Overview of Xanax

Xanax is a prescription central nervous system (CNS) depressant. CNS depressants include sedatives, tranquilizers, and hypnotics that slow brain activity. They are prescribed to treat anxiety, panic, acute stress reactions, and sleep disorders. Xanax is categorized as a benzodiazepine, a classification of its drug type that includes Valium, Klonopin, Halcion, and Prosom. 

Effects of Xanax

Xanax and other CNS depressants cause drowsiness and can induce sleep. Misuse of prescription drugs include taking medicine in a way that was not prescribed, taking someone else’s medication, or taking it to experience the effects. Xanax increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that slows brain activity. Initial responses to CNS depressants may include sleepiness and incoordination. Other effects include:

  • Slurred speech or slowed breathing
  • Poor concentration
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Problems with memory and movement
  • Lowered blood pressure

Overdosing on a CNS depressant is possible through the slowing or stopping of breathing. Hypoxia occurs when there is a decrease in the amount of oxygen reaching the brain. This can have both short- and long-term effects on the nervous system, including but not limited to comatose and permanent brain damage.

Long Term Effects

If taken for the long term, higher dosages may be required in order to receive the same effects. Tolerance may occur such that people need higher and more frequent doses. Long term use may also lead to dependence and withdrawal with discontinued or harmful consequences such as seizures. Withdrawal symptoms vary in the time of onset, but include:

  • Seizures
  • Shakiness
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature with sweating
  • Hallucinations


If you think you or a friend may have an issue with Xanax or other CNS depressants, call (530) 752-6334 or go to Health-e-messaging and log in to schedule an appointment with the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Intervention Services Coordinator. There is no charge for the confidential appointment.



National Institute on Drug Abuse - CNS Depressants 

Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Intervention Services