Xanax, or alprazolam, is a popular prescription medication that belongs to the benzodiazepine category or drugs. Used for a variety of disorders and treatments, the primary function of Xanax is to treat generalized anxiety disorder. Highly addictive and commonly prescribed, Xanax addiction is on the rise in the United States.
Xanax works by changing the chemical makeup of the brain. The brain naturally produces a neurotransmitter known as GABA, which is in charge of sending chemical messages through the brain and central nervous system and regulates communication between brain cells. It inhibits and reduces the activity of neurons and brains cells.
GABA is a key factor in the behavior, cognition, and the way a body responds to stressors in an individual. In cases of fear of anxiety, GABA can reduce the severity of symptoms. This is why Xanax and other benzodiazepines are useful in treating anxiety.
By mimicking the effects of GABA in the brain’s receptors, it artificially replaces GABA in patients who may not produce enough or need more. Xanax can cause the patient to feel an overwhelming sense of calm and even euphoria.
These are the desired effects that those who abuse Xanax hope to achieve. These individuals take larger doses of the medication to experience the subsequent euphoric high.
However, even without abusing Xanax, the medication poses a high risk for dependence due to its addictive nature. Over time, and with continued use, even when the proper dose is administered, the body will naturally begin to build a tolerance or a resistance to the medication’s effects. The brain becomes accustomed to the presence of the medication in the system, making natural GABA production slow down. This means that to achieve the same effects from Xanax as in the past, you will need to take more of the medication. These higher doses eventually lead to a full-blown addiction.
The other issue surrounding Xanax and other benzodiazepines is the impending Xanax withdrawal. Due to the physical dependence the body develops, you can no longer simply stop taking Xanax “cold-turkey”. Under most circumstances, Xanax and benzos possess an intense withdrawal process. In some cases, a withdrawal from Xanax can actually be life-threatening. Read on to learn more about the withdrawal symptoms of Xanax and process you can expect to encounter following your final dose of the medication.
What Are The Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms?
If you have decided to stop using Xanax, you’ll likely experience withdrawal, whose symptoms can be both uncomfortable and dangerous. They may vary between mild and severe in intensity. Not everyone will have the same exact experience, but most people can expect to experience most of the Xanax withdrawal symptoms listed below.
Here are some of the more commonly seen Xanax withdrawal symptoms you may exhibit during your detox process:
- Muscle pain
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Loss/decrease of appetite
- Memory problems
- Trouble paying attention
- Delirium tremens
These symptoms can present a very painful experience for people, especially depending on a variety of different factors. Addiction manifests differently in each and every person, so your experience may be different from other people who encounter these symptoms.
Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be unbearable and can lead you to return to using the drug even if you don’t want to. They can even result in life-threatening health complications. It’s important for you to seek professional medical intervention rather than stopping your Xanax use and attempting to face Xanax withdrawal on your own. Taking advantage of a Xanax withdrawal treatment not only increases the likelihood of your success in recovery from your Xanax addiction, but also will ensure your safety throughout the course of your Xanax withdrawal. Continue reading to learn more about the Xanax withdrawal timeline and treatment methods.
What are the Stages of the Xanax Withdrawal Timeline?
The Xanax withdrawal timeline is contingent upon several different factors. The timeline will depend on the amount of Xanax you were abusing, the length of time you were abusing the drug, your age, and your overall physical health. The average Xanax withdrawal timeline will look the same for most people. Regardless of these specific factors, the symptoms experienced will usually resemble something like this following your final dose:
6 to 12 Hours
Approximately six to 12 hours after the final dose of Xanax, the onset of withdrawal symptoms will commence. The first signs are usually less severe and begin with a mild intensity. Insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness are the first symptoms to appear.
Days 1 to 4
During the next phase of Xanax withdrawal, the symptoms will intensify. With both physical and psychological symptoms reaching their peak at this stage, you will likely be very uncomfortable. This stage of the withdrawal is also the most dangerous. The onset of delirium tremens and seizures may begin, putting you at risk of suffering serious and even life-threatening physical injury as a result.
Weeks 1 to 2
Physical and psychological symptoms will continue to manifest throughout the following two weeks after your last dose of Xanax. Intense physical and mental discomfort will persist, increasing in intensity until finally beginning to subside around week 2. The symptoms experienced will still present potential bodily injury, which is why it is recommended to remain under professional medical care throughout this span of time.
