View Full Version : Can xanax be taken as needed?

10-21-2004, 07:06 AM
WebMD didn't answer my question, as it only says "take as your doctor recommended."

I'm leery of psychological drugs of any kind. Is Xanax a drug like SSRIs (zoloft, etc) where you have to take it continually for it to have it's desired effect, and it can screw with your brain if you only take one occasionally? Or can you take it as needed (maybe just once or twice) safely with no lasting effects and no damage to brain chemistry?

Stan Doubt
10-21-2004, 07:17 AM

Xanax is Alprazolam, in the class of drugs called benzodiazepines. It is not an SSRI, and it does not behave like one. Generally, benzodiazepines do not take a long time to start working, and may be taken as needed (as prescribed by a Doctor or Psychchiatrist.)

If you have a prescription for this drug, the person who prescribed it really should have given you instructions on how and when to take it. They are probably in a better position to answer your question than WebMd or a stranger on a mesage board.

10-21-2004, 07:30 AM
Xanax is primarily used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, but it can be used to treat other conditions. The dosage depends on the condition being treated. As with any prescription drug, you should follow the advice and recommendations of your physician.

Here's some general info on Xanax (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/medmaster/a684001.html) from the NIH. The National Institute of Mental Health (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/nimhhome/index.cfm) also has a lot of info on psychological disorders and treatment options.

10-21-2004, 07:37 AM
As someone who has a script for xanax, my doc prescribed it 'as needed'. I generally take it for sleep. I cannot take it during the day as, it makes me want to crawl in bed and sleep. Usually, I take it if my day is so stressed I know I won't sleep very well. But no, it will ont mess with your brain if taken as needed.

However, I would not take it with alcohol. That's a no, no.

10-21-2004, 08:14 AM
Depending on the condition being treated, some doctors may prefer to prescribe benzodiazepines such as Xanax to be used as needed rather than regularly. Benzodiazepines carry a risk of dependency, with increased doses needed to achieve the same effect as time goes on, and with serious withdrawal symptoms if the drug is discontinued. In some cases, the symptom being treated may be worsened when the drug is not being taken, which may lead someone to take the drug more often. Of course, you should talk to your doctor before changing the dose, if you notice that you are taking the drug more and more often, if you become ill after not taking the drug for a time, if you feel a desire to take the drug when you don't need to, or for any other questions.

If you only take Xanax occasionally, as recommended, dependency should not occur. Even if it does, it is reversible and can be treated by slowly decreasing the dose. Unlike the SSRIs, it takes effect quickly (as soon as enough of the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream) and does not act after it is eliminated from the body.

Benzodiazepines work by binding to a receptor in the brain, the GABA receptor, that is responsible for sedation (and all the other effects benzodiazepines have). When benzodiazepines bind to the receptor, it changes its shape in a way that makes it more effective at doing what it normally does, causing the drug's effect. Since alcohol also works on the GABA system, it's important not to consume alcohol while taking benzodiazepines because the effect of the alcohol will be substantially (and perhaps unpredictably) increased.

10-21-2004, 08:34 AM
Thanks. I'm extremely leery of taking psychoactive drugs of any sort, but especially the sort that stay in your system and fundamental change your brain chemistry for extended periods. I wanted to know if xanax could be used to treat an accute stress.. breakdown of sorts. It seems to have taken the edge off, anyway.

10-21-2004, 09:39 AM
A shot of Jack Daniels can be taken as needed with about the same effect.

10-21-2004, 09:59 AM
One doctor prescribed daily Xanax for me for anxiety attacks (several years ago). I have a great wariness for the dependency problems common to this class of drugs, so I refused to take it that way.

However, I've been taking it "as needed" ever since. It works great for that. I can take a half-pill if I realize early that I'm starting an anxiety attack, or a whole pill if one sneaks up on me. I'll also take some if I'm very stressed and need to calm down, even though I've not been having full-blown anxiety attacks for a while (or maybe I've just gotten used to dealing with them and don't think they're as bad). I don't take them very often though - I've even convinced my new doc that it's OK, by only needing a new prescription a year or so after my old one runs out. (He didn't want to give me a prescription initially, being that I was a new patient and they're pretty addictive. Evidently he's decided I'm not going to become addicted. :))

I also take Buspar, but that's a whole 'nother discussion. It does help, but I don't much like the SSRI-type drugs either. (Mostly because they don't know enough about how/why they work, nor what the long-term effects will be.)

10-21-2004, 11:32 AM
Are you guys serious? There're drugs out there that the Mds are saying "Take as needed"? Can't you OD on this stuff? I believe even on children's vitamins it says one per day!

10-21-2004, 12:01 PM
Well, I just checked my current prescription label. It says:
Take 1/2 to 1 tablet as needed. May cause drowsiness.

As I said, I've had lengthy discussions with my physician about this drug, when, how and why I take it, and so on. I guess he didn't figure I needed written instructions not to take stupidly huge amounts.

Admittedly, mine are pretty wimpy - .25 mg. I know I've seen 5mg tabs, one of which would be equal to almost half my bottle, so there's probably not much concern there. However, according to this (http://www.rxlist.com/cgi/generic/alpraz_od.htm) , acute oral LD50 level is 331mg/kg. According to my calculations, that's some insanely high number of pills even at a 10mg/tab level. (Unless I misread that page.)

Granted, most prescriptions I've seen for pain meds and the like say something along the lines of "take 1 every 4-6 hours as needed" - there's usually an amount/time limit. However IME, this isn't usually about preventing ODs, it's about trying to minimize tolerance buildup and addiction, as well as keep people from getting stupidly drunk and hurting themselves. (Cite: IANAMedicalPerson, but I do have 20+ years experience with a mother who is addictively-inclined AND has chronic, severe pain. That's some fun, let me tell ya!)

10-21-2004, 03:09 PM
These are questions to be answered by your physician or your pharmacist, not by a bunch of people on an Internet message board who may or may not know what the hell they are talking about. This thread is closed.

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