Alprazolam is a tranquilizer, the fastest of its family. It shows effect in the course of five to ten minutes and lasts between three and six hours. This makes this medication an ideal fit for situations with high peak anxiety, i.e. panic attacks, specific phobias (fear of taking a plane,..). The downside of it being so effective, fast and having a slightly euphorizing effect is that it can be highly addictive. So, the quick and big feeling of relief is double sided.

What is Alprazolam used for?

Alprazolam is very helpful but has to be evaluated carefully when and how it is prescribed. It is used for the short-term management of anxiety disorders and panic disorder.

Alprazolam belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines.

There are different dosages such as 0.25mg, 0.5mg or 1 mg that are to be taken orally. Your doctor will assess the medication on a regular basis to find the most appropriate dosage for you and to limit prolongated use. It is advisable to increase and decrease the dosage slowly with the supervision of your doctor.

However, the relief is purely symptomatic, the underlying cause of the anxiety remains present and will resurface. The medication allows the intensity of the anxious peak to be tolerable.

When shouldn’t I use Alprazolam?

If you have daily anxiety or if the anxiety is caused by anticipation, i.e. not necessarily related to a specific event or situation. This is what we call a generalized anxiety disorder.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Alprazolam is one of the best tolerated tranquilizers but if the adjustment of the dosage is inappropriate, an excess can cause certain side effects.
The most common side effects are: Drowsiness, light-headedness, headache, tiredness, dizziness, irritability, dry mouth, changes in sex drive or ability, nausea, constipation
Alprazolam may cause other side effects. Please, always contact your doctor or seek emergency care if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

Can Alprazolam interact with other medication?

Yes it can, that is why it is crucial that you tell your doctor about any medication (for example contraceptive pill, antibiotics, heart medication etc) you are taking as well as your alcohol consumption. Alcohol can increase the risk of important side effects.

What should I have in mind if I take Alprazolam?

  • Alprazolam can make you drowsy. Be sure to not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.
  • Alprazolam may be habit forming.
  • Alprazolam may cause a physical dependence that is why it is important to never suddenly stop or increase the medication. Stopping the medication abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms that may last for several weeks.

How do I stop taking Alprazolam?

Alprazolam, such as any Benzodiazepine, can cause dependence if used on the long term. That is why medical supervision is crucial.
If you stop the medication abruptly, it is very common to have a syndrome of abstinence (sweating profusely, trembling, nausea,…). It can even lead to a life-threatening situation requiring medical assistance.

If you stop gradually, which is highly recommended, we suggest medical supervision. You should never decrease more than 1/3 of the total dosage in each lowering step. Each step should at least last one week, sometimes ten days or two weeks depending on the tolerance and wellbeing of every patient. This time is to ensure that you don’t suffer from signs of abstinence.

Sources:
https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a684001.html
https://cima.aemps.es/cima/dochtml/p/62791/Prospecto_62791.html
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2029716/

Division of Medicine
Dra. Alma Moser
Psychiatrist
Children, adolescents and adults
Languages: English, German, French and Spanish
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