Xanax addiction can be a dangerous, high-cost struggle, and the decision to break this dependency is a brave one well worth the effort. However, the withdrawal period following a final dose of Xanax is rife with symptoms that vary in severity and length.
In order to endure the withdrawal period and maintain sobriety in the long term, educating oneself on the potential risks of withdrawal can make be a valuable preparation to make.
Do not take the decision to stop taking Xanax lightly – breaking addiction is a life-threatening battle that no one can afford to lose or give up on.
Once a person has become physically and/or mentally dependent upon Xanax, the act of coming off of the medication can be an unpleasant experience.
Withdrawal after prolonged Xanax use is marked by a number of physical and mental symptoms that vary in severity and longevity. While the precise Xanax withdrawal symptoms might vary from person to person, all interfere with the individual’s ability to function and are worth sharing with a medical professional.
Xanax is a common medication prescribed to patients suffering from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, and panic attacks.
When used for short periods as prescribed by a medical professional, benzodiazepines such as Xanax can be a powerful tool in managing stress and anxiety systems.
Focused on sedating the nervous system to promote calm, functional behaviour, benzodiazepines are effective at disrupting cycles of stress that can interfere in day to day life.
While it is a vital part of mental health treatment for many individuals, like any prescription medication, Xanax can become dangerous when taken in large doses, without a prescription, and/or alongside other medications and drugs.
Those who take more than the recommended dose or continue using Xanax longer than prescribed are at greater risk of developing a dependency. Once a person’s body has become dependent upon Xanax, it can be significantly more difficult to come off of the medication in the future.
Attempts to stop taking the medication result in a combination of physical and mental symptoms as the body struggles to adapt to its absence. At this point, medical intervention might be necessary to break the addiction in the long term.
The exact timeline of Xanax withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person depending on the severity of their addiction, the longevity of their Xanax usage, and individual differences in brain chemistry. However, most episodes of Xanax withdrawal will follow the same basic outline:
Xanax withdrawal symptoms will first start to appear within hours of the last dose of Xanax. The earliest symptoms tend to be physical in nature, though anxious feelings are also common at this point in the withdrawal process.
Over the next few days, Xanax withdrawal symptoms will grow stronger. Physical pain, nausea, diarrhoea, and even seizures can emerge, and mental symptoms including anxiety and insomnia may grow more prominent.
Due to the serious nature of both the physical and mental side of withdrawal, it is recommended to work with a medical professional throughout these days to ensure patient recovery once the withdrawal has passed.
At this stage, many that were initially prescribed Xanax to treat a mental health disorder experience a rebound in their initial symptoms. Anxiety and stress symptoms can heighten, increasing the risk associated with the withdrawal procedure.
Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal will begin to lessen in severity, though there is still a risk of medical problems at this point. While mentally, a patient will probably still feel the impacts of withdrawal, physical aches and pains should start to subside.
Withdrawal will generally last anywhere from two weeks to several months after the last dose of Xanax. Stomach pain and mental discomfort tend to persist beyond other Xanax withdrawal symptoms, so it can be beneficial to continue working with a doctor or other health professional until the individual returns to their baseline for functioning.
Numerous physical symptoms have been recorded to accompany Xanax withdrawal. While not every individual experiencing withdrawal might endure the most severe symptoms, working with a trained professional is encouraged throughout the full withdrawal process.
Common physical symptoms include increased perspiration, nausea, muscle spasms, stiff muscles, and tremors. As withdrawal continues, gastrointestinal issues are also common symptoms to be aware of.
While many individuals survive and thrive after experiencing withdrawal, it is important to understand the severity of the condition. Some of the most serious symptoms of Xanax withdrawal can provide high risk of death to certain patients and, as a precaution, should be watched for to prevent complications.
Seizures and tachycardia will not affect every person who experiences withdrawal but are very real concerns that a medical professional should anticipate.
You should also take care to monitor the mental state of the individual in question as withdrawal continues, as mental symptoms such as stress and anxiety can pose a danger despite not being visible to the naked eye.
