Alprazolam (Xanax)

(Anti-Anxiety, Tranquilizer)
By Dr. Karen Burgess

Brand name and formulations

  • Xanax and generic
  • Tablets, Oral solution

What is alprazolam used for?
Alprazolam is used for the treatment of anxiety disorders.  It can also be used to assist with sedation, as a muscle relaxant, and as a tranquilizer.  Alprazolam is often used in treating panic disorders in pets.

What is alprazolam?
Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine similar to diazepam (valium) that acts in the brain to cause relaxation, anti-anxiety, and at times sedating effects.  Dependency is not considered a major concern in pets with the use of alprazolam.  Care should be taken in storing alprazolam as there is human abuse potential.

How is alprazolam given and what if a dose is missed?
Alprazolam is typically prescribed to be used on an as needed basis and is known for its ability to deal with immediate situations of anxiety (ex. Fourth of July, thunderstorms).  The maximum benefit from alprazolam is seen one to two hours after administration and the effects are short lived (four hours).

What side effects are associated with alprazolam?
Alprazolam may cause excessive sedation, abnormal gait (walking as if drunk, unstable on feet), and increased appetite.  Cats may become more irritable with the use of alprazolam.  Care should be taken using alprazolam in cats with liver value elevations.  Pets should be monitored initially as disinhibition may occur (alprazolam may allow for previously unseen aggression to demonstrate itself).

What drugs should not be given with alprazolam?
Do not give antacids within two hours of using alprazolam as absorption can be affected.  Use with caution in conjunction with other medications that cause central nervous system depression.  Drugs that are metabolized by the liver may delay alprazolam’s breakdown and lead to increased sedation.  Digoxin dosing may require adjustment while using alprazolam.

What follow up is necessary with alprazolam use?
Dosing may need to be adjusted based on results.