Skip to main content
Medically Approved

What does Xanax feel like?

twitter share buttonfacebook share buttonlinkedin share buttonemail article button
What is Xanax?How it feelsSide effectsOther treatments
Xanax is a benzodiazepine that can make you feel relaxed, drowsy, and lightheaded. It’s important to follow the prescribing instructions to avoid serious side effects.
Medically reviewed by Ami Patel PharmD, BCPS
Written by D. M. Pollock
Updated on

Your doctor may prescribe Xanax, the branded form of alprazolam, for various reasons, but it commonly treats anxiety. Taking Xanax can feel calming to your body when you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

It’s usually reserved for short-term, fast-acting symptom relief and can be used alongside other anxiety treatments. As with any medication, it’s important to follow the prescribing doctor’s instructions when taking Xanax, which might have various side effects.

Knowing what it might feel like when it’s working and how it might feel if it’s having negative effects can help you feel confident in your medication.

What is Xanax?

A young adult wrapped in a blanket with a cup of tea, sitting on a bench on a cosy-looking balcony. This represents how Xanax feels and its calming effect.
AleksandarNakic/Getty Images

Xanax is the branded form of the generic drug alprazolam. A doctor may prescribe a prescription medication to help manage symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, depression, or panic disorders.

It’s a type of drug called a benzodiazepine, which slows down certain bodily processes like those in your brain. This is what makes Xanax useful for managing symptoms of anxiety.

Xanax relaxes your body by increasing the effects of the substance GABA in your brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that reduces the ability of your nerve cells to create, send, and receive messages. This decreases the amount of excited activity in the brain.

It can help ease anxiety symptoms like racing thoughts, agitation, and a fast heart rate.

How does it feel when it’s working?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), alprazolam is suitable for short-term treatment of anxiety and panic disorders.

Of all the benzodiazepines, your body absorbs Xanax the quickest, within 2 hours. This means you will notice the first signs that it is working soon after you take your dose, as quickly as 30 minutes. The effects of alprazolam can last about 6 hours on average.

If you are taking Xanax as a doctor prescribes, you may notice your anxiety symptoms disappear after just your first dose. This can help lower stress, improve concentration, and make falling asleep easier. You might feel less alert, calmer, and less agitated.

Man on phone in bed

100% online care

Treatment plans in 15 minutes or less for 40+ conditions.

Start consult now

Effect of dosage

A doctor will prescribe Xanax starting at a low dose, anywhere from 0.25–1 mg, depending on what you take it for. Because the effects last about 6 hours, you may need another dose later in the day.

The doctor will recommend the maximum amount to use per day. For some patients, this can be anywhere from 4–6 mg, even up to 10 mg total daily.

Xanax is also available as an extended-release medication typically taken once daily.

Doctors generally prescribe benzodiazepines at the lowest possible effective dosage. So, if Xanax is working for you, increasing the dosage is unlikely to have a greater effect than the one you’re taking, but you risk experiencing side effects or addiction.

Because of the nature of Xanax, it can be habit-forming, and dependency can be common. For this reason, doctors generally only prescribe benzodiazepines like Xanax at low dosages for a maximum of 2–4 weeks.

Possible side effects

Some common side effects of taking Xanax include:

  • trouble sleeping and fatigue
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • low libido
  • poor balance or dizziness
  • memory problems
  • difficulty concentrating
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • irritable mood

Because of the previously mentioned risk of dependence, taking Xanax for a long time could lead to withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it. Symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include:

If you or someone you know is considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:

While you wait for help to arrive, stay with someone and remove any weapons or substances that can cause harm. You are not alone.

Pill bottle with text 'Starts at $4'

Free prescription coupons

Seriously … free. Explore prices that beat the competition 70% of the time.

Get free card

Other anxiety treatments

If you do not wish to take Xanax to help treat an anxiety disorder or have concerns about the potential for dependence, a wide variety of alternative treatments are available for you to try.

These therapies can also be used alongside Xanax to maximize the benefits of the medication and ensure the lowest possible dose is used for the shortest amount of time.

These include:

Talk therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy. This is where you speak with a professional to identify the causes of your symptoms and the best way to learn to cope with them.

By beginning to understand the factors that contribute to your symptoms, you can learn to change the thoughts that cause anxiety and reduce the likelihood of anxiety symptoms.

Through CBT, you can learn to reduce the thought patterns that cause you distress and provoke anxiety. The goal of CBT is to allow you to eventually take part in those activities that may have previously been triggering by learning that the thoughts that made them triggering do not have a place in your reality.


Alternative medications to benzodiazepines include antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

While benzodiazepines are effective at relieving anxiety symptoms, they’re often recommended together with these antidepressants to maximize effectiveness and reduce their risks.

Both SSRIs and SNRIs boost your serotonin levels, which can stabilize your mood. They can also help treat symptoms of depression, which can be useful as the two conditions often overlap.

Unlike benzodiazepines, SSRIs and SNRIs are more common for long-term use and take a little longer to kick in, usually up to 2–8 weeks.

Examples of SSRIs that a doctor may recommend include:

Examples of SNRIs include:

If you need help covering the cost of medications, the free Optum Perks Discount Card could help you save up to 80% on prescription drugs. Follow the links on drug names for savings on that medication, or search for a specific drug here.


Exercise can benefit people with anxiety, yet research shows people with anxiety are more likely to be sedentary and exercise less than those without anxiety.

So if you experience symptoms of anxiety, trying to fit in more aerobic exercise like running or even just walking into your daily routine can help to:

  • distract you from anxious thoughts
  • boost serotonin
  • activate those parts of your brain that help you deal with stress


A doctor may prescribe you Xanax to help manage symptoms of anxiety or panic disorders. It can make you feel relaxed.

Xanax can feel calming, and you should quickly see relief from your symptoms, although the effects won’t be long lasting.

While Xanax is an effective drug when you use it how a doctor instructs you to, it can have strong addictive qualities and may lead to withdrawal. Taking too much Xanax or combining it with other drugs like alcohol can have fatal effects.

If you do not wish to take Xanax or have previously had difficulty coming off benzodiazepines, you may want to try an alternative anxiety treatment, such as talk therapy or antidepressant medications.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

Article resources