Xanax Dosage: Form, Strengths, How to Take, and More (2024)

If you have certain anxiety-related conditions, your doctor might suggest Xanax as a treatment option. It’s a prescription drug used to treat the following conditions in adults:

  • panic disorder with or without agoraphobia
  • generalized anxiety disorder that requires immediate treatment

Xanax comes as a tablet that you swallow. It contains the active ingredient alprazolam. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.) Xanax belongs to a group of drugs called benzodiazepines.

This article describes the dosages of Xanax, as well as its strengths and how to take it. To learn more about Xanax, see this in-depth article.

Note: This article covers Xanax’s usual dosages, which are provided by the drugmaker. But when using Xanax, always take the dosage your doctor prescribes.

Xanax vs. Xanax XR

Another form of Xanax is available, which is called Xanax XR. This form of the drug is used to treat panic disorder only. It’s usually taken once per day.

Xanax tablets are immediate-release, which means all of the drug is released into your body soon after the tablet dissolves.

Xanax XR tablets are extended-release (XR). This means the drug is released slowly into your body over a period of time.

This article focuses just on Xanax. To learn more about Xanax XR’s dosage, talk with your doctor or see the drug’s prescribing information.

Below is information about the usual dosages of Xanax.

Note: This chart highlights the basics of the drug’s dosage. Be sure to read on for more detail.

Xanax formXanax strengthsXanax starting dosage
• tablet• 0.25 milligrams (mg)
• 0.5 mg
• 1 mg
• 2 mg
• 0.25 mg to 0.5 mg three times per day

Note: Xanax is a controlled substance. This means it’s regulated by the U.S. government due to the risk of misuse. (With misuse a drug is taken in a way other than how it’s prescribed.) You should only take Xanax exactly as prescribed and you should not share the drug with anyone else. It’s also recommended that you store Xanax in a safe place away from children.

What are the forms of Xanax?

Xanax comes as a tablet that you swallow.

What strengths does Xanax come in?

Xanax comes in the following strengths:

  • 0.25 mg
  • 0.5 mg
  • 1 mg
  • 2 mg

Different Xanax strengths come in different shapes and colors which can help you remember the strength of your tablet.

What are the usual dosages of Xanax?

Your doctor will likely start you on a low dosage of Xanax and adjust it over time to reach the right amount for you. Instead of increasing your dose to reach an average dosage, they’ll prescribe the smallest dosage that provides the desired effect.

The information below describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. But be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. They’ll determine the best dosage to fit your needs.

Dosage for generalized anxiety disorder

You’ll likely start by taking Xanax 0.25-mg to 0.5-mg tablets three times daily. Then, if you respond well to the drug, your doctor may increase your dosage slowly. The increase is usually once every 3 to 4 days. The maximum dosage recommended by the drugmaker is 4 mg daily.

Dosage for panic disorder

You’ll likely start with Xanax 0.5-mg tablets three times per day. If you respond well to the drug and your doctor increases your daily dosage, they’ll do it slowly by 1 mg every 3 to 4 days. The highest dose reported by the drugmaker is 10 mg daily, but it’s uncommon to take that high of a dose.

Taper

When you stop taking Xanax, your doctor will likely have you decrease your dose slowly. See the “Xanax and withdrawal and dependence” section below.

What’s the dosage of Xanax for children?

There’s no recommended Xanax dosage for children, though doctors sometimes prescribe the drug off-label for them. (Off-label use is when a drug is prescribed to treat a condition or age group it hasn’t been approved for.) To learn more about the uses and risks of Xanax in children, talk with your child’s doctor.

Is Xanax used long term?

No, Xanax is not usually used as a long-term treatment. It’s not known if Xanax is safe to take for more than 10 weeks for panic disorder or more than 4 months for generalized anxiety disorder.

When stopping Xanax, you’ll likely do it slowly using a taper schedule. This will help decrease your risk of withdrawal symptoms. (These are side effects that can happen when you stop taking a drug your body has become dependent on.) Talk with your doctor about what your dosage taper schedule will be.

Dosage adjustments

If you’re an adult ages 65 years and older, if you have decreased liver function, or if you take a drug called ritonavir, your doctor will prescribe a lower Xanax dosage. There are specific dosing guidelines for taking Xanax with ritonavir.

Your Xanax dose will also be decreased if you’re taking other medications that cause your liver to process Xanax more slowly. If you still have side effects, your doctor may decrease your dose further. There’s not a specific lowest dose that’s usually prescribed.

Some drugs affect liver function so much that they’re not safe to take with Xanax at all. Examples include Prezista (darunavir) and Noxafil (Posaconazole). If you need to take one of these drugs, your doctor will likely have you stop your Xanax treatment with a taper first.

Below are answers to some common questions about Xanax and dosage.

Is the dosage of Xanax based on body weight?

No, your dosage of Xanax is not based on your body weight. You’ll likely start on a low dose and your doctor may increase it slowly based on your reaction to the drug.

What is a Xanax bar?

