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