Xanax is the name for alprazolam, which is a benzodiazepine medication used to treat panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and depression. Like many other benzodiazepine medicines, Xanax works by binding to one’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors that are in the brain. This medicine works to slow down the firing between neurons. While this medicine helps by reducing seizures, treating anxiety, and easing insomnia, it should be used as a short-term treatment,
When used for a long period of time, Xanax and other benzodiazepine medication can lead to physical tolerance. This means that as an individual becomes dependent on this medication, their brain requires more of the drug to effectively manage their neurotransmitters. For this reason, Xanax is generally prescribed for two weeks, then recommended on an as-needed basis.
Xanax Tolerance and Dependency
Despite these efforts to limit the long-term use of Xanax, many individuals do become addicted to this drug. This is due to the concern most people taking Xanax have about experiencing future symptoms of anxiety or panic disorders. Additionally, Xanax can be addicting because of its very strong withdrawal symptoms.
These withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, panic, and anxiety. As a reaction to these symptoms, those that have become dependent on Xanax often try to avoid going through withdrawal by getting multiple prescriptions, overdosing on Xanax, mixing Xanax and other sedatives or stimulants like opioids or alcohol, or searching for other ways to abuse the drug.
Withdrawal from any psychiatric medication is uncomfortable and when doing so, an individual should work with a team of medical professionals to oversee this process.
Physical Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Xanax withdrawal symptoms often take hold within the first few hours after the last dose. These symptoms tend to peak in severity between 1 – 4 days.
During withdrawal, individuals often experience the following symptoms:
- Heart palpitations
- Loss of appetite
- Sensitivity to sound and light
- Numb fingers
- Muscle pain
- Blurred vision
Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
In addition to this physical manifestation of Xanax withdrawal, there are psychological symptoms as well. An individual working to break their dependency to Xanax will have to break the cycle of mood regulation, reward, and motivation that the medication fed into. As Xanax works to alter these areas of the brain, an individual that is dependent on this medication needs to ease their brain off the drug as well.
This is why there are powerfully emotional and psychological symptoms that accompany the physical aspect of Xanax withdrawal. These symptoms include increased paranoia, panic, and anxiety as the drug is removed from one’s system.
As these feelings can be powerfully overwhelming, individuals going through withdrawal from benzodiazepine need to be watched closely for thoughts of suicide and depression. This withdrawal at best can leave an individual feeling “out of sorts”, and at worst, having nightmares, suffering short-term memory loss, experiencing mood swings, and hanging trouble concentrating. At this time, having the support of mental health experts is essential by way of counseling and therapy.
Detoxing from Xanax
Any of these symptoms makes the entire withdrawal process incredibly challenging for someone trying to recover from Xanax dependency. Instead of choosing to go cold-turkey, experts recommend tapering an individual off of Xanax under the supervision of a detox team of medical professionals.
As Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine, the drug has a half-life of 11 hours. Once Xanax stops being active within an individual’s blood plasma about 6 – 13 hours following their last dose, these withdrawal symptoms will begin. These acute symptoms usually peak during the second day and resolve themselves around the fourth and fifth day.
Post-acute symptoms can last for a period of weeks or months. These types of lasting symptoms are what can cause relapse if the person doesn’t continue to seek treatment through regular therapy. These lasting symptoms or protracted withdrawal may last months or years if they aren’t addressed by mental health professionals. Examples of a protracted withdrawal include drug cravings and psychiatric symptoms.
Factors Affecting Xanax Withdrawal
Withdrawal is different for each person as no two individuals will have the same timeline for withdrawal. However, the more dependent one’s brain and body are to the drug, the more intense and longer their withdrawal timeline will be. This period is affected by an individual’s method of ingestion, regular dose, age of first use, history with the drug, genetics, and length of time abusing it. All of these factors will contribute to how strong an individual’s dependency may be.
One’s withdrawal timeline may be drawn out by high stress levels, prior personal or family history of addiction, underlying medical issues, mental health diagnoses, and environmental factors.
Treating Xanax Withdrawal
Even though these symptoms are often unavoidable, this withdrawal period can be made to be less dangerous and more accommodating if an individual is undergoing treatment at a rehabilitation facility when detoxing from Xanax. These centers offer adequate care, support, and accountability that is needed when trying to end this Xanax dependency.
With treatment, withdrawal can be controlled and the side effects limited. Typically, professionals will use a controlled tapering schedule to wean patients off of Xanax. This process slowly lowers their dosage of Xanax during a specific period of time. As such, the more dangerous and intense symptoms can be avoided. Though cold turkey may seem more effective, the decision to taper off the amount of benzodiazepine in an individual’s bloodstream helps to minimize drug cravings and control the withdrawal until the drug is completely out of that individual’s system.
Additionally, medical staff may use adjunct medications to aid in this process. These medications include the likes of beta-blockers, antidepressants, and similar pharmaceuticals that are effective in treating Xanax withdrawal symptoms.
Ready to learn more about symptoms of Xanax withdrawal and the detox process? Call us today at 877-497-6180.