Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine used primarily to treat generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder with or without agoraphobia (fear of situations or places where escape may be difficult). It is also used off-label to treat insomnia and alcohol withdrawal. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Xanax works by enhancing the effects of a naturally-occurring chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This chemical slows down brain activity that leads to panic or anxiety, resulting in a feeling of relaxation and calm.
Xanax is fast-acting and can reach peak concentrations within one to two hours of consumption. The medication comes in various forms and strengths, including immediate-release tablets, extended-release tablets, oral disintegrating tablets, and oral solutions. When used as prescribed, Xanax is safe and effective in treating various mental health conditions. However, some people may abuse this prescription medication for recreational purposes, increasing their risk of addiction and dependence.