What Is Xanax?

What Is Xanax?

Xanax tablets contains alprazolam and is an anxiety medication that is part of the benzodiazepine class of medications. This tranquiliser produces a state of calmness, which is particularly beneficial for people who are inclined to anxiety and panic attacks.

It was patented in 1971 and approved by the FDA for medical use in 1981. Due to an expired patent, this sedative is now also available as a less expensive approved generic, or 'non-branded', medication.

How Does Alprazolam Work

The central nervous system (CNS) is responsible for integral functions such as heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. During a state of excessive anxiety or panic, nerve cells in the CNS become overactive resulting in feelings of nervousness and anxiety. An imbalance of chemical signals in the brain typically causes anxiety and limits a person's ability to calm down.

Xanax pills, however, help slow down the functions of the CNS so it is easier to stay calm. This medication achieves this effect by enhancing the activity of a natural nerve-calming chemical in the body called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This naturally-occurring chemical is found in the majority of nerve cells in the brain and it helps restore a feeling of tranquillity.

What Is Xanax Used For?

Due to its potency and rapid onset of effects, alprazolam is one of the most frequently used medications for psychiatric conditions like anxiety. Xanax pills are primarily used to treat severe anxiety that is causing a patient a significant amount of distress. The tranquilising effect of this medication makes it beneficial in relieving symptoms associated with the following conditions:

  • Panic disorder
  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias

Panic disorder is characterised by unexpected and reoccurring panic attacks with at least 1 month of constant fear or worry about having another attack. A panic attack is described as an abrupt period of intense fear, usually lasting 5-30 minutes. A panic attack typically involves at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Accelerated heart rate or pounding heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed or unsteady
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Nausea or chest pain
  • Fear of losing control

Panic disorder is often misdiagnosed and a patient may see several clinicians before the condition is finally identified. Fortunately, panic disorder is highly treatable and as many as 85% of patients who receive treatment will improve.

Once ingested, alprazolam takes about 30 minutes to relieve anxiety. It reaches its peak concentrations in the bloodstream within 1-2 hours. Many experts recommend a combination of this medication and psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy for lasting results.

Generalised anxiety disorder is another condition that can be effectively managed with the use of alprazolam. This condition involves constant and unrestrained worry about a variety of matters, rather than one specific circumstance. People with generalised anxiety disorder tend to become overly concerned about everyday issues like family, work, health and money.

A clinical study was carried out to assess alprazolam in the treatment of generalised anxiety and panic disorder. In total, 50 outpatients with a diagnosis of generalised anxiety or panic disorder were involved in the 8-week study.

A total of 30 patients were randomly assigned to receive alprazolam and the remaining 20 patients were given inactive placebo pills. The outcomes of the study revealed that dosages of alprazolam between 0.25 mg to 3 mg per day were found to be considerably better than placebo in the treatment of both panic disorder and generalised anxiety disorder.

People with specific phobias also use this medication to deal with certain circumstances that cause debilitating symptoms of fear. Common specific phobias include driving, public transportation, flying in an aeroplane and dental or medical procedures.

Often, a person with an excessive irrational fear of a specific situation will try anything to avoid the feared circumstance. This can have a negative impact on a person's well-being as it may reduce work efficiency, interfere with daily activities and put a strain on interpersonal relationships. Alprazolam can, however, be used to help a person cope with the fear of specific places, situations or objects.

Take Xanax

How Do I Take Xanax?

Xanax pills should be swallowed whole with a drink, with or without food. If you experience nausea or an upset stomach, rather take this medication with food. It can be taken on an as-needed basis or at regular times each day. For maximum benefits, the dosage should be individualised and the following are general guidelines:

  • Anxiety disorders and acute symptoms of anxiety - start treatment with 0.25 to 0.5 mg, three times a day.
  • If necessary, the dose may be increased in intervals of 3-4 days to achieve a maximum dose of 4 mg per day, in divided doses.
  • For panic disorder, the starting dose is 0.5 mg, three times a day.
  • The usual maintenance dose for panic disorder is 3-6 mg per day, in divided doses which should also be increased gradually at intervals of 3-4 days (daily increments should not exceed 1 mg and do not take more than 10 mg per day).

Does Xanax Help Insomnia?

Due to the calming effect that alprazolam induces, this medication is frequently used in the treatment of insomnia. This sleep disorder can be categorised according to the following table:

Type of Insomnia Description Common causes
Acute insomnia A brief period of sleeping difficulties that generally lasts less than 3 months. A significant life event such as a marriage or a job change.
Chronic insomnia Sleeping difficulties at least 3 nights a week and for 3 months or longer. Anxiety, depression, poor sleep hygiene and underlying health conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis and chronic back pain.
Sleep onset insomnia A delay in falling asleep that usually lasts longer than thirty minutes. Anxiety and poor sleep hygiene practices like an irregular sleep schedule and lack of daytime exercise.
Sleep maintenance insomnia This refers to frequent awakenings during the night with difficulty resuming sleep, often for 20 to 30 minutes. Anxiety and physical conditions like restless leg syndrome, acid reflux and nerve pain.

Xanax pills can be taken to treat the various types of insomnia. This sedative is often used on an as-needed basis, for example, 2 or 3 times a week for long-term insomnia. It acts on the CNS to produce a calming effect that can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night.

Check out the following link for more information on anti-anxiety medication.

Updated: 23rd January 2021
Review Due: January 2022



Fueled with a passion to try and help people less fortunate than himself Steve immersed himself in the medical industry. By researching new and innovative medical advancements and regularly sharing important information on social media Steve intends to make a difference where it matters most, people's health. His wealth of knowledge and keen eye for detail will help keep our readers informed and contribute towards improved health.

Martin Grey – Feb 26, 2021
Hi Steve, I found this blog most helpful and wanted to pass on my thanks. My partner is prone to suffering from regular panic attacks, which we have previously struggled to deal with. Your article shed some light on the subject and we decided to follow your advice. The Xanax that we ordered has been highly effective and my partners increased anxiety disappears 15 to 30 minutes after taking a tablet. Thanks again Martin Grey

Post Comment

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

Rate this article