Benzodiazepines like Xanax work by attaching to a receptor in your brain called the GABA-A (gamma-aminobutyric acid-A) receptor. When Xanax binds to this receptor, it has a calming effect in the brain.
For anxiety disorders, Xanax is often prescribed because it can help relieve anxiety symptoms quickly. However, other anxiety medications and talk therapy are better long-term choices for treating anxiety because Xanax has side effects, a risk of overdose, and the potential for dependence.
These other treatments may take a few weeks to take effect, though. So Xanax and other benzodiazepines are sometimes used as a “bridge” until other treatments can have a chance to work.
For treating insomnia, behavioral therapy and other medications are also generally preferred over Xanax.
How long does Xanax last?
Most people notice that Xanax will start to work within 1 to 2 hours. For healthy younger adults, half the dose of Xanax has left the body somewhere between 6.3 to 26.9 hours. The average is around 11 hours.
It takes a little longer for Xanax to leave the body of healthy elderly people. Half the dose of Xanax has left the body in elderly people somewhere between 9 to 26.9 hours. The average is around 16 hours for this group.
However, people stop feeling the effects of Xanax long before it leaves the body, which is why it is often taken more than once a day. It’s important to take it as prescribed. Taking too many doses can lead to dependence and accidental overdose.
What are some of the concerns of taking Xanax?
If you are taking Xanax, you should be aware of its side effects. Possible side effects include:
- Muscle cramps
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Manic symptoms
- Difficulty walking
- Dry mouth
- Irregular heartbeats
- Low blood pressure
- Blurry vision
Some people should avoid Xanax because they may be more sensitive to its side effects or it might harm them. These groups include:
- Pregnant women
- Older patients
- Children and teens
- People who have misused alcohol or drugs
- People with certain medical conditions such as respiratory illnesses
People who take Xanax should also be aware of the possibility of misusing or becoming dependent on it. Some people misuse Xanax because they like the way it makes them feel, which can lead to inappropriate use or overuse. When someone needs higher or more frequent doses of the medication to achieve the same effect, this is known as tolerance.
Building a tolerance to Xanax or other benzodiazepines can lead to dependence. A dependence means your body begins to rely on Xanax to function normally, and you can experience serious withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it suddenly.
Certain people are at greater risk for misusing Xanax, including:
- Non-Hispanic whites
- Young adults 18 to 35 years old
- Someone who has a current psychiatric disorder
- Someone with a personal or family history of substance abuse