There’s a misconception that medically prescribed drugs like Xanax are safer than illicit street drugs like heroin or meth. However, anything in excess is harmful. Hence, prolonged consumption of Xanax can cause psychological and physical dependence leading to Xanax withdrawal symptoms when attempting to suddenly stop using them.

This article will give you an overview of Xanax withdrawal syndrome and various treatment options for undergoing Xanax detoxification. We’ll also share with you ways to avoid relapsing after completing Xanax withdrawal treatment.

What is Xanax Withdrawal?

Xanax, or alprazolam as it is generically known, belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States for treating mental health issues like panic disorders, insomnia, and anxiety. These drugs are nervous system depressants that produce a calming and sedating effect on the brain by slowing down thinking and other brain functions related to stress and anxiety.

The likelihood of developing Xanax addiction is higher when the drug is abused. However, even when used in proper and prescribed doses, longterm use of the drug can cause physical dependence. This can lead to Xanax withdrawal symptoms when a person tries doing without it.

These symptoms can be mild or severe and physically and psychologically disturbing. It’s never recommended to undergo Xanax detoxification without the supervision of a medical professional.

What is Xanax? A close-up shows a blister pack of trade name Alprazolam tablets

Side Effects of Xanax

Though Xanax can be effective in treating anxiety, insomnia, and other mental health disorders, there are many risks associated with its consumption. Here are some common ones:

  • Blurred vision
  • Poor memory
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Depression
  • Weakness and loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Dizziness and drowsiness
  • Dry mouth, runny nose, and sore gums
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Short-term memory loss

Causes of Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

With time, your brain gets so used to the constant presence of Xanax in your system that it alters its chemical makeup to adapt to it. Eventually, your brain ceases to perform optimally without its presence which results in Xanax drug addiction.

In cases where Xanax is discontinued after prolonged use, the brain gets thrown off balance. Withdrawal symptoms are a result of the brain trying to come to terms with the decreased content of Xanax in the system. As distressing and difficult as these symptoms are, they are essential for one’s complete recovery from Xanax addiction.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

After prolonged intake, Xanax consumption should never be abruptly stopped without medical supervision because it can cause fatal seizures and other life-threatening symptoms. Though most symptoms stop after two weeks, some can manifest themselves for several months.

The intensity and severity of withdrawal symptoms vary based on many factors but there are two types of withdrawal symptoms: physical and psychological.

Physical Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical symptoms are your body’s reaction to the sudden decrease of Xanax in your system. Here are some of the manifestations of Xanax withdrawal:

  • Headaches, tremors, and sweating
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness or unsteadiness
  • Seizures
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Hyperventilation
  • Nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach
  • Muscle spasms, aches, and pains  
  • Irritability and insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Drug cravings

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms of Xanax

Different from physical withdrawal, psychological withdrawal affects your mood and emotions. Since Xanax has a tranquilizing effect on the brain, its sudden absence can turn chemically induced calmness into several unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These include:

  • Confusion and irritability
  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Irrational anger and hostility
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Lack of motivation
  • Nightmares and mood swings
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Drug cravings
Xanax chemical compound shown

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Not everyone goes through post-acute withdrawal syndrome but for those who get them, the symptoms can last for several weeks and even months.

Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome and it can go on for 1 or 2 years. Some people turn to non-pharmacologic solutions and coping mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety.

Depression

Depression is another common withdrawal symptom that can continue for months.

Paresthesia

Paresthesia generally occurs as a byproduct of hyperventilation and can include a feeling of extreme numbness in the legs and arms or tingling feelings in the fingertips and toes. This symptom is very common in heavy benzodiazepine users and can go on for months or years after withdrawal. Restless legs and violent muscle jerking are a few associated symptoms of paresthesia.

Stomach Problems

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can also include gastrointestinal symptoms like irregular bowel movement or upset stomach. In most people, these symptoms disappear after a few weeks but in some people, they can continue for many weeks.

Rebound Symptoms

Rebound symptoms are common during recovery. If you began taking Xanax as a cure for other issues like anxiety and panic attacks, there’s a chance they might return during recovery. One of the main causes of relapse in most people is the occurrence of rebound symptoms. They can be severe during the start of withdrawal and lead many people to relapse.

Medical Complications

Addiction and drug abuse come with a wide range of medical complications and physiological problems. People fighting alprazolam withdrawal symptoms can experience the following medical issues:

Grand Mal Seizures

Commonly observed in heavy Xanax users, seizures can be extremely dangerous if not monitored and treated on time. The risk is higher for users who also abused alcohol before attempting detoxification.

