Alprazolam is a psychoactive drug in the benzodiazepine class commonly sold under the trade name Xanax. It is typically used to relieve anxiety, and it is a fast-acting drug in this class.1 An immediate-release preparation of alprazolam provides 90% of its effects within the first hour, and extended-release preparations are also available. Alprazolam has a significant potential for abuse like all benzodiazepines.
Various Medical Uses
The medical uses for alprazolam include the treatment of panic attacks, nausea caused by chemotherapy and anxiety disorders. Physicians prescribing alprazolam for chronic conditions should periodically evaluate the usefulness of this drug against its potential for addiction. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved alprazolam for moderate to severe anxiety disorders.2 Clinical trials have been limited to 10 weeks, although patients have been effectively treated with alprazolam for up to eight months. Chemotherapy often causes nausea and vomiting, which can often be treated successfully with alprazolam. This use typically combines alprazolam with other drugs.
Symptoms of Alprazolam Overdose
The primary effect of alprazolam is drowsiness, which is also the effect typically sought by recreational users of this drug. The side effects of alprazolam when used in therapeutic dosages commonly include the following:2
- Loss of inhibitions
- Changes in libido
- Slurred speech
- Respiratory depression
Therapeutic doses of alprazolam may also cause the following side effects in rare cases:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Urinary retention
- Dry mouth
Signs of an Overdose
“Centers that perform alprazolam addiction treatment often receive patients suffering from an alprazolam overdose.”Centers that perform alprazolam addiction treatment often receive patients suffering from an alprazolam overdose. The severity of these symptoms generally depends on how much alprazolam has been taken in addition to the other drugs that have been taken. It causes the following alprazolam overdose symptoms that are common to other benzodiazepines:3
- Low blood pressure
- Shallow breathing
- Impaired motor function
- Impaired balance
- Muscle weakness
The most common drug interaction of alprazolam is with alcohol. The combination of these two drugs has a synergistic effect, meaning that the signs of an overdose on alprazolam are greatly exaggerated when you take the drug with alcohol. Some recreational users also combine alprazolam with kava to achieve a semi-comatose state.
How to Safely Detox
Users suffering from alprazolam overdose symptoms typically experience withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly stop taking it. The most common symptoms of alprazolam withdrawal include the following:3
- Blurred vision
- Concentration difficulty
- Aggressive behavior
Alprazolam addiction treatment centers are usually the best setting for a patient going through withdrawal. On-call staff members are able to monitor the patient’s vital signs around the clock and address any other health issues the patient may have. A physician in an inpatient center often administers medication during the withdrawal period. This medication generally provides milder effects than alprazolam but lasts longer. This gradually reduces the patient’s dependence on alprazolam while minimizing the withdrawal symptoms experienced.
Did You Know?
Alprazolam overdoses are rarely fatal and account for less than 1 percent of all drug overdose cases, according to the American Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology. Most cases of alprazolam overdose also involve other drugs such as cocaine and methadone.
Rehabilitation for Addiction
The rehabilitation phase of alprazolam addiction begins after the detox phase is complete. Alprazolam overdose treatment comes in a range of shapes and forms, including inpatient and outpatient programs. Inpatient programs generally involve the patient living at the center as a resident. This type of rehab program is usually 90 days in length, although 30-day and 60-day programs are also available. An outpatient program involves the patient visiting the center at specific times during the week, allowing you to return home after the session.
A variety of treatment programs is available, depending on the specific center. Many centers use a 12-step program, which was originally developed for alcoholism. This program has since been adapted for a variety of other addictions. Some centers base their rehabilitation programs on religion, which include prayer and worship services.
Rehabilitation may also include psychological therapy, including behavioral therapy and cognitive therapy. The purpose of behavioral therapy is generally to modify the patient’s behavior by replacing addictive behavior with healthier alternatives. The goal of cognitive behavior is to determine the underlying psychological causes of the patient’s addiction. This therapy may use individual or group sessions. Individual therapy sessions are most common, but group sessions may also be used to treat specific population groups, such as men, women or teenagers.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Alprazolam.
- Bystritsky, A., Khalsa, S.S., Cameron, M.E., & Schiffman, J. (2013). Current Diagnosis and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 38(1), 30–38, 41–44, 57.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2013). Benzodiazepines.