Alprazolam, sold under the brand name Xanax among others, is a short-acting benzodiazepine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved prescribing Alprazolam for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders.
Since Xanax is the most popular medicine for anxiety, many assume that it may work as an antidepressant as well. Therefore, it is worth learning whether Xanax for depression works or causes depression.
Let us have a look at the medical facts on Xanax and depression in detail.
Know what depression is before we find answers to the questions such as ‘does Xanax cause depression?’ or “does Xanax for depression work’?
Depression is a temporary mental disorder. It puts a person in a depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.
Major symptoms of depression are:
- Lethargy and lack of interest
- Disinterested in life including studies, work or relationships
- A feeling of worthlessness and disappointment
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Recurring incidence of headaches, muscle pain, and insomnia
Depression is a common mental disorder. According to a WHO report published in 2103 about 12% of the population experience depression at least for a few days in a year.
Major causes of depression include:
- Hormone imbalance
- A chemical imbalance in the brain
- Side effects of some medication and substance abuse
- Physical, sexual or mental abuse
- Conflicts in relationships with family members, friends or lover
- Death of someone close or loss of something
- Major events in life like joining a new job, marriage, divorce or retiring
- Serious illness and prolonged treatment
It is essential to understand the link between Xanax and depression. The similarity between some symptoms and causes of anxiety and depression make some people confused about them.
Does Xanax For Depression Work?
Xanax is benzodiazepine prescription medicine. It is useful for treating anxiety or panic disorders for a short period. It calms the mind by influencing the chemical process in the brain that causes anxiety or panic.
As per the prescription note, Xanax is not a medicine for treating depression.
Importantly, many people with anxiety disorders also have depression.
Fatigue, trouble in concentrating, and sleep problems are common symptoms of depression and anxiety. Irritability and anger may also manifest in forms of anxiety or depression especially when the mood is low.
Thus, it may be true that Xanax could help in reducing some of the symptoms of depression. But it is NOT a prescription medicine for depression.
Reasons For Wrongly Prescribing Xanax For Depression
Unfortunately, there is an increasing trend in prescribing Xanax for mental issues other than anxiety and panic attacks.
Anxiety disorder is the most common mental issue. For this reason, Xanax prescriptions take place in a larger number than other drugs in this category. This bias has led to the development of a tendency to prescribe Xanax for non-anxiety reasons as well.
In several cases, symptoms of depression appear similar to that of Anxiety in the diagnosis process. Some physicians mistakenly prescribe Xanax for calming down depression.
There is a misconception among some that Xanax also works for depression.
It is true that Xanax can work as an antidepressant for the central nervous system. In addition, several patients have a simultaneous occurrence of anxiety and depression.
At the initial stages, the use of Xanax for treating depression may calm down a few symptoms of depression. In the long run, this drug increases some of the symptoms of depression.
What Do The Medical Literatures Say?
Some of the medical literature suggests that occasionally Xanax may be prescribed by a doctor as an “off-label” treatment for depression.
One of the clinical studies conducted in the 1990s tested Xanax for treating major depressive disorder. In this study, Xanax was given in double the dosage used for anxiety relief for a short period. The study result showed a significant reduction in several symptoms of chronic depression.
However, most researchers do not support the use of Xanax for the treatment of depression. Most importantly, this drug is highly addictive when used in higher doses for more than 12 weeks.
Some psychiatrists say that the sedative properties of this drug can calm down a few symptoms of depression. But this pill will aggravate the conditions of depression in people who are already depressed.
Does Xanax Cause Depression?
According to a health letter from The Harvard Medical School journal, a large variety of medications negatively influences your mood and lead to depressive symptoms. For example, benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), temazepam (Restoril), lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium) used for treating anxiety and sleep disorders may cause depression.
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants. Build of benzodiazepine medications in the body leads to the side effect of manifesting depressive symptoms. Older people are more likely to face such side effects because their bodies metabolize medications at a slower pace.
If you notice, common side effects of Xanax are feeling of sadness, hopelessness and loss of interest, typical symptoms of depression.
Warning on Xanax use notifies that using Xanax by people already have depression can worsen the symptoms of the issue.
Use of Other Substances with Xanax and Depression
Many depressed people look for temporary alleviation of depression by using other substances like opioids, weeds smoking or alcohol.
Some try to use Xanax and other substances together to combat the symptoms of depression.
Alcohol and opioids are also depressants. When they are used together with Xanax, depression becomes worse than before. It also increases the chance of fatal overdosing leading to several health hazards including death.
It is dangerous to self treat depression with Xanax and opioids. Depressed individuals should not consume alcohol or do smoking at all.
Recreational use of benzodiazepines or opioids is one of the prime reasons for depression in many people.
Xanax and depression is a bad mix. Especially, taking Xanax in overdose will increase the severity of depression for sure. It is all the more dangerous and fatal to use Xanax and other substances together.
The Bottom Line
Xanax is not an antidepressant per se. It is a prescription medicine for the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Xanax for depression is not the right choice of medication. There are several other prescription medicines safe and effective for treating depression than Alprazolam.