Drugs Q & A

Can Xanax Cause Acid Reflux?

Xanax, also known as alprazolam, is a medication that belongs to the benzodiazepine class of drugs. It is primarily used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. While Xanax is generally considered safe and effective when used as prescribed, there have been concerns raised about its potential side effects, including the possibility of causing acid reflux.

In this article, we will explore the connection between Xanax and acid reflux, including what acid reflux is, how Xanax may contribute to its development, and what steps can be taken to mitigate any potential risks.

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a condition in which the stomach’s acidic contents flow back up into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. When acid reflux occurs, it can cause a burning sensation in the chest, known as heartburn. Acid reflux can also cause other symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and difficulty swallowing.

Acid reflux can be caused by a variety of factors, including obesity, pregnancy, smoking, and certain medications. In some cases, acid reflux can also be caused by a condition called hiatal hernia, which occurs when the upper part of the stomach protrudes into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm.

Acid reflux is a relatively common condition, affecting an estimated 20% of adults in the United States. It can occur in people of all ages, including infants and children. Infants may experience acid reflux due to an underdeveloped esophageal sphincter, while older children and adults may experience it due to a variety of factors, including obesity, pregnancy, hiatal hernias, and certain medications.

The prevalence of acid reflux may vary depending on various factors, such as age, sex, and ethnicity. For example, older adults and men are more likely to experience acid reflux than younger adults and women. Additionally, certain ethnic groups, such as African Americans and Hispanics, may have a higher prevalence of acid reflux compared to other groups.

How Xanax Works

Xanax works by enhancing the activity of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps to reduce the activity of the neurons in the brain, leading to a calming effect.

When Xanax is ingested, it enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain, where it binds to specific sites on GABA receptors. These receptors are located throughout the brain, particularly in the areas that regulate anxiety, mood, and sleep. When Xanax binds to the GABA receptors, it increases the effectiveness of GABA, leading to an increase in its inhibitory effect. This results in a reduction in the activity of the neurons in the brain, leading to a calming effect on the body and mind.

Xanax has a relatively rapid onset of action, typically within 30 minutes of ingestion, and a relatively short half-life, meaning that it is eliminated from the body relatively quickly. This is why it is often used as a short-term treatment for anxiety or panic attacks. However, it can also be habit-forming and has a high potential for abuse, particularly when taken in higher doses or for longer periods than recommended.

Does Xanax Cause Acid Reflux?

Yes, a 1992 study on Xanax reported that a significant proportion of the healthy participants 1/3 exhibited abnormal levels of nocturnal acid reflux while taking Xanax. There is also some evidence to suggest that Xanax may contribute to the development of acid reflux. One way that Xanax may do this is by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a ring of muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach. When the LES is relaxed, stomach acid can flow back up into the esophagus, causing acid reflux.

Another way that Xanax may contribute to acid reflux is by reducing the amount of saliva produced in the mouth. Saliva plays an important role in neutralizing stomach acid and protecting the esophagus from damage. When there is less saliva in the mouth, the risk of acid reflux may increase.

Finally, Xanax may also contribute to acid reflux by increasing the amount of acid produced in the stomach. This is because Xanax can stimulate the production of gastrin, a hormone that promotes the secretion of stomach acid.

Risk Factors for Xanax-Induced Acid Reflux

While Xanax may contribute to the development of acid reflux, not everyone who takes Xanax will experience this side effect. Some people may be more susceptible to Xanax-induced acid reflux than others. Some potential risk factors for Xanax-induced acid reflux include:

1.        Pre-existing gastrointestinal conditions, such as hiatal hernia or peptic ulcers.

2.        A history of acid reflux or heartburn.

3.        Taking Xanax with other medications that can cause acid reflux, such as NSAIDs or corticosteroids.

4.        Long-term use of Xanax.

5.        Taking higher doses of Xanax than prescribed.

Mitigating the Risk of Xanax-Induced Acid Reflux

If you are taking Xanax and are concerned about the potential for acid reflux, there are steps you can take to mitigate this risk. These include:

1.        Taking Xanax as prescribed and not exceeding the recommended dose.

2.        Avoiding other medications that can cause acid reflux.

3.        Eating smaller, more frequent meals.

4.        Avoiding foods and beverages that can trigger acid reflux, such as spicy or fatty foods, caffeine, and alcohol.

5.        Maintaining a healthy weight.

6.        Elevating the head of your bed by six to eight inches to prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus while you sleep.

7.        Waiting at least two hours after eating before lying down.

8.        Quitting smoking.

9.        Managing stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga.

In addition to these lifestyle changes, there are also medications that can be used to treat acid reflux. These include antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new medication, as they may interact with Xanax or other medications you are taking.


While Xanax is generally considered safe and effective for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders, there is some evidence to suggest that it may contribute to the development of acid reflux. This is because Xanax can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, reduce the amount of saliva produced in the mouth, and stimulate the production of stomach acid. However, not everyone who takes Xanax will experience acid reflux, and there are steps that can be taken to mitigate this risk, including making lifestyle changes and avoiding other medications that can cause acid reflux. If you are concerned about the potential for Xanax-induced acid reflux, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about your treatment options.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker