Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine that affects chemicals in the brain that are unbalanced in people with severe anxiety. Xanax is used to treat panic disorders, anxiety disorders, and depression. Though Xanax is not without side effects, some people need it to get through their days and manage panic attacks. It’s a strong benzodiazepine, 10 times more potent than other drugs in its class, including Valium and Klonopin.
To legally consume Xanax, you need a prescription from your doctor. Never buy the drug over the internet, as it could contain harmful ingredients, may not come from a licensed pharmacy or may not comply with FDA regulations. Also, never share your prescription with anyone else. Xanax can be habit-forming and lead to misuse, addiction, overdose or death.
Because of the chemical properties of alprazolam, it’s classified as a Schedule IV drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. Just one dose can stay in your system for one week, though it’s difficult to overdose on it this way. Instead, people usually overdose from taking too much of the medication. Xanax calms the body and brain by altering chemicals, but it also produces a high, which is why it’s sometimes abused.
Now that you know more about Xanax, what it’s prescribed for and how it works on the body, let’s talk about addiction and Xanax withdrawal symptoms.
Why People Become Addicted to Xanax
Many people become addicted to alprazolam without realizing it. It’s one of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines, so there is no shortage of people taking the drug. Just because a doctor prescribes it does not mean it’s safe, however. While some people do need the medication to manage symptoms of anxiety, it produces a “high” that can be addictive. Also, the body builds up a tolerance, so people need more of it to produce the same effects.
Once a person becomes dependent on Xanax, they need drugs psychologically as well as physically. The Xanax becomes their “escape” from their problems, and they lose the ability to manage stressful situations. Very often, people take Xanax to feel “normal”. If you take the drug away, the person may think that they can no longer cope with life.
The most challenging part is when withdrawal symptoms kick in. The withdrawal effects can be so strong that they make the person go to extreme lengths to get more of the drug. This is why friends and family members are often surprised to see their loved ones lying, stealing or buying prescription drugs online. It doesn’t sound like something their loved one would do, but once addicted, the person is no longer in control of their actions.
The Most Common Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms to Be Aware Of
Xanax withdrawals symptoms occur when a person who is physically dependent on the drug stops taking it. Because they rely on the drug to feel normal, their body essentially goes into shock and begins craving the drug. The people most at risk for symptoms of Xanax withdrawal are those who take the drug in large doses or for long periods of time. Just a few weeks of being on the drug – even at the prescribed dose – can lead to dependency.
Below are the most common withdrawal symptoms of Xanax to watch out for:
Sensitivity to light
Something else to be aware of is rebound symptoms. Those who have prescribed Xanax for anxiety or panic disorders can suffer from rebound symptoms once they quit the drug. These symptoms are intensified effects of a pre-existing condition and include anxiety, panic attacks or the inability to sleep. In other words, if you were prescribed Xanax for generalized anxiety disorder, it’s possible to experience extreme anxiety as you withdraw from the drug. These usually subside after a week, but the underlying condition needs to be treated.
How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Last?
Xanax withdrawal tends to be more intense than withdrawal from other benzodiazepines, but it has a shorter duration. Because Xanax is short-acting benzo, its effects are felt sooner than others but also end sooner. Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax can start in as little as a few hours from the last dose and continue for one week. Like other drugs, however, it’s possible for withdrawal symptoms to appear up to two years after stopping the drug, something called PAWS.
Here is a brief outline of what to expect from symptoms of Xanax withdrawal.
The first 6-12 hours. Within six hours, Xanax begins to wear off and withdrawal symptoms can be felt. The most typical symptoms include anxiety and irritability that gets increasingly worse.
Days 1-4. The first few days of Xanax withdrawal are the most difficult. Rebound anxiety and insomnia are the most intense symptoms. Other side effects also become present, such as shaking, muscle pain and sweating.
Days 5-14. Once day five hits, symptoms of Xanax withdrawal usually start to subside. Though symptoms may still be present, they are less severe.
Days 15+. It’s possible to have symptoms of withdrawal come and go over the next two years. For others, however, symptoms are completely gone.
Can You Quit Xanax Cold Turkey?
A cold-turkey withdrawal from Xanax is not recommended. It can produce uncomfortable side effects that can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Serious side effects include seizures, psychosis, hallucinations and a return to Xanax. Less severe but still concerning cold-turkey withdrawal symptoms are:
Inability to concentrate
Muscle pain and stiffness
If a person wants to quit Xanax, they must be committed to a detox and treatment program. There is only one recommended method for coming off Xanax, and that’s to taper off the drug under strict medical supervision. Quitting cold turkey or detoxing in the home puts a person at risk and can lead to fatal complications.
How to Quit Using Xanax Safely
If a person has been using large amounts of Xanax for a long period of time, tapering off the drug may take longer. This does not mean that someone who has abusing small doses won’t need medical supervision. All it means is that they may not need as long as a time to taper off the drug. Medical detox is the only recommended method for quitting Xanax.
Choosing a holistic treatment center such as The River Source is highly recommended. We offer naturopathic detox that allows patients to safely and effectively detox from Xanax and manage withdrawal symptoms. Our naturopathic doctors use a combination of medicine and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, and oral vitamin therapy.
One of our goals is to promote a healthy mind and body during detox. While it’s important for patients to withdraw from the drug, they must also build up their psychological and physical resources so that they can continue on with treatment. We achieve this by offering IV therapy and infrared sauna therapy. The two work together to sweat out harmful toxins and replace essential nutrients in the body.
Treating Dual Diagnosis
When the patient has completed detox, the recovery process can begin. The River Source offers 30, 60 and 90-day treatment programs that include counseling, life skills workshops and a safe, sober living environment nestled in two Arizona locations.
We are also successful in treating a dual diagnosis, which is not uncommon with patients who have detoxed from Xanax. Usually, there is an underlying reason why they took the drug in the first place – anxiety, depression – and that condition still needs to be treated. If it’s not, it’s likely that the person will go back to self-medicating their symptoms.
In their time with us, we address the co-occurring disorder and ensure that the person gets the help they need, while also learning how to safely and effectively manage symptoms of the condition. For instance, if a patient suffers from anxiety, our counselors may teach them breathing exercises, meditation or yoga. Other therapies that have proven effective for managing stress and anxiety are cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback.
What if You are Prescribed Xanax?
With the potential negative effects of Xanax, as well as the habit-forming nature of the drug, it’s recommended only to take Xanax if you absolutely need it and all other treatments have failed. Discuss the symptoms that you are experiencing with your doctor, and the two of you can come to a sensible solution about how to manage your anxiety, depression or insomnia.
Some people experience anxiety so severely so that they can’t function in their everyday lives. Sweaty palms, racing thoughts, increased heart rate and shortness of breath may be felt every minute of every day. There are other benzodiazepines that can be prescribed, but all have habit-forming tendencies because of how they work on the brain.
Xanax is most widely prescribed because of its effectiveness. Some people have prescribed the drug on a regular basis, while others are told only to take it before stressful situations, such as flying on a plane. Generally speaking, those who only take the drug on occasion are not as much at risk for developing a dependency as those who depend on it more regularly.
However, some people still find themselves becoming obsessive about having the pill around in case they need it. You must also be responsible for keeping the drug out of the hands of others. Again, only you and your doctor can come to a reasonable solution about whether Xanax is a drug you should be taking.
If you or someone you love is addicted to Xanax, call The River Source. We have been successful in treating addictions to benzodiazepines. Our detox is medically supervised and includes a wide range of therapies to help manage uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, our doctors and counselors know how to approach dual diagnosis, effectively treating both the underlying anxiety disorder and addiction. Call us today to learn more.