One of the most prevalent anxiety medications, Xanax (alprazolam), is used to treat insomnia, panic attacks, and other mental health problems. While Xanax can be highly effective, it’s not intended for long-term use as it can create physical dependence, addiction, and consequently withdrawal. Although Xanax is a well-known addictive drug, young adults are the most likely to abuse it. In 2013, about 10.6% of young adults aged 18-25 met the criteria for Xanax addiction. Still, it remains one of the most commonly prescribed sedatives in the United States.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
No matter the degree of dependence, Xanax withdrawal is never easy. Like other benzodiazepines, withdrawal symptoms start with anxiety and muscle aches, eventually leading to cravings, mood swings, and depression. The severity of withdrawal will significantly depend on different factors, including how much of the drug was abused, for how long, and whether or not other substances were abused as well. Unlike other withdrawal symptoms, Xanax withdrawal syndrome can be life-threatening and complicated. This is particularly true for anyone who has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and panic disorder. Quitting Xanax without medical supervision can worsen cause symptoms from these conditions to rebound. Seizures are another common side effect of Xanax withdrawal. People with a history of underlying health issues, complicated withdrawal symptoms, and older adults must work closely with a doctor to manage their unique risks.
As a sedative and a central nervous system depressant, Xanax causes slowed heart rate, lowers body temperature, and lowers blood pressure. All of those reactions are meant to minimize the effects of anxiety and panic attacks. However, when someone abuses Xanax, the brain and body become used to these effects, and they slow these processes on a regular basis. When someone stops taking Xanax, they experience withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Blurred vision
- Muscle pain
- Numb fingers
- Sensitivity to light and sounds
- Loss of appetite
- Heart palpitations
- Nausea and vomiting
Xanax is known for altering the reward and mood regulation regions of the brain. When dependency happens, these parts of the brain are affected too. If someone starts taking Xanax to address a mental health problem, quitting the substance without supervision can rebound these symptoms, including paranoia, anxiety, and panic. People who quit Xanax cold turkey are likely to experience psychological withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Short-term memory loss
- Heightened senses
Xanax Withdrawal Timeline
The first symptoms of Xanax withdrawal typically appear within 8 to 12 hours of your last dose. Even people who don’t abuse Xanax might experience withdrawal symptoms if they fail to taper their dose. As a short-acting benzodiazepine, Xanax has an average half-life of 11 hours. Most shorter-acting benzos reach acute withdrawal symptoms about 6-8 hours after the last dose. The vast majority of symptoms will peak around the second day and resolve within 4-5 days. However, some people experience protracted or post-acute symptoms that can often last for weeks or even months. Without continued treatment and regular therapy, protracted withdrawal symptoms can lead to relapse.
- 6-12 Hours: withdrawal symptoms begin and mainly involve anxiety, insomnia, and headaches.
- 1-4 Days: mental health symptoms rebound, and people experience symptoms worse than before. Flu-like symptoms, nausea, and vomiting are also common. There’s also a higher risk of seizures at this stage.
- 5-14 Days: most symptoms are past their peak and will start to lessen. Anxiety and psychological symptoms are still very prevalent, but most physical symptoms subside. Stomach ache and other flu-like symptoms might arise during this stage.
- 2+ Weeks: most people report gastrointestinal symptoms and mood swings for weeks or months.
There’s a lot involved in withdrawal. The more dependent someone is on Xanax, the longer and more intense their withdrawal phase is. Factors such as age, weight, and even gender play a role in how severe someone will experience symptoms. High-stress levels, mental health issues, medical complications, and co-occurring substance use disorders can also make a difference in how long and intense withdrawal may last.
FAQs About Xanax Withdrawal
- What’s the average withdrawal timeline for benzos?
- How long does Xanax stay in your system?
- How do I know if someone is addicted to Xanax?
Withdrawal Treatment Plan
It’s common for people to try to detox or quit Xanax “cold turkey.’ However, at-home detox options are rarely safe, especially with sedatives. Medical detox at a rehab facility is often the safest option for people with a substance use disorder. Not only can a clinical team help you manage withdrawal symptoms, but they can provide emotional support and treatment recommendations to continue with rehab. Xanax detox often involves tapering down from the drug. In this case, a physician will manage the dose reduction or prescribe a lesser potent benzo. The goal here is to determine the severity of addiction rather than the drug to understand the treatment plan fully. Sometimes patients enter medication-assisted programs to help their withdrawal process and reduce their symptoms. However, these are on a case-by-case basis and depend on a myriad of factors.
Addiction Treatment Options
Detox is rarely enough to help someone achieve long-lasting recovery, particularly when they experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Most people need to seek help from a drug rehab facility to find the right treatment. Depending on the severity of their addiction, a specialist might recommend either an inpatient or outpatient setting. Other modalities will include individual counseling and support groups to encourage recovery. The most common addiction treatment programs for managing Xanax addiction are:
- Inpatient Programs: These offer a temptation-free environment that’s designed to help people in recovery. In this case, people check into a living drug rehab facility, and they attend meetings and therapy sessions while remaining in a supervised environment.
- Outpatient Programs: For those with mild Xanax addiction, an outpatient rehab program might be an option. In this case, they have a more flexible program that allows them to maintain their daily schedule and responsibilities like attending school, work, or caring for their family.
- Aftercare Programs: Addiction isn’t one thing people can shove under the rug. The remnants of addiction often stay with them for the rest of their life. To help patients find happiness and purpose in their lives, aftercare programs offer relapse prevention classes, life skills, and other essential tools for a successful life after treatment.
Find a Rehab Near You
Quitting highly addictive drugs like Xanax alone can be dangerous. It’s essential to seek support and supervision from a medical professional. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we provide individualized treatment plans for each of our patients. We look at each patient on a case-by-case scenario to draft a treatment plan that adapts to your needs. Whether your journey involves detox and medication-assisted treatment, or you’ll thrive in a partial hospitalization program, our addiction specialists will help you find the best road toward recovery. If you or a loved one are ready to leave Xanax addiction in the past, call one of our admission specialists today at 866-308-2090 to learn more about our rehab programs. Quitting Xanax or any other drug takes time, patience, and determination. There will be many days where you want to give up. But, with the right support, you can be successful in achieving long-term recovery. We believe in you.