Several types of prescription medications are available for psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression. Each type works differently and, in some cases, can have severe side effects if not taken according to instructions. People who take monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOIs, for example, must be careful about interactions with certain foods and medications. Xanax (alprazolam) is a different type of psychiatric medication that does not require the same precautions as for MAOIs.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOIs available in the United States include drugs such as phenelzine (Nardil), isocarboxazid (Marplan), and tranylcypromine (Parnate). (Ref. 1, 4) Prescribed for anxiety or panic disorders, MAOIs work by blocking an enzyme produced in the body. Severe reactions, including extremely high blood pressure that could lead to a stroke, can occur if the person eats foods such as aged cheese, spoiled meat, banana peels, tap beer or soy bean products. (Ref. 1, p. 18) Patients are also instructed to avoid taking SSRIs or serotonin reuptake inhibitors, another class of medications used for depression, while taking MAOIs.
Alprazolam (Xanax) is a prescription medication that falls into the class of benzodiazipines. (Ref. 2) A short-acting medicaiton that works on the central nervous system, Xanax helps to reduce anxiety, stop convulsions and relax msucles. Unlike MAOI's, patients on Xanax are not instructed to avoid certain foods or SSRIs.