2 Weeks to Several Months
Although the most troubling portion of Xanax withdrawal may be over, it is important to note that symptoms may continue to linger for an elongated period of time following the cessation of Xanax use. Symptoms will lessen over time but may continue to manifest for up to several months following the final dose of Xanax. These lingering symptoms may cause emotional strife, which could lead to relapse. This is why continuing Xanax withdrawal treatment after detox is vital to your success in recovery.
The Xanax withdrawal timeline is as individual as each person experiencing it. Your own personal withdrawal may mirror the above timeline exactly or may differ slightly in certain areas. The above timeline is merely a generalized prediction of your experience. Regardless of the exact timeline, receiving proper Xanax withdrawal treatment is crucial to protecting your physical wellbeing and recovery.
How Long Is Xanax Withdrawal?
Xanax withdrawal varies from one person to another based on specific factors, including how long a person has used Xanax, their dosage, and if it’s been used with other drugs. The list that appears above is a general timeline that could last a few days. However, in some cases, it could persist for years if post-acute withdrawal syndrome occurs. The acute withdrawal lasts around five to seven days, but post-acute can be much longer.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) refers to impairments that persist for several weeks or months once you stop using a substance, such as Xanax. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome is similar to symptoms you’ll find in anxiety and mood disorders, including insomnia, mood swings, and increased anxiety levels without any stimulus.
PAWS symptoms occur after a withdrawal period from opioids, alcohol, and benzos like Xanax. However, in some cases, it’s been known to occur after the cessation of psychoactive substances. An estimated 90 percent of recovering opioid users will experience PAWS, as well as 75 percent of benzo users. Although the exact cause of the condition is still being investigated, scientists believe it stems from the physical changes to the brain that occur during substance abuse.
Symptoms of the condition fluctuate in severity. In some cases, they could disappear altogether and reappear later on. This is what makes it so challenging because the individual will experience a sense of normalcy, only to endure these symptoms again. The most common signs of PAWS include:
- Depressed mood
- Feelings of panic and anxiety
- Inability to complete cognitive tasks, such as problem-solving, memory recall, or learning.
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
- Increased sensitivity to stress
- Pessimism or apathy
- Intense cravings for Xanax
- Disturbed sleeping patterns
- Inability to maintain social relationships
These symptoms will increase in severity when a person is met with stressful situations. Unfortunately, it could flare up without any clear stimulus at all. PAWS can manifest after withdrawal from almost any substance, but those abusing Xanax and other benzos are at the highest risk. There are reports of benzodiazepine users dealing with PAWS for years after they stop abusing the drugs.
For this reason, treatment is your best option. In many cases, PAWS is severe enough to cause someone to relapse. When they believe drug use is the better alternative because it relieves their pain, they have no reason to continue their sobriety. This is dangerous for many reasons, especially because relapsing after a prolonged period of sobriety can result in an overdose. Xanax overdose can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention.
Xanax Overdose Symptoms
Benzodiazepine overdose has been increasing dramatically over the past 20 years. Between 199 and 2013, benzodiazepine overdose deaths quadrupled. In 2013 alone, an estimated 30 percent of all overdose deaths were caused by benzos. Xanax is an extremely potent benzodiazepine; an overdose is similar to alcohol intoxication.
Xanax overdose is the result of too much drug entering your body in a short period. When it reaches these levels, our bodies can’t detoxify and cleanse the substance from our system. As the Xanax in your system builds up, the central nervous system will become more depressed, causing an overdose. Signs of a Xanax overdose include:
- Blurred vision
- Impaired reflexes
- Extreme sedation
Xanax overdose can result in death. You must call 911 immediately to avoid any potential adverse long-term effects or death. If you’ve been taking Xanax to the point of overdose, it’s time to get the help you need and enter medical detox.
Why Should I Detox?
Withdrawing from Xanax, like for other benzodiazepines, presents intense physical and psychological symptoms. As previously mentioned, these Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening in the most severe cases. Due to the volatile nature associated with withdrawal, heading off to a medical detox facility is incredibly important.
Medical detox facilities are specially trained and equipped to handle the Xanax withdrawal symptoms you’ll face as you step into sobriety. Xanax is a powerful prescription drug that is highly addictive and difficult to stop using. Receiving professional medical assistance is the only way to comfortably and safely detox.
