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Alprazolam: Pharmacokinetics & Pharmacology

Instructor: Charity Hacker

I am a nursing instructor with over 20 years of nursing experience and a Masters Degree in Nursing Education.

It is really important for anyone involved with medicine in the healthcare field to understand what they are working with. Two specific aspects of a medication are its pharmacology and pharmacokinetics. In this lesson, we will learn about the pharmacology and pharmacokinetics of Alprazolam.

Pharmacology and Pharmacokinetics

What is the pharmacology of a drug? You could say, pharmacology is everything you need to know about a particular drug. Pharmacology includes pharmacokinetics. So, then you say, what is pharmacokinetics? Pharmacokinetics is what your body does with a drug once it is inside the body. In this lesson, we are going to explore the pharmacology and pharmacokinetics of Alprazolam. In other words, we are going to get to know Alprazolam.

Imagine you have anxiety and your doctor has prescribed Alprazolam for you to use. You are a little leery about trying something new, so you decide to do some research. You want to know more than just the side effects: you want to know everything.

0.25, 0.5, and 1mg Alprazolam tablets.
Image of Alprazolam tablets, different doses.

Pharmacology of Alprazolam

You decide you want to start at the beginning. Where did it come from? When was it first used? How did it get to be such a popular drug?

Alprazolam has been around since the 1960s and was originally used as a sleep aid. The company that developed alprazolam also initially tried to market it as an antidepressant. It ultimately gained FDA approval and was marketed as an anti-anxiolytic, meaning it treats and reduces anxiety. Other than anxiety, Alprazolam can be prescribed for panic disorder, agoraphobia, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), and depression. Agoraphobia is when someone is afraid of open spaces. Alprazolam is like a yoga instructor and a life coach. It helps those that experience anxiety— in its own unique way.

Alprazaolam is chemically part antidepressant and part benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety. Chemically it is a triazolobenzodiazepine. Alprazolam works on the diagnoses noted above by depressing the central nervous system: the brain and the spinal cord. Alprazolam's toxicology report shows that rats who have been exposed to toxic levels have been shown in rats to cause ocular (eye) problems after long term overexposure. Why do you need to know this? Alprazolam is metabolized by a cytochrome called P450 3A, also known as CYP3A. Any medicine that blocks CYP3A causes Alprazolam to hang around in your system longer; moreover, medicines that stimulate CYP3A cause Alprazolam to be eliminated quicker from the body.

Pharmacokinetics of Alprazolam

Now, imagine you're feeling anxious about a particular situation and you take an alprazolam that has been prescribed to you. As you sit there waiting for your calm to arrive, you ponder about the Alprazolam in your body. Just how is this little pill going to get where it needs to be to help your anxiety? And how are you going to get rid of it when your anxiety is gone? Let's explore!

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