Xanax, which is a brand name for alprazolam, is a prescription sedative used to treat anxiety and panic disorders 1. Like other benzodiazepine drugs, Xanax depresses the central nervous system (CNS). Because of its high potential for abuse, Xanax is classified as a schedule IV controlled substance, making its use illegal without a prescription. People abuse benzodiazepines for their calming and euphoric effects, but such misuse can have detrimental consequences; in 2010 about 125,000 emergency department visits were due to Xanax abuse 2.
Those who make attempts at quitting Xanax on their own may experience uncomfortable and, in extreme instances, potentially lethal withdrawal symptoms. The intensely unpleasant experience of acute benzodiazepine withdrawal often drives people to immediately relapse. Professional detox programs can help you withdraw from Xanax safely and comfortably while reducing cravings and mitigating the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms.
To help you better understand Xanax withdrawal issues, this article covers the following:
- Xanax withdrawal symptoms.
- Withdrawal timeline.
- Protracted withdrawal.
- Treatment for Xanax withdrawal.
- Withdrawal medications.
- Aftercare treatment.
- Find a treatment program.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
When a person suddenly stops taking Xanax or dramatically reduces use, withdrawal symptoms occur. The extent of a person’s physiologic dependence, the length of Xanax abuse, and the dose taken all play a role in determining how withdrawal symptoms manifest.
Like other benzodiazepines, withdrawal symptoms may include 1,3:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Numbness or tingling of extremities.
- Taste and smell changes.
- Blurred vision and light sensitivity.
- Excessive sweating.
- Muscle twitching.
- Grand mal seizures.
Some of the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal—such as seizures—can be quite dangerous, if not life-threatening. Call our helpline anytime at 1-888-241-8971 and find the Xanax detoxification and treatment assistance program that best suits your needs.
Xanax withdrawal syndrome follows a predictable timeline. However, the chronicity and magnitude of the drug abuse problem in question may affect the severity of withdrawal symptoms experienced. On average, however, symptoms may be expected to begin within 6-8 hours from the last dose, peak by the second day, and significantly improve by the fourth or fifth day 3.
Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms
While acute Xanax withdrawal symptoms may subside after a few days, some withdrawal symptoms may persist for far longer. Long-term benzodiazepine use effectively retrains the brain, altering how it copes with stress. Known as post-acute or protracted withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), these lingering symptoms can increase the risk of relapse long after Xanax cessation efforts have passed 4. Protracted withdrawal symptoms tend to imitate mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and agitated depression 4.
While other drugs can cause PAWS, benzodiazepine users are at especially high risk of developing symptoms 5. Protracted withdrawal symptoms may include 4,5:
- Feelings of anxiety and panic.
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
- Memory problems.
Protracted withdrawal symptoms may last for months or even years after someone has quit using Xanax. A substance abuse treatment program can provide you with the skills you need to battle cravings and maintain sobriety in the long run. Take the critical first step towards recovery by calling our helpline at 1-888-241-8971 to learn about detox and treatment options.
Treatment for Xanax Withdrawal
Detoxification is the process of managing Xanax withdrawal symptoms and acute intoxication, if applicable, while the drug is eliminated from the body 6. Xanax detox can occur in a variety of settings. There are short-term detox programs available that can help mitigate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Many individuals choose to detox from Xanax in an inpatient or residential facility as part of a comprehensive treatment program. Since Xanax detox is associated with withdrawal complications such as severe agitation and seizures, 24-hour care for detox is preferred to ensure safety 6.
Although detoxification is a crucial first step in the recovery process, it doesn’t address many of the underlying issues associated with Xanax abuse, nor does it provide you with relapse prevention skills. Once you’ve completed detox, a formal addiction treatment program can help facilitate long-term sobriety by combining individual therapy, group counseling, and treating any co-occurring psychiatric or medical problems.
Substance abuse treatment options include:
- Inpatient treatment: You live at the treatment facility while undergoing extensive counseling and substance abuse therapy. Many treatment programs employ a multidisciplinary approach to treatment and will utilize a combination of treatment modalities. Many people find that the structured environment allows them to focus solely on recovering from a Xanax addiction without the distractions of everyday life.
- Outpatient treatment: Outside of treatment hours, you may return to your home and can continue working or going to school while recovering from addiction.
- 12-step programs: 12-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), are free to join and provide those in recovery with a supportive and encouraging environment.
- Luxury treatment: These inpatient programs offer luxurious amenities and are typically located in desirable settings, such as by the beach. Extra amenities and services may include gourmet meals, spa treatments, swimming pools, golf, and massage.
- Executive treatment: These inpatient programs may have luxurious amenities, similar to luxury treatment programs, but specifically cater to working professionals who want to continue working while recovering from Xanax addiction.
- Holistic treatment: These treatment programs combine traditional therapies, such as psychotherapy or behavioral therapy, with alternative and complementary methods, such as art and music therapy, acupuncture, meditation, and yoga.
- Population-specific treatment: There are treatment programs that specialize in treating specific populations, such as veterans, teens, LGBT, men-only, and women-only.
Currently, no approved medications exist strictly to treat Xanax addiction 7. A detox program may create a tapering schedule in which you are gradually weaned off of Xanax to prevent dangerous withdrawal symptoms from emerging. A long-acting benzodiazepine, such as clonazepam (Klonopin) or chlordiazepoxide (formerly, Librium), may also be administered as a replacement to Xanax, to stabilize the patient and mitigate withdrawal symptoms prior to it also being tapered off. During detox, treatment staff may administer various medications to manage severe seizure activity or treat other specific symptoms. These medications may include 6:
- Anticonvulsants: These medications can help treat or prevent seizures.
- Phenobarbital: This long-acting barbiturate can help ease Xanax withdrawal symptoms.
- Antidepressants: Sedative antidepressants, such as trazodone and imipramine, can help to treat the anxiety associated with Xanax withdrawal syndrome.
Unfortunately, up to 60% of drug abusers relapse at some point during their recovery 7. Aftercare programs, which are ongoing treatment options following the completion of a formal recovery program, can help prevent relapse and maintain sobriety in the long-term.
Aftercare options vary by approach and setting. Some examples include:
- 12-step programs: Many people attend 12-step meetings for life due to the sense of community and support the members provide one another.
- Non-12-step programs: For those who prefer an alternative to 12-step programs, non-12-step programs, such as SMART Recovery, utilize evidence-based approaches to addiction recovery focus on personal empowerment.
- Sober living homes: Also known as halfway houses, these environments provide those in recovery with a sober environment to transition into following the completion of treatment. You are often free to come and go as you please, but depending on the specific home, you may be required to abide by a curfew or do daily chores.
- Outpatient treatment: Some people transition into an outpatient treatment program as step-down care after completing an inpatient program. These programs can help build upon the relapse prevention skills you learned in rehab.
Find a Treatment Program Today
Recovering from a Xanax addiction can seem daunting, but it’s never too late to make a positive change in your life. Call our helpline at 1-888-241-8971 to speak to a recovery support advisor about substance abuse treatment and detox options.
1. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus (2016). Alprazolam.
2. Drug Enforcement Administration (2013). Benzodiazepines.
3. American Psychiatric Association. (2015). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association
4. Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration (2010). Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory: Protracted Withdrawal.
5. The University of California at Los Angeles: UCLA Dual Diagnosis Program (2016). Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).
6. Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration (2006). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
7. National Institute on Drug Abuse (2014). Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction: Treatment and Recovery.