How Does Xanax Work?

Whether or not you have anxiety, you’ve
probably heard of Xanax. Somewhere north of 50 million Americans have
a prescription for the drug, making it the 3rd most prescribed medication in the country. That’s a lot of pills. What’s in them? How do they work? This is your anxious brain, and this is your
anxious brain on Xanax. First let’s talk about what anxiety looks
like in the brain. Doctors are still working out the root causes
of anxiety–the brain is a complicated thing. What they’ve noticed though is that when
people are feeling anxious or panicked, there’s an uptick in activity in these parts of the
brain responsible for processing emotions and making decisions. We don’t fully understand why that’s happening. It may be that natural checks on overactivity
are on the fritz. But it helps explain why Xanax works. Xanax–also called alprazolam–is part of
a class of drugs called triazolobenzodiazepines. Molecule names are like one of those German
words that’s really a whole sentence smashed together. When scientists hear that crazy-sounding keysmash,
they can actually tell how each syllable relates to the molecule’s structure. Since xanax’s structure is key to how it
works, let’s take a quick dive in. Triazolo refers to these three nitrogen atoms
at the top. Benzo is for benzene, the ring of carbon atoms
on the left. And diazepine is the ring between them with
two nitrogens. Xanax’s shape lets it interact with proteins
on the outside of neurons in your brain. These GABA-A receptors are gates that let
chloride ions into your neurons. Chloride ions are really important because
they disrupt the balance of electrical charges between the inside and outside of the neuron. Charge is crucial since neurons use electrical
impulses to send their signals. Here’s what I mean. Your neurons are like wires that send signals
all through your body. Where one neuron meets another, the messages
are carried by molecules. But inside the neuron, the signals are electric. When the charge balance is disrupted, the
signal’s get interrupted. It’s a bit like a relay race. The runner is an electrical signal moving
down the axon. At the end of her leg, she passes a molecular
baton across the synapse. But if you’ve taken a Xanax, the charge
balance along the axon is out of whack wherever there’s a GABA-A receptor. Almost like someone dug a bunch of holes along
the relay racer’s track. That’s going to make it a lot harder for
her to get the baton to the next neuron. She might not be strong enough to hand the
baton off at the end, she might not even make it through her leg, or she might never leave
the starting blocks to begin with. The Xanax molecule is like a key that fits
in the GABA-A lock. The shape, structure and orientation of the
rings helps Xanax fit snugly in GABA-A’s binding pocket. That triggers the flood of chloride ions into
your neurons. If there’s no signal to the next neuron,
your brain quiets down. There are biological molecules in your brain
that do the same thing to GABA-A; Xanax is just copying their work. For whatever reason, those natural processes
aren’t working in the right way in the anxious brain. So by activating their GABA-A receptors and
quieting their neurons, Xanax is like hugging your dog during a thunderstorm and telling
her everything is going to be okay. But for your brain. Kind of nice, right? On the flip side though, one of the side effects
of Xanax is sleepiness or sluggishness. The drug is basically stopping your brain
from talking so much, and it starts to feel like nap time. Now, scientists don’t know exactly which
neurons or parts of the brain cause anxiety. Recent research points to some likely culprits. What we do know is that Xanax is effective
for helping people with acute anxiety live a normal life. Unfortunately, Xanax can lead to addiction,
especially for people who are abusing it and not taking it under doctor’s orders. Overdoses are a problem too. Xanax and other benzodiazepines are among
the drugs that send people to the ER the most, at least in the USA. Some doctors worry that Xanax and other drugs
in its class are being prescribed too often or too casually. That said, for the millions around the world
who use it to treat panic attacks and other anxiety issues, Xanax can be a lifesaver. Have any other chemistry questions about how
the body works? Or want to know how other drugs do what they
do? Leave them in the comments and we might tackle
them in a future episode. Thanks for watching.

About the author


  1. Tis the season for stress–am I right? Let us know how you take care of yourself and your tips for keeping anxiety at bay. Personally, I just bought a drum set. Feels good to bang away my anxiety, I'm sure my neighbors love me…

  2. Best medicine ever made could not get true the day without it……..took xanax with the grapefruit but didnt work soo much as a hoped,a say too shots of tecuilla works better😆😆😆😆

  3. Can be addicting??? PLEASE!!! The shit is highly addictive dummy!!! And the withdraw is severe for a person taking them for a while. They can go into convulsions!! Not to mention if people drink while taking them,,,, they do something really goofy,,,,, like walk around with there pants off in public and have no recollection of doing it.
    Yuh,,,,,Great Drug. You must work for the Pharmaceutical company

  4. Xanax is a life saver for me. I have used it for years now. At first every day and now maybe once a week. I got my prescription for 60, 1MG and I take about .25 once a week. I think I have a 3 year supply in one bottle lol. Anything higher than .25 puts me to sleep and that beats the purpose.

