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Xanax is a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant and is in a category of drugs that slow normal brain function.

This category includes:

  • Barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral) and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), which are used to treat anxiety, tension, and sleep disorders.
  • Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide HCl (Librium), and alprazolam (Xanax), which can be prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic attacks; the more sedating benzodiazepines, such as triazolam (Halcion) and estazolam (ProSom) can be prescribed for short-term treatment of sleep disorders.

Despite their many beneficial effects, barbiturates and benzodiazepines (Xanax) have the potential for abuse and should be used only as prescribed. During the first few days of taking Xanax, a person usually feels sleepy and uncoordinated, but as the body becomes accustomed to the effects of the drug, these feelings begin to disappear. If one uses these drugs long term, the body will develop tolerance for the drugs, and larger doses will be needed to achieve the same initial effects. In addition, continued use can lead to physical dependence and – when use is reduced or stopped – withdrawal.

Because Xanax works by slowing the brain’s activity, when an individual stops taking it, the brain’s activity can rebound and race out of control, possibly leading to seizures and other harmful consequences.

Alprazolam (Xanax’s generic form) is the most prescribed psychiatric drug in the United States.


  • Anaemia, impairment of liver function, chronic intoxication (headache, impaired vision, slurred speech) and depression. Babies of chronic users may have difficulty in breathing and feeding, disturbed sleep patterns, sweating, irritability and fever.
  • Xanax should be used with other medications only under a physician’s supervision. Typically, it should not be combined with any other medication or substance that causes CNS depression, including prescription pain medicines, some over-the-counter cold and allergy medications, or alcohol. Using CNS depressants with these other substances – particularly alcohol – can slow breathing, or slow both the heart and respiration, and possibly lead to death.


  • Symptoms of dependence – tolerance resulting in higher levels needed to achieve the same calming effect.
  • Symptoms of psychological dependence – needing the drug to function and being consumed with obtaining the drug.
  • Symptoms of withdrawal – restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, seizures, even death in some cases.

To be clinically diagnosed as dependent on a substance, 3 or more of the following symptoms must be exhibited at the same time during a 12-month period:

  • Amount and duration of substance intake is longer than intended
  • Efforts to control substance intake are not successful
  • A great deal of effort is put into obtaining, using or recovering from effects of the substance in question
  • Due to use of substance, other activities (social, work-related, leisure) are reduced or abandoned
  • Substance is used even when know to cause or exacerbate a persistent or recurrent psychological, or physical problem
  • Tolerance of the substance
  • Withdrawal from the substance