Alprazolam, sold under the brand name Xanax among others, is a short-acting benzodiazepine. Alprazolam is a positive allosteric modulator of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) type A receptor.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the prescribing of 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.
Xanax can produce a drug abuse tendency with high addiction potential.
Let us look at the medical facts about Xanax and depression in detail.
Depression: An Overview
Depression is a temporary mental disorder. It puts a person in a depressed mood or causes a loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.
Significant symptoms of anxiety or depression are:
- Lethargy and a 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 2013, about 12% of the population experiences depression at least a few days a year.
Significant causes of depression include:
- Hormone imbalance
- A chemical imbalance in the brain
- Side effects of some medications and substance abuse
- Physical, sexual, or mental abuse
- Conflicts in relationships with family members, friends, or lovers
- Death of someone close or loss of something
- Major life events such as starting another job, marriage, divorce, or retiring
- Severe illness and prolonged treatment
It is essential to understand the link between depression and anxiety. The similarity between some symptoms and causes of anxiety and depression confuses some people. Drugs like Xanax, Alprazolam, or Valium are often used to treat both conditions.
Does Xanax For Depression Work
Xanax is a benzodiazepine prescription medicine. It helps treat generalized anxiety 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 and mood disorders.
Notably, many people with anxiety disorders also have depression.
Fatigue, trouble concentrating, and sleep problems are common symptoms of depression and anxiety. Irritability and anger may also manifest as anxiety or depression, especially when the mood is low.
Thus, it may be true that Xanax could help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. But it is not a prescription medicine for depression.
Xanax, which is the brand name for the generic drug alprazolam, isn’t usually used to treat depression because there are several newer and safer medications available.
Sometimes, taking together Lexapro and Xanax helps in the treatment of major depression, The effects of alprazolam may produce antidepressant effects in some patients.
Reasons for the Wrong Xanax Prescription
Unfortunately, there is an increasing trend toward prescribing Xanax for mental issues other than anxiety and panic attacks.
Anxiety disorder is the most common mental issue. For this reason, Xanax prescriptions occur in a higher number than those for other drugs in this category. This bias has led to a tendency to prescribe Xanax for non-anxiety reasons as well.
In several cases, symptoms of depression appear similar to those of anxiety during diagnosis. Some physicians mistakenly prescribe Xanax to calm depression symptoms.
There is a misconception among some that Xanax also works for depression.
Xanax can indeed work as an antidepressant for the central nervous system. In addition, several patients experience the simultaneous occurrence of anxiety and depression.
In the initial stages, using Xanax for treating depression may calm down a few symptoms. In the long run, this drug increases some of the symptoms of depression.
What Does the Medical Literature 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 at double the dosage used for anxiety relief for a short period. The study results 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 high doses for over 12 weeks.
Some psychiatrists say that the soothing properties of this drug can calm down a few symptoms of depression. But this pill will aggravate the symptoms of depression in people who are already depressed.
Does Xanax Cause Depression
According to FDA, Xanax is a psychotropic medication that produces depressant effects in some. One of the serious side effects of Xanax is linked to increased suicidal thoughts. In people with depression, its side effects include hypomania and sadness.
According to a health letter from the Harvard Medical School journal, many medications negatively influence your mood and lead to depressive symptoms. For example, benzodiazepines, such as Alprazolam (Xanax), temazepam (Restoril), lorazepam (Ativan), and diazepam (Valium), used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders may cause depression.
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants. The buildup 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 faster.
If you notice, typical side effects of Xanax are feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest, specific symptoms of depression.
A warning on Xanax use states that using Xanax by people who already have depression can worsen the symptoms of the issue.
Use of Other Substances with Xanax
Many depressed people seek temporary relief from depression by using other substances like opioids, marijuana, 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 smoke at all.
Recreational use of benzodiazepines or opioids is among the most common causes of depression for many people.
Xanax and depression are not suitable mixes. Significantly, 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 Final Thought
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. Several other prescription medicines are safe and more effective at treating depression than Alprazolam.
- A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal, J Addict Med. 2018 Jan-Feb; 12(1): 4–10.
- Casacalenda N, et al. (1998). Pharmacologic treatments effective in both generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder: clinical and theoretical implications. Can J Psychiatry. 1998 Sep;43(7):722-30.
- van Marwijk H, et al. (2012). Alprazolam for depression.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Jul 11;(7)
- Harvard Health Letter, Is your medication making you depressed? October 2015