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Alprazolam: uses and side effects of this anxiolytic

Alprazolam: uses and side effects of this anxiolytic

April 30, 2024

Probably many of the people who read this article will know or have heard about the drug to which they refer. And it is alprazolam, one of its best-known trade names being Trankimazin , is one of the most common psychotropic drugs in the treatment of anxiety, one of the mental problems that occurs in the population more frequently.

Throughout this article we will see among other aspects what type of substance is, its mechanism of action and some of its main uses.

  • Related article: "Types of psychotropic drugs: uses and side effects"

The alprazolam: type of substance and main characteristics

The alprazolam is a drug with psychoactive or psychopharmaceutical properties that is classified as anxiolytics , substances used to treat anxiety and its manifestations. Among the anxiolytics, it is part of the benzodiazepines, being one of the most popular types of psychotropic drugs consumed by the population (being much safer, effective and with fewer side effects than their predecessors barbiturates).

In the specific case of alprazolam, we are facing an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine , which implies that it needs a shorter time to begin to have an effect on the organism compared to a long-acting one but at the same time that its effects stay shorter than these, and vice versa in the case that we compare it with one short action

Its duration is approximately between 12 and 24 hours. This duration of the effect is advantageous, since it generates a lower likelihood of dependence and addiction to the substance and less doses are necessary to cause a prolonged anxiolytic effect, in addition to making the medication does not take too long to take effect.

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Mechanism of action of this benzodiazepine

Like the other benzodiazepines, the main mechanism of action of alprazolam is based on its interaction with gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA , one of the main inhibitory neurotransmitters of the central nervous system.

Alprazolam acts as an agonist of this neurotransmitter in the GABA A receptors, favoring its action in such a way that action potentials on the part of the neurons are difficult to realize. In other words, they make the neuronal activation of certain areas of the brain less. This action is carried out predominantly on the limbic system (very activated in anxiety) and the cerebral cortex.

  • Related article: "GABA (neurotransmitter): what it is and what role it plays in the brain"

Disorders and problems for which it is used

Alprazolam is an effective psychotropic drug that has been found multiple indications, especially in the field of anxiety. Some of the best known and usual are the following.

1. Anxiety disorders

The main indication for alprazolam is its use in anxious-type disorders. Among them we often find panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia) and generalized anxiety disorder.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Types of Anxiety Disorders and their characteristics"

2. Adaptive disorders

Adaptive disorders, those in which there is some type of symptomatology derived and explicable from the experience of a specific event or psychosocial stress, are also often treated with alprazolam and other benzodiazepines.

3. Depression

Although it is not a priority use, sometimes alprazolam has been used in depressive disorders, especially in those who have high anxiety or who have mixed anxious-depressive symptoms. However, this application must be evaluated and applied with great caution in patients with suicidal thoughts and severe depression , because it can get to potentiate the symptomatology.

  • You may be interested: "Major depression: symptoms, causes and treatment"

4. Social phobia

One of the indications of alprazolam is found in patients who suffer from social phobia, helping to reduce the level of anxiety at the prospect of being exposed to other people.

5. Chemotherapy

Alprazolam has also manifested itself of utility in the treatment of discomfort and anxiety generated by chemotherapy in patients who must undergo it because of some type of tumor.

  • Related article: "Benzodiazepines (psychodrugs): uses, effects and risks"

Side effects of alprazolam and risks

The use of alprazolam can be very useful in the treatment of diverse symptoms, especially in relation to anxiety.However, it is a psychotropic drug that can generate different adverse effects, so its use must always be indicated and supervised by the doctor.

Among them, the presence of drowsiness and sedation, occasionally together with headache and dizziness . Concentration and attention are diminished. Nausea and vomiting, fatigue, blurred vision, hypotension, urinary incontinence, tremors, or sexual disorders may also occur. Far less common is the presence of adverse reactions such as increases in intraocular pressure, confusion, hallucinations, irritability, agitation or aggression.

Another adverse effect to take into account is that the consumption of alprazolam and other benzodiazepines can generate specific memory problems, both retrograde and antegrade. It can generate difficulties when remembering previous information , or hinder the learning of new information. It can also be found that sometimes suicidal ideations may appear. In rare cases paradoxical reactions also appear, that is, reactions contrary to those expected after the administration of the treatment (restlessness, anxiety, agitation, etc.).

In addition to these symptoms, it must be taken into account that benzodiazepines are substances with addictive potential, with the risk of acquiring dependence on them. In the case of alprazolam this risk exists, although it is less than that of short-acting benzodiazepines. It is also essential to bear in mind that the consumption of psychotropic drugs should not stop suddenly , since there is a possibility of withdrawal syndrome or even rebound anxiety.

In the same way, there is a risk of overdose, which can generate stops or cardiorespiratory insufficiencies. These overdoses, sometimes, can be treated with flumazenil.


The use of alprazolam is not recommended for all types of patients, but there are circumstances that can make this psychopharmaceutical contraindicated. One of them is given in patients with narrow-angle glaucoma , as well as in those subjects who suffer airway alterations or suffer from respiratory insufficiency, as it can be dangerous for them. It is also contraindicated in myasthenia.

In the same way it should not be consumed during pregnancy and lactation. Likewise neither those patients who have renal or hepatic insufficiency should consume this medicine , or the doses must be very scheduled taking into account this insufficiency.

Bibliographic references:

  • Gómez, M. (2012). Psychobiology CEDE Preparation Manual PIR.12. CEDE: Madrid
  • Salazar, M .; Peralta, C .; Pastor, J. (2011). Manual of Psychopharmacology. Madrid, Panamericana Medical Publishing House.
  • Stevens, J.C. & Pollack, M.H. (2005). Benzodiazepines in clinical practice: consideration of their long-term use and alternative agents. J Clin Psychiatry; 66 (Suppl 2): ​​21-7.

Alprazolam (Xanax): What You Need To Know (April 2024).

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