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Xanax Withdrawal: Signs and Symptoms

xanax-withdrawal-symptoms

Xanax is a medication that’s frequently prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Although it’s both fast-acting and effective, this drug is also known to be highly addictive. In fact, anyone who takes Xanax for an extended period of time is at a high risk of developing addiction.

This drug has a rapid and significant impact on the brain and its chemistry, and on how the body functions overall. As such, stopping Xanax suddenly and without the benefit of trained medical advice or support is never advised. 

There are several common signs of Xanax addiction that everyone who uses this medication should be aware of. These include:

  • Taking Xanax for an extended period of time
  • Refusal to try natural, alternative stress management techniques
  • Taking more Xanax than the doctor has prescribed
  • Lying to obtain more Xanax
  • Purchasing the drug illegally
  • Stealing pills after a prescription has run out or ended

Detoxing from Xanax without medical support can be extremely uncomfortable. It can also lead to dramatic changes in basic functions throughout the body. If untreated, these changes may cause permanent physical injuries and even death.

What is Xanax?

Sold generically under the name alprazolam, Xanax belongs to a class of prescription drugs known as benzodiazepines or benzos. For people who struggle with insomnia, general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other anxiety-related issues, Xanax can provide near-instant relief. It does so by triggering a surge of mood-enhancing chemicals called neurotransmitters. Despite its impressive level of efficacy in relaxing people, promoting deep and restful sleep, and alleviating anxiety, doctors are often hesitant to offer Xanax without first pursuing alternative courses of treatment. 

Due to its impact on general brain functioning, Xanax cannot be used as a long-term solution to medical issues. Patients will almost always become dependent on Xanax. Repeatedly triggering surges in the neurotransmitter gradually wears key brain receptors out. This accounts for rapid increases in Xanax tolerance, and the need for people to use more of this drug in order to feel better, or even to feel “normal”.

With repeated Xanax use, neurotransmitter burnout becomes a major issue. Once this occurs, mood balanced and many basic physiological functions will greatly decline without it. Not only is Xanax highly addictive, but long-term use of this medication can also be responsible for causing:

  • Severe cognitive decline
  • Amnesia
  • Certain forms of dementia

When performed correctly, Xanax detox and withdrawal gives the brain and body an opportunity to heal. These efforts additionally make it possible for people to find healthier and far more sustainable ways of treating or managing the health issues that Xanax was initially prescribed to correct.

Xanax Withdrawal: Physical Symptoms

Many benzodiazepines have relatively long half-lives. This means that it can take a fairly long time for the body to rid itself of these substances after the time of last use. Xanax, however, has just an 11-hour half-life. Within 50 hours of last use, the body will be completely free of Xanax. 

Unless a person is detoxing in a licensed rehab facility, however, the symptoms of withdrawal will start quite quickly. Symptoms will progressively heighten until they spiral out of control.

Once chemical dependency is achieved by Xanax users, “going cold turkey” will invariably send the entire body into a severe state of distress. This is because the same neurotransmitters that promote mood balance also play a hand in controlling other functions throughout the body. For instance, they assist with:

  • Fine motor control
  • Smooth muscle control
  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Temperature regulation

and more. 

Absent of medical detox support, people can experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

and muscle pain. Xanax withdrawal symptoms can also include heart palpitations, heart pain, delirium, and hallucinations. During managed Xanax detox, weaning programs can be implemented for gradually transitioning the body off of this drug. Certain medications can also be used to limit the physical effects of withdrawal so that the entire process is significantly easier on the body, and far less likely to result in lasting physical damages. 

Can Xanax Cause Seizures?

When Xanax withdrawal symptoms are not managed or mitigated early-on, more severe symptoms will develop as abstinence is prolonged. One of the most dangerous developments that a person can experience during a Xanax detox is seizures. One of the neurotransmitters that long-term Xanax use affects is gamma-Aminobutyric acid or GABA.

GABA is a critical component of the body’s central nervous system and it exists to prevent neuronal excitability all throughout the CNS. When GABA is no longer being artificially triggered through Xanax use, and when this important neurotransmitter is essentially burned out, the brain has no reliable way for keeping problems like seizures at bay. The potential for experiencing a Xanax seizure is but one of many reasons why quitting Xanax with the help of knowledgeable medical professionals is the only safe way to detox from this drug. 

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

Quitting Xanax can make people feel depressed, hopeless, extremely anxious, and lacking motivation. These are all signs of neurotransmitter burnout and they mean that the body no longer has any natural way of boosting or balancing emotions. Moreover, given that Xanax is frequently prescribed to treat existing mood disorders, the underlying problems that it was meant to treat can spiral out of control.

People who were anxious before taking and becoming addicted to Xanax can feel infinitely more so while detoxing. During professional Xanax detox, alternative treatments for anxiety and insomnia can be prescribed. This way, even as the brain and body gradually return to normal, balanced functioning, people can enjoy peace of mind, and deep and restful sleep. 

Xanax Withdrawal Duration and Timeline

Although the body can effectively clear itself of Xanax within just 50 hours, this is never recommended, and impossible to safely achieve. Safe and effective Xanax detox generally takes between several weeks and one month. During this time, Xanax doses are gradually lowered so that the body gradually becomes less and less reliant upon this drug. Several factors affect the duration of this process including:

  • Length of Xanax use
  • Other drugs taken
  • Body weight
  • Age
  • Gender
  • General health

Although many people are eager to get the detox process over and done with, gradually lowering Xanax doses ensures that this process is safe, and that all affected systems and functions have ample time to recover.

Is it Okay to Detox at Home?

It is never safe to detox from Xanax at home. Within just hours of abstaining, the body can enter into critical levels of distress. If early withdrawal symptoms are not identified and addressed, an unmanaged detox can lead to a Xanax seizure or death.

If you or someone you love is struggling with Xanax addiction, Recovery Bay Center can help. Our staff is qualified to offer customized detox support, and can take steps to make this process easier, shorter, and infinitely safer.