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What is Xanax and How Does It Affect The Brain?

What is Xanax and How Does It Affect The Brain?

Xanax is a prescription drug used to treat the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders. It is a medication that is part of the benzodiazepine family. This little pill is the second most prescribed medication in the United States to help with anxiety related to depression. Unfortunately, it is also extremely addictive and comes with many side effects. How does this anxiety medication affect your body and brain? 

What Exactly is Xanax?

Xanax, also known as Alprazolam, is a popular medication used to treat and subdue feelings of terror and stress that come from anxiety. The goal of this medication is to balance out the chemicals in our brain that trigger panic attacks and anxiety. Xanax works by slowing down brain activity, which causes a calm and relaxed state for the body and mind. Commonly the effects of Xanax make people who are feeling anxiety calm down and feel “normal”. However, the effects of Xanax and the speed at which it works make it commonly abused. 

Desired Effects 

Commonly, the effects of Xanax make people who are feeling anxious or are having a panic attack calm down and feel a base level of “normal” again. This effect is obviously very beneficial to those who suffer from waves or constant states of anxiety. However, when taken without feelings of anxiety, it can have a very sedating effect. This may cause someone to feel tired, dizzy, and drowsy, and sometimes described as a zombie-like state.

Side Effects 

Xanex is very potent, especially for those without tolerance. The lowest dose is always prescribed first and is only increased as needed. There are minimal side effects when taken responsibly. Expected side effects when taking it as prescribed are drowsiness, lightheadedness, and dry mouth. If taken un-prescribed or in higher doses than prescribed, side effects can be severe. Common side effects of Xanax abuse include slurred speech, confusion, and labored breathing or efforts to stay awake.

Why is Xanax Abuse So Common? 

Xanax abuse has become culturally more apparent since the early 2000s. Popular Soundcloud rappers have incorporated it into their lyrics, merchandise, and images. Xanax has become so popular that “presses” are available on the black market. Essentially, “presses” are drugs that are not manufactured by a drug company or distributed by a doctor. The rising rates of depression and anxiety amongst younger people have not helped lessen the abuse of this drug. Understandably, the world has been hectic as ever, especially with the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020. In 2020, The F.D.A. made it mandatory for stronger warning labels to be on medications including Xanax and similar drugs.


Benzodiazepine addiction is a severe disorder, but it can be treated. Addiction does not have to be long-term or even permanent. There is help available, and it is possible to recover. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, Harm Reduction Center is here to empower and support the recovery journey. Our highly individualized service to our clients, offering Integrated Medication Assisted Treatment and all outpatient levels of care. Contact us today for more information.