Xanax, or its generic version alprazolam, doesn’t affect everyone in the same way.

How Xanax will affect you depends on several factors, including your:

  • mental state at the time you take the drug
  • age
  • weight
  • metabolism
  • dosage

If you’re taking this anti-anxiety medication for the first time, it’s important to understand its side effects and potential interactions before use. Read on to learn what it should and shouldn’t feel like, and answers to other commonly asked questions.

Many people who take Xanax recreationally, or without a prescription, describe the feeling as sedating or calming.

Unlike some drugs, such as cocaine, that produce a “high” or euphoric feeling, Xanax users describe feeling more relaxed, quiet, and tired. These feelings may lead to falling asleep or passing out for a few hours.

Some people have also reported memory loss or blacking out and not remembering what happened for several hours. Higher doses will have stronger effects.

If you take this medication as it’s intended — it’s commonly prescribed to treat anxiety or panic disorders — you may feel “normal” after your first dose.

The sedating effect can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and calm your body’s response to the anxiety or stress.

Alcohol increases the effects of Xanax and slows down how quickly your body can clear the drug from your system. If you take the medicine and then drink alcohol, you may experience extreme lethargy and prolonged memory loss.

It’s advised that you avoid combining the two substances. It’s possible that the combination will lead to dangerous, even deadly side effects. These include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • extreme drowsiness
  • confusion
  • seizures

You should avoid combining Xanax with several other drugs due to their interactions. Xanax can interact with many medications, including some:

  • oral contraceptives
  • antifungals
  • antidepressants
  • antibiotics
  • heartburn drugs
  • opioids

These drugs can prevent the pathway that’s responsible for eliminating Xanax from your body from removing it as quickly as should happen. Over time, this may lead to a toxic buildup of the drug and eventually an overdose.

Speak with your doctor or a pharmacist about all the medications you’re currently taking to ensure that they won’t have an interaction. They can assess the risks and discuss them with you.

You should also avoid combining Xanax with drugs — even over-the-counter ones — that can make you sleepy, slow your breathing, or cause extreme lethargy. The compounded effects of combining these drugs may be dangerous and put you at risk for health issues or death.

The effects of Xanax should be mild, but detectable. If the drug appears to be having a significant impact on you, you should seek emergency medical attention.

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • extreme drowsiness
  • muscle weakness
  • confusion
  • fainting
  • loss of balance
  • feeling lightheaded

You should also seek emergency medical attention if you experience signs of an allergic reaction. Signs may include swelling of the face, lips, throat, and tongue and difficulty breathing.

Likewise, if you experience signs of withdrawal, you should contact your doctor immediately. Xanax is a potentially habit-forming drug, so some people may develop a dependency or addiction without realizing it.

Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal can be serious. They include:

Suicide prevention

  • If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
  • •  Call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • •  Stay with the person until help arrives.
  • •  Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
  • •  Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
  • If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Xanax’s doses are available in milligrams (mg). They include:

  • 0.25 mg
  • 0.5 mg
  • 1 mg
  • 2 mg

The effects of Xanax become more significant as the dose increases.

Doctors generally recommend that first-time Xanax users start with the lowest possible dose. Until you know how the drug will affect you, it’s better to take less and build up to a higher dose.

High doses can be fatal. This goes for everyone — from first-time users all the way up to people who’ve used Xanax for many months or years as prescribed by their doctor. You shouldn’t take a higher dose than what’s prescribed by your doctor.

High doses are also associated with a puzzling complication known as the “Rambo effect.” This unusual side effect occurs when a Xanax user begins displaying behaviors that are very unlike them. This might include aggression, promiscuity, or theft. It’s not clear why some people react this way or how to predict if it will happen to you.

Xanax is taken by mouth and absorbed quickly by the bloodstream. Some people may first begin experiencing the effects of Xanax within 5 to 10 minutes of taking the pill. Almost everyone will feel the effects of the drug within an hour.

One of the reasons why Xanax is so effective for treating panic is that peak impact from the dose comes quickly. Most people will experience it between one and two hours after taking their dose.

The effects of Xanax are brief. Most people will feel the strongest impacts from the drug for two to four hours. Lingering effects or “fuzzy feelings” may stretch out beyond that for several more hours.

How long it takes for the drug to impact you will depend on several factors. They include:

  • your weight and metabolism
  • your age
  • other medications you may be taking

It’s possible to build up a tolerance to Xanax quickly. If that happens, you may begin to notice it takes longer for you to feel the sedative effects of the drug, and the feelings may wear off more quickly.

Xanax has a half-life of about 11 hours. By that point, your body will eliminate half of the dose from your bloodstream. Everyone metabolizes medications differently, so the half-life is different from person to person.

As Xanax wears off, most people will stop feeling the calm, relaxed, lethargic sensations that the drug is associated with.

If you take this medication to relieve symptoms of anxiety, like a racing heart, those symptoms may begin to return as the drug is eliminated from your system. If you don’t have these symptoms, you’ll begin to return to a “normal feeling.”

A Xanax comedown isn’t the same thing as withdrawal. A comedown is the letdown of high emotions following peak drug effects. Many people who take Xanax don’t report a “comedown” because Xanax doesn’t cause a “high.”

However, some people may experience feelings of depression or anxiety, even if they’ve never had an issue with these conditions, as the chemicals in their brain adjust to the lack of the drug. This rebound anxiety or depression is usually temporary.

Xanax has high potential to be a habit-forming drug. Symptoms of withdrawal typically begin two to seven days after your last dose. They can last two to eight weeks.

If you take Xanax, don’t stop it without talking to your doctor first. Some withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. You need to follow a program with your doctor’s supervision to taper off the high doses and ultimately quit entirely.

Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • sleep problems and insomnia
  • restlessness
  • nervousness
  • aggression
  • poor concentration
  • suicidal thoughts
  • worsened anxiety or panic attacks
  • depression
  • seizures

Your doctor can administer medication to help ease these symptoms and prevent further complications.

If you’re considering taking Xanax or are curious about its potential to help you feel less anxious, talk with your doctor.

It’s also a good idea to tell your doctor if you’re using the drug recreationally. Xanax can interact with several common medications, resulting in serious side effects. Your doctor can monitor your overall health and help prevent complications.

Your doctor can also work with you to find a more sustainable, long-term medication to help soothe any symptoms you’re experiencing and alleviate your desire to use Xanax.