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Guide to Xanax Withdrawal

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

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Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Xanax withdrawal occurs when you abruptly stop taking a benzodiazepine like Xanax.

It is not only inadvisable to suddenly stop taking Xanax, but it’s also potentially deadly.

Unfortunately, Xanax is the most commonly prescribed of all psycho-pharmaceutical drugs, and it’s the eleventh-most prescribed medication in the US. While benzos are remarkably efficient when used to treat the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders short-term, they are also strongly addictive.

So, will millions of people filling prescriptions for Xanax and many of these people going on to become dependent on the medication.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms vary significantly in intensity. Symptoms can last from just a few days to months and even years in the most chronic cases.

If you are prescribed Xanax or any other drug from the benzo family, you should not typically use the medication for more than one month. Only take Xanax as directed.

When it’s time to stop using this medication, it pays to have a thorough understanding of what’s in store when you put the pills away and know how to get Xanax treatment if you need it.

Signs of Xanax Withdrawal

Whether you’re just finishing up a course of Xanax used in line with your doctor’s guidance, or you have been abusing benzodiazepines, you should under no circumstances suddenly discontinue use.

You should speak with your healthcare provider about tapering your Xanax dosage so you can withdraw as comfortably and safely as possible while minimizing the chance of the Xanax withdrawal symptoms below.

When you stop taking Xanax, withdrawal occurs over three possible phases. While most people will experience the first two of these phases, not everyone suffers from protracted Xanax withdrawal.

These phases are as follows:

  1. Immediate withdrawal
  2. Acute withdrawal
  3. Protracted withdrawal

1) Immediate withdrawal

The immediate Xanax withdrawal symptoms are often called rebound symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms are named for the way they mirror the same symptoms the drug was treating, anxiety for instance.

Early withdrawal symptoms begin within hours of the last Xanax dose. Withdrawal occurs so quickly because Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine.

The employment of drug substitution or drug tapering can help soothe some of the more aggressive early Xanax withdrawal symptoms.

2) Acute withdrawal

Acute Xanax withdrawal begins immediately following the above phase, with symptoms lasting from a few days to a week.

In some cases, acute withdrawal lingers for months.

Close medical monitoring is advisable during this challenging phase of benzo withdrawal.

3) Protracted withdrawal

In most cases, symptoms will fade once acute withdrawal is complete.

The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology estimates that between 10% and 25% of those using benzos will experience withdrawal lasting for a year or more.

The symptoms of protracted benzo withdrawal include:

  • Depression
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Acute anxiety
  • Lowered libido
  • Impaired focus

These post-acute Xanax withdrawal symptoms can seriously disrupt your overall quality of life and become quite distressing.

The symptoms you can expect to encounter when you stop taking Xanax are physical as well as psychological. In common with most addictions, the psychological aspect is often the trickiest to negotiate.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

These are some of the most commonly reported Xanax withdrawal symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Hyperventilation
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Painful teeth
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle aches
  • Tense jaw
  • Loss of appetite
  • Altered sense of smell
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Tingling legs or arms
  • Numb fingers
  • Tremors
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hypertension
  • Cramps
  • Raised temperature and blood pressure
  • Rapidly rising heart rate
  • Grand mal seizures

As a benzodiazepine, Xanax works on areas in your brain that regulate mood, motivation, and reward. If you find yourself abusing Xanax to the extent that dependence or addiction sets in, these areas in your brain undergo permanent changes to structure and functioning.

When you stop using Xanax, it takes your brain some time to recalibrate, and you can expect to experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Detachment
  • Problems with focus
  • Restlessness
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Suicidal thoughts

Rarely, Xanax withdrawal symptoms can manifest two years after you stop using the medication. This phenomenon is classified as PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome).

Symptoms present for 18 to 24 months after Xanax detox. These symptoms then become less severe and less frequent as treatment continues.

The most common symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Persistent anxiety
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Aches and pains
  • Difficulty performing complex tasks
  • Poor concentration
  • Sexual problems
  • Depression

Xanax Withdrawal Seizures

Some people undergoing untreated Xanax withdrawal experience seizures.

