Xanax is a depressant that slows down the central nervous system to prevent feelings of panic and anxiety. Doctors use this drug to treat generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorders. Xanax is the brand name for a generic drug called alprazolam.1
Xanax has addictive properties. Even when taken according to prescription and when taken under the direction of a physician, this medication can be very addictive. Some people are more at risk for forming an addiction to Xanax than others. Length of time taken, dosage amount, predisposition to forming an addiction and other medications being taken at the same time as Xanax can all be factors that influence whether you will become addicted when taking this drug. This medication also has a history of being used recreationally, without the supervision of a physician. Recreational use of Xanax is very dangerous.
If you have become addicted to Xanax, you may need help from a medical professional in order to safely treat your addiction. Sudden and unassisted drug withdrawal (“cold turkey”) could be medically dangerous and may result in bodily harm or even death.
Withdrawing from Xanax in a medically-assisted setting is important, especially if you have a severe addiction and are high-risk for other reasons (such as a history of seizure disorder).2 Even if you are able to withdraw in a short-term basis from Xanax, detoxification is just one step in a long line of steps that many people must take when trying to withdraw from an addictive drug.
People who try to withdraw from Xanax without help from a medical professional are unlikely to be able to remain off Xanax, or may fall back on other drugs later. Cravings can be difficult to resist for weeks or months after drug use is discontinued.6
What are the Symptoms of Withdrawal?
Once the body becomes addicted to Xanax, it begins to rely on the drug to help regulate the central nervous system. Discontinuation of the drug can cause systems in the body to rebound. When this happens, the response from the body may be exaggerated and extreme. It is this response from the body that makes withdrawal so dangerous and difficult.
Symptoms of Withdrawal:2
- Dizziness and unsteadiness
- Blurry vision and other visual disturbances
- Mental disorientation
- Seizures (grand mal)
- Muscle stiffness and aches
- Panic attacks
- Inability to focus
Anyone who takes Xanax for longer than 3 or 4 weeks is likely to experience at least some of these symptoms of withdrawal, especially if they decide to go through detoxification on their own. One of the ways to make withdrawal easier is to get medical assistance during and after the detoxification process.2
Another way to protect yourself from the withdrawal process is to limit the amount of time that you spend taking Xanax. People who take Xanax for only one or two weeks are less likely to become addicted and thus less likely to experience symptoms of withdrawal. If you have been taking Xanax for longer than two weeks, and wish to discontinue usage of this drug, talk to your physician or seek help from an addiction center. If you are severely addicted or are in a high-risk category for difficult withdrawal, get help from an inpatient service. 2
What Is Xanax?
Xanax is one of the most popular medications in the Benzodiazepines class of prescription drugs, and in 2011, it was the 11th most prescribed drug in the United States.4 Xanax is a medication that is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Its use causes an increased release of dopamine in the brain. Recreational use of Xanax can lead to feelings of peaceful calm and even sedation.
Xanax is highly addictive. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that Xanax can be especially dangerous for individuals who are prone to addiction.5 In fact, the drug can be psychologically addicting as well as physically addicting. This addictive quality can be life-threatening. Anyone taking Xanax under the care of their doctor should be straightforward about other conditions they have and medications they are taking to ensure that the drug is used safely. Only take as much of this medication as your physician prescribes, and follow all medical advice when taking this medication. Working with your doctor can help ensure that you’ll be safe when taking Xanax.
Side Effects of Xanax
Xanax is known for having many side effects that are not desirable or intended. If you are taking Xanax, consult with your doctor if you experience any of the following:1
- Lack of coordination, clumsiness
- Changes in speech patterns
- Feelings of depression and emptiness
- Poor appetite
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle weakness
The symptoms above are the more common symptoms, but there are uncommon symptoms as well, including:
- Blurry vision
- Behavioral changes
- Abdominal pain
- Body aches
- Dark urine
- Difficulty passing urine
- Labored breathing
- Dry mouth
- Ear congestion
- Inability to move the eyes
- Feelings of discomfort
- Feeling warm
- Loss of bladder control
- Nasal congestion
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of voice
- Nasal congestion
- Muscle cramping
- Runny nose
- Sense of detachment from the body
- Sore throat
- Swollen joints
- Poor balance
- Bad breath
- Strange facial expressions
- Deep sleep
- Sleeping for a long time
- Yellowing of eyes or skin
- Vomiting blood
Are There Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms of Xanax?
Many of the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal are more psychological than physical. The effect of Xanax withdrawal on a patient’s mental and emotional state can be just as disturbing as the effect on a patient’s physical state.1 The typical emotional response from a patient who is withdrawing from Xanax includes anxiety and panic, feelings of suicide, depression and paranoia. Many people who suffer from Xanax withdrawal symptoms may start to experience hallucination, difficulty concentrating, nightmares, mood swings, irritability and difficulty controlling their own behaviors.
