Xanax is a common anti-anxiety drug with the generic name alprazolam. It’s a mild tranquilizer and has the ability to calm your nerves and make you feel more relaxed.
It’s only available with a prescription from a doctor.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the effects of Xanax, including how it affects your blood pressure.
Xanax is part of a class of sedative drugs called benzodiazepines. They work by slowing down central nervous system (CNS) activity, causing a sense of calm, slowed breathing, and muscle relaxation. Other common benzodiazepines include:
Xanax is typically used to treat:
Although Xanax isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the following conditions, it’s sometimes prescribed off-label for:
Xanax slows down essential functions such as your heart rate and breathing. It can also temporarily lower your blood pressure. In other words, if you take Xanax before getting your blood pressure tested, your reading might be lower than usual.
A 2011 randomized controlled study followed 53 participants who arrived at a hospital emergency department with elevated blood pressure. They were given either alprazolam (the generic form of Xanax) or captopril, a high blood pressure drug, as treatment.
The researchers found that alprazolam was as effective as captopril at lowering blood pressure.
Xanax may have similar effects over the long term. A 2017 study reported that among people over the age of 60, long-term use of benzodiazepines was associated with lower blood pressure.
Similarly, a 2020 study involving participants with a median age of 63.6 reported that alprazolam use was associated with a slightly reduced risk of major adverse cardiovascular events among people who had high blood pressure. These events include heart attacks and strokes.
However, taking Xanax over the long term is generally not recommended, as it can be habit-forming.
Xanax alleviates symptoms of anxiety, such as restlessness, racing thoughts, and muscle tension. After taking Xanax, you’ll typically feel calmer and more relaxed.
Unlike other psychotropic drugs, Xanax isn’t associated with a euphoric “high,” although it may leave you with a general sense of well-being.
If you’re taking Xanax for an off-label use, such as for insomnia, it may help you fall asleep. It’s not unusual to feel drowsy or tired after taking it.
Depending on the formulation of Xanax (immediate release, extended release, or disintegrating tablets), the effects typically last between 2 and 4 hours. Factors such as the dose taken, your weight, age, and gender can also affect how long the drug works in your system.
The recommended dosage can vary from person to person. Your doctor will let you know how much Xanax to take and how often you should take it. It’s very important to follow your doctor’s directions.
For tablets and oral solution, the adult dosage ranges from:
- 0.25 to 2 milligrams (mg) for oral disintegrating tablets
- 0.5 to 3 mg for extended release
- 1 milligram per milliliter (mg/mL) for oral solution
How often you need to take a dose depends on the condition you’re taking it for as well as the formulation. Don’t take more than the recommended dose.
Your doctor may increase your dose as necessary. Never take a different dose without first speaking to your doctor.
If you forget to take your medication, take it as soon as you remember. If you only remember to take it close to the time you’ll be taking a new dose, skip the dose you forgot and simply take the medication as you normally would.
How long Xanax takes to work depends on the formulation. For instance, it can take:
- 1 to 2 hours for immediate release formulation
- 1.5 to 2 hours for disintegrating tablets
- 9 hours for extended release
Other factors such as your age, body mass, metabolism, and other medications you’re taking can also influence how long it takes Xanax to work.
Xanax poses a risk of side effects. Some of the most common side effects include:
- Fatigue and weakness. You may feel drowsy or sleepy after taking Xanax.
- Cognitive effects. It’s not uncommon to experience difficulty with memory, concentration, or routine tasks.
- Mood changes. This could include feeling sad, empty, discouraged, or irritable.
- Poor coordination. Some people have difficulties with speech, clumsiness, or shakiness while walking or moving.
- Physical symptoms. This may include headaches, dry mouth, changes in appetite, difficulty urinating, joint pain, nausea, or constipation.
- Addiction and withdrawal. Xanax can be habit-forming. If you take it on a regular basis, you may need a higher dose over time to feel the same effects. If you suddenly stop taking it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.
Xanax can interact with other medications, including:
- sedatives and muscle relaxants
- seizure medications
- sleeping pills
- St. John’s wort
In addition, you should avoid alcohol while taking Xanax. Taking both together could increase your risk for serious side effects, including overdose.
You should seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know experiences the following symptoms after taking Xanax:
If you’re concerned that you or someone you know may have taken too much Xanax, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
Xanax is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It slows down central nervous system activity, which can lead to a temporary drop in blood pressure.
Xanax may also lower your blood pressure over the long term, although taking this medication on a regular basis isn’t recommended.
It’s important to take Xanax as directed. If you have questions, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.