While most other benzo withdrawal symptoms are merely uncomfortable, seizures can be complicated and possibly even life-threatening.

If you have a history of complications withdrawing from substances, you should be on heightened alert when withdrawing from Xanax. Under no circumstances attempt to quit abruptly at home.

Anyone with any past diagnosis of a serious mental illness – PTSD, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, or depression, for instance – should exercise extreme caution when withdrawing from Xanax.

For seniors and anyone struggling with cognitive decline, Xanax withdrawal calls for close medical supervision and monitoring.

Sometimes, removing Xanax from the equation results in an unpredictable resurgence of various dormant symptoms, one more reason underscoring the importance of close medical supervision.

Xanax Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline of these withdrawal symptoms, as well as the severity of those symptoms, depends on the following variables:

  • How long you have using Xanax
  • Your Xanax dosage
  • Whether or not you have been misusing a prescription
  • Whether you have been using Xanax without a prescription, or using someone else’s prescription
  • If you are abusing alcohol or any other substances
  • Any underlying health conditions

6 to 12 hours after last use

The short half-life of Xanax means the effects wear off and withdrawal can commence after as little as 6 hours.

With Xanax leaving your body, you can expect to experience irritability and anxiety that often becomes more pronounced throughout the withdrawal process.

Days 1 to 4 of Xanax withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms are most intense during the first few days.

During this phase of withdrawal, insomnia and rebound symptoms of anxiety peak. You can also expect to encounter common side effects like sweating, shaking, and muscle pain.

After the fourth day, most symptoms start subsiding.

Days 7 to 14 of Xanax withdrawal

Although Xanax withdrawal symptoms can last for up to two weeks – sometimes more as outlined above – in most cases, symptoms fade after a week.

The worst phase of withdrawal is complete, and the severity of any lingering symptoms should reduce in intensity.

Day 15 of Xanax withdrawal onwards

If you have any persistent symptoms by this stage of Xanax withdrawal, they should be mild and manageable.

How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Last?

While rapid benzo detox is possible, Xanax withdrawal normally unfolds over the time frame above.

Withdrawal should always take place with close medical liaison. You should not underestimate the ability of Xanax to trigger serious adverse outcomes, potentially even fatal.

The usual approach to Xanax withdrawal is to initiate a gradual tapering of dosage. As you very slowly reduce the amount of Xanax you’re taking, sometimes taking a non-benzo substitute, you should find most of the more uncomfortable symptoms are to some extent alleviated.

What can you do if you’re ready to stop using benzodiazepines like Xanax, then.

Xanax Rehab at Renaissance Recovery

The majority of clients we see here at Renaissance Recovery Center respond well to a tapered reduction in Xanax dosage. Properly managed, this can lead to long-term abstinence.

In some cases, total abstinence is impractical. Here, drug substitution and a maintenance dose of Xanax can be the most favorable outcome short of abstinence.

Counseling and psychotherapy can be useful applied to Xanax withdrawal and recovery. Psychotherapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can be useful for helping you keep your symptoms under control without relapsing and reaching for a Xanax prescription.

When the original symptoms you were taking benzos to treat rebound, some prescription medication can be effective. Buspirone can be beneficial for countering severe anxiety symptoms, while flumazenil can ease some withdrawal symptoms.

You’ll need to schedule an appointment with your prescribing doctor and then you can engage with our services here at Renaissance Recovery Center. With a combination of MAT (medication-assisted treatment), psychotherapy, and a tapered reduction, we can help you move away from a life reliant on Xanax.

Before closing, we are compelled to reiterate the advice above concerning the potential danger of withdrawing from Xanax unsupervised at home. While seizures and serious side effects of Xanax withdrawal are rare, it’s not worth taking the chance. By engaging with our evidence-based treatment programs, you’ll maximize your chances of sustained recovery.

To get started, speak with your doctor and then contact the friendly admissions team at 866.330.9449.866.330.9449

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Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country