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Xanax Withdrawal

Xanax is commonly prescribed as a psychiatric medication in the United States with the sole purpose of treating anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax is known as a mind-altering drug that affects the lifestyle and behaviors of someone that abuses it. It can be an extremely dangerous medication even when used as prescribed.

Those who abuse Xanax have a high likelihood of becoming addicted, and it is one of the most abused sedatives available on the market. Most people abuse Xanax to get high, while others self-medicate for an undiagnosed mental health disorder.

Xanax is a benzodiazepine, which suppresses our central nervous system (CNS) and calms users’ nerves. Doctors should not prescribe the medication as a long-term treatment option because it is attributed to abuse and has high addiction potential. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes Xanax as the most abused prescription sedatives in those 12 years of age or older.

The odds someone becomes addicted to Xanax are much higher once they’ve developed a tolerance for the medication. Long-term usage of Xanax can seriously damage our lungs and heart, which may come as a shock to most who have used the drug. Xanax can also cause mental confusion, where people lose track of several days at a time during a binge.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax, which also goes by alprazolam, is among the most popular prescription drugs in the world. In 2011, Xanax was prescribed more than only ten other medications in the world, according to CBS News. Xanax is mostly used in the management of panic disorders and anxiety. It is mostly abused for its sedative effects.

As we’ve described several times, Xanax is an addictive medication that should be used as prescribed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration mentions that Xanax use can lead to dependence, which can then lead to addiction. Those using high doses for more than a month at a time are more prone to developing a substance use disorder.

Our body produces GABA to cope with stress and fall asleep, but when Xanax is mixed into the equation, it will start to influence GABA’s production. Our brain will eventually stop producing enough on its own without the presence of the depressant drug. Once the mind becomes dependent on Xanax, withdrawal symptoms are likely as the brain struggles to regain order. Some of these symptoms, however, can be life-threatening. 

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What Are Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms?

Xanax withdrawal is different than other drugs because the symptoms are both psychological and physical. They are capable of effects on our body and mental health. The most common symptoms you can expect during this period include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Appetite loss
  • Memory problems
  • Concentration problems and an inability to pay attention
  • Tremors
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle tension
  • Grand Mal Seizures

The severity of these symptoms and how long they last will depend on how long someone has abused Xanax, how much was used, and if the medication is used in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol. 

What Are the Stages in the Xanax Withdrawal Timeline?

As you progress through the stages of Xanax withdrawal, you may experience a host of symptoms that range from moderate to severe. Let’s take a look at a generalized timeline so that you get an idea of what to expect.

First Four Weeks

The withdrawal symptoms may be more than just uncomfortable – they can also be dangerous. The symptoms will peak around days three and four, and you may develop seizures during this period. It is highly recommended that you enter into medical detoxification so that you are supervised by trained medical staff. Twenty-four-hour medical care is crucial if you have used Xanax for an extended length of time. 

You should also expect:

  • Mood swings
  • Sleep problems
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures

Up to Four Weeks

Depending on the severity of your addiction, the symptoms we described above can last up to four weeks or longer. You may experience these symptoms for up to four weeks or more. These are some of the lingering symptoms that severe Xanax users should expect:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Cravings for Xanax
  • Irritability

Once you’ve reached the 30-day mark, there should be no traces of Xanax remaining in your system. You should start to feel better, but you may continue to experience panic attacks or anxiety.

Why Should I Detox?

Stopping Xanax use cold-turkey is not just challenging, but it can end your life. Some individuals may enter into a coma from Xanax withdrawal when they suddenly stop using the medication.

Detox will allow someone in this period of their lives to restabilize their chemical levels in the central nervous system.

Medical staff will oversee the process of tapering and make sure you are safe throughout your stay. 

Person awake at night in bed next to her alarm clock

What Is the Next Treatment Step?

Ongoing treatment after your initial detox period is crucial to your long-term recovery. A detox program may offer you the tools to stop using drugs, but a residential or outpatient treatment center can help build the tools to sustain that sobriety. A recovery program will include therapy that reduces the risk of relapse and help manage your drug cravings. Your plan must be tailored to your specific needs to maximize your chances for a full recovery. All of these steps are crucial for long-term recovery from Xanax.

Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "How many people suffer adverse health consequences from abusing prescription drugs?" NIDA. 15 Feb. 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs/trends-in-prescription-drug-abuse/how-many-people-suffer-adverse-health-cons

Samhsa.gov. (2019). Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs | SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. [online] Available at: from https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/atod

Lydiard, R. B. (2003). The role of GABA in anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12662130

How the FDA Is Sleeping Through the Xanax Epidemic. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-the-fda-is-sleeping-through-the-xanax-epidemic/

Archives.drugabuse.gov. (2019). Well-Known Mechanism Underlies Benzodiazepines' Addictive Properties. [online] Available at: from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2012/04/well-known-mechanism-underlies-benzodiazepines-addictive-properties

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