What is Xanax Withdrawal Timeline?
Xanax is short-acting. With an average half-life of 11 hours1, withdrawal symptoms can begin just hours or up to two days after the last dose. Symptoms of withdrawal may last for several weeks. However, some symptoms may continue for several weeks or months if follow up treatment is not offered or continued after time spent in the addiction treatment center.
In fact, up to about 25% of patients with Xanax addiction may experience withdrawal symptoms for a year or more after the last time they take the drug. This problem, known as protracted withdrawal, can have a lasting impact on the life of a person suffering from Xanax addiction. Without proper help from a medical professional, this period of prolonged withdrawal can cause problems like relapse and difficulty succeeding drug-free.6
Which Factors Affect Withdrawal?
Everyone experiences withdrawal from Xanax differently. When you hit your peak withdrawal, the difficulties you experience during withdrawal and your withdrawal timeline depends on a host of factors. Your experience depends on how you ingested the Xanax, whether a Xanax was taken with a combination of other drugs and alcohol, how long you’ve been using Xanax, how old you were when you first ingested Xanax, underlying conditions you might have, and so on.
Social and psychological factors can play a role in Xanax addiction and withdrawal as well. People who have panic and anxiety disorders, people who have a family history of addiction and people who have a personal history of addiction all may experience more serious withdrawal symptoms.
Xanax Detox Centers Help Patients Suffering From Addiction
Withdrawal from Xanax and other benzodiazepines is best done in the safety of an addiction center staffed with medical professionals, nurses and mental health professionals. Detox centers provide 24 hour supervision and monitoring for patients suffering from Xanax addiction and withdrawal.
Withdrawal from a severe addiction always has risks, but in the safety of an addiction facility, with slow and controlled tapering of drug usage, and with the help of substitute drugs to control cravings and side effects, withdrawal becomes less risky overall. In this environment, withdrawal also has a higher chance of success. In a drug addiction center, it’s easier for people suffering from addiction to adjust to the withdrawal.
In fact, one of the ways that medical professionals help patients suffering from Xanax addiction is to keep a small amount of benzodiazepines in the patient’s system until they’re fully weaned off the drug. Anticonvulsants and other drugs can be used to help patients control symptoms that they experience during withdrawal. In these settings, patients also benefit from therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy to help them develop more positive feelings overall.2
One of the things that experts have learned since they started helping people withdraw from drugs is that addiction is complicated and different people have different needs. Everyone benefits from a customized drug addiction treatment that meets their needs and addresses the underlying issues that contribute to their addiction.3
Medically assisted detoxification is just the very beginning stage of treatment. Once the detoxification is complete, many patients have a long road to walk until they can be fully independent without Xanax. Counseling is a standard part of the behavioral therapies that help people during their withdrawal, because counseling can help patients address any mental disorders and struggles that they face after they’ve stopped taking Xanax.3
It’s important to remember that treatment programs don’t have to be voluntary to be effective. The best treatment programs provide round the clock supervision and help for the first several weeks while the program is taking place, and then provide long-term follow up in the months and years following.
Programs that provide a range of assistance, including group therapies, one-on-one counseling, medically assisted detox and peer interaction are often far more effective than trying to go through detox on your own. If you’re looking for a program to help you with your withdrawal, it’s important to shop around and consider factors such as:
- Reputation within the drug treatment community. Not all drug treatment facilities are created equal. Look for facilities with a high rate of success and proper certifications and accreditations.
- Aftercare services. Aftercare services are one of the distinguishing features of any drug addiction recovery program. Without these services, many patients struggle to stay in recovery.
- Customization. Since not every addiction is the same, it’s important to work with an addiction recovery facility that offers a range of services including outpatient, residential, a range of therapies, 12-step recovery, psycho-educational groups and psychotherapy groups and more.
Seeking Xanax Addiction Treatment? Contact Harmony Place Today
Most people need help during their recovery. Don’t grapple with addiction on your own. Whether you or someone you love is struggling with Xanax addiction, Harmony Place offers customizable inpatient and outpatient treatment. To learn more about how Harmony Place can help you during your recovery, contact us for a consultation.
1Mayo Clinic. Alprazolam (Oral Route).
2Jonathan Brett, Staff specialist1 and Bridin Murnion, Senior staff specialist (2015). Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence. Australian Prescriber, 38(5), 152–155.
3National Institute on Drug Abuse. Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.
4Jim Edwards (2011). How the FDA Is Sleeping Through the Xanax Epidemic. CBS News.
5U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Xanax.
6Jennifer Berry (2020). How Long Does Xanax Last? Medical News Today.