Can Xanax Stop A Heart Attack?

A heart attack is often associated with an extreme stress event and with panic. Some individuals with recurring panic attacks and other psychological problems have been prescribed a drug called Xanax, which calms the panic. In this article, we will take a close look at whether this medication can stop a heart attack with its usual effect. We will also dive into research studies that suggest a possible protective effect of Xanax on the heart.
Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub Gwiazdecki

Fifth year medical student at the Medical Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava.

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Can Xanax Stop a Heart Attack?

No, Xanax is not used to stop heart attacks. While it shows an ability to reduce the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events in individuals with hypertension, it can help a lot when a heart attack happens. Normally, it is not used in treatment for heart attacks [1].

However, treatment with Xanax has been identified with a reduction in the risk of ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, and all-cause mortality [1]. This suggests that Xanax can have cardioprotective properties and limit the risk of cardiovascular events, though there is no indication of benefit in direct treatment of a heart attack.


However, even with some beneficial evidence, it is important to remember that Xanax is not included in the guidelines for first-line treatment for heart attacks or their prevention. For that, other medications are used. These include beta-blockers, nitrates, antiplatelet agents, anticoagulants, and calcium channel blockers [2].

What is Xanax?

Xanax, also known as alprazolam, is a medication that belongs to the class of benzodiazepines. It is primarily prescribed for the treatment of conditions such as anxiety, depression, and panic attacks [3]. As a benzodiazepine, Xanax works by interacting with the central nervous system. The effects of its influence are calmness, slower central nervous system activity, muscle relaxation, and a lower respiratory rate [4].

Alprazolam can be taken in liquid or pill form. The dosage depends on the response of the patient to the drug. A common dosage is a 0.25 mg dose, two or three times per day [3].

Due to the potential for addiction and misuse, Xanax is a controlled substance. Therefore, it is important to follow the prescribed dosage and recommendations [3]. A high dose of alprazolam causes shallow breathing, significant respiratory depression, low blood pressure, as well as slower brain activity. In high doses, this can lead to death.

Additionally, long term benzodiazepine use has been associated with Parkinson's disease.

How can Xanax impact the heart?

Xanax, also known as alprazolam, is a medication primarily used to manage anxiety disorders. It belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which work by slowing down the central nervous system. This calming effect also influences the heart.

Alprazolam works on the autonomic central nervous system. It slows down the essential functions of the body, like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. The action of Xanax leads to a temporary decrease in the pressure in the blood circulation [4].

The effectiveness of alprazolam as an antihypertensive was even compared with some primary high-blood pressure drugs. When this psychiatric drug was compared to captopril (an ACE inhibitor) at an emergency department, the results were similar. Xanax was able to help emergency patients with elevated blood pressure to the same degree as, for this reason, developed medication [4].

Also, the long-term use of Xanax has been associated with lower blood pressure. In patients over 60, long-term use of benzodiazepines was linked to lower blood pressure values [4].

Furthermore, alprazolam was associated with a slightly lower risk of cardiovascular events in patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) at a median age of around 63. Those patients had a lower risk of strokes and heart attacks [4].

However, long-term use of Xanax bears the risk of habituation and addiction.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is medically known as a myocardial infarction. It is a serious medical condition in which the heart is suffering from a lack of blood supply to the cardiac muscle. When not treated, the affected part of the heart starts dying [5, 6].

The most common cause of heart attacks is coronary heart disease. This disease is a condition where atherosclerosis causes plaque to build up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. The buildup of obstruction in the arteries can partially occlude or completely block the vessel and stop the blood flow through it [5].

Heart attacks are divided into two types. Type I is a heart attack caused by the obstruction of the vessel by atherosclerosis. The plaque created is composed of cholesterol and other substances and can rupture, leading to a clotting event. This can additionally obstruct the artery and lead to complete blockage and type I heart attacks. Type II is caused by other situations. It can be a spasm of the artery or simply a big plaque that leads to a big blockage of the artery. However, in this type of heart attack, the occlusion is not complete [5].

Other causes of heart attacks include ruptured blood vessels, drug abuse (like cocaine or heroin), blood vessel spasms, as well as hypoxia (low oxygen in the blood) [5].

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Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub is in his fifth year as a medical student at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. He has special interested in cardiology and in patient-centered medicine. His love for heart health isn't just book-smarts; he wants to know how it works, what it means for our feelings, and how key it is for health and happiness. Jakub thinks real good health care comes from always putting the patient at the centre, treating each person as a whole.