Drugs Q & A

Can Xanax Cause Acne (Pimples)?

Acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. It causes whiteheads, blackheads, or pimples. Acne is most common among teenagers, though it affects people of all ages. In fact, research estimates that 9.4 percent of people worldwide have acne. In the United States, acne is the most common skin condition, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

While acne doesn’t pose a serious risk to your overall health, it can still be painful, particularly if you have severe acne. Over time, acne might also cause scarring. There’s no denying that acne can contribute to emotional distress. Acne and acne scars on your face and other visible body locations can affect self-esteem and self-confidence, and they can even contribute to feelings of anxiety or depression.

Acne signs vary depending on the severity of your condition:

•              Whiteheads (closed plugged pores)

•              Blackheads (open plugged pores)

•              Small red, tender bumps (papules)

•              Pimples (pustules), which are papules with pus at their tips

•              Large, solid, painful lumps under the skin (nodules)

•              Painful, pus-filled lumps under the skin (cystic lesions)

Acne usually appears on the face, forehead, chest, upper back, and shoulders.

What is Xanax?

Xanax is a brand of alprazolam, a powerful benzodiazepine that is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain. The medication comes in the form of a tablet that quickly dissolves in the mouth, an extended-release tablet, or a concentrated oral solution.

Benzodiazepines can have therapeutic anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, muscle relaxing, and sedative effects. Xanax works by increasing the effects of a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which promotes calmness and produces a relaxed feeling. The drug decreases the level of excitement in the brain to treat anxiety and panic disorders.

Alprazolam is among the most prescribed benzodiazepine drugs in the U.S. and is among the benzodiazepines most often found in the illegal market, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Xanax is often prescribed for mental health disorders related to anxiety. It can be used to treat general anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias. It can also be used to treat seizures. For people who suffer from anxiety, it can create a sense of relief to focus on their lives without issues of anxiety or phobias plaguing them. When used as prescribed, it can calm people down and make them feel relaxed.

Xanax can also reduce physiological symptoms of anxiety and fear, such as a racing heart or hyperventilation. These drugs are so often prescribed because they work well on anxiety and they’re cheap.

However, many people use Xanax for nonmedical reasons taking it in larger doses or more frequently than prescribed because it can create a euphoric feeling, especially at higher doses. Xanax tends to start acting quickly after a person takes it, and the euphoric effects of the drug will usually manifest themselves within about an hour after taking it.

A tendency has grown in some social circles to view Xanax, as a type of “alcohol” in pill form. It’s become socially acceptable among these groups of friends to get together and share Xanax with one another. Of the 30.5 million people who used benzos in 2015, 17.1% misused them. Misusing Xanax or combining it with other substances like alcohol can amplify its effects, but the results can also be deadly.

Along with recreational use, many people rely on Xanax to deal with issues like situational anxiety without having to commit to therapy, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Xanax is popular in America, for example, because there is a tendency for people to love things that are looked at as a quick-fix. Xanax isn’t a long-term medication, so some people “take it when they need it” for relief. The temporary relief they feel can help in a fast-paced world with constant exposure to negative world news, stressful jobs, and uncertainty.

Does Xanax cause acne?

Yes, benzodiazepines like Xanax can cause the development of true acne or acne-like eruptions. Xanax increases the risk of developing acne in people who take Xanax, especially women aged 60 and above who have been taking the drug for less than 1 month.

Xanax can also trigger acne in younger adults. This explains why it is common to find young people posting their Xanax-induced acne pictures on Reddit and other social media platforms.  

Xanax-induced acne does not pose any serious risk to your overall health, and there are a few dietary changes you can make to reduce its impact on your skin. According to a 2021 review, certain foods or diets may have an effect on acne:

•        Low glycemic index diet. Cutting out processed meats and refined carbs could help reduce acne lesions.

•        Milk products. Consuming certain milk products, like milk and ice cream, seems to worsen acne for some people. Nonmilk dairy products, like cheese, don’t seem to worsen acne.

•        Fat and fatty acids. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may help reduce acne breakouts.

•        Vegan and vegetarian diets. While vegan and vegetarian diets can offer plenty of health benefits, little evidence supports them specifically for the treatment of acne.

•        Probiotics. While probiotics — found in yogurt, other fermented foods, and supplements — could help improve acne, experts have yet to find conclusive support for probiotics as an acne treatment.

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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."
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