Many people who do not participate in medical detox also have an increased likelihood of relapse. Since the withdrawal symptoms of Xanax are mentally and physically painful and difficult to handle, it can prove to be too much for you without medical and clinical intervention. People with a Xanax addiction who seek treatment are more successful in the terms of long-term recovery and the effectiveness of their detox process.
Staying Safe During Withdrawal and Detox
The most vulnerable period during Xanax detox is the first two weeks. This is when withdrawal symptoms peak and can even turn deadly.
The best way to stay safe during Xanax withdrawal is to enter a medical detox program. Medical detox generally lasts five-to-seven days and can minimize withdrawal symptoms through medications and supportive care.
Xanax should not be stopped suddenly; it is better to wean it out of the body slowly. This is often accomplished through a tapering schedule that is set up by a trained medical professional. A taper involves slowly lowering the dosage over time, and the schedule is highly individual. The level of dependence on Xanax will be the biggest factor in determining the taper.
Xanax, as a short-acting benzodiazepine, is generally replaced with a longer-acting similar medication during detox. In this way, the medication can be dosed less often and in lower doses while still controlling withdrawal symptoms.
During medical detox, vital signs can be closely monitored, and medical attention can be quickly administered when needed. Emotional support and therapeutic measures help to manage the psychological aspect of Xanax withdrawal during detox. Counseling and therapy sessions can teach coping mechanisms and techniques that can be useful to mitigate cravings and stabilize moods.
During Xanax withdrawal, it is important to attend to physical and psychological self-care. Be sure to eat healthy and balanced meals, and drink enough water to stay hydrated. It can be helpful to stay physically active by going for walks or engaging in physical activities or fitness programs.
Creative expressions and hobbies can occupy the mind and help to re-center a person. Yoga, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and mindfulness meditation can all help to alleviate stress, physical tension, and pain, and they promote wellness for the whole body and mind. Support groups and peer encouragement can help, too.
What is the Next Treatment Step?
If you have decided to pursue Xanax withdrawal treatment, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure your success in treatment and beyond. By completing the full continuum of care, you increase the likelihood of avoiding relapse and enjoying long-term recovery. The full continuum of care refers to completing each stage of treatment starting out with detox and finishing with outpatient. Each level presents lower clinical and medical intervention, slowly acclimating yourself to life as a sober person without overwhelming yourself with too much personal responsibility to recovery right away.
The first step in Xanax withdrawal treatment is detox. As mentioned earlier, this is a key step in successfully learning to live life in recovery without using Xanax or other substances. Since withdrawal from Xanax is often dangerous and uncomfortable, this step is crucial in order to safely stop using Xanax.
Upon your arrival, you’ll be assessed by the medical team and have your Xanax addiction and overall health evaluated. An individualized detox plan will be implemented for you, which will include different detox medications to make the withdrawal process easier.
You’ll receive round the clock medical surveillance, which will track your progress throughout detox and monitor any potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. The medical intervention at this level is the highest since medical stabilization is the ultimate goal of detox.
You will also have clinical support from therapists, case managers, and support staff. Since not all withdrawal symptoms are physical, having the emotional and therapeutic support will help ease the transition from addiction to sobriety.
The next stage following detox is inpatient or residential treatment. Since you will be medically stabilized, this stage will feature less significant medical intervention. However, you’ll still have access to medications and doctors to help maintain your physical health throughout treatment.
You’ll undergo full-time therapy that intends to get to the root of your addiction and other mental health issues by implementing a curriculum of different evidence-based therapy methods.
By learning new life skills and coping mechanisms, you’ll be able to process any emotional issues and prepare more fully for life as a sober individual.
Intensive outpatient, or IOP, supplies part-time therapy to you.
Rather than living onsite and going to therapy sessions throughout the day, the amount of time spent in groups and with a therapist is less frequent. You’ll live off campus either in a sober living facility or return home and commute to your IOP sessions.
You’ll still have intensive therapy methods implemented, but at this stage, you should be fairly stable in your recovery.
You will have more free time and personal responsibility to yourself and your recovery, but you will still maintain intense clinical intervention to help you transition to life without the use of Xanax and other substances.
The last stage is outpatient treatment. It is similar to IOP, though fewer hours per week are spent in therapy. The primary responsibility that you have to your recovery rests on you. You still will have access to some minor therapeutic and medical intervention to help you overcome any difficulties you may face in your day-to-day life. Recovery is not easy and is an ongoing process, so outpatient acts as the final buffer between the community at large and you.
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