Xanax (generic name alprazolam) definitely does work. Most people find, that with the right dose, they can effectively control anxiety to the point where it doesn’t bother them. In that respect Xanax is the most effective medication for anxiety and panic attacks that you will ever take.
Let’s all take Xanax
No, accept for a very specific group of circumstances taking alprazolam is probably not a very good idea. In order to understand why we need to look at how Xanax works.
It all comes down to the chemical GABA. If we have lots of GABA we feel calm, if we are depleted of it we can feel anxious. By raising the amount of GABA in our brains we can promote calmness.
Xanax and other benzodiazepines work by blocking the uptake of GABA. This does not raise the level of GABA but makes the GABA you have go further; your brain thinks you have more GABA than you really do.
This is a problem. Your brain becomes confused by all this new GABA and decides that it is over-producing the chemical. It then produces less which means that as the Xanax wears off you are left feeling anxious. This is called rebound anxiety.
If you take Xanax for a short period of time then you might well not get any rebound anxiety as your brain has not figured that it is over-producing GABA. The danger comes when you take Xanax for a longer period of time, even a couple of weeks are enough.
After that, while you might not feel that you are addicted (you won’t necessarily crave Xanax) your body will miss the GABA and you will feel awful. In some cases suddenly stopping taking Xanax can be extremely dangerous, causing seizures. For many people the outcome is acute anxiety. Many people describe rebound anxiety as the worst they have ever felt, much worse than the anxiety that got them taking the medication.
If you are sensible at this point you go for a slow withdrawal from the drug. If you go cold turkey the rebound anxiety can last for months (although does pass over time). I have known rebound anxiety to last for more than five months from two months of using Xanax. So be warned.
When is it a good idea to use Xanax?
When you don’t need it for very long! If you are scared of flying and go on planes three times a year then Xanax is probably not going to cause you many problems (bar the potential side-effects). But as soon as you start taking it more regularly you should be wary, and look for alternatives.