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Xanax Detox Guide: Timeline, Symptoms & Effects

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Xanax is a medication used to treat anxiety and panic attacks 1,2. Also available generically as alprazolam, Xanax is the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepine (benzo) medication, a class of drugs known to slow down central nervous system activity. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that there were 49 million Xanax prescriptions written in 2011—20 million more than Ativan 1.

Xanax and its generic, alprazolam, are available in many formulations including 2:

  • Immediate-release tablets.
  • Extended-release tablets.
  • Orally disintegrating tablets.
  • Liquids to drink.

Withdrawal symptoms can significantly worsen your mental and physical well-being.

Though generally safe and effective when used as prescribed, benzodiazepines have some potential for abuse and, as such, are listed as a Schedule IV controlled substance; as many as 20 million people in the U.S. admitting to abusing a benzodiazepine, such as Xanax 1. Xanax abuse can cause feelings of relaxation and sedation, but it can also result in many complications like memory problems, depression, aggression, dependence, and addiction 1.

Once someone is addicted to or dependent on Xanax, abruptly stopping or reducing use can result in unpleasant Xanax withdrawal symptoms 1. These withdrawal symptoms can significantly worsen the mental and physical well-being of the individual.

Find Out More About Rehab Programs

happy woman talks with her therapistWith the help of a rehab program, the addict can pass through the withdrawal process with as little discomfort as possible while under medical supervision. Each detox program is effective at removing the drugs from an addict’s system while alleviating the paints associated with the withdrawal process. Read More

Signs of Xanax Abuse

Although Xanax is therapeutic and effective when taken as prescribed, many people abuse it for its calming and pleasurable effects. If you suspect that someone you know is abusing Xanax, look for the following signs that they’re abusing the benzo 2,5,11:

  • Going to multiple doctors to get several prescriptions.
  • Euphoria.
  • Inappropriate aggressive or sexual behavior.
  • Mood swings.
  • Irritability.
  • Depression.
  • Emotional numbing.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Incoordination.
  • Memory and attention problems.
  • Impaired judgment.
  • Slowed movements and thoughts.
  • Nausea.
  • Weight changes.
  • Dizziness.
  • Confusion.
  • Stupor.
  • Coma.

In rare cases, a phenomenon known as paradoxical disinhibition can occur. Paradoxical disinhibition is characterized by contradictory behaviors, such as hostility, aggression, irritability, excitement, and impulsivity, which can occasionally result in violent or antisocial behaviors 11.

Long-term Effects of Benzo Use

Chronic Xanax abuse can take a toll on the body and cause psychiatric issues as well. Some risks of long-term use of Xanax include 11:

  • Tolerance, which means you require increasing doses of Xanax to achieve intoxication. Many people may use other sedatives or alcohol to feel the desired effects once tolerance has developed.
  • Dependence, which means that withdrawal symptoms are likely to emerge with the cessation of or reduction in use.
  • Addiction, which means that it is difficult to control or quit use regardless of harmful ramifications resulting from Xanax use.
  • Increased risk of experiencing a complicated withdrawal, characterized by potential grand mal seizures or delirium.
  • Increased risk of overdose, particularly if combined with alcohol, opioids, or other benzodiazepines.

These long-term consequences of Xanax abuse can be prevented by seeking Xanax detox and addiction treatment sooner rather than later. Don’t hesitate to take the first step towards a healthier and happier life.

What Happens When You Suddenly Quit?

Some withdrawal symptoms will be mildly uncomfortable while others can result in situations that threaten the life of the individual 5,6,7. Each person’s experience with alprazolam withdrawal symptoms will differ somewhat; however several withdrawal symptoms that commonly arise include 5,6,7:

  • Rapid pulse and increased blood pressure.
  • Increased respiratory rate.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Anxiety and panic.
  • Irritability.
  • Inability to sleep.
  • Restlessness.
  • Inattention and memory problems.
  • Muscle aches and tension.
  • Tremors.
  • Psychomotor agitation, or repetitive, purposeless movements.
  • Seizures.

Experiencing a seizure is the most dangerous risk of the acute Xanax withdrawal syndrome. The risk of seizing is greatest during the first 24-72 hours of Xanax detox, making it all the more important for people to seek professional drug detox and medical supervision early in the withdrawal process 10. The safest way to address Xanax withdrawal symptoms is to seek out and begin professional detox and addiction treatment.

