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What is Xanax XR?

Pile of green xanax bars sitting on a counter

Xanax XR is the extended-release form of the brand-name drug Xanax (alprazolam). This sedative drug is metabolized differently from the immediate-release form, Xanax, and provides different benefits to those who use it. It is important to understand what Xanax XR is, how it is used and how it is different from Xanax so that it may be used safely. Teens are using Xanax and other sedatives at increasing rates and recognizing Xanax XR use and signs of abuse may be useful in getting someone the help they need.

How Xanax XR Works

Xanax XR is a benzodiazepine that works by binding the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors of the brain. This creates a sedative effect and calms abnormal signaling in the brain associated with panic and anxiety disorders. Xanax XR is given as an oral tablet in doses of 0.5, 1, 2 or 3 milligrams (mg). One important aspect of a drug is the half-life, or how long it takes the body to eliminate one-half of a dose of the drug. This number can help us understand how long Xanax XR stays in your system. The half-life of Xanax XR is an average of 11.2 hours in healthy adults.

Benefits of Xanax XR

Xanax XR is a sedative and can be used as an anxiety medication for teens; it is also approved to treat panic disorders with or without agoraphobia (a fear of situations or places that can cause panic, helplessness or embarrassment). The main benefit of Xanax XR is that it is formulated for extended-release and acts on the body for a longer time compared to Xanax.

Xanax XR versus Xanax

Xanax XR and Xanax are both formulations of the drug alprazolam. They can both be used to treat panic disorders, while Xanax can be used to treat generalized anxiety disorder and anxiety associated with depression.

When comparing Xanax XR versus Xanax, the main difference is that Xanax XR is an extended-release form. This means that Xanax XR is absorbed in the body slower than Xanax. The rate of absorption mainly affects how much drug is available in the blood. Since Xanax XR is absorbed slowly, the concentration of drug in the blood is constant over five to 11 hours after taking a dose. On the other hand, Xanax is absorbed much more quickly (within one to two hours) and the concentration of drug in the blood peaks one to two hours after taking a dose.

  • How Long They Stay in Your System: The half-life of a drug can be used to understand how long Xanax and Xanax XR stay in the body. The half-life for both Xanax XR and Xanax is an average of 11.2 hours in healthy adults. This means that after one dose, it will take around two days for 97% of the drug to be removed from the body.
  • Strength: Xanax XR is available in 0.5, 1, 2 and 3 mg tablets. Xanax is available in 0.25, 0.5, 1 and 2 mg tablets. While Xanax XR and Xanax have different dosage strengths (milligrams of drug used), they have the same function and will act on the body similarly. Xanax XR is not stronger than Xanax; it does, however, stay in the blood longer and therefore provides therapeutic relief for a longer period of time.
  • Addiction Potential: Xanax XR and Xanax are both classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as Schedule IV drugs; these are drugs with low potential for abuse and low risk for dependence. However, it has been noted by the Food and Drug Administration that there is a risk for physical and psychological dependence to develop. When someone takes Xanax XR or Xanax, a sedative effect is felt that can be euphoric and act as a high. The high from Xanax XR and Xanax can become addictive and lead to dependence; dependence is when the body requires the drug to function normally.
  • Side Effects: The side effects that can be experienced while taking Xanax XR and Xanax are similar. The most common side effects for Xanax and Xanax XR are drowsiness and light-headedness, due to the sedative nature of the drug. Other common side effects of Xanax XR include:
    • Problems with coordination
    • Sedation
    • Difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness
    • Depression
    • Memory problems

More serious side effects to be aware of when taking Xanax XR or Xanax include seizures and mania (increase in activity and talking) in people with depression. If Xanax XR or Xanax are used for an extended period of time and usage stops, withdrawal symptoms can develop. Withdrawal from sedatives like Xanax can be dangerous if use is stopped suddenly because seizures can occur. The safest way to stop using Xanax is under the care of a medical professional to avoid serious side effects.

Signs of Xanax Abuse

Currently in the United States, teen Xanax abuse is on the rise. The most common misconception about Xanax and other benzodiazepines is that they are “safer” alternatives to opioids. However, Xanax has the potential to become addictive and be abused; recognizing signs of Xanax abuse can be the first step in helping someone towards recovery.

Signs of Xanax addiction and abuse are:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mania
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors

If you or a loved one is seeking treatment for Xanax addiction and withdrawal, Next Generation Village can help. Contact us today to speak with a representative about plans and programs that can help treat substance use disorders as well as co-occurring mental health conditions.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


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