brain. GABA means gamma-aminobutyric acid. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are stored in nerve cells in the brain and nervous system. They are involved in transmitting messages between the nerve cells. GABA is a neurotransmitter that acts as a natural nerve-calming agent. It helps keep the nerve activity in the brain in balance and is involved in reducing anxiety and relaxing muscles. This drug increases the activity of GABA in the brain and therefore increases its calming effect. This helps reduce anxiety and also causes drowsiness and relaxation of muscles. Alprazolam remains active in the body for many hours. As a result, any drowsiness it causes may last into the next day.

Everyone feels anxious now and then which a normal emotion is. Anxiety disorders are different, though. They are a group of mental illnesses and the distress they cause can keep you from carrying on with your life normally. For people who have one, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming and can be disabling. But with treatment, many people can manage those feelings and get back to a fulfilling life. Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term that includes different conditions:

  • Panic disorder. You feel the terror that strikes at random. During a panic attack, you may have chest pain and feel palpitations. Sometimes you may feel like you’re choking or having a heart attack.
  • Social anxiety disorder or also called social phobia is when you feel overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. You fixate on others judging you or on being embarrassed or ridiculed.
  • Specific phobias. You feel intense fear of a specific object or situation. The fear goes beyond what’s appropriate and may cause you to avoid ordinary situations.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder. You feel unrealistic worry and tension with little or no reason. 

All anxiety disorders share some general symptoms:

  • Sleep problems
  • Panic, fear, and uneasiness
  • Cold, sweaty, numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Not being able to stay calm and still
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Tense muscles

How To Use

This medicine can be taken either with or without a meal. They should be swallowed with a drink or a full glass of water. Always take the medicine as directed by your doctor. Do not exceed the dose prescribed by your doctor. 

The body rapidly becomes used to benzodiazepine drugs and they can be addictive. As a result, they are useful for short-term help but should not generally be used for longer periods. Treatment with this medicine should be stopped gradually by decreasing the dose slowly, following the instructions given by your doctor. This is because suddenly stopping treatment can cause withdrawal symptoms. These can be avoided by stopping treatment slowly. Take this medication exactly as it is given by your doctor. Let your doctor know at once if your condition gets worse. 

Side Effects

Common side effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Memory problems
  • Poor balance or coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Increased sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Blurred vision
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Swelling in your hands or feet
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Stuffy nose
  • Loss of interest in sex

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • Depressed mood, thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased energy
  • Unusual risk-taking behavior
  • Confusion, hostility, or hallucinations
  • Uncontrolled muscle movements, tremor, seizure
  • Pounding heartbeats or fluttering in your chest

Things To Remember 

  • This medicine might cause drowsiness, muscle weakness, impaired concentration, and alertness. These effects are made worse by drinking alcohol and may continue into the following day. If you are affected you should not drive or operate machinery. Do not drink alcohol while taking this medicine.
  • If you are taking a high dose of this medicine, be sensible to carry your prescription with you if you feel you are safe to drive, in case you are asked to take a test by the police. You should not drive if you think this medicine affects your ability to drive safely, for example, if it makes you feel sleepy, dizzy, unable to concentrate, or if you have blurred vision. If you are driving dangerously while taking this medicine you will be breaking the law.
  • Benzodiazepines can sometimes cause unexpected reactions in certain people. If you experience any unusual feelings after starting treatment with this medicine, you should consult your doctor. This medicine may not be suitable for you or the dose may be too high.
  • This medicine may be harmful to a developing baby and it should be avoided during pregnancy unless considered essential by your doctor. This is particularly important during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy and before or during labor. Regular use during pregnancy should especially be avoided, as the baby could become dependent on the medicine and then suffer withdrawal symptoms after birth. If this medicine is used in late pregnancy or during labor it may cause floppiness, low body temperature, and breathing difficulties in the baby after birth. Ask your doctor for further information.
  • This medicine may pass into breast milk. It should not be used by breastfeeding mothers as it may be harmful to the nursing infant. Seek medical advice from your doctor.
  • Alprazolam should be used with caution in people with decreased liver or kidney function, a disease affecting the airways of lungs, a history of alcoholism, or personality disorders. 
  • This is not recommended for use in people with a sudden worsening of any underlying lung disease, who suffer sleep apnoea syndrome, with long-term psychotic illness, or who are very restless or hyperactive. 
  • Do not give this drug to children and adolescents under 18 years of age. 
  • You should not use this if you recently had an allergic reaction to this drug. Let your doctor know if you have any allergies as well.