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Generic name: alprazolam (al PRAY zoe lam)
All FDA black box barnings are at the end of this fact sheet. Please review before taking this medication.
Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine. It is approved for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder with or without agoraphobia. However, benzodiazepines are also commonly used to treat difficulty sleeping and alcohol withdrawal.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) occurs when a person experiences excessive anxiety or worry for at least six months. Other symptoms include:
Panic Disorder occurs when a person experiences unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear. These episodes have physical symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness, and nausea. Fear of future episodes is also part of panic disorder.
Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you because you may notice that you feel tired or dizzy.
When starting alprazolam, anxiety or insomnia may improve rapidly or over a period of days.
Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam, are often used for short periods of time only. They may produce emotional and/or physical dependence (addiction) even when used as recommended. With input from you, your health care provider will assess how long you will need to take the medication.
Do not stop taking alprazolam or change your dose without talking to your health care provider first. Stopping alprazolam abruptly may result in one or more of the following withdrawal symptoms: trouble sleeping, anxiety, irritability, nausea, tremor, dizziness, blood pressure changes, rapid heart rate, and seizures. Withdrawal reactions may occur when dosage reduction occurs for any reason.
The use of alprazolam with drugs like opioid medications has led to serious side effects including slowed and difficulty breathing and death. Opioid drugs are medications used to treat pain and include medications such as: codeine, oxycodone, morphine, and illegal drugs like heroin. Some opioid medications are also found in cough syrup.
If you are taking alprazolam with an opioid medication, get medical assistance immediately if you feel dizziness, sleepiness, have slow or troubled breathing, or if you pass out. Caregivers must get medical help right away if a patient does not respond and does not wake up.
Avoid alcohol while taking this medication.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, notify your health care provider to best manage your medications. People living with anxiety disorders who wish to become pregnant face important decisions regarding risk versus benefit of benzodiazepine use in pregnancy. Alprazolam can increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Neonatal withdrawal and “floppy baby syndrome” are other potential adverse effects. It is important to discuss this with your doctor and caregivers.
Regarding breastfeeding, caution is advised since alprazolam does pass into breast milk.
Alprazolam may be taken with or without food. Take with food if you experience an upset stomach.
Alprazolam may be taken every day at regular times or on an as needed (“PRN”) basis. Typically, your health care provider will limit the number of doses you should take in one day.
Your health care provider will determine the dose and method of taking the medication that is right for you based upon your response.
Alprazolam orally disintegrating tablets must remain in their original packaging. Open the package with clean dry hands before each dose. Do not try to put tablets in a pillbox if you take the orally disintegrating tablets. Take the tablets right away, do not store for later use.
Alprazolam orally disintegrating tablets will dissolve in your mouth within seconds and can be swallowed with or without liquid.
Extended release tablets: Swallow whole. Do not chew, crush or split tablet.
Alprazolam liquid: Measure with a dosing spoon or oral syringe, which you can get from your pharmacy.
If you take the medication every day (instead of ‘as needed’), use a calendar, pillbox, alarm clock, or cell phone alert to help you remember to take it. You may also ask a family member or friend to remind you or check in with you to be sure you are taking your medication.
If you miss a dose of alprazolam, take it as soon as you remember, unless it is closer to the time of your next dose. Discuss this with your health care provider. Do not double your next dose or take more than what is prescribed.
Avoid drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs while you are taking alprazolam. They may decrease the benefits (e.g., worsen your condition) and increase the adverse effects (e.g., sedation) of the medication. Alcohol increases the risk of accidental overdose with medications like alprazolam.
If an overdose occurs call your doctor or 911. You may need urgent medical care. You may also contact the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
Symptoms of overdose include confusion, impaired coordination, slow reflexes, coma, and death.
A specific treatment to reverse the effects of alprazolam does exist. This medicine, called flumazenil, can reverse the effects of alprazolam but must be given through an IV at a hospital. Only a doctor can decide if you need this medication.
Common side effects
If you experience these side effects after starting alprazolam they will often improve over the first week or two as you continue to take the medication. If side effects do not improve or become problematic, consult your health care provider.
Rare/serious side effects
Alprazolam is a safe and effective medication when used as directed. Benzodiazepines may produce emotional and/or physical dependence (addiction) even when used as recommended. Physical dependence may develop after 2 or more weeks of daily use. The risk of withdrawal reactions when stopping therapy with alprazolam is increased with prolonged use of the medication.
The following medications may increase the levels and effects of alprazolam:
The following medications may decrease the levels and effects of alprazolam:
Alprazolam should not be taken with other benzodiazepine medications.
Alprazolam may cause drowsiness, so caution should be used when combining it with other medications that cause drowsiness. These could include:
When starting alprazolam, anxiety or insomnia may improve rapidly or over a period of days or within hours of the first dose of medication.
The FDA has found that benzodiazepine drugs, such as alprazolam, when used in combination with opioid medications or other sedating medications can result in serious adverse reactions including slowed or difficult breathing and death. Patients taking opioids with benzodiazepines, other sedating medications, or alcohol, and caregivers of these patients, should seek immediate medical attention if that start to experience unusual dizziness or lightheadedness, extreme sleepiness, slow or difficulty breathing, or unresponsiveness.
As a benzodiazepine, alprazolam comes with the risk of abuse, misuse, and addiction to the medication. Physical dependence to alprazolam can occur with prolonged use of the medication. A withdrawal reaction may occur when stopping alprazolam, but this risk can be reduced by slowly reducing the dose of alprazolam when stopping. Do not stop taking alprazolam abruptly, and do not make any changes to therapy without consulting your health care provider.
©2022 The American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists (AAPP) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). AAPP and NAMI make this document available under the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives 4.0 International License. Last Updated: January 2016.
This information is being provided as a community outreach effort of the American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists. This information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical advice. This information contains a summary of important points and is not an exhaustive review of information about the medication. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified medical professional with any questions you may have regarding medications or medical conditions. Never delay seeking professional medical advice or disregard medical professional advice as a result of any information provided herein. The American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists disclaims any and all liability alleged as a result of the information provided herein.