alprazolam Nursing Considerations & Management

Drug name

Generic Name: alprazolam

Brand Name: Alprazolam Intensol, Apo-Alpraz (CAN), Niravam, Novo-Alprazol (CAN), Nu-Alpraz (CAN), Xanax, Xanax TS (CAN), Xanax XR

Classification: Benzodiazepine, Anxiolytic

Pregnancy Category D

Controlled Substance C-IV

  • Individualize dosage; increase dosage gradually to avoid adverse effects.


  • Anxiety disorders: Initially, 0.25–0.5 mg PO tid; adjust to maximum daily dose of 4 mg/day in divided doses or extended-release form once per day in the AM once dosage is established (immediate release, intensol solution).
  • Panic disorder: Initially, 0.5 mg PO tid; increase dose at 3- to 4-day intervals in increments of no more than 1 mg/day; ranges of 1–10 mg/day have been needed; extended-release form once per day in AM once dosage is established (Xanax products, Niravam).


  • Social phobia: 2–8 mg/day PO.
  • PMS: 0.25 mg PO tid.
Therapeutic actions
  • Exact mechanisms of action not understood; main sites of action may be the limbic system and reticular formation; increases the effects of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter; anxiety blocking effects occur at doses well below those necessary to cause sedation, ataxia.
  • Management of anxiety disorders, short-term relief of symptoms of anxiety; anxiety associated with depression.
  • Treatment of panic attacks with or without agoraphobia
  • Unlabeled uses: Social phobia, premenstrual syndrome, depression
Adverse effects
  • CNS: Transient, mild drowsiness initially; sedation, depression, lethargy, apathy, fatigue, light-headedness, disorientation, anger, hostility, episodes of mania and hypomania, restlessness, confusion, crying, delirium, headache, slurred speech, dysarthria, stupor, rigidity, tremor, dystonia, vertigo, euphoria, nervousness, difficulty in concentration, vivid dreams, psychomotor retardation, extrapyramidal symptoms; mild paradoxical excitatory reactions during first 2 wk of treatment
  • CV: Bradycardia, tachycardia, CV collapse, hypertension, hypotension, palpitations, edema
  • Dermatologic: Urticaria, pruritus, rash, dermatitis
  • EENT: Visual and auditory disturbances, diplopia, nystagmus, depressed hearing, nasal congestion
  • GI: Constipation, diarrhea, dry mouth, salivation, nausea, anorexia, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing, gastric disorders, hepatic impairment
  • GU: Incontinence, changes in libido, urinary retention, menstrual irregularities
  • Hematologic: Elevations of blood enzymes—LDH, alkaline phosphatase, AST, ALT; blood dyscrasias—agranulocytosis, leukopenia
  • Other: Hiccups, fever, diaphoresis, paresthesias, muscular disturbances, gynecomastia. Drug dependence with withdrawal syndrome when drug is discontinued; more common with abrupt discontinuation of higher dosage used for longer than 4 mo
  • Contraindicated with hypersensitivity to benzodiazepines, psychoses, acute narrow-angle glaucoma, shock, coma, acute alcoholic intoxication with depression of vital signs, pregnancy (crosses the placenta; risk of congenital malformations, neonatal withdrawal syndrome), labor and delivery (“floppy infant” syndrome), lactation (secreted in breast milk; infants become lethargic and lose weight).
  • Use cautiously with impaired liver or kidney function, debilitation.
Nursing considerations

CLINICAL ALERT! Name confusion has occurred among Xanax (alprazolam), Celexa (citalopram), and Cerebyx (fosphenytoin), and between alprazolam and lorazepam; use caution.

  • History: Hypersensitivity to benzodiazepines; psychoses; acute narrow-angle glaucoma; shock; coma; acute alcoholic intoxication with depression of vital signs; labor and delivery; lactation; impaired liver or kidney function; debilitation
  • Physical: Skin color, lesions; T; orientation, reflexes, affect, ophthalmologic examination; P, BP; liver evaluation, abdominal examination, bowel sounds, normal output; CBC, LFTs, renal function tests
  • Arrange to taper dosage gradually after long-term therapy, especially in epileptic patients.
  • Do not administer with grapefruit juice.
  • Taper drug slowly; decrease by no more than 0.5 mg every 3 days.
Teaching points
  • Take this drug exactly as prescribed; take extended-release form once a day in the morning; place rapidly disintegrating tablet on top of tongue, where it will disintegrate and can be swallowed with saliva.
  • Do not drink grapefruit juice while on this drug.
  • Do not stop taking drug (in long-term therapy) without consulting health care provider; drug should not be stopped suddenly.
  • Avoid alcohol, sleep-inducing, or over-the-counter drugs.
  • You may experience these side effects: Drowsiness, dizziness (these effects will be less pronounced after a few days, avoid driving a car or engaging in other dangerous activities if these occur); GI upset (take drug with food); fatigue; depression; dreams; crying; nervousness.
  • Report severe dizziness, weakness, drowsiness that persists, rash or skin lesions, difficulty voiding, palpitations, swelling in the extremities.
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