A Xanax bar usually refers to a Xanax tablet that’s shaped like a rectangle. This wording is often used in the context of misuse and addiction. (Misuse means a drug is taken differently than how it was prescribed. Addiction means a drug is used even if it leads to harmful outcomes.)

For more information about the risks of misuse and addiction with Xanax, see the boxed warning at the start of this article).

Xanax and Xanax XR come in several different shapes and colors. This is helpful when your doctor prescribes more than one strength of Xanax to make up your daily dose.

Is Xanax used for insomnia? If so, what’s the dosage?

Xanax is sometimes used off-label* for insomnia. If your doctor prescribes Xanax for this condition, they’ll determine the dosage that’s right for you.

While off-label uses are often safe and effective, you may be able to find an option for insomnia that’s safer than Xanax. Benzodiazepines (the drug group Xanax belongs to) have a higher risk of dependence and withdrawal symptoms than other drugs that treat insomnia. (With dependence your body gets used to a drug and needs it for you to feel comfortable. And withdrawal symptoms are side effects that can occur when you stop taking a drug your body has become dependent on.)

Is there a Xanax dosage used for dental work or before other medical procedures?

Xanax has been used off-label* to help with anxiety and sedation before medical procedures, including dental work. There is not a specific dose that’s always used for this purpose.

Another drug used for this purpose is Valium (diazepam), which (like Xanax) is a benzodiazepine. Find out more about the similarities and differences between Xanax and Valium in this article.

Talk with your doctor or dentist if you have anxiety before medical procedures.

* Off-label use is when a drug is prescribed to treat a condition or age group it hasn’t been approved for.

The dosage of Xanax you’re prescribed may depend on several factors. These include:

  • the type and severity of the condition you’re using the drug to treat
  • your age
  • the form of Xanax you take
  • side effects you may have from Xanax
  • other medications you take
  • other conditions you may have (see “Dosage adjustments” above)

Xanax comes as a tablet you swallow with water, usually three times per day. You can take it with or without food.

For information on the expiration, storage, and disposal of Xanax, see this article.

Accessible drug containers and labels

If you find it hard to read the prescription label on your medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Some pharmacies provide medication labels that:

  • have large print or use braille
  • feature a code you can scan with a smartphone to change the text to audio

Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend pharmacies that offer these accessibility features if your current pharmacy doesn’t.

If you have trouble opening medication bottles, let your pharmacist know. They may be able to supply Xanax in an easy-open container. They may also have tips to help make it simpler to open the drug’s container.

If you miss your Xanax dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take the next one at the usual time. Don’t take two doses at once.

If you need help remembering to take your dose of Xanax on time, try using a medication reminder. This can include setting an alarm or downloading a reminder app on your phone.

Do not take more Xanax than your doctor prescribes, as this can lead to serious side effects. The drugmaker reports that overdoses have happened with Xanax alone and when Xanax was combined with other drugs or alcohol.

Symptoms of overdose

Symptoms caused by an overdose can include:

  • confusion
  • extreme drowsiness
  • lack of coordination
  • slow reflexes
  • death (in rare cases)

What to do in case you take too much Xanax

Call your doctor right away if you think you’ve taken too much Xanax. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach the American Association of Poison Control Centers or use its online resource. But if you have severe symptoms, immediately call 911 (or your local emergency number) or go to the nearest emergency room. A drug called flumazenil is sometimes used along with other measures to treat an overdose of benzodiazepines (the drug group Xanax belongs to). Xanax

Xanax has a boxed warning for withdrawal reactions. (See the beginning of this article for more details on the boxed warnings for Xanax.) Withdrawal reactions are more likely in people who take higher doses and people who take the drug for a longer amount of time. Symptoms of these reactions include:

  • blurry vision
  • dizziness
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • uncontrolled movements
  • insomnia
  • seizure
  • hallucinations
  • suicidal thoughts

Long-term withdrawal symptoms that can last weeks to 12 months or more include:

  • ringing in the ears
  • muscle twitches
  • numbness
  • cognitive difficulty

Your doctor will likely prescribe a dosage taper schedule to help you avoid withdrawal reactions. Your daily dose will likely be decreased by 0.5 mg in 3-day (or longer) intervals. If you have any symptoms of withdrawal, talk with your doctor right away. They may decide to pause or slow your taper schedule.

The sections above describe the usual dosages provided by the drugmaker. If your doctor recommends Xanax for you, they’ll prescribe the dosage that’s right for you.

Remember, you should not change your dosage of Xanax without your doctor’s recommendation. Only take Xanax exactly as prescribed. Talk with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your current dosage. Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask:

  • How slow should my Xanax dosage taper be?
  • If I take a lower dose of Xanax, will I have a lower risk of side effects?
  • Will my dosage of Xanax change if I start another medication?
  • Will I take a lower Xanax dosage if I have liver problems?

To get information on different conditions, and tips for improving your health, subscribe to any of Healthline’s newsletters. You may also want to check out the online communities at Bezzy. It’s a place where people with certain conditions can find support and connect with others.

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

Xanax Dosage: Form, Strengths, How to Take, and More (2024)

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