Delirium

A sudden lack of alprazolam in the system after prolonged use can cause psychotic reactions, changes in perception, confusion, and irritability.

Delirium symptoms can include

  • Extreme disorientation, agitation, and confusion
  • Tremors, fevers, and seizures
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Sweating and high blood pressure
  • Irrationally nervous, angry, or irritable
  • Atypical body sensations like lack of coordination, muscle stiffness, and twitching

Hypersensitivity

Hypersensitivity to bright lights and loud noises are also common during alprazolam withdrawal.

Panic Attacks and Hyperventilation

These are serious complications that can be dangerous if not treated on time and can occur throughout the withdrawal process.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms experienced by a wife and husband

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms: Timeline

Withdrawal symptoms associated with Xanax can set in quickly because it has one of the shortest half-lives compared to other benzodiazepines. With an average short life of about 11 hours, withdrawal symptoms can set in as early as 6 to 12 hours after the last dose. Here’s a brief timeline for Xanax withdrawal.

6-12 hours After the Last Dose

The effects of Xanax start wearing off six hours after the last dose. The initial withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, anxiety, headaches, and sleeping problems which can be further aggravated during the withdrawal period.

Days 1-4

This is usually when rebound symptoms like insomnia and anxiety begin appearing. They are intense at this stage. Muscle pain, sweating, and shaking are other symptoms that are common. There’s a high risk of seizures. Usually, after the fourth day, users can start noticing some improvement in their symptoms.

Days 7-14

Usually, symptoms last for around two weeks after the last dose, but things start turning around at this point. Symptoms like anxiety and insomnia can persist for longer. Some people also experience gastrointestinal problems.

15+ Days

Most lingering symptoms stop or become very mild after two weeks. Some people can experience protracted withdrawal symptoms even if the initial symptoms completely disappear. Protracted withdrawal symptoms change in intensity and can last for up to two years.

Factors Affecting Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Prolonged Dependence

Short-term use of alprazolam and other benzodiazepines will have less unpleasant withdrawal symptoms compared to long-term use. The longer a patient’s Xanax drug use, the tougher and more complicated the symptoms.

Quantity

A person cannot be completely free of withdrawal symptoms even if they consume Xanax in prescribed and correct doses. However, a person consuming Xanax in larger doses will have more severe complications and a longer and harder recovery ahead.

Multi-Substance Abuse

Xanax withdrawal can be more severe in people who misuse other sedative or hypnotic drugs along with alprazolam. In extreme cases, it can even lead to overdose and eventual death.

Abusing alcohol while on Xanax can create unwanted health complications and increase the severity of associated Xanax withdrawal symptoms.

Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions

People with pre-existing mental health issues like anxiety or depression can suffer from more severe withdrawal symptoms. The recovery can be even more challenging in these cases because the underlying health conditions can resurface during recovery.

Age

Senior citizens have higher chances of experiencing severe symptoms and may undergo a harder recovery process.

General Health

Good health speeds up the recovery process of any illness and Xanax dependence is no exception. Any pre-existing mental or physical health issues can complicate the recovery process and aggravate the symptoms of withdrawal.

Medical History

Some people have a higher sensitivity to certain medications. Whether as an allergic reaction or as a side effect of a particular drug, some drug formulations can negatively impact recovery. It’s essential to inform your doctor or physician about your medical history to avoid unnecessary health complications and to have the best treatment plan.

Genetics

Genetics can have a significant impact on your withdrawal symptoms and recovery from Xanax addiction. If you have a family history of addiction or substance abuse, you might be genetically predisposed towards experiencing more severe symptoms even if the drug was ingested in the proper doses. Sometimes, even the recovery process can be more difficult.

Patient History

If you’ve tried quitting Xanax once before and relapsed, quitting a second time will be harder. With every attempt and relapse,  the symptoms can worsen in severity, and the recovery process gets more complex. Additionally, a history of trauma can negatively affect your recovery process.

Xanax Detox

Quitting Xanax cold turkey can result in several dangerous and life-threatening symptoms. The safest, most effective, and best way to beat Xanax addiction is by slowly tapering off the doses. This isn’t just a safer way to do it, but it can also reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms.

Tapering involves progressively cutting back on the drug dosage over several weeks or months. However, you must never attempt it without medical assistance as it can have negative consequences.

