Xanax Withdrawals: What Is the Process?
Anxiety sucks. It’s a feeling a lot of people have felt before, the feeling of being scared of something happening before it happens.
That feeling of negative anticipation weighs heavier on some than others and can sometimes develop from general anxiety into anxiety disorders. Because of this, some people discuss medication with their doctors to help manage their anxiety.
When it comes to anti-anxiety medication, the one most people have heard about in this day and age, due to its recreational misuse, is Xanax.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax, which is the brand name for alprazolam, is part of a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, or “benzos.” These work by raising the levels of a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the brain to sedate the person. Xanax is typically seen in the form of pills and tablets.
Xanax is usually prescribed for people with generalized anxiety disorder or people with frequent panic attacks. Xanax helps to calm patients down and typically has a relaxing effect by slowing the central nervous system. Those taking Xanax will possibly experience:
- relief from anxiety
- easing of muscle tension
- relief from sleeping troubles
Xanax is a commonly prescribed medication, but it also has a reputation for being addictive. Xanax has a high “misuse liability”, which is the degree of how likely a substance will be misused, or a person’s likelihood of becoming addicted to it. Because of the high misuse liability of Xanax, there is a higher likelihood that people taking Xanax may misuse it, which can lead to substance use disorder.
What You Should You Not Do After Taking Xanax?
Xanax might make you feel dizzy or tired after taking it. It’s recommended that you don’t operate any heavy machinery after taking Xanax, such as driving a car.
Xanax also should be used on a short-term basis. Speak with your doctor to come up with a plan on the length of time that is right for you.
Don’t quit cold turkey. Quitting Xanax cold turkey can worsen the withdrawal symptoms, so it’s recommended you discuss with your doctor a proper plan to taper off of the substance.
Avoid drinking alcohol while taking Xanax, and let your doctor know if you are taking any type of opioid medication before taking Xanax. Taking both Xanax and opioid medications can lead to serious side effects.
Side Effects of Taking Xanax
Xanax, when used properly, has common side effects, such as:
- absent, missed, or irregular menstrual periods
- decreased appetite
- difficulty having a bowel movement (stool)
- increased weight
- loss in sexual ability, desire, drive, or performance
While not all of these side effects happen to a patient, these are the most common side effects that can possibly affect a patient. Now, there are rare side effects as well, such as:
- Actions that are out of control
- chest pain
- decreased awareness or responsiveness
- deep or fast breathing with dizziness
- fast, irregular, pounding, or racing heartbeat or pulse
- generalized slowing of mental and physical activity
- loss of strength or energy
- numbness of the feet, hands, and around the mouth
- shakiness in the legs, arms, hands, or feet
- thoughts of killing oneself
- unusual weak feeling
Signs of Xanax Addiction
What does Xanax addiction look like? This is hard to tell because everyone is different. Some physical signs may only show while a person is under the influence of Xanax. The psychological and behavioral aspects, however, are usually more noticeable. The signs of xanax addiction may include:
- slurred speech
- headache or dizziness
- inability to concentrate
- taking more Xanax than prescribed
- obtaining Xanax without a prescription
- social withdrawal
Treatment for Xanax Addiction
Professional treatment is highly recommended for Xanax addiction and Xanax withdrawal. With Xanax addiction treatment, there is typically a process that requires detox before all else. While the following treatment is important as well (therapy, mindfulness practices, etc.), the detox process is the first stage of the journey.
As with many other substances, stopping Xanax requires a detoxification process. During the detox process, it is common for patients to have withdrawal symptoms. Anxiety is a common symptom, even if the patient wasn’t originally prescribed the substance for anxiety. Here is a list of the physical and psychological symptoms of the detox process:
- Trouble sleeping
- Night terrors
- Elevated heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Body aches
- Flu-like symptoms
The detox process typically happens over a period of days. Doctors taper the patient off of Xanax by reducing their regular dose by 30% on day two or day three. After this, the dose is reduced between 10% and 25% at a time — the exception being for those who experience difficulty with this pace and typically get a slower reduction rate. The withdrawal symptoms usually are felt for one to two weeks.
Xanax withdrawals are tough, but you are tougher!
Medically Assisted Detox
Most patients who suffer from Xanax addiction will benefit from a medically assisted detox process. This involves taking medication to help ease any uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These programs are effective because they provide 24/7 assistance. This form of detox is highly encouraged as plenty of patients who attempt to detox by themselves relapse and suffer the most severe parts of the withdrawal process.
Since Xanax is classified as a benzodiazepine, withdrawal can include trouble sleeping, irritability, heart palpitations, increased anxiety, panic attacks, difficulty in concentration, and much more.
Withdrawal from Xanax has been reported as being much more complicated than withdrawal from other benzos. Xanax withdrawal symptoms not only entail the withdrawal symptoms of a benzodiazepine, but they also have unique traits such as “rebound” anxiety, an increase in panic attacks, dizziness, and a general feeling of uneasiness.
How Long Is Xanax Withdrawal?
Xanax withdrawal length can differ, but it is typically broken down like this:
First, anxiety and sleeping troubles may set in within the first 6 to 12 hours after stopping the substance. This is typically when the symptoms of the withdrawal process are at their worst.
Next comes the “rebound” anxiety and more sleep disturbances within 1-4 days.
After these comes a 10- to 14-day period when the withdrawal symptoms persist. This is where the withdrawal symptoms may reach their peak, if they haven’t within the first 4 days.
Finally, the return of anxiety symptoms persist without treatment. While the symptoms are usually mild, treatment is recommended.
How Long Does Benzo Rebound Anxiety Last?
“Rebound” anxiety is a common withdrawal symptom when you stop taking Xanax. While the bouts of anxiety are dependent on the patient, the typical duration of rebound anxiety is anywhere between 4 and 14 days. However, symptoms usually lessen when a treatment plan is implemented.
Should I Quit Cold Turkey?
No, you should not. Xanax is a substance that produces worse withdrawal symptoms the more abruptly you quit. Patients can possibly have symptoms such as seizures, tremors, and blood pressure changes if quitting Xanax “cold turkey.” Patients often end up relapsing after they quit Xanax suddenly.
The other danger of abruptly quitting Xanax is that the patient could possibly develop benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Also known as acute withdrawal, the symptoms become severe within the first few hours of stopping the medication, and the usual withdrawal symptoms — irritable and aggressive behavior, headaches and confusion, and insomnia — are heightened, and the chance of an individual having seizures is greater if they quit taking Xanax abruptly.
Doctors recommend patients with Xanax addiction slowly taper off of the substance as opposed to quitting it cold turkey. Tapering is a process where the dosage of a substance is reduced over a period of time. Tapering ensures the safety of the patient, gives the patient’s body time to get used to not having the substance in their system, and lessens the withdrawal symptoms.
You are not alone. There are many other people suffering from Xanax addiction. In the past three years, 17% of people prescribed benzos were reported to have misused them. Misuse of Xanax is something many people struggle with and there are resources available to help.
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