Xanax (Alprazolam) Detox & Withdrawal

Xanax is one of the more widely prescribed medications in the benzodiazepine class of drugs, for the short-term management of certain mental health disorders and other conditions. While it is safe for use as directed, and under the supervision of your healthcare provider, misuse of this medication can lead to withdrawal symptoms that can potentially be life-threatening.

This article will discuss Xanax withdrawal, signs and symptoms, and how to get safe and effective help if you or a loved one are struggling with dependence on or addiction to Xanax.

What Is Xanax (Alprazolam)?

Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam, a prescription drug primarily used for the short-term management of anxiety and panic disorder.1 This drug is a benzodiazepine, a class of central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Xanax alleviates anxiety by inhibiting abnormal excitatory signaling in the brain.2

  • Xanax—whether taken acvcording to prescription or when misused as a recreational drug—is associated with the development of some physiological dependence.
  • When use of the drug exceeds recommended dosing amounts and frequency, dependence may develop more swiftly. When an individual becomes significantly physically dependent on Xanax, they will have to take precautions prior to discontinuing the medication.
  • Withdrawal from Xanax is frequently accompanied by several unpleasant symptoms, and in some cases, life-threateningly severe ones.2

Xanax Withdrawal

When someone becomes physically dependent on a substance, such as Xanax, their body has become so used to the presence of the substance that they experience withdrawal symptoms when they abruptly cut back or stop using it. Benzodiazepine misuse can increase the likelihood of experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Suddenly discontinuing Xanax may result in withdrawal symptoms such as:1,2,3

  • Problems concentrating.
  • Anxiety/nervousness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Depression.
  • Irritability.
  • Aggression.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Sweating.
  • Paresthesias (e.g., burning or prickling feeling in hands or feet).
  • Muscle aches and cramping.
  • Sensitivity to light and noise.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Altered sense of smell.
  • Headache.
  • Seizures.
  • Delirium.

One potential feature of acute benzodiazepine withdrawal is rebound anxiety, a return of anxiety symptoms in individuals that are greater in severity than they were before Xanax treatment was initiated.1 The rebound anxiety should resolve within 2-3 days; however, the baseline-level anxiety may recur afterward and remain until it is treated in some other way.

How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Last?

For short-acting benzodiazepines such as Xanax, withdrawal will begin relatively quickly, within 6-12 hours. Symptoms will generally peak in intensity on the second day and many will largely resolve within 4 or 5 days.5

Shorter-acting benzodiazepines may be associated with more severe withdrawal syndromes than longer-acting benzodiazepines.4 For those wanting to quit Xanax, it’s important to seek medical assistance. Medical detox provides 24-hour supervision and care for acute Xanax withdrawal and also often serves as an entry point into further addiction treatment.

Xanax Detox and Treatment

Without appropriate withdrawal management, such as might occur when someone tries to quit cold turkey on their own at home, there could be a higher likelihood of unpleasant symptoms and certain medical complications (e.g., seizures). Left unmanaged, such occurrence could also increase the risk of immediate relapse in an effort to avoid cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that the benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is similar to that of alcohol (a syndrome that is known to be very dangerous and also may elicit seizures and delirium). For this reason, SAMHSA recommends that people attempting to detox from benzodiazepines such as Xanax do so with medical supervision and also recommends that the drug be tapered slowly instead of abruptly discontinued.3

What Happens in Medical Detox?

During medical detox from Xanax, the individual may first be switched to a longer-acting benzodiazepine, such as clonazepam or chlordiazepoxide. Longer-acting agents such as these are easier to manage throughout the ensuing benzodiazepine taper, and may help lessen the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.3

For people who have a history of chronic, high-dose Xanax use, the relative intensity of care that a hospital setting offers may be the safest option for detox and withdrawal. While under the care of medical professionals, withdrawal progress may be more-easily evaluated, symptom progression may be monitored, and appropriate medications given as needed. For example, additional medications can be used, as needed, for seizure prophylaxis or antidepressant coverage. For those experiencing significantly troublesome autonomic symptoms such as increased blood pressure or increased heart rate, clonidine or propranolol may be given.3

Get Help for Xanax Dependence and Addiction

Are you ready to reach out for help and start the addiction treatment process? If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to Xanax or other substance use disorders and are ready to take the first steps towards recovery, give us a call. Greenhouse Treatment Center, American Addiction Centers’ drug rehab near Dallas, TX, is ready to help you get the treatment you need today.

Our admissions navigators are on hand at 24/7 to answer your questions and give you information about our different levels of addiction treatment, as well as to help you find out how to use your insurance for rehab to cover some or all of treatment. They can also help you learn about different ways to pay for rehab and start the admissions process.

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