Understanding Xanax

The opioid epidemic tends to dominate the national discussion on drug abuse. But, there is another class of medication that is also commonly associated with prescription drug abuse. This is the class known as benzodiazepines. Xanax – as a type of benzo – is actually used as a brand name for the drug alprazolam. It is commonly used in the medical world for its therapeutic powers, but when abused can become not only dangerous but highly addictive. But, what is Xanax exactly, and what is Xanax prescribed for?

What is Xanax?

It is important to remember that the Xanax drug class is not an opioid, it is in fact a benzodiazepine. There are many types of benzodiazepines used in the US. Xanax is classified as a Schedule IV substance.  What Xanax is generally prescribed for are mental health disorders. In the United States, Xanax is the first most commonly prescribed as a psychoactive drug. What does Xanax do? It is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, or a “calming” effect on the brain and central nervous system. And is known as the second-most prescribed drug to end in emergency room admissions, due to overdose and general drug abuse.

Generally known for its reliable clinical use, and semi-fast-acting results as a sedative-hypnotic, Xanax comes with a hidden set of dangers, especially when used in conjunction with any opioids. Especially after prolonged use, Xanax’s withdrawal effects are known to be highly volatile and unpredictable. Even short-term, low dose users are in danger of experiencing these adverse effects.

 How Does Xanax Work?

So, what Xanax does is “calm” the mind. But how does Xanax work in order to do that? The way Xanax is meant to work is by targeting the brain and central nervous system to produce a sense of calm in a patient. Since benzodiazepines (benzos) like Xanax have only been made use of since the 1950s, not a great deal is known about their exact function or effect on the human system. But, it has also been observed that these types of benzos appear to mainly reduce the excitability of cells in the brain.

It works to bind gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, as it connects between the cells of the brain. This is believed to be what causes the calming effect on the brain, which is what Xanax is used for. Reducing any brain-related hyper-activity into a sense of calm, thus helping to alleviate anxiety attacks and panic disorders.

What Is Xanax Used For?

Xanax is used to treat a variety of mentally induced problems or imbalances in the chemistry of the brain. Medically, what Xanax is used for is to aid predominantly in the treatment of two distinct mental disorders. It is a fast-acting drug that can reportedly aid in curbing mental disorder symptoms before they even occur if a patient is exposed to an extended-release of alprazolam. The FDA has approved Xanax for two distinct medical/clinical uses:

Xanax has been approved to help treat:

  • Panic disorders
  • Anxiety disorders (especially general anxiety disorder otherwise referred to as GAD)

Off-label (or rather, not approved by the FDA) Xanax has been used to aid in:

  • Seizure prevention or treatment
  • Induce sleep or sedation
  • Depression (although not well supported)
  • Alcohol withdrawal

Yet, despite how “helpful” Xanax may seem on the surface. It is important to remember that it is still unpredictable, volatile, and highly addictive. Those who shift from the medicinal use of Xanax into Xanax abuse, often do so in an attempt to curb or cope with their mental disorders. They become dependent, experimenting with the drug recreationally, trying to gauge the effects the drug has on them paired with other substances such as alcohol or other drugs.

Xanax Dosage

A Xanax dosage can vary in size and weight. Different doses result in different effects or “highs”. Medically, as it is known that Xanax is highly addictive, these doses are monitored very carefully and are normally reviewed every three or four days. What are the doses of Xanax used normally?

What a typical dose of Xanax looks like:

  • .25 mg (starting / smallest) Xanax (a football shape that is orange or peach in color)
  • .5 mg Xanax (a football shape that is sometimes blue in color)
  • 1 mg Xanax (a bar shape, Zanni-bar, that is usually yellow)
  • 2 mg Xanax (a green bar or triangle for extended-release)

As stated above, these doses can be tweaked to produce different or stronger, more immediate effects. In the medical field, the use of Xanax is re-evaluated often in an attempt to curb the growing cases of Xanax addiction numbers surfacing. But typically, clinical doses of Xanax include:

In the treatment of anxiety:

  • .25 mg to 0.5 mg Xanax – Three times daily (according to the FDA)
  • 4 mg Xanax – per day (maximum)

In the treatment of panic disorders:

  • .5 mg Xanax – Three times daily (to start, according to the FDA)
  • 10 mg Xanax – per day (maximum)

How is Xanax Administered?

Xanax is an oral solution, most commonly self-administered via pill form. Once swallowed, Xanax is readily absorbed. Tested blood plasma showed that peak concentration levels can be observed anywhere from one to two hours after administration. The medication itself comes as a tablet, in immediate-release and extended-release formats. “Recreational” Xanax users typically self administer the drug using the same method. But, there are other ways to consume the drug. Concentrated oral forms of Xanax, in liquid form, are also available. These are more commonly mixed with water in order to make it easier to consume.

