Getting off Xanax can be incredibly difficult due to the withdrawal symptoms that often arise. However, recovery is possible with appropriate help and guidance.
Whether you are hoping to find out how to get off Xanax for yourself or to support a loved one, our short guide can assist you.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax (alprazolam) is a potent benzodiazepine that works by enhancing neurotransmitter activity in the brain and slowing down the central nervous system.
As with all drugs, including prescription drugs, Xanax is addictive. People who become dependent on Xanax and then try to quit will usually experience an acute withdrawal period, which may be followed by protracted withdrawal.
When a person decides to stop taking Xanax, it is essential to remember that Xanax should not be suddenly quit. Instead, those living with addiction must stop using Xanax slowly.
Going cold turkey – stopping drug abuse abruptly – can cause many people to experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and rebound symptoms from mental health issues. By tapering off of Xanax gradually, withdrawal symptoms may not be as intense and are often much more manageable.
Attempting to detox from Xanax alone is not safe nor recommended. Due to the withdrawal symptoms that can arise, detox must be completed in a professional environment, such as an inpatient or outpatient rehab.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Stopping using Xanax can, as noted above, induce physical withdrawal symptoms and also psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Heart palpitations
- Blurred vision
- Muscle pain
- Numb fingers
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Loss of appetite
Xanax Withdrawal Timeline
Xanax has a half-life of around 11 hours, meaning it takes the body 50 hours to remove it completely. Usually, Xanax withdrawal symptoms begin six to 12 hours after the last dose, with some of the first symptoms including anxiety, insomnia, and a headache.
One to four days after the last dose of Xanax, more severe withdrawal symptoms may be felt. At this stage, anxiety and insomnia could worsen, and people who began using Xanax to treat anxiety disorders may experience a rebound of their original symptoms. Flu-like symptoms may also be felt, and the risk of dangerous withdrawal symptoms increases during this period.
Five days after Xanax cessation, symptoms peak and begin to reduce, with most of the intense withdrawal symptoms alleviating. Flu-like sensations start to decrease, as does the risk of seizure. However, it is common for anxiety and insomnia to still be felt at this stage of Xanax withdrawal.
Two weeks after the last dose of Xanax, normal functioning begins to return. For some people, this period of acute withdrawal is often followed by a protracted withdrawal known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS).
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
As acute withdrawal symptoms subside, some people often experience further symptoms of Xanax withdrawal. These symptoms are significantly less intense than during the acute period, but they can linger for up to two years. PAWS include:
- Irritability and hostility
- Mood swings
- Limited ability to focus or think clearly
- Low libido
- Chronic pain
- Drug cravings
These symptoms tend to come in waves. While they are not as strong as those experienced during the acute stage, they can cause some people to relapse due to the length of time that they are experienced.
If a person in recovery experiences PAWS, there are a number of things they can do to cope better to prevent relapse. These include:
- Journaling. Any way of expressing emotions can be helpful while protracted withdrawal symptoms are ongoing. Journaling helps express any uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, releasing the tension experienced during early recovery.
- Attending recovery-based meetings. There are many different types of meetings designed to help those recovering from addictions. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is the most popular for people in recovery from drugs such as Xanax.
- Meditating. Meditating for five or 10 minutes a day can be very effective for reducing stress in early recovery.
- Taking a yoga class. Yoga combines exercise and mindfulness, both of which can help with PAWS. There is no need to attend a challenging class – instead, we recommend finding a style and teacher that suits each person’s needs.
Why Do People Use Xanax?
Xanax abuse arises due to a range of different factors. Below, we share just a few reasons people start using the drug.
- Recreational use. Some people initially start using Xanax recreationally. Often, they are given a Xanax pill at a party and find the experience enjoyable. Although they might not think about Xanax all of the time, they may use the drug again upon attending another party when it is available. Over time, they start using the drug when they are not at parties, which causes a dependency to set in.
- Prescription use. People living with anxiety are often prescribed Xanax by their doctor to reduce some of the effects they experience and improve their quality of life. Though Xanax is initially highly effective, the effectiveness weans over time, causing some people to seek an additional illicit source of the drug. Once they have this, drug use can begin to spiral. When they run out of Xanax, their initial anxiety becomes far worse, and they also have to contend with withdrawal. They continue to use Xanax to cope, causing the body and brain to rely on it to function.
Co-Occurring Disorders With Xanax Abuse
Xanax abuse often begins with mental health issues. As noted above, people who abuse Xanax may have a panic or anxiety disorder that can be masked with Xanax use.
Once someone starts abusing Xanax, they may feel like their mental health has improved, but in reality, their Xanax use merely means that they are temporarily not experiencing their mental health problems.
Combining Xanax With Other Drugs
People who take Xanax often combine it with other drugs, making it even more dangerous. If someone becomes hooked on more than one substance, they could develop a strong drug dependence and experience more intense withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the most common combinations include:
- Xanax and heroin. People use these two drugs together to potentiate the effects. As they are both downers that slow the central nervous system, they dramatically increase the risk of overdosing.
- Xanax and cocaine. People who take cocaine (and other stimulants) often experience anxiety due to drug use. Xanax can help reduce this, but it can also cause people to act increasingly uninhibited. People using this combination often find themselves in dangerous situations.
- Xanax and alcohol. Another combination of downers, mixing Xanax and alcohol has proved fatal on many occasions. People who become addicted to alcohol can develop a physical dependence and can experience a withdrawal period that is similarly dangerous to Xanax.
Other Benzodiazepine Drugs
Xanax is not the only type of benzodiazepine drug. There are many others with different strengths, usages, and durations. The most commonly used benzodiazepines are:
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Restoril (temazepam)
- Halcion (triazolam)
How Can I Get Off Xanax?
Attempting to get off Xanax alone is dangerous. For this very reason, anyone who has become addicted to Xanax must reach out for professional addiction treatment. While the thought of contacting a medical professional and discussing Xanax addiction can be frightening, completing benzodiazepine withdrawal and addiction treatment is advised.
Across the United States, there are treatment centers for substance use disorder in most towns and cities. Most treatment centers have staff who have experience treating benzodiazepine withdrawal and can offer medical detox and medical supervision.
When it comes to getting off Xanax, medical detox provides a safe and comfortable space for many people. During detox, Xanax and any harmful toxins are removed from the body under the guidance of a professional, which in turn ensures that withdrawal symptoms can be managed.
If a person has a co-occurring mental health problem, such as trauma, panic disorder, or another drug addiction, it is essential to address these problems during Xanax addiction treatment. However, this requires care from a treatment center that can offer dual diagnosis treatments.
Upon completing medical detox, additional addiction treatment is available to treat the psychological reasons that a person began using Xanax in the first place.
If you are trying to stop using Xanax and have been using it for a long time, professional medical advice and care is the safest and most effective way of ceasing use.
At NPAC, we can help you or your loved one deal with all of the issues that keep people trapped within addiction. You don’t have to do this alone. Call (888) 574-3506 to speak with one of our team. We are available to take your call and answer any questions you may have surrounding substance abuse.