Dependency is as much a mental condition as it is a physical one, so it follows that many psychological symptoms might emerge throughout the withdrawal process. Patients diagnosed with anxiety disorders are prone to experiencing intense rebounds in symptoms such as panic, anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia.
Other psychological symptoms to consider throughout withdrawal include depression, confusion, irritability, paranoia, and heightened senses.
Those experiencing withdrawal may pull away from family and friends at this time as well, so it is important those loved ones do what they can to show support throughout this difficult period.
Many consider the safest option for those experiencing Xanax withdrawal is admission to a facility specializing in detox. Due to the possibility of severe symptoms, such as seizures, ongoing medical supervision can be lifesaving support to those with the time and resources to seek it.
Trained in withdrawal for years, these medical professionals can be a valuable source of guidance and advice even beyond the first few weeks of withdrawal.
For anyone considering enduring withdrawal outside of a detox facility, medical science recommends that the process should be a gradual once. For those who have been taking high levels of Xanax for extended periods, suddenly stopping the medication at once can result in severe, life-threatening side effects.
Detox facilities will be trained to support withdrawal as safely as possible, but if for any reason you cannot access such care, it is vital that you do not attempt to stop taking Xanax in a single effort.
While this approach to withdrawal tends to be prolonged, decreasing the severity of the symptoms can be the difference between overcoming withdrawal or relapsing.
Withdrawal can be a difficult, even dangerous process, so those suffering from Xanax dependency should give careful thought to their approach to treating this tough time.
While many medical professionals do recommend against undergoing withdrawal at home, those committed to the idea should take the time to reach out to friends and family for support.
A loved one who can calm down anxious thoughts, panic attacks, and call for help in the case of an emergency should accompany the individual until all withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Be sure to have access to informative resources and a doctor as well to reduce stress once withdrawal symptoms have begun.
Outpatient facilities are usually a smart choice for those unable to commit to 24/7 care during withdrawal. By working with a team of medical professionals to treat and monitor withdrawal symptoms, an individual has quality support that can reduce risk and improve their prognosis in the long term.
If you have the ability, residential withdrawal treatment is highly recommended by professionals for those experiencing dependency or withdrawal.
With full-time medical care and access to specialists in addiction and rehab, a rehab facility offers those struggling with addiction the best chance for breaking their addiction for good.
Severe symptoms can be quickly treated in this medical environment, and daily schedules can be fixed around patient treatment for expedited, long-term results.
Once a support system has been set in place and the individual has selected the best environment for their treatment, the withdrawal process can begin.
Tapering oneself off of Xanax is a process that can take several weeks in itself but doing so will likely decrease the severity of symptoms after the final dose of Xanax is taken.
50 hours after the last dose, all Xanax should be cleared of the system; still, Xanax withdrawal symptoms should be expected for several more weeks after this point. However, detox alone is not the end of addiction.
Once detox and withdrawal have passed, the individual will need to make a conscious effort to maintain their sobriety. Ongoing therapy, support groups, and new hobbies and social groups not associated with Xanax can all contribute to living a healthy, functioning life years after the dependency has been broken.
Withdrawal is one of the most difficult challenges a person can face, but the benefits of undergoing the unpleasant symptoms of dependency far outweigh the temporary pain.
No matter how difficult withdrawal may become, it is helpful to remember the big picture and the loved ones that have supported you along the way.
An alternative to gradual tapering is to switch to an equivalent dose of a longer half-life benzodiazepine such as diazepam. Medical experts may use a calculator to work out the correct amount of diazepam to begin the detox, depending on the amount of Xanax the client is currently using.
Here, the client will switch to the diazepam for several days. This is then followed by a rapid taper reduction of diazepam by 25% per week, over a four week period. The duration of the tapering regime varies, and the health professional must be mindful of the symptoms of benzodiazepine delirium during the detox.
 DuPont, R.L. (1990). A physician’s guide to discontinuing benzodiazepine therapy.
Western Journal of Medicine, 152, 600–603.