Xanax (alprazolam) or Xanax XR is a medication prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders and nausea (stemming from chemotherapy). It belongs to the benzodiazepine class of psychoactive drugs which also includes Valium, and it is available in a generic form. Approved by the FDA in 1981, it is marketed and manufactured by Pfizer. Xanax is a Schedule 4 (IV) drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA) and according to one report is among the most misused drugs of its kind on the market.
Xanax works by increasing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter primarily responsible for reducing brain activity. Low levels of GABA are associated with excessive brain activity which is thought to be an underlying cause of anxiety. Xanax works in effect to reduce this excessive brain activity by bringing a calming effect to the body.
Given the highly addictive nature of Xanax (and other drugs of its class), it is generally designed for short term use. Some of the most serious side effects of Xanax are a potential change in mood; onset of depression; seizures associated withdrawal; and memory loss.
Seizures have been associated with abrupt discontinuation of Xanax use, especially after prolonged use of the drug. This side effect is typically associated with patients who have a history of epilepsy. For this reason it is recommended that usage is gradually decreased under a doctor’s supervision instead abruptly stopping the medication.
Additional side effects due to abrupt Xanax discontinuation may also lead to withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, sweating, fatigue, and the return of anxiety.
The most common side effects of Xanax at lower dosages include:
- Change in sex drive
When Xanax is used in higher dosages, side effects include:
- Memory problems
- Slurred speech
Serious side effects:
- Addiction (with higher dosages and prolonged use)
- Depressed mood
- Other changes in mood include thoughts of suicide, hurting yourself, unusual risk taking behavior,
- Decreased inhibitions in dangerous situations
Patients should also tell their doctor if they are using or plan to use any other medications while using Xanax, as patients who have used the drug with other medications have had adverse and unintended results. Some of the drugs that may not be recommended while using Xanax includes anti-depressants and drugs used to treat seizures. Patients should also tell their doctor if they are using any drug that may cause drowsiness as Xanax can increase this effect.
In addition, patients who have any history of allergies, breathing problems, liver or kidney disease, or drug or alcohol abuse should talk to their doctor when considering Xanax as an option.
While these are the more well know side effects of Xanax, an August 2014 study published by the British Medical Journal shows a possible association between using Xanax and/or similar drugs from the benzodiazepine class and developing dementia, specifically, Alzheimers. This study comes two years after a report by the same team of researchers that found that almost a quarter of patients developed dementia after using medications from the class of drugs in which Xanax is included, benzodiazepines.
A number of medical malpractice claims have been filed and are currently pending against doctors who have prescribed Xanax or its generic variants and have failed properly investigate or substantiate the patient’s medical or substance abuse history before prescribing the drug. Many of these lawsuits have been filed by family members on behalf of deceased relatives whom died after overdosing on the drug.
If you used Xanax and suffered any of the serious side effects discussed here, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The attorneys associated with Jacoby & Meyers can help you get the assistance you need in evaluating your case.
Please contact our defective drug lawyers today to schedule your free initial consultation. Jacoby & Meyers has offices nationwide.