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Xanax is not an antidepressant

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“Of the more than 250 million prescriptions written for psychiatric drugs in 2009 in this country, Xanax is by far the most popular. Nearly 50 million prescriptions were written for this benzodiazepine or its generic form last year. Runners up for the top spot include Ambien, Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac.” Forbes.com

Xanax, also known as alprazolam, is FDA approved to treat anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. It is also sometimes prescribed as a sleep agent and can be used to treat nausea particularly nausea associated with chemotherapy.

Xanax is manufactured by Pfizer pharmaceutical and received FDA approval in 1981 for the treatment of anxiety disorders. The drug got an added boost in 1991 when the FDA made it the first drug approved in the treatment of panic disorder.

Xanax tablets are available in doses 0.25, 0.5, 1 or 2 mg. The drug is also available in an extended release formula, Xanax XR, in doses 0.5, 1, 2 and 3 mg.

The drug is assigned to schedule IV under the Controlled Substance Act, meaning the drug has a moderate potential for abuse and a moderate potential for dependence.

Xanax is classified as an anxiolytic or an anti-anxiety medication, it is not however an antidepressant. There are those who seem to be of the belief that Xanax is an antidepressant. In fact, Xanax is quite the opposite of an antidepressant in that is acts as a CNS (central nervous system) depressant.

Xanax belongs to the family of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Other drugs in this family include Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Restoril (temazepam).

Part of the confusion as to the role and classification of Xanax has to do with the fact that many people who suffer with depression also suffer with anxiety. In addition, while they are two very different disorders there is an overlap in the symptoms. In fact, as many of 70% of those suffering with depression also have anxiety. Moreover, 50% of those with anxiety have symptoms of depression.

“Depression and anxiety disorders are different, but people with depression often experience symptoms similar to those of an anxiety disorder, such as nervousness, irritability, and problems sleeping and concentrating. However, each disorder has its own causes and its own symptoms. Many people who develop depression have a history of an anxiety disorder earlier in life. There is no evidence one disorder causes the other, but there is clear evidence that many people suffer from both disorders.” Barbee, J. G. (1998)

Therefore, while anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax are sometimes prescribed along with an antidepressant to treat anxiety, Xanax alone is never a treatment for depression. The most commonly prescribed drugs today in the treatment of depression are Citalopram (Celexa) Escitalopram (Lexapro), Sertraline (Zoloft), Fluoxetine (Prozac), and Paroxetine (Paxil) to name a few.

In fact, all of the above antidepressants, known as SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are also effective in treating chronic anxiety. Because of their effectiveness, safety, and very low potential for abuse, they are now considered the first line treatment for anxiety disorders.

Because of the rapid onset action of Xanax, which for most people is within 15 to 20 minutes, along with its short half-life, it is normally eliminated from the body within 12 hours, the drug cuts both ways. It is both very efficient for treating acute anxiety attacks but also more likely to lead to addiction and withdrawal.

Xanax withdrawal is notoriously painful, and it is not uncommon for a user to be hospitalized as the symptoms worsen. Simply cutting down the dose of the drug can result in withdrawal symptoms, which can even include seizures.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tremors
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Hypersensitivity to touch
  • Shakiness
  • Twitching
  • Seizures

Xanax is an effective but potentially addictive and dangerous drug particularly when mixed with other benzos or with alcohol. Xanax is not an antidepressant, quite the opposite, like all benzodiazepines Xanax depresses the CNS (central nervous system) and promotes feelings of relaxation and calmness.

Xanax is a potent, short-acting prescription drug used to treat moderate to severe anxiety disorders including panic attacks. However, the drug has a high potential for recreational use and is one of the most commonly misused benzodiazepines in the United States.

When used properly an individual suffering with anxiety may take 2 to 3 Xanax per day, whereas someone who has become addicted to the drug will ingest upwards of 30 to 40 pills in a single day as tolerance to the drug is increased.

Xanax abuse played a role in the deaths of numerous celebrities. These include: Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Mike Starr, Billy Mays, Anna Nicole Smith and Whitney Houston.

For more specific information on the drug Xanax please read the suggested article below, XANAX, the most dangerous benzo.

Source material: AADA.org, Forbes.com, Wikipedia, Rxlist.com, Pfizer.com

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