  5. Their is nothing Wrong with Xanax If u need the medication & dont Abuse it, What I would tell someone that dont need the medication is not to mess Around with it, I've been taking it over 15 yrs, & I've tried getting off it, it is miserable & I'm better when taking it, I'm able to function, just keep it under 1mg 3 times A Day, & if u want to get off it, do Not & I repeat do not go cold Turkey, start off slow & taper, take half a pill see how u feel, Then weeks later take less & less, let your normal self come back, Its dangerous to stop it After years on it, you will feel like your dying, Strange thoughts, No Sleep for weeks, & Nightmares if u do, Also I've Experienced brain zaps, like a bumblebee is in your head & You will have Body twitches, it may sound funny but I've Actually punched myself in the face, its Reflexes from the Withdrawal, ITs NOT A JOKE, DONT MESS WITH THIS DRUG, THE WITHDRAWS ARE THE WORST, IT WILL SEND U TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM… DONT ABUSE THIS DRUG . NO JOKE !!

  6. 0:09 Says that 50 mil people in USA use xanax, then shows a graph where it indicated 5 mil people use it. I'm confused, I don't know if I should keep watching.

  7. I am prescribed Xanax, Prozac and Buspirone. It has been so helpful in finding medications that help me with my anxiety. Too often are people abusing it and it gives a stigma attached to those who actually benefit from it. Unless Anxiety is a REAL issue, a lot of people are just using it for a "high". Please know that those of us who need it are having harder and harder times with Doctor's trying to distinguish between those of us who need it and those who are just trying to get high.

  8. I've been taking benzos for 4 years. I relapsed trying to ween off of it countless times, the longest being 2 weeks until I couldn't take the withdrawals any longer. I sucked up the pain, and I am now 3 months clean. My mind has never felt any more clearer than it does right now, despite all of the symptoms that I'm feeling. They're not as bad as they initially were, and I'm even starting to find peace happiness more often than I ever have in my entire life.They're terrible for you. Anyone taking this drug stop immediately. Smoke weed if the withdrawals are too much, drink lots of water, but don't mask it with alcohol. When you're feeling like the poison known as benzos is calling your name, simply imagine a life without it. A life of liberation, where you're finally in control of your own, stable mind.

  9. Lil Peep died because he got Xanax that was old and dusty and fake(?) so the Moral is…..TRY NOT TO DO DRUG ABUSE! Just let Fortnite make you Rage..

  10. benzos. In my opinion benzos are more addictive than opiodis and kokain and speed.

    I had plenty of drugs, benzodiaazepinss like diazepam Inhad for my panick attacks, but I alsonused id recreationaly.

    But if you want to use drugs recreationaly I'd highly recommend sticking to uppers and psychedelics.

    They give you experieneces you wont forget that fast, and you also only become addicted quiet slowly since like with alocol, the next day you feel super messed up.

    With downers you just feel normal the next day, but you feel bored cause the feeling on downers was so cozyy

  11. I don’t like it when people who don’t understand anxiety and depression view it as a “first world problem.” Xanax basically saved my life. I’ve been through so much negative shit in my life, sometimes it was hard to tell what was real or merely a nightmare.

  12. Nowadays you have a drug for everything, and that the real problem not the illness but the drugs to treat it

  13. I am an avid #MentalHealthAwareness advocate and performer, and I love this so much. I travel the country trying to bring that awareness on stages, in classrooms, hospitals, and on my YouTube channel, so I get excited when I see other advocates. 💙❤

  14. It never told me that everything’s alright it just told me your about to fall asleep in the middle of class if you like it or not

  15. You have to take an amazing amount to overdose on xanax by its self. Lil peep overdosed on xanax because it laced not because he took to many.

