Drugs Q & A

Is Alprazolam The Same As Xanax?

Alprazolam, known by various trade names, is a commonly prescribed psychotropic medication in the United States. Alprazolam is frequently prescribed to manage panic and anxiety disorders. Alprazolam belongs to a class of psychoactive medications called benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines bind to the GABA-A receptor. This receptor is made up of five subunits, e.g., alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, rho, etc. A common GABA-A receptor found in the CNS is made up of two alpha-1 subunits, two beta-2 subunits, and one gamma-2 subunit. The benzodiazepine binding site is between the alpha-1 and gamma-2 subunits.

Studies in mice suggest that the alpha-1 subunit mediates sedation, amnesia, and ataxic effects of benzodiazepines, and alpha-2 and alpha-3 subunits mediate anxiolytic and muscle-relaxing effects of benzodiazepines. Alprazolam treats anxiety and panic disorders by acting on the brain and nerves (central nervous system) to produce a calming effect. It works by enhancing the effects of a certain natural chemical in the body (GABA).

Is Alprazolam The Same As Xanax?

Yes, Xanax is a brand of alprazolam, produced by Pfizer. It is the single most prescribed brand of psychiatric medication in the United States, topping more recently introduced medicines like the sleeping pill Ambien (No. 2) and the antidepressant Lexapro (No. 3). Doctors write nearly 50 million prescriptions for Xanax or alprazolam (the cheap, generic equivalent) every year–that’s more than one Xanax prescription every second.

Xanax is a controlled substance. The active ingredient alprazolam is a Schedule IV controlled substance, which is less likely to be abused than a Schedule III drug, but it still has the potential for abuse. The drug can become addictive, and it’s especially dangerous when prescribed with opioids.

How long does it take for Xanax (alprazolam) to kick in?

Xanax (alprazolam) can work in as little as one hour.

Is Xanax (alprazolam) a sleeping pill?

No. Xanax (alprazolam) is approved by the FDA for anxiety and panic disorders, not insomnia. A common side effect is drowsiness, so a lot of people have taken Xanax (alprazolam) to help them sleep. If you are interested in a medication to help you sleep, talk to your healthcare provider to discuss your options.

Is Xanax (alprazolam) dangerous?

As with all benzodiazepines, Xanax (alprazolam) has the potential to be dangerous, which is why it should only be taken as prescribed by a healthcare provider. It is not recommended for long-term use because of its side effects and its risk of being addictive. It can be habit-forming and cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, like high heart rate, insomnia, anxiety, seizures, sweating, and nervousness.

Is Xanax (alprazolam) safe during pregnancy?

No, taking Xanax (alprazolam) during pregnancy may be harmful to your unborn baby. If you are hoping to become pregnant, it’s best to talk to your provider about alternative medications for your condition. Contact your provider immediately if you become pregnant since it’s important to discuss the risks and benefits of continuing on this medication. There is a North American Antiepileptic Drug (NAAED) Pregnancy Registry to monitor the safety of anti-seizure medications during pregnancy. Xanax (alprazolam) isn’t typically used for seizures, but many other benzodiazepines are. If you are currently pregnant and taking Xanax (alprazolam), it is encouraged that you enroll in the registry to help researchers learn about the risks.

You may also find useful information on Does Xanax Expire?

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