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Alprazolam is the most frequently prescribed anti-anxiety agent in the country. It is similar in certain respects to Valium.

Once called minor tranquilizers or sedatives, such drugs are prescribed to calm jittery nerves and relieve excessive tension. Alprazolam is also prescribed for anxiety associated with depression and for panic attacks.

This drug belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines. Xanax is a little more rapid in action than many other such compounds and its calming effect lasts for a relatively short period of time.

Side Effects and Interactions

Side effects associated with Xanax include sedation, dizziness, unsteadiness, dry mouth, fatigue and confusion. These may fade after a few days or weeks.

Other possible reactions include depression, visual problems, nausea, menstrual irregularities, slurred speech, increased salivation, rash, itching, change in appetite, altered sex drive, urinary difficulties and reduced blood pressure.

Fainting, racing heart rate or seizures are potentially serious, if uncommon, reactions. Report any symptoms to your physician promptly.

Many drugs can interact with Xanax, including over-the-counter antihistamines, prescription antidepressants, the asthma drug theophylline and the ulcer medicine Tagamet . Anticonvulsants such as Dilantin and the heart medicine Lanoxin do not mix well.

People should not combine the herb kava-kava with drugs such as Xanax. One man who did so actually went into a comalike state.

Oregon grape, which has sedative and anticonvulsant properties, probably should not be combined with Xanax as well.

Prudence suggests that the herb passion flower should not be mixed with Xanax. Also, because of the possibility that the herb affects GABA receptors in much the same way benzodiazepines do, patients should be cautioned not to combine it with drugs such as Xanax.

It is not yet known if the sedative effects of the herb gotu kola are synergistic with those of other agents that promote sleep or reduce anxiety. Nontheless, it would be best not to mix gotu kola with Xanax until this is determined.

Check with your pharmacist and physician to make sure Xanax is safe in combination with any other medicines or herbs you take.

Taking the Medicine

Alprazolam can be taken with food, especially if it upsets your stomach.

Do not drink alcohol or use any other sedative while on this drug, as the combination may lead to dizziness, drowsiness, lack of coordination or confusion.

If you are also taking antacids, take them at least one hour before or after taking alprazolam.

Special Precautions

Do not drive, operate machinery or undertake any activity that requires close attention while you are taking alprazolam. This medicine may make narrow angle glaucoma worse and should not be taken by people diagnosed with this condition.

Regular reliance on alprazolam for many months may lead to dependence. Sudden discontinuation of the drug could trigger withdrawal symptoms including convulsions, nervousness, agitation, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, fatigue, headache and tremor.

Never stop taking Xanax without medical supervision, as the medication may have to be phased out gradually over a period of weeks or months.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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