Tapering Off Xanax: Always Have Medical Supervision

Tapering off Xanax is challenging because it is a short-lived drug that is quickly metabolized by the body. This makes the amount of alprazolam in your system fluctuate wildly causing unpredictable side effects.

To avoid these peaks and valleys, doctors often shift patients from Xanax to another less potent and longer-acting benzodiazepine. If any dangerous symptoms appear, they may even stretch or pause the tapering process. Hence, it’s a treatment plan that is highly dependent on a person’s individual needs that should never be attempted without medical supervision.

 Tapering Xanax use too rapidly can cause symptoms similar to quitting cold turkey while doing it too slowly can unnecessarily prolong recovery.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms: Treatment

The most effective way to get through Xanax addiction and avoid health complications is with a medically assisted detox. Medical detox programs not only lessen withdrawal effects but also keep the patients safe and help them experience less discomfort. In case of unforeseen and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, there will be doctors and medical professionals to help manage and contain them.

After finishing treatment, it’s also recommended to join a group therapy session like Narcotics Anonymous or sign up for individual therapy sessions to work out issues that may have led to addiction. This can also prevent relapse.

Let’s take a look at some of the rehab programs and addiction treatments available in the United States.

Inpatient or Residential Treatment

Inpatient treatments can be conducted in hospitals or destination retreats and can take 1 to 3 months or even longer to complete. While some programs include detoxification, others only take in patients who have already detoxified.

This type of treatment includes individual and group therapy, recreational activities, round-the-clock medical supervision, and aftercare treatments. Inpatient treatment programs also help patients stay away from potentially triggering environments.

Detox Center

There are many American addiction centers and detox programs that provide medication and detox facilities for Xanax addiction. Detox centers help people overcome their Xanax dependence safely and recover from its withdrawal symptoms with minimal complications.

Detox centers have dedicated medical professionals who supervise and monitor patients and are always on the lookout for complications that may arise during treatment. As opposed to home detox where things can go drastically wrong in a short time, detoxing at these centers helps prevent those complications. While some centers offer facilities beyond detox and medications, most programs limit their services to detoxification.

Outpatient Treatment

In outpatient treatment programs, patients can continue living in their house, fulfilling job and family responsibilities while undergoing treatment.

Outpatient treatment includes a mix of individual and group therapies where intensity and lengths differ from person to person. Generally, patients only need to commit a few hours of their time on particular days of the week while in recovery.

Dual Diagnosis

Since most people begin using Xanax for mental health issues like depression, insomnia, and clinical anxiety, simultaneously dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues is necessary in some cases.

Support Groups

Overcoming Xanax addiction and fighting withdrawal symptoms is long and arduous. It doesn’t end after dealing with withdrawal and detoxification. Support groups are an excellent resource for long-term aftercare and maintaining the right frame of mind to avoid a relapse.

Since all who attend are battling similar issues, many substance abusers can gain valuable insight, support, and motivation to overcome and keep off various addictions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Detox from Xanax at Home?

No. You must always undergo Xanax detoxification at a medically supervised detox center as some symptoms like seizures and delirium can be dangerous. To prevent complications, the symptoms must be monitored throughout the recovery process.

If you want to go about your daily life as normally as possible, look into the possibility of receiving outpatient treatment. Outpatient care allows you to keep living at home while committing only a few hours each week for recovery.

Is Xanax Withdrawal Deadly?

Yes. If not treated correctly, Xanax withdrawal symptoms like seizures can be deadly.

How Long Does Xanax Detox Take?

Recovery time depends on various factors, but generally, it can take around 2 to 4 weeks. People suffering from protracted withdrawal can experience symptoms for many months.

A woman finds support and recovery from Xanax withdrawal symptoms through treatment and recovery

Conclusion: Medical Care Helps You Deal With Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax withdrawal symptoms will cause different levels of discomfort based on the length of use and intake. However, it’s necessary for the body to rid itself of alprazolam and its dependence on it.

Given its short half-life particularly in comparison to other benzodiazepines, you can expect withdrawal symptoms to set in more quickly compared to other drugs. As with most other substance abuse detoxification treatments, you should always seek medical advice and supervision when trying to discontinue taking it.

Doing otherwise can have fatal consequences. Medical care will help you detoxify in a safer environment while also receiving help for easing some of the discomfort caused by withdrawal. You should also plan to receive ongoing support in the form of group or individual therapy after completing treatment. The road to recovery and a Xanax-free life won’t be easy but is well worth fighting for! Call or contact us now at Divine Detox and we’ll help you get the best tools and assistance available to prepare yourself for the journey of recovery.

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