This is how Xanax affects your body

What happens to your body and your brain 24 hours after taking xanax? And after two weeks?

The effects begin to be noticed after about 20 minutes. You begin to feel relaxed, somewhat sleepy, even. Depending on how much you have taken, you may suffer alterations of perception and perhaps blurred vision. The effects reach their peak after one hour. With high doses, there may be coordination problems or even memory gaps may occur. In any case, even if you are still conscious, you will not remember anything at all.

If you have ever taken Xanax, you will know these symptoms . What you may not know is exactly what happens in the brain under the effects of this drug.

Xanax is the brand of alprazolam, a drug belonging to the group of benzodiazepines, which are usually prescribed to treat anxiety. As with all medications that are taken orally, the body absorbs it through the stomach, through the mucous membrane and into the liver. From there, it passes into the bloodstream and reaches the brain, where it crosses the blood-brain barrier, a membrane that serves as a filter for dangerous substances. Benzodiazepines, like many other drugs, are able to cross this barrier.

And it’s in the brain where things get interesting. Benzodiazepines act on parts of the brain called GABA-A receptors, which would be a kind of switches, each of which has a different effect. The GABA-A receptors are responsible for producing a sedative effect and are activated by neurotransmitters, chemicals that transport messages through the brain. In particular, it is the GABA neurotransmitter that activates the GABA-A receptors. Val Curran, Professor of Psychopharmacology at the UCL, describes the neurotransmitter GABA as “the brakes of the brain, the one that calms everything”.

“If you take Xanax for recreational purposes, what you will get is a tremendous sedative effect, and since in your case you do not have any chemical imbalance, everything will be there”

 This is how Xanax affects your body

Benzodiazepines are agonists, which means they amplify the effects of GABA-A receptors. Other substances, such as alcohol or sleeping pills, act in the same way, although they produce different effects. They do so by binding to GABA-A receptors and increasing the effectiveness of the GABA neurotransmitter. Therefore, when you take a drug like Xanax, the switch (or receiver) is activated in maximum power mode. The GABA-A receptors are concentrated in an area of ​​the brain called the hippocampus that is essential for memory, which is why it is believed that these drugs can cause memory gaps.

Doctors prescribe Xanax to treat anxiety, which is often caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. In those cases, the Xanax corrects that imbalance. However, for those who consume this drug for recreational purposes, the effect can be very different.

Dr. Cathy Montgomery, Professor of Psychopharmacology at Liverpool John Moores University, explains: “When someone experiences a high degree of anxiety, they release a greater amount of chemicals such as adrenaline, which would normally make them feel more awake and alert, but A GABA deficiency also occurs. The increase in adrenaline and the decrease in GABA has a double impact on the increase in excitation of the brain, which manifests itself in the form of anxiety. Therefore, taking Xanax may not have the same powerful sedative effect in these people. ”

Therefore, if you take Xanax for recreational purposes, what you will get is a tremendous sedative effect. And as in your case you do not have any chemical imbalance, that will be everything. In fact, by taking Xanax you are creating a chemical imbalance in the brain – the same that the drug is supposed to correct – but in the opposite direction.

The worst effects begin to manifest after the sedative effects have passed

In general terms, your body will do its best to maintain balance in the brain. “Whatever you take, your brain will try to regulate it, releasing, for example, adrenaline to counteract an effect,” Montgomery explains.

While you are under the effects of Xanax, you will not notice it because the drug is so potent that it overcomes the brain’s efforts to restore balance. “When you take this substance, you release enough GABA to prevent you from suffering anxiety,” Montgomery explains.

The Xanax takes several days to completely disappear from the body, but the most powerful effects disappear after a few hours. First, the drug is disassociated from the GABA-A receptors of the brain, is broken down by a series of enzymes and the liver and finally excreted.

Problems can arise at the time the drug is separated from brain receptors. The sedative effect will start to disappear, but the brain will keep trying to maintain balance. This can produce a horrible drop. “It’s the opposite of the reason you take it,” says Montgomery. “You suffer a sudden increase in brain activity that can make you feel a lot of anxiety, agitation, insomnia or even fear.”

This is how Xanax affects your body

These sensations are, in part, the reason why Xanax users can develop drug dependence quickly and, if they had not experienced anxiety before, they could develop it now. “Those who take it as a recreational drug may feel the need to continue taking it due to withdrawal symptoms, characterized by dysphoria. That perpetuates the consumption and then you go to take it to self-medicate, “says Montgomery.

Tolerance to the antianxiety effects of Xanax usually develops very little by little, although those who consume it for its sedative effects may have to raise the dose within a few days. Dr. Tony O’Neill, a professor of psychiatry at Queens University in Belfast, says: “Benzodiazepines should be prescribed only for short periods of time.

If you are going to take a drug such as Xanax, it is important to know that continued use can lead to withdrawal symptoms in a very short time

The problem is that over time you need increasing doses to get the same effects. ” Therefore, consumers of Xanax as a recreational drug in large quantities can develop significant withdrawal symptoms. “They can be horrible,” says O’Neill. Among the possible symptoms are insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks and nausea. It is also known that quitting can cause seizures.

If you are going to take a drug such as Xanax, it is important to know that continued consumption can lead to withdrawal symptoms in a very short time. “I always recommend people not to take benzodiazepine more than three days in a row, either with or without a prescription,” says Curran. Although, as with all drugs, the only way to avoid risks is not to consume them. One of the main dangers of Xanax is that studies usually focus on consumption with prescribed doses. “There are still many unknowns regarding recreational consumption,” says Montgomery.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

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