Xanax is the brand name for a benzodiazepine called alprazolam. This powerful benzo is usually only prescribed for up to six weeks to treat anxiety and panic disorder. When used responsibly, Xanax can offer several benefits to the individual. However, the use of this drug doesn’t come without its risks. Already posing risks like sedation and dangerous withdrawals, is Xanax bad for your liver, too?
How Is Xanax Metabolized?
Xanax is metabolized or broken down in the liver. The liver is a large, meaty organ that sits on the right side of the belly and is protected by the rib cage. The liver regulates most chemical levels in the blood and excretes or eliminates a product called bile from the body. The liver processes this blood and breaks down, balances, and produces nutrients, and also metabolizes drugs like Xanax into forms called enzymes that are non-toxic and easier for the body to use.
The Xanax liver enzyme that’s responsible for metabolizing the drug is CYP3A4. CYP3A4 breaks Xanax down into two enzymes: 4-hydroxyalprazolam and α-hydroxyalprazolam, which are both less potent than the drug itself. This breakdown makes the drug less toxic to the body and easier for the body to break down and eliminate in urine.
Xanax may take longer to be processed and eliminated from the body depending on a person’s liver health and age. Older individuals tend to have weaker or damaged livers, which can extend the Xanax elimination process. Body mass, height, weight, and any other medications that are being taken can also impact this process.
How Does Xanax Affect Your Liver?
Xanax can damage your liver if it’s taken longer than prescribed, mixed with other drugs, or taken in higher doses than prescribed. Long-term use of Xanax can damage nerve tissue in the liver, inhibiting its function and causing side effects like inflammation and pain. The rate at which Xanax liver damage occurs is dependent on how long the drug is used and the doses at which it’s taken.
Older people and individuals with compromised livers are more likely to experience liver damage from Xanax use. The risk of Xanax liver damage increases when the drug is abused (used in high doses) for extended periods or if it’s combined with alcohol. Because drinking is known to have a severe effect on the liver, mixing Xanax and alcohol can increase the risk of and rate at which liver damage occurs.
Signs of an Unhealthy Liver
Liver disease can be genetic (inherited) or caused by various factors like viruses, obesity, drugs, and alcohol. Unfortunately, even some prescription drugs like Xanax can cause liver disease if they’re taken for too long or irresponsibly. Over time, untreated liver disease can lead to scarring (cirrhosis), which can result in liver failure and even death.
Unfortunately, liver disease doesn’t always cause noticeable signs or symptoms, so it’s important to be on your guard. Common symptoms of an unhealthy liver include:
- Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Swelling in the legs and ankles (fluid retention)
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine color
- Pale stool color
- Bloody stool
- Vomiting blood
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Tendency to bruise easily
How to Protect Your Liver
Xanax is bad for your liver when it’s abused or taken longer than it’s meant to be. Drinking while taking Xanax can also have a heavier impact on the liver, increasing your risk of liver disease and damage. The best way to protect your liver is to avoid heavy drug and alcohol use, even if the drugs mentioned are prescribed.
It’s also important to talk to your doctor about drinking alcohol when taking a new medication and about how long you should be taking the medication. If you still have any leftover pills after you’ve stopped taking a prescription drug, find a way to safely dispose of them.
You can also protect your liver by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet (avoiding refined sugars, processed foods, sodas, sweets, refined carbs), and maintaining a healthy weight for your age and height. Also, the less alcohol you drink, the better.
Help for Xanax Abuse and Addiction
In addition to liver damage, long-term Xanax abuse can also lead to dependence and addiction. Xanax is one of the most abused drugs in the U.S. because of its sedative effects, and many people who abuse it eventually find themselves unable to function normally without it. If you or a loved one is in this position, help is available at Clearbrook Treatment Center.
Our Massachusetts inpatient drug rehab offers various levels of care for addiction as well as substance-specific programs for both illicit and prescription substances. We usually start our patients off with medical detox so they can safely get through withdrawal symptoms without relapsing.
Once that’s completed, they can then move onto one of our illicit or prescription drug addiction treatment programs so they can receive individual and group therapy and counseling to help them heal mentally, as well. No matter how long you’ve been using drugs, our Northeast addictions treatment center is here for you.
Contact Clearbrook Massachusetts today at 570-536-9621 to learn more about our addiction services.