Alprazolam: Dosage, Uses, Side Effects & Toxicity

Instructor: Kirstyn Wade

Kirstyn is a registered nurse and has a master's degree in Nursing Education. She has taught college Nursing courses.

Alprazolam is a medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. In this lesson you will learn more about the uses, dosage, side effects and possible toxicity of alprazolam.

Medication for Anxiety

Drew has been diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder. His physician suggested he start taking a medication, alprazolam, to help alleviate some of his symptoms. Drew has never taken medication for his anxiety, and so he asks his physician to explain more about what to expect while taking this medication. Drew's physician gives him a comprehensive overview of alprazolam.

Alprazolam Use

Alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax, is classified as a benzodiazepine medication. The exact mechanism of benzodiazepines is not completely understood, but scientists suspect they work by enhancing GABA neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers of the brain, and by enhancing the effects of the GABA neurotransmitters, individuals experience an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect. Alprazolam is just one of many benzodiazepine medications used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.


Neurotransmitters send messages across synapses in the brain.
Neurotransmitters


How is Alprazolam Dosed?

Alprazolam is typically supplied in oral immediate release tablets, extended release tablets, and oral liquid. The typical adult dosing for anxiety is 0.25 mg - 0.5 mg of immediate release oral tablets 3 times per day. This dose may be increased every 3-4 days to a maximum daily dose of 4 mg/day in divided doses.

The typical adult dosing for panic disorder is 0.5 mg of immediate release oral tablets 3 times per day. This dose may be increased every 3-4 days as tolerated. The maintenance dose for panic disorder is 1 mg - 10 mg daily in divided doses. The average dose for panic disorder is between 4 mg - 6 mg, but in more extreme situations, physicians may prescribe up to 10 mg a day.


Prescription of Alprazolam 2 mg tablets
Xanax


For individuals taking extended release tablets, the dose starts at 0.5 mg - 1 mg once per day. This dose may be increased every 3-4 days as tolerated to a maximum daily dose of 1 mg - 10 mg once per day. Again, the maximum 10 mg dose should only be reserved for extreme cases of panic disorder.

The use of alprazolam is not recommended for children. Additionally, dosage adjustments should be made for geriatric patients due to increased sensitivity to benzodiazepines in elderly patients. Furthermore, for patients taking any dose of alprazolam, the lowest possible effective dose should be given and the need for alprazolam should be assessed frequently by the prescribing physician.

What Are the Side Effects of Alprazolam?

The most common side effects of alprazolam include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired memory
  • Balance or coordination problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Headache
  • Increased anxiety, especially in the morning
  • Nervousness
  • Constipation
  • Weight changes
  • Irritability

This is NOT a complete list of all side effects. Individuals should always talk with their physician or pharmacist about any side effects they may be experiencing. Rarely, alprazolam may cause allergic reactions. Individuals should also be careful driving or operating machinery when taking alprazolam as it can impair coordination and cause drowsiness. Additionally, alcohol should be avoided as it can be very dangerous in combination with benzodiazepines and the effects of alcohol may be increased.


Do not drink alcohol while taking Alprazolam.
No Alcohol


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