Xanax is the brand name drug for alprazolam — a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety disorders and panic disorder. Xanax is extremely habit-forming and can lead to physical dependence when used for longer than a few weeks. Many people who use Xanax find it difficult to stop using the drug after this point because it causes a variety of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Stopping Xanax abruptly can also be life-threatening without proper management.
If you need help withdrawing from Xanax, please understand you can be safely treated at an addiction treatment center that offers benzodiazepine detox services. Continue reading to learn more about Xanax withdrawal and treatments.
What Is Xanax Withdrawal?
Xanax withdrawal refers to the set of symptoms a person experiences when they suddenly stop using Xanax after becoming physically dependent on it. The World Health Organization reports that Xanax withdrawal symptoms typically begin one to two days after the last dose and continue for at least two to four weeks.
Xanax withdrawal affects each person differently, as symptoms and their severity levels will vary. For example, those who used Xanax for only a few weeks may experience a few minor symptoms than those who were using Xanax in high doses for several months. Regardless of how long a person has been using Xanax, the safest way to withdraw from this medication is under medical supervision at an addiction treatment center.
What Are Symptoms of Xanax Withdrawal?
Xanax withdrawal produces a wide range of symptoms. Some people may experience only a few symptoms, while others may experience many.
Here are potential symptoms of Xanax withdrawal, according to the National Library of Medicine:
- Uncontrollable shaking of a part of your body
- Blurred vision
- Increased sensitivity to light or noise
- Change in sense of smell
- Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep)
- Poor concentration and memory
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Irritability and mood swings
- Aggressive behavior
- Muscle twitching or cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Sensations of pain, burning, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
The sudden discontinuation of Xanax can also cause rebound anxiety, which is far more severe than the anxiety people may have experienced before treatment with Xanax. In a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, researchers found that 27% of a group of patients with panic disorder experienced rebound anxiety despite gradually tapering off Xanax over a four-week period.
Though Xanax withdrawal may be difficult, it’s important to keep in mind that symptoms are temporary and do not last forever. The benefits of making it through Xanax withdrawal far outweigh the consequences of continuing to use these drugs and staying addicted or physically dependent on them.
Who Is Affected by Xanax Withdrawal?
Xanax withdrawal is likely to affect anyone who uses these drugs for longer than a few weeks and anyone who is physically dependent on this drug. In the aforementioned study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, researchers found that one week of alprazolam use caused withdrawal symptoms in mice. They also found that alprazolam generally causes more severe withdrawal symptoms than those produced by other benzodiazepines.
Xanax is a widely prescribed medication in the United States, where more than 48 million prescriptions were written and dispensed for it in 2013. Many people who become physically dependent on Xanax use this drug for legitimate medical purposes. Xanax withdrawal can affect any Xanax user and doesn’t just affect those who may choose to misuse this drug for euphoria and other recreational purposes.
What Is the Scope of Xanax Misuse?
Researchers report that alprazolam is the second most common prescription medication and the most common benzodiazepine to be involved in drug misuse-related visits to emergency department rooms. Another report shows that patients who suffer drug poisonings related to alprazolam stay in the hospital for an average of 19 hours, which is 1.27 times longer than hospital stays for poisonings related to other benzodiazepines.
In a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Psychiatric Services, researchers found that among the 30.6 million adults in the United States who used benzodiazepines in 2016, 5.3 million misused them. People between the ages of 18 and 25 had the highest benzodiazepine misuse rate at 5.2%, while those aged 65 years and older had the lowest misuse rate at 0.6%.
Why Is Xanax Withdrawal Dangerous?
Seizures are one of the most serious and dangerous risks associated with Xanax withdrawal. According to a study in Australian Prescriber, stopping any benzodiazepine abruptly after one to six months of use can cause life-threatening seizures. The study also mentions that alprazolam tends to have higher rates of death and toxicity in overdose than other benzodiazepines.
Sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite are other Xanax withdrawal symptoms that increase the risk of serious complications such as dehydration and malnutrition. Blurred vision and insomnia may increase the risk for accidents, while rebound anxiety and depression can result in long-term mental illness.
Xanax interacts with a number of brain receptors and chemicals to produce its sedative, relaxing effects. Over time with repeated Xanax use, the brain and body eventually adapt to the presence of the drug. When Xanax is suddenly discontinued, withdrawal symptoms are the brain and body’s way of rebalancing and functioning properly after being dependent on the drug.
How Can Xanax Withdrawal Be Treated?
Xanax withdrawal is typically treated using a gradual taper. Tapering is when a doctor reduces the dosage of a drug gradually over time until the patient can completely stop using the drug. Tapering slowly off Xanax helps minimize symptoms so patients can feel more comfortable during withdrawal and also face a reduced risk of complications like seizures.
Xanax withdrawal can be treated by a general physician or at an addiction treatment center with medical detox. The advantage of receiving medical detox at an addiction treatment center is the opportunity to be treated by medical professionals who specialize in drug dependence and addiction. A drug rehab center can also help people safely withdraw from alcohol and other drugs if they use Xanax with other substances.
At a drug rehab center, Xanax withdrawal can be treated in an inpatient, residential, or outpatient setting. An inpatient hospital-like setting is ideal for those who have a severe addiction to Xanax or who have another serious medical condition that requires them to be carefully monitored as they taper off Xanax. A residential setting offers Xanax detox in a relaxing, home-like environment, while outpatient treatment helps patients withdraw from Xanax while continuing to go to work and manage their everyday lives.
How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Take?
The length of Xanax tapering and withdrawal will vary from one patient to the next based on factors including the starting dose, risk of relapse, and how well the patient tolerates the tapering schedule and dosage. The patient’s metabolism, medical history, and physical health status are other factors that may play into the length of Xanax withdrawal. The average length of Xanax withdrawal is two to four weeks, though it may take longer for some patients.
Before Xanax doses are tapered, Xanax is replaced with another benzodiazepine called diazepam. Diazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine that stays in the body for a longer period than Xanax and is found to be more tolerable, less toxic, and efficient at reducing withdrawal symptoms.
A 0.5 mg dose of alprazolam is equivalent to 5 mg of diazepam. Therefore, a person taking 1 mg of alprazolam will have their daily dose replaced with 10 mg of diazepam. Then, a doctor will gradually reduce the diazepam dosage weekly, monthly, or as appropriate to manage withdrawal symptoms and help the patient achieve abstinence.
Where Can I Find Xanax Detox?
Xanax detox is available at Dana Point Rehab Campus. Medical detox is always the first stage of treatment for substance use disorders before counseling and behavioral therapy. The goal of Xanax detox is to stabilize patients, manage and reduce withdrawal symptoms, and help them recover from drug dependency.
Some addiction treatment centers only offer detox services, while others may only offer behavioral therapies for addiction. The best way to ensure a full recovery from Xanax abuse is to receive treatment from a rehab center that offers both medical detox and behavioral therapies. Medical detox treats physical drug dependency, while behavioral therapies help patients change harmful behaviors and mindsets related to psychological addiction.
Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that anxiety and depression are common Xanax withdrawal symptoms. Addiction treatment centers like Dana Point Rehab Campus also offer dual diagnosis therapy to treat patients recovering from both a drug use disorder and a comorbid mental health disorder. If you have anxiety and depression, you can be treated for both these conditions at the same time as Xanax abuse.
If you or someone you care about needs help withdrawing from Xanax, give Dana Point Rehab Campus a call with any questions.