Xanax, also known by the generic name Alprazolam, is a widely prescribed benzodiazepine. 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 that’s used to treat other related mental health disorders. It’s used to treat:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic attacks
- Panic disorder
- Other anxiety disorders
- Seizure 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.
Xanax is available in both pill and liquid form and is taken orally. It’s a Schedule IV Controlled Substance, meaning it has a lower potential for abuse than other drugs in its class but can still lead to physical or psychological dependence.
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 reduce anxiety symptoms. Xanax also works to calm and slow brain activity, which can also serve to reduce stress and anxiety.
However, because it is a central nervous system depressant, Xanax can also cause drowsiness and slowed reflexes. These effects are why it is important only to take Xanax as prescribed by a doctor and not abuse the drug.
Xanax Addiction and Abuse
Those who don’t have anxiety disorders use this drug to feel happy and calm. It’s also quite common that users will 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 to feel the desired results.
You’ll also 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 to simply feel normal.
Studies also support the fact that Xanax causes physiological dependence, even after only short-term use. In one study, researchers found that people who took Xanax for six weeks were more likely to experience benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms than those who didn’t take the drug at all.
Signs of Xanax Addiction
Common signs of Xanax addiction include:
- Taking the drug more often or in higher doses than prescribed
- Not being able to stick to set dosages and schedules
- Taking Xanax without a prescription
- Building up a tolerance to the drug’s effects
- Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when you try to quit
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or a loved one, it’s important to seek an addiction treatment program as soon as possible. Continuing to abuse Xanax can lead to serious, life-threatening consequences.
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.
Xanax can cause serious, intense withdrawal symptoms. This is because of how Xanax is designed as it acts fast and then wears off quickly. Xanax is a much stronger benzodiazepine than both Klonopin and Valium. For this reason, Xanax causes more severe withdrawal symptoms than other similar drugs.
This also makes Xanax withdrawal physically and mentally a tough process. Even short-term users and users who follow their prescription may experience Xanax withdrawal symptoms. If you’ve been taking Xanax for a long time or at higher doses (or both) you can expect to experience more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Xanax withdrawal begins as early as 6 hours after last taking the medication and symptoms can last as long as a few weeks. Some research has indicated that if Xanax abuse occurs for 6 months or longer that roughly 40% of people experience serious withdrawal symptoms when stop taking it.
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.
The risk of relapse is highest during the first 48 hours of quitting Xanax. This is because individuals are just beginning to feel the initial symptoms which are quite uncomfortable.
Common symptoms include fatigue and mood swings. More severe symptoms include panic attacks and rebound anxiety.
This stage is referred to as early withdrawal and typically users begin to feel withdrawal symptoms between six to twelve hours after their last dose. However, if your experiencing benzodiazepine withdrawal from a different substance (like Klolonopin) it may take longer before withdrawal symptoms begin.
During this time, Xanax withdrawal symptoms will increase and the user will begin to feel additional symptoms including nausea, muscle spasms, sweating, and even tremors.
Without the help of a medical detox protocol this is highly uncomfortable and even with one, people typically also lose weight as a result of the acute symptoms.
Once people can get through the first week of Xanax withdrawal they’ve pretty much broken the physical dependence associated with Xanax abuse. However, many people still suffer from emotional symptoms like depression and anxiety.
During late withdrawal, the body and brain are realigning on how to function appropriately without Xanax. Brain chemicals will start to rebalance and over time normal functioning will occur.
This is also sometimes referred to as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). Protracted withdrawal symptoms are those that can persist for several months and even years after quitting Xanax. This typically occurs as the effects of Xanax on the brain have altered neuroreceptors and other areas of the central nervous system. These symptoms can include anxiety, poor memory, PTSD, and depression.
After you take your last dose of Xanax, expect to experience some or all of the following:
- Panic Attacks
- Intense drug cravings
- Blurred vision
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle pain
- Mood swings
- Poor cognitive function
- Weight loss
- Hypersensitive to sounds, lights, or touches
Oftentimes, the severity of your symptoms will depend on the length and severity of your addiction. Also, if you were taking Xanax for a mental health disorder, those symptoms will typically return to be more extreme than previously. Make sure to discuss with your doctor or addiction treatment specialist any mental health conditions you’ve been previously treated for.
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. However, hallucinations, delirium, and panic attacks can be equally as serious. A medical detox program can greatly minimize, and even eliminate the chances of more dangerous symptoms occurring.
Medical Detox for Substance Use Disorder
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 benzo 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.
Addiction Treatment Programs
At Sana Lake, we offer both inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment facilities for anyone suffering from substance abuse. Our team of experts will be with you every step of the way in your treatment process with a fully customized program to address your specific needs.
After you’ve completed the detoxification process, you may choose to stay at our inpatient rehab facility where you’ll receive around-the-clock care and support from our staff. This can be helpful if you’re still suffering from symptoms of Xanax withdrawal. Our team can offer prescribed medications to help with some of the more long-standing symptoms.
If you prefer to continue living at home while receiving treatment, we also offer outpatient therapy services. We’ll work with you to create a customized treatment plan that fits your unique needs and schedule. Outpatient programs are best suited to those members who were not suffering from severe benzodiazepine dependence and can manage any rebound symptoms without needing medical assistance.
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.