Alprazolam

Alprazolam treats anxiety. This medication can cause drowsiness. Do not suddenly stop taking alprazolam without talking to your doctor because you may experience harmful withdrawal symptoms.

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Pharmacist Steve Lozano, PharmD overviews the uses and common side effects of Alprazolam
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Pharmacist Steve Lozano, PharmD overviews the uses and common side effects of Alprazolam
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Alprazolam Overview

Reviewed: August 22, 2012
Updated: 

Alprazolam is a prescription medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Alprazolam belongs to a group of drugs called benzodiazepines. It works by lowering abnormal excitement in the brain.

Alprazolam comes in tablet, an orally disintegrating tablet, and in an oral (by mouth) solution forms and is usually taken 2 to 4 times a day, with or without food.
 
Alprazolam also comes as an extended release tablet and is taken once a day, in the morning. Do not chew, split, or crush tablets. Swallow extended release tablet whole. 
 
Common side effects of alprazolam include sleepiness, lightheadedness, tiredness, and coordination problems. Alprazolam can also cause drowsiness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how alprazolam affects you.

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Alprazolam Cautionary Labels

precautionsprecautionsprecautionsprecautions

Uses of Alprazolam

Alprazolam is a prescription medicine used to treat anxiety disorder (unrealistic or excessive worrying) and panic disorders (sudden, unexpected attacks of extreme fear).

This medication may be prescribed for other uses.  Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Alprazolam Brand Names

Alprazolam may be found in some form under the following brand names:

Alprazolam Drug Class

Alprazolam is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Alprazolam

Serious side effects have been reported with alprazolam. See “Drug Precautions” section.

Common side effects of alprazolam include:

  • light-headedness
  • depression
  • dizziness
  • irritability
  • restlessness or difficulty concentrating
  • tiredness or sleepiness
  • increased salivation
  • dry mouth
  • lowered blood pressure

Alprazolam may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication. 

Alprazolam Interactions

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take:

  • alcohol
  • chlordiazepoxide (Librium, Librax), clonazepam (Klonopin), clorazepate (Tranxene), diazepam (Valium), estazolam (ProSom), flurazepam (Dalmane), halazepam (Paxipam), lorazepam (Ativan), oxazepam (Serax), prazepam (Centrax), quazepam (Doral), temazepam (Restoril), triazolam (Halcion), or any other medications
  • amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone)
  • antidepressants ('mood elevators') such as desipramine (Norpramin), imipramine (Tofranil), and nefazodone
  • antifungals such as fluconazole (Diflucan), posaconazole (Noxafil), voriconazole (Vfend), itraconazole (Sporanox), and ketoconazole (Nizoral)
  • antihistamines such as cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • clarithromycin (Biaxin) and erythromycin (E.E.S., E-Mycin, Erythrocin)
  • cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)
  • diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor, Tiazac)
  • ergotamine (Cafatine, Cafergot, Wigraine, others)
  • isoniazid (INH, Nydrazid)
  • nicardipine (Cardene) and nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia)
  • oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
  • propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft)
  • sedatives, sleeping pills,  and tranquilizers
  • St. John's wort

This is not a complete list of alprazolam drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Alprazolam Precautions

Serious side effects have been reported with alprazolam including:

  • shortness of breath
  • seizures
  • seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist (hallucinating)
  • severe skin rash
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • depression
  • memory problems
  • confusion
  • problems with speech
  • unusual changes in behavior or mood
  • thinking about harming or killing yourself or trying to do so
  • problems with coordination or balance

Alprazolam can cause serious withdrawal side effects. To avoid these side effects (such as seizures, headaches, blurry vision, or irritability), do not suddenly stop taking alprazolam. Discuss with your doctor about slowly decreasing the dose before stopping use of this medication altogether.

Alprazolam can be habit-forming. Do not take a larger dose, take it more often, or take it for a longer period of time than prescribed by your doctor.