Medicinal Xanax routes of administration:

  • Swallowing the pill/tablet whole
  • Swallowing liquid with water
  • Allowing tablet to dissolve on tongue (then swallow with saliva)

Illicit Xanax routes of administration:

  • Chewing the pills.
  • Crushing the pills and snorting them or injecting them.
  • Sniffing pills after they are crushed.
  • Injecting pills after they are crushed.

What Do Xanax Pills Look Like?

What generic Xanax looks like is varied. With roughly 13 companies producing medical-grade Xanax tablets, the color and shape of the pill can vary based on each business’ own preferences, and typically depending on the dosage. This leaves many people wondering, what does Xanax look like? Or even, what does generic Xanax look like and what does a Xanax bar look like?

There are a known 44 different tablet variations, with illicit Xanax users and producers typically changing the shape, look, and color of their own tablets as well. A brand-name Xanax pill will typically have some differences from that of its illicit counterparts.

Some variation on what generic Xanax looks like (based on dose value/variation):

  • .25 mg (XANAX 0.25):
    • White, oval, scored tablets with “XANAX 0.25” imprinted on one side
  • .5 mg (XANAX 0.5):
    • Peach, oval, scored tablets with “XANAX 0.5” imprinted on one side
  • 1 mg (XANAX 0.25):
    • Blue, oval, scored tablets with “XANAX 0.25” imprinted on one side
  • 2 mg (XANAX):
    • White, oblong, scored with three lines with “XANAX” imprinted on one side and “2” on the reverse side. Often called a Xanax Bar.

Color and shape are the best indicators for Xanax pills, both clinically used or in illicit circles. The highest known dose of Xanax, is a 3 mg, an extended-release tablet that is green and triangular. Otherwise, Xanax most commonly comes in the oval form of varying shades, or at times a bar.

Xanax Street Names & Slang

Like many other illicit drugs in use today, Xanax has come to be associated with many different street names, or code words. This is done intentionally of course, in order to keep outside ears from understanding anything about what is being discussed. Xanax slang and street names can vary depending on location.

Common Xanax street names include:

  • Bars
  • Z-Bars
  • Zanbars
  • Planks
  • Footballs
  • Xannies or Zannies
  • Totem Poles
  • Handlebars
  • School Bus (normally associated with a 1 mg yellow pill)
  • Benzos (referring to their classification)
  • Bicycle Parts
  • Blue Footballs (normally associated with a 1 mg blue pill)
  • Yellow or White Boys
  • White Girls
  • French Fries
  • Ladders
  • Sticks
  • UpJohns (referring to the original company name that produced the pills)

Xanax Side Effects

Xanax side effects can be varied, but most often relate to that of its sedative-hypnotic nature. Thus, it is important to realize and remember here that some side effects are more frequently occuring than others. There are both short-term and long-term effects of using the drug, whether medically-related or not. But, what are the side effects of Xanax like? Please see the lists below for more detailed information.

Short-Term Side Effects of Xanax

The short term effects of Xanax abuse or normally associated with physically occurring symptoms. These symptoms vary in severity, intensity, and frequency. None of them are pleasant. And not every individual will experience the short term side effects of Xanax the same. Short term effects of Xanax include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Dry Mouth
  • Increased Salivation
  • Irritability
  • Memory Problems
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Joint Pain
  • Changes in Weight
  • Difficulty Peeing / Urinating
  • Decreased Libido or Sex Drive
  • Talkativeness
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Blurred vision
  • Rash
  • Pain Relief
  • Euphoria
  • Numbness
  • Sedation

More severe short-term side effects of Xanax can include:

  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty Speaking
  • Suicidal Thoughts or Actions
  • Mood Swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Shortness of Breath

Long-term side effects of Xanax can include:

  • Dependence (Physical and Mental)
  • Addiction
  • Intensifying Original Symptoms or Relapse
  • Muscle spasms
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation/irritability/aggression
  • Stimulation
  • Hallucinations

Long-term side effects of Xanax can also be aggravated, or more intense versions of those listed in short-term effects. Xanax should not be taken when the possibility of driving or being active in any dangerous activity is imminent. Long term side effects of taking Xanax are magnified when used in conjunction with alcohol or in the elderly. The most severe long term side effect of Xanax is an addiction, which can bring all of the other side effects with it. Anyone who takes Xanax is at risk for becoming dependent on it.

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?

So how long does Xanax last and how long does Xanax stay in your system? Like any other type of drug, the amount of time that Xanax stays in the body varies by dose and person.

Here are some of the factors that must be considered when trying to determine the rate at which it takes for Xanax to leave the body:

  • Metabolism
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Body Fat Index
  • Age
  • Amount of the drug taken
  • For how long the drug has been used
  • The health of the liver
  • The health of the kidneys

That being said, how long Xanax stays in the system, is normally anywhere between six to twelve hours. On average, the drug tends to have an elimination half-life of around 11 hours. This means that 50% of the drug is metabolized & eliminated from the human system after 11 – 12 hours. Since the spike in Xanax abuse, testing has been developed in order to more accurately determine how long Xanax remains in the body, or bodily fluids.

Length of