xanax withdrawal

The Complete List of Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax, also known by the generic name Alprazolam, is a widely prescribed benzodiazepine.

In fact, it is the most widely prescribed psychiatric drug in the United States with about one prescription written every second.

That means that Xanax is widely available and easily attainable for many. While it does have legitimate uses, it’s highly addictive and often abused.

If you or a loved one became addicted to Xanax or you noticed yourself or them abusing your prescription, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug.

In this post, we’re going to go over all of the Xanax withdrawal symptoms that you can, and likely will, experience so you can know what to expect.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax (or alprazolam) is an anti-anxiety medication. It’s used to treat:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic attacks
  • Panic disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Other anxiety disorders.

Xanax is a type of benzodiazepine, meaning it’s in the same family as Valium, Estazolam, and Restoril. It’s also known as several other slang names including Zannies, Zanbars, blue footballs, benzos, handlebars, bars, and Upjohn.

How Does Xanax Work?

Xanax and other benzodiazepines work by stimulating the production of a neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA is responsible for helping us feel calm and relaxed.

When you have an anxiety disorder, you may not be regulating GABA properly, which is why Xanax can help: it stimulates the production of GABA to help mitigate feelings of anxiety and reducing anxiety symptoms.

Xanax also works to calm and slow brain activity, which can also serve to reduce stress and anxiety.

Xanax Addiction and Abuse

Those who don’t have anxiety disorders use this drug in order to feel happy and calm. It’s also quite common to combine Xanax with other drug use like alcohol and cocaine.

The effects of Xanax on the brain are usually short-lived. You feel the effects quickly, but you also lose those effects quickly.

The body will also develop a tolerance to the drug, meaning that each time you take Xanax, you’ll need to take more to feel the desired effects. Some Xanax addicts report needing to take 30 pills per day in order to feel the desired effects.

You’ll also start to become dependent on the drug to help you feel relaxed or calm. The brain will start to produce GABA only when you take the drug, which also leads to users needing more and more Xanax in order to simply feel normal.

Studies also support the fact that Xanax is physiologically addictive, even after only short-term use.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax is often prescribed for short-term use only because of its highly addictive nature.

When people take it for longer than recommended (or without a prescription), their chance of developing a physical dependence on the drug is much higher, which makes sense now that you know about how the drug affects the brain.

This also makes withdrawal from the drug physically and mentally tough process. Even short-term users and users who follow their prescription may experience Xanax withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal Timeline

You can experience symptoms as early as 6 hours after your last dose. They will begin to get worse over time and peak in their intensity around 48 hours after your last dose.

Most of your withdrawal symptoms will be gone after 4 to 5 days. However, Xanax can permanently affect the brain, especially if you were a heavy and long-time user. 

Your brain will need time to heal and time to relearn how to function normally without the drug. If you began taking Xanax as a treatment for anxiety, expect your condition to feel worse or more intense after you stop taking Xanax.

Other long term effects that can be lifelong include psychosis, permanent cognitive damage, memory loss, and dementia.

You may also experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) that can also lead to withdrawal symptoms for months or years after quitting. With PAWS, you can experience classic withdrawal symptoms, drug cravings, permanent changes in mood, depression, social issues, and more.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

After you take your last dose of Xanax, expect to experience some or all of the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Blurred vision
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Delerium
  • Hallucinations

Often times, the severity of your symptoms will depend on the length and severity of your addiction.

Dangerous Symptoms of Xanax Withdrawal

The most dangerous symptom of Xanax withdrawal is the increased heart rate and seizures. Both of these can lead to serious injury and/or death. 

Treatment Options

When detoxing from Xanax, it’s important to taper your use instead of going “cold turkey.” Abruptly stopping Xanax use increases your risk of fatal withdrawal symptoms, and it can be extremely harmful to your health.

Tapering your Xanax use can also mitigate the withdrawal symptoms you feel with some patients saying they don’t experience withdrawal at all when they taper their use.

While you can detox from this drug on your own, the safest method is to be under a doctor’s supervision or in a treatment program. This will ensure that you’re getting proper nutrition and that any serious and uncomfortable side effects can be mitigated. 

It can also inhibit you from giving in to the drug cravings you’ll experience during withdrawal, which can increase your chance of successfully quitting.

Don’t Go Through Withdrawal Alone

Withdrawal from any drug, but perhaps Xanax withdrawal especially, is painful mentally and physically. While you can choose to detox on your own, there are numerous resources out there that can make the entire process safer and more comfortable.

Contact us to learn about your treatment and detox options.

References:

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.

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