Drugs Q & A

How Long Does Xanax Stay In Breastmilk?

Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. It contains just the right amount of nutrients. It is also gentle on your baby’s developing stomach, intestines, and other body systems. Many medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months.

However, for women taking certain prescription medications, this can be a challenge because when our body begins to metabolize a medication, different organs process the ingredients before they are finally released into the bloodstream and some of them end up in the breast milk.  Studies have shown that although most medicines are excreted in breast milk to some degree, the amount is usually less than 10% of the maternal dose. Medicines excreted at less than 10% are considered compatible with breastfeeding.

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.

How Long Does Xanax Stay In Breastmilk?

According to the Xanax prescribing information, the average woman eliminates half a Xanax dose from their system in about 11.2 hours.  This implies that since Xanax can be excreted via breast milk, it can take up to 6 days after the last time it was taken for the medication to be completely eliminated from your breast milk.

Breastfeeding during this period could expose your breastfed baby to Xanax. A study on Xanax safety during breastfeeding reported that taking the medication during breastfeeding can cause sedation in babies and is probably not the best benzodiazepine for repeated use while breastfeeding, especially with a neonate or premature infant.

How long after taking a Xanax can I breastfeed?

Studies have shown that peak concentrations of Xanax reached within 2.1 hours after oral administration. To reduce the amount of Xanax your baby consumes via breast milk, breastfeed your child shortly before taking the medication or 3-4 hours after.

Xanax side effects

Common side effects of Xanax can include:

•          memory loss

•          constipation

•          hypotension (low blood pressure)

•          dry mouth

•          drowsiness

•          dizziness or lightheadedness

•          problems with balance or coordination

•          trouble concentrating

•          trouble speaking clearly

•          changes in sex drive

•          changes in appetite

•          weight changes

•          mild allergic reaction†

Most of these side effects may go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. However, if they become more severe or do not go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects of Xanax

Serious side effects from Xanax are not common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include:

•          Reduced ability to drive safely or perform other potentially dangerous activities. Symptoms can include:

o          sleepiness

o          dizziness or lightheadedness

o          reduced alertness

o          trouble concentrating

o          slowed reaction times

•          Liver problems. Symptoms can include:

o          abdominal pain

o          nausea and vomiting

o          increased levels of liver enzymes (types of proteins)

o          jaundice

•          Seizures. Symptoms can vary depending on the type of seizure but may include:

o          shaking or jerking movements

o          stiffness or floppiness

o          confusion

•          Hallucinations (sensing things that are not really there). Symptoms can include:

o          hearing something that’s not present, such as a voice talking to you

o          seeing something that’s not real, such as lights or people

•          Risk of misuse and addiction.

•          Risk of dependence and withdrawal.

•          Risk of severe harm or death if taken with opioids.

•          Severe allergic reaction.

Xanax may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).


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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