Panic Disorder Treatment How Xanax (Alprazolam) Is Used to Treat Panic Disorder By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD Facebook LinkedIn Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 20, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print United States Department of Justice / Wikimedia Commons Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Is Xanax? Xanax and Panic Disorder Side Effects Potential for Addiction Other Precautions Xanax, the trademark name for alprazolam, is one of the most well-known and commonly prescribed medications for anxiety and panic disorders. Approved in the United States in 1981, the drug has a long history in managing these illnesses. What Is Xanax? Xanax is an anti-anxiety drug belonging to a group of medications known as benzodiazepines. These medications are also called tranquilizers due to their sedative and calming effects. Other commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (diazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam). Xanax can help reduce the severity of anxiety and panic attacks. Primarily used for the treatment of panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia), Xanax is also used in the treatment of other anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. Xanax can also be prescribed to manage anxiety in other conditions such as depressive and bipolar disorders. How Xanax Treats Panic Disorder Like other benzodiazepines, Xanax impacts receptors for gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter in the brain that's involved in sleep regulation, relaxation, and anxiety. This action can assist in slowing down the central nervous system (CNS), decreasing agitation and over-excitement while creating a tranquilizing or relaxing effect. Depressing the CNS also helps alleviate feelings of anxiety and lessen the severity of panic attacks. Xanax is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream typically produces fast-acting results, rapidly eliciting feelings of calm and quickly decreasing panic disorder symptoms. Xanax has a short half-life, meaning it gets in and out of your system quickly. This has advantages and drawbacks, including the fact that you have to take it frequently, and it may result in ups and downs in anxiety control in some people. Panic Disorder Treatment Side Effects of Xanax Some of the most common side effects of Xanax include: ConfusionDizziness and lightheadednessDrowsinessDry mouthLack of coordination or unsteadinessMemory impairmentSlurred speech The Potential for Xanax Addiction As controlled substances, all benzodiazepines, including Xanax, have the potential to cause physical and emotional dependence and can be abused. It can be hard to discontinue Xanax if a dependence to the drug develops, as a person may experience withdrawal symptoms. Some typical withdrawal symptoms include: Difficulty concentratingFatigueMuscle painSleep disturbancesTensionTremors To minimize the risk of dependence, Xanax is often prescribed for a limited period of time. Your doctor may regulate your prescription by only providing a certain amount of medication so that your condition can be periodically reevaluated before continuing on Xanax. Never increase or decrease your dosage without first consulting your doctor. To prevent withdrawal symptoms, your doctor may gradually reduce your dosage. How Long Does Withdrawal From Benzodiazepines Last? Other Precautions for Taking Xanax There are several precautions and contraindications to consider when taking Xanax: Medical History Caution should be taken if you have a history of certain medical conditions. Consult your doctor before taking Xanax if you've been diagnosed with these or any other medical condition: DepressionDrug or alcohol use disordersGlaucomaKidney diseaseLiver diseaseLung diseaseSleep apnea Drug Interactions Because Xanax slows down the CNS, you may experience side effects when taking Xanax with certain other medications that also depress the CNS. These symptoms may include increased depression, cognitive issues, or extreme fatigue. Alcohol should also be avoided. Before starting on Xanax, tell your doctor if you're taking any prescribed or over-the-counter medications. Pregnancy and Nursing It's possible for Xanax to be passed to a child during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor about the risk of using Xanax while pregnant or nursing. Older Adults Older adults are often more susceptible to the effects of Xanax. Prescribing doctors may need to adjust dosage to assist in limiting these effects. Disclaimer: The information provided here is an overview of some of the FAQs regarding Xanax use for panic disorder. This summary does not cover all possible scenarios, potential side effects, complications, or precautions and contraindications. Always consult your doctor if you have any questions and concerns about your prescription. 10 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Harvard Health Publishing. Benzodiazepines (and the alternatives). Ait-Daoud N, Hamby AS, Sharma S, Blevins D. A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal. J Addict Med. 2018;12(1):4–10. doi:10.1097/ADM.0000000000000350 National Institute on Drug Abuse. Prescription CNS Depressants. Guina J, Merrill B. Benzodiazepines I: Upping the Care on Downers: The Evidence of Risks, Benefits and Alternatives. J Clin Med. 2018;7(2):17. doi:10.3390/jcm7020017 Chowdhury ZS, Morshed MM, Shahriar M, Bhuiyan MA, Islam SM, Bin Sayeed MS. The Effect of Chronic Alprazolam Intake on Memory, Attention, and Psychomotor Performance in Healthy Human Male Volunteers. Behav Neurol. 2016;2016:3730940. doi:10.1155/2016/3730940 American Addiction Centers. Xanax Withdrawals Duration, Dangers, and Treatment. Drugs.com. Xanax. Griffin CE 3rd, Kaye AM, Bueno FR, Kaye AD. Benzodiazepine pharmacology and central nervous system-mediated effects. Ochsner J. 2013;13(2):214–223. Brandlistuen RE, Ystrom E, Hernandez-Diaz S, et al. Association of prenatal exposure to benzodiazepines and child internalizing problems: A sibling-controlled cohort study. PLoS One. 2017;12(7):e0181042. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181042 Tannenbaum C. Inappropriate benzodiazepine use in elderly patients and its reduction. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2015;40(3):E27–E28. doi:10.1503/jpn.140355 Additional Reading American Addiction Centers. Benzodiazepine Addiction: Symptoms and Signs. Batelaan NM, Van balkom AJ, Stein DJ. Evidence-based pharmacotherapy of panic disorder: an update. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2012;15(3):403-15. doi:10.1017/S1461145711000800 Drugs.com. Xanax Side Effects. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Alprazolam (Xanax). Silverman, Harold M. The Pill Book. 14th ed. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 2010. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Drugs@FDA: FDA-Approved Drugs. By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Panic Disorder Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.