Alprazolam (Page 2 of 8)

5.2 Abuse, Misuse, and Addiction

The use of benzodiazepines, including alprazolam, exposes users to the risks of abuse, misuse, and addiction, which can lead to overdose or death. Abuse and misuse of benzodiazepines often (but not always) involve the use of doses greater than the maximum recommended dosage and commonly involve concomitant use of other medications, alcohol, and/or illicit substances, which is associated with an increased frequency of serious adverse outcomes, including respiratory depression, overdose, or death [see Drug Abuse and Dependence (9.2)].

Before prescribing alprazolam and throughout treatment, assess each patient’s risk for abuse, misuse, and addiction (e.g., using a standardized screening tool). Use of alprazolam, particularly in patients at elevated risk, necessitates counseling about the risks and proper use of alprazolam along with monitoring for signs and symptoms of abuse, misuse, and addiction. Prescribe the lowest effective dosage; avoid or minimize concomitant use of CNS depressants and other substances associated with abuse, misuse, and addiction (e.g., opioid analgesics, stimulants); and advise patients on the proper disposal of unused drug. If a substance use disorder is suspected, evaluate the patient and institute (or refer them for) early treatment, as appropriate.

5.3 Dependence and Withdrawal Reactions

To reduce the risk of withdrawal reactions, use a gradual taper to discontinue alprazolam or reduce the dosage (a patient-specific plan should be used to taper the dose) [see Dosage and Administration (2.3)].

Patients at an increased risk of withdrawal adverse reactions after benzodiazepine discontinuation or rapid dosage reduction include those who take higher dosages, and those who have had longer durations of use.

Acute Withdrawal Reactions

The continued use of benzodiazepines, including alprazolam, may lead to clinically significant physical dependence. Abrupt discontinuation or rapid dosage reduction of alprazolam after continued use, or administration of flumazenil (a benzodiazepine antagonist) may precipitate acute withdrawal reactions, which can be life-threatening (e.g., seizures) [see Drug Abuse and Dependence (9.3)].

Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome

In some cases, benzodiazepine users have developed a protracted withdrawal syndrome with withdrawal symptoms lasting weeks to more than 12 months [see Drug Abuse and Dependence (9.3)].

Certain adverse clinical events, some life-threatening, are a direct consequence of physical dependence to alprazolam. These include a spectrum of withdrawal symptoms; the most important is seizure [see Drug Abuse and Dependence (9.3)]. Even after relatively short-term use at doses of < 4 mg/day, there is some risk of dependence. Spontaneous reporting system data suggest that the risk of dependence and its severity appear to be greater in patients treated with doses greater than 4 mg/day and for long periods (more than 12 weeks). However, in a controlled postmarketing discontinuation study of panic disorder patients who received alprazolam, the duration of treatment (3 months compared to 6 months) had no effect on the ability of patients to taper to zero dose. In contrast, patients treated with doses of alprazolam greater than 4 mg/day had more difficulty tapering to zero dose than those treated with less than 4 mg/day.
In a controlled clinical trial in which 63 patients were randomized to alprazolam and where withdrawal symptoms were specifically sought, the following were identified as symptoms of withdrawal: heightened sensory perception, impaired concentration, dysosmia, clouded sensorium, paresthesias, muscle cramps, muscle twitch, diarrhea, blurred vision, appetite decrease, and weight loss. Other symptoms, such as anxiety and insomnia, were frequently seen during discontinuation, but it could not be determined if they were due to return of illness, rebound, or withdrawal. Interdose Symptoms

Early morning anxiety and emergence of anxiety symptoms between doses of alprazolam have been reported in patients with panic disorder taking prescribed maintenance doses. These symptoms may reflect the development of tolerance or a time interval between doses which is longer than the duration of clinical action of the administered dose. In either case, it is presumed that the prescribed dose is not sufficient to maintain plasma levels above those needed to prevent relapse, rebound, or withdrawal symptoms over the entire course of the interdosing interval.

5.4 Effects on Driving and Operating Machinery

Because of its CNS depressant effects, patients receiving alprazolam should be cautioned against engaging in hazardous occupations or activities requiring complete mental alertness such as operating machinery or driving a motor vehicle. For the same reason, patients should be cautioned about the concomitant use of alcohol and other CNS depressant drugs during treatment with alprazolam [see Drug Interactions (7.1)].

5.5 Interaction with Drugs that Inhibit Metabolism via Cytochrome P450 3A

The initial step in alprazolam metabolism is hydroxylation catalyzed by cytochrome P450 3A (CYP3A). Drugs that inhibit this metabolic pathway may have a profound effect on the clearance of alprazolam.

Strong CYP3A Inhibitors

Alprazolam is contraindicated in patients receiving strong inhibitors of CYP3A (such as azole antifungal agents), except ritonavir [see Contraindications (4)]. Ketoconazole and itraconazole have been shown in vivo to increase plasma alprazolam concentrations 3.98 fold and 2.70 fold, respectively.

Dosage adjustment is necessary when alprazolam and ritonavir are initiated concomitantly or when ritonavir is added to a stable dosage of alprazolam [see Dosage and Administration (2.6), Drug Interactions (7.1)].

Drugs demonstrated to be CYP3A inhibitors on the basis of clinical studies involving alprazolam: nefazodone, fluvoxamine, and cimetidine [see Drug Interaction (7.1), Clinical Pharmacology (12.3)]. Use caution and consider dose reduction of alprazolam, as appropriate, during co-administration with these drugs.

5.6 Patients with Depression

Benzodiazepines may worsen depression. Panic disorder has been associated with primary and secondary major depressive disorders and increased reports of suicide among untreated patients. Consequently, appropriate precautions (e.g., limiting the total prescription size and increased monitoring for suicidal ideation) should be considered in patients with depression.

5.7 Mania

Episodes of hypomania and mania have been reported in association with the use of alprazolam in patients with depression [see Adverse Reactions (6.2)].

5.8 Neonatal Sedation and Withdrawal Syndrome

Use of alprazolam late in pregnancy can result in sedation (respiratory depression, lethargy, hypotonia) and/or withdrawal symptoms (hyperreflexia, irritability, restlessness, tremors, inconsolable crying, and feeding difficulties) in the neonate [see Use in Specific Populations (8.1)]. Monitor neonates exposed to alprazolam during pregnancy or labor for signs of sedation and monitor neonates exposed to alprazolam during pregnancy for signs of withdrawal; manage these neonates accordingly.

5.9 Risk in Patients with Impaired Respiratory Function

There have been reports of death in patients with severe pulmonary disease shortly after the initiation of treatment with alprazolam. Closely monitor patients with impaired respiratory function. If signs and symptoms of respiratory depression, hypoventilation, or apnea occur, discontinue alprazolam.


The following clinically significant adverse reactions are described elsewhere in the labeling:

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