Conditions the medication is used for: Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Social anxiety disorder

Other names for the medication: Xanax®

What is this medication used for?

Alprazolam (also known as Xanax®) is mainly used to help treat the symptoms of anxiety. It can also be used to help the symptoms of panic and social anxiety. It is known as a benzodiazepine. It is made as tablets.

What is the usual dose for this medication?

The usual dose of alprazolam in adults for anxiety is 250mcg to 500mcg (0.25-0.5mg) three times a day. In older people the dose should be a bit lower e.g. 250mcg (0.25mg) two or three times a day.

How and when should I take the medication?

How to take:

Swallow the tablets with at least half a glass of water whilst sitting or standing. This is to make sure that they reach the stomach and do not stick in your throat.

When to take:

Take your alprazolam as directed on the label. Try to take it at regular times each day. Taking it at mealtimes may make it easier for you to remember as there is no problem about taking alprazolam with or after food.

What are the alternatives to this medication?

There are many other medicines (e.g. SSRIs), talking therapies and treatments for anxiety and other symptoms. See our “Handy chart” to help you compare the medicines, how they work and their side effects.

How long does the medication take to work?

For anxiety, alprazolam usually starts to work in about an hour. The effect may then build over several days or weeks.

How long will I need to keep taking this medication for?

This will depend on what you are taking it for. It may only need to be for a few weeks, or it could be much longer. Discuss this with your doctor or nurse.

Can I just stop taking this medication?

You could become dependent on alprazolam if you take it regularly every day for more than about 4 to 6 weeks. If you have, it might be best to reduce the dose slowly over a few days or weeks. You should discuss this fully with your prescriber, doctor, nurse or pharmacist. If you are taking it “when required” every few days you should be able stop when you feel you don’t need it any more.

What should I do if I forget to take a dose or overdose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember unless it is within about 3-4 hours of your next dose. If you remember after this just take the next dose as normal. Do not try to catch up by taking two doses at once as you may get more side-effects. If you have problems remembering your doses (as very many people do) ask your pharmacist, doctor or nurse about this. There are some special packs that can be used to help you remember.

Can I drink alcohol while on this medication?

If you drink alcohol while taking alprazolam it may make you feel more sleepy. This is really important if you need to drive or operate machinery and you must seek advice on this.

Will this medication affect my other medications Including the Contraceptive pill?

Alprazolam has a few interactions with other medicines.

  • The effect of alprazolam can be decreased by caffeine (e.g. in tea, coffee, cola drinks, some energy drinks), theophylline or aminophylline (for asthma)
  • If alprazolam is taken with alcohol, it will cause more sleepiness.
  • You may also feel more sleepy if you take alprazolam with anything else that causes sleepiness e.g. some antihistamines, antidepressants, pain killers, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants and many other medicines  
  • You should have no problems with "The Contraceptive Pill" and alprazolam Not all of these interactions happen in everyone.

Some of these medicines can still be used together but you will need to follow your doctor's instructions carefully. There are many other possible drug interactions.

What sort of side-effects might I get from taking this medication?

Side effect

What happens

What to do about it

VERY COMMON (more than about 1 in 10 people might get these)

Sleepiness

You feel sleepy or sluggish. It can last for a few hours after taking a dose, or longer.

Don't drive or use machinery.

Discuss with your doctor if you can take your alprazolam at different times of the day.

Dizziness

Feeling light-headed and faint.

Don't stand up too quickly.

Try and lie or sit down if you feel it coming on. Don't drive.

COMMON (fewer than about 1 in 10 people might get these)

Ataxia

Being unsteady on your feet.

Discuss with your doctor when you next see him or her.

UNCOMMON (fewer than about 1 in 100 people might get these)

Aggression

Feeling excitable. You may be over- talkative, intrusive, unfriendly or disinhibited.

Discuss this with your doctor. He or she may want to adjust your medicine or dose.

Headache

Your head is pounding and painful.

Try paracetamol. Your pharmacist will be able to advise if this is safe to take with any other medicines you may be taking.

Confusion

Your mind is all mixed up or confused.

Discuss with your doctor when you next see him or her. He or she may want to adjust your medicine or dose.

Postural hypotension

Low blood pressure. This can make you feel dizzy, particularly when you stand up.

Don't stand up too quickly. If you feel dizzy, don't drive.

Amnesia

Loss of short-term memory. Finding it hard to remember things.

It is not dangerous. Discuss with your doctor if you are worried.

Rashes

Blotches seen on the skin.

Stop taking alprazolam and see your doctor now.

 

Do not be worried by this list of side effects. Some people get no side effects at all and others may get some effects that are not listed in this table. If you think you might have a side effect to your medicine, you should ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Will I need to have blood tests?

You will not need to have any blood tests to check on alprazolam.

Can I drive or cycle while on this medication?

You may feel a bit sleepy at first when taking alprazolam. Until this wears off, or you know how alprazolam affects you, do not drive or operate machinery. You should be very careful as it may affect your reaction times.

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