How Long Does Detox Take?

stressed woman holding foreheadPeople that may experience Xanax withdrawal should consider drug detox. Detoxification is the process of removing unwanted substances from the body 6,7.The detox experience is often highly variable from person to person, which can pose challenges to reliably predicting the exact Xanax detox timeline. One factor that influences detox is the drug’s duration of action 7. Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine, meaning that the withdrawal symptoms will start sooner than long-acting drugs. Xanax withdrawal symptoms may emerge within 6-8 hours, peak in intensity by the second day, and gradually subside by the fourth or fifth day 5.

Other factors that affect the Xanax detox timeline include 1,6:

  • Dose used.
  • Frequency of use.
  • Total duration of Xanax abuse.
  • Mental and physical health of the individual.
  • Presence of other substance abuse.

Withdrawal Complications

Although all symptoms of withdrawal can be distressing, several effects and risks associated with Xanax withdrawal can be dangerous like 5,6,7,8:

  • Self-medicating with other drugs to treat withdrawal symptoms.
  • Increased risk of relapse.
  • Dehydration due to vomiting.
  • Suicide in association with depression, anxiety, or psychosis.
  • Seizures: About 30% of people that are withdrawing from Xanax without medical attention will experience a life-threatening seizure.
  • Delirium: This term describes a level of confusion and disorientation stemming from the hallucinations common during withdrawal. Poor decisions and erratic behavior may occur as a result.
  • Anxiety issues: Common after-effects of benzo use are:
    • Symptom rebound: Symptoms of high anxiety that are contrary to the effects of Xanax intoxication.
    • Symptom reemergence: Returning symptoms of anxiety in people that had anxiety issues before Xanax use began.

Xanax may be a short-acting benzo, but its abuse is sometimes associated with long-term effects due to a condition called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) 7,8. PAWS is linked to protracted and extended withdrawal symptoms that present inconsistently in the first several months of recovery 8. PAWS symptoms will include 8:

  • Agitation and irritability.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
  • Psychotic symptoms.

Benefits of Xanax Detox

Attempting to get through Xanax detox on your own can be challenging, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous. There are many benefits of attending a professional drug detox center, such as:

  • Safe, drug-free environment.
  • Medical care and monitoring.
  • Peer support.
  • Mental health care.
  • Medications to mitigate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.
  • Drug abuse treatment planning.
  • Lower risk of relapse.

Various Settings

Professional detox treatment can limit the distress of detox while ensuring the patient’s safety. Detoxification facilitates the removal of unwanted substances from the body and is an invaluable intervention to initiate recovery 6,9. A person seeking drug detox can expect several primary types of treatment 6,9:

  • Inpatient: If a person has few supports, a severe addiction, and is at risk for dangerous withdrawal symptoms, inpatient treatment is the appropriate detox option. Inpatient treatment offers 24-hour care as the individual will live in the detox center during treatment to maintain a safe, consistent environment with available medical intervention.
  • Outpatient: If a person has many supports, a less serious Xanax dependence, and has a low risk of complicated withdrawal, outpatient treatment may be a good fit. Outpatient detox allows the person in treatment to maintain much of their normal life and attend treatment at locations like:
    • A physician’s office.
    • A substance abuse treatment facility.
    • A community health center.

Detox is a difficult process that will usually focus on slowly reducing the dose of Xanax over time to lessen the withdrawal symptoms 6,7. Detox can begin the road to recovery, but it is only one aspect on the continuum of care. For the best results, people in recovery should transition into a Xanax addiction treatment program to learn relapse prevention skills and promote long-term sobriety.

Withdrawal Medications

Typically, Xanax withdrawal is medically managed by slowly tapering down a person’s dose over time in order to ease withdrawal symptoms and ensure safety. Depending on the severity of the dependence or addiction, tapering may take place over several weeks or months. In some cases, a physician may choose to switch a patient from Xanax to another benzodiazepine with a longer half-life and taper the patient off that drug over time. In rare instances, anticonvulsants or antidepressants may also be used to mitigate withdrawal symptoms 6. Learn more about Alcohol and Drug Detox Helplines

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Additional Resources on Drug and Alcohol Detox


  1. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2013). Benzodiazepines.
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. (2016). Alprazolam.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2016). Prescription Depressants.
  4. Medscape. (2016). Withdrawal Syndromes.
  5. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
  7. World Health Organization. (2009). Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Setting.
  8. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Protracted Withdrawal.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.
  10. Food and Drug Administration (2006). Xanax CIV.

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