  16. Xanax fucked me up BAD . Do your self a HUGE favor and deal with anxiety another way. When you are taking 6mg a day and are depending on it . Life doesn’t really feel like .. well .. life. Don’t do it guys

  17. Benzos are life savers. But yes they have to be treated with respect. I hate when people use them for FUN because this is causing massive problems for the millions of poor souls who suffer from chronic anxiety and debilitating panic attacks. Where a mere 1mg or maybe half a mg will help, people seem to enjoy passing out or tripping taking up to 40MG ( yes.. I have seen this ) an insanely sick amount. New doctors are afraid to prescribe it and the sad part is that if you stop taking them without very slow weaning off you will likely suffer seizures and other very dangerous problems.

  18. perfect summation……the dog during a storm analogy is brilliant. I suffer and xanax has saved my life but over the past few months I've had withdrawal problems due to moving and having a problem locating a physician. Major doctor shortage in NEPA.

  19. I tried commiting suicide by taking like 30 pills of xanax and alcohol, but really thought about it after doing it and decided to go to the hospital. Luckily I'm fine and alive and life is worth it no matter how you get through it.

  20. Was diagnosed with PTSD & Panic disorder it works great for me and I only use when needed I hate taking meds cuz of the side effects but when taking it responsibly it's a life saver ! It's only bad for ppl who abuse it ! Jus like guns ..guns aren't bad only bad ppl with guns are!

  21. This shit is comedy 😂!!! White ppl are so entertaining:

    "The molecular molecule articulates & masterbates causing coagulation in the nuclei membrane"!! Translation? You're a junky & a fraud. 😔✔

  22. I very much loath dis drug, useless shit make your brain dead after a week use. I rather feel anxiety than become a walking dead.

  23. Don't take a lot .. use small amounts of it . Once you start taking more than 2 mgs a day that's when it gets bad. Take .25s .5 mg the most before bed you'll be fine .. use cbd oil to come off anything ..

  24. Xanax addiction and Heroine effects is the same , as a consequence Keep Away From This Drug as much as possible 💊☝️

  25. in my opinion, take it 15-30 mins before a stressful situation like job interview or meeting up with the in-laws or whatever situation is panic inducing or highly stressful for you personally! For me an average built 30s male, 0.5mg is perfect. it makes me feel relaxed and the world around me and time itself seems to slow down slightly but in a mellow way., even more smoothly and subtle than say having a glass of good wine. It is a great drug but as most people know, addictive, and for that reason it MUST be respected. My doctor told me taking it regularly or too often will actually cause your body to launch panic attacks so as to get its "fix" of xanax, so again, be VERY WARY and SELECTIVE when choosing moments to take it.

  26. Sooo what you're telling us, is it's like dope. We still don't understand why our body causes these 'chemical instabilities' yet we are supposed to just melt them away with a pill? I have anxiety and not a single pill has ever actually helped me out. I'd go so far as to say that I suffer from autism. In which case, a drug like xanax causes even worsened confusion in my state of well being. Don't do dope kids.

  27. "Xanax is like hugging your dog during a thunderstorm and telling her everything is going to be okay" xD

  28. I never had any anxiety, I don't even know what the frick it was. I just took Xanax for fun. But it's shit. Better do Cocaine. A lot more potent.

  29. Benzodiazepine Overdose is most or only fatal when taken with anything that adds on to the sedation effect, lil peep took fentanyl laced Xanax in which would kill anyone in 10 minutes tops. The Xanax didn't even kick in fully! 🙁 he overdosed from the synthetic opioid before the Xanax even peeked in his blood. Also alcohol and benzodiazepines in my experience are like Russian roulette its a hit or miss, one night you can take 5 shots of 80 proof with Xanax the next you might blackout or even die, in my experience I blacked out from a large dose of Xanax and Valium probably (6mg of Xanax and 4mg Valium)mixed with 2 cups of wine. I was gone before i was found roaming out of my mouth and taken to the er, and now I'm her 2 years later. I was 17, horrible.

  30. People that need these that don't abuse them…..need these others ruin it for the ppl that need them meaning short term use

  31. A few nights ago I took around 20mg in 4 hours and went in interstellar sleep with amnesia how I took all and tomorrow I had vertigos and have noticed that the rabbit hole is deep but one day I will quit with the best method… COLD TURKEY… HARD AND LOTS OF WORKOUTS AND SWETS… FOLLOWED WITH GOOD SEX AND GABA RECEPTORS WILL BE OK… JUST DONT TAKE TOO MUCH AND QUIT STEPWISE !!!

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