Do not use alprazolam if you:

  • have a known sensitivity or allergy to this drug or other benzodiazepines.
  • develop acute narrow angle glaucoma. Alprazolam may be used in those with open angle glaucoma who are taking appropriate therapy.
  • are taking ketoconazole and itraconazole

Alprazolam Food Interactions

Medicines can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods. Talk to your doctor about drinking grapefruit juice while taking this medicine. 

Inform MD

Before taking alprazolam, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions. Especially tell your doctor if you:

  • have glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye that may cause loss of sight).
  • have or have ever had depression; if you have had thoughts of suicide or harming yourself.
  • have alcoholism or if you drink or have ever drunk large amounts of alcohol.
  • use or have ever used street drugs or have overused prescription medications.
  • smoke.
  • have had seizures.
  • have or have ever had lung, kidney, or liver disease.
  • are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. Alprazolam may harm the fetus. If you become pregnant while taking alprazolam, call your doctor.
  • are having surgery, including dental surgery. Tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking alprazolam.

Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking alprazolam if you are 65 years of age or older. Older adults should receive lower doses of alprazolam because higher doses may not work better and may actually cause serious side effects.

Alprazolam may make you drowsy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.

Talk to your doctor about the use of alcohol while you are taking alprazolam. Alcohol can worsen the side effects.

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Alprazolam and Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

The FDA categorizes medications based on safety for use during pregnancy. Five categories - A, B, C, D, and X, are used to classify the possible risks to an unborn baby when a medication is taken during pregnancy.

Alprazolam falls into category D. Alprazolam passes to the baby and may cause harm to the unborn baby. In addition, the baby may be born with respiratory and other problems if the mother uses alprazolam while pregnant. However, this medication may sometimes still help human mothers and their babies more than it might cause harm.

Alprazolam and Lactation

Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Benzodiazepines are known to be excreted in human milk. Because of the possibility for adverse reactions in nursing infants from alprazolam, a choice should be made whether to stop nursing or to stop use of alprazolam. Determining the importance of the drug to the mother should be considered.

Alprazolam Usage

Alprazolam comes in tablet, an orally disintegrating tablet, and in an oral (by mouth) solution forms and is usually taken 2 to 4 times a day, with or without food. If it bothers your stomach, try taking it with food.

Alprazolam also comes as an extended release tablet and is taken once a day, in the morning. Do not chew, split, or crush tablets. Swallow extended release tablet whole. 

Orally disintegrating tablet:

1) Just prior to administration, with dry hands, remove the tablet from the blister.

2) Immediately place the alprazolam Orally Disintegrating Tablet on top of the tongue where it will disintegrate and be swallowed with saliva. (It is not necessary to take with liquid)

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take two doses at one time.

Alprazolam Dosage

Take alprazolam exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully. Your doctor will determine the best dose for you. The dosage of alprazolam must be individualized.

Anxiety Disorders and Transient Symptoms of Anxiety:

Starting dose: 0.25 to 0.5 mg given three times daily. The dose may be increased to a maximum daily dose of 4 mg, given in divided doses. The lowest possible effective dose should be used and the need for continued treatment reassessed frequently. The risk of dependence may increase with dose and duration of treatment.

Panic Disorder:

  • Immediate release tablets: The successful treatment of many panic disorder patients may require doses greater than 4 mg daily. Treatment may be started at a dose of 0.5 mg three times daily. Depending on the response, the dose may be increased at intervals of 3 to 4 days. Slower titration may be needed. To lessen the possibility of symptoms between doses, you may be prescribed to take alprazolam 3 or 4 times a day.
  • Extended release tablets: The recommended total daily dose ranges between 3 to 6 mg/day. 

Dosing in special populations:

In elderly patients, in patients with advanced liver disease or in patients with debilitating disease, the usual starting dose is 0.25 mg, given two or three times daily. This may be gradually increased if needed and tolerated.

Alprazolam Overdose

In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.

Symptoms of overdose may include:

  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • problems with coordination
  • loss of consciousness

Other Requirements

Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom).