Xanax Withdrawal and Detox
Xanax is a type of benzodiazepine with a high potential for misuse. If you have been regularly taking this drug, there is a chance that you might end up dealing with withdrawal at some point. Understanding what Xanax withdrawal is and how it works can help you better protect your health.
What Is Xanax Withdrawal?
Withdrawal is a condition that happens when you take a drug for a while and then stop. You will start to experience a collection of unpleasant symptoms that make you want to keep using the drug. The exact science behind withdrawal is a little complicated, but basically, it happens because your body struggles to function without Xanax in its system. If you detox abruptly, all sorts of issues can occur.
Xanax is a type of drug that increases the overall amount of GABA in your body. This brain chemical is a calming substance that causes Xanax’s relaxed, euphoric effects. When you take Xanax all the time, your body gets used to constantly having the drug in its system. It starts to adjust levels of other brain chemicals to help stabilize your health. Then, when you quit taking Xanax, all your brain chemicals are out of balance. Without correct levels of these essential chemicals, you become mentally and physically unwell.
How to Recognize Xanax Withdrawal
At first, Xanax withdrawal can be tricky to notice. However, as symptoms get more severe, you might start to feel ill. If you are having one or more of these symptoms, you may be experiencing Xanax withdrawal:
• Stomach pains
• Nausea and vomiting
• Tremors and shaking
• Muscle spasms and twitches
• Increased severity of menstrual symptoms
• Excessive sweating
• Abnormal heart rhythm
• Difficulty sleeping
• Mental confusion
• Sensitivity to noises and lights
Who Experiences Withdrawal?
Xanax is not the type of drug where you experience withdrawal after using it one time. Instead, withdrawal is something that occurs after long-term Xanax usage. There is no strict rule for how long you have to take Xanax before you end up with withdrawal. Some people may start feeling withdrawal symptoms after just using Xanax for a little while, but others may go for some time without experiencing withdrawal.
Whether or not you go through withdrawal mostly depends on your usage levels. People who take high doses, take Xanax regularly, or take Xanax for long periods of time are more likely to have severe withdrawal. Your individual health, metabolism, and ability to process Xanax all impact your likelihood of withdrawal. Just about anyone who has Xanax use disorder has been taking the drug long enough to experience withdrawal.
The Xanax Withdrawal Timeline
Every person who experiences withdrawal will deal with slightly different symptoms. Withdrawal can last anywhere from two weeks to several months depending on how severely you have been abusing Xanax. Despite some differences between people, most will progress through the same four stages.
Onset of Withdrawal
Withdrawal typically begins about six to 12 hours after your last dosage. This stage starts very mildly. At first, users might just feel some anxiety, have a headache, and have difficulty sleeping. You may gradually start to feel like you have a cold or flu. This can include some general aches, fatigue, and queasiness.
Over the next one to four days, symptoms will gradually intensify. People will begin to feel seriously ill. You may vomit or have intense diarrhea, and your heart might start to race. Headaches, muscle pain, and tremors might all be so severe that you become bedridden. During this stage, the risk of seizures or heart problems can be very high. Most people peak around two to four days after their last Xanax dose. However, if you have used any slow-acting benzodiazepines alongside your Xanax, your peak might not happen for about a week.
Gradual Withdrawal Symptom Decline
Over the next week, your withdrawal symptoms will gradually decline. Your muscle aches and headaches will typically disappear first, and anxiety and insomnia may linger for a while longer. The majority of users will be out of withdrawal about 10 to 14 days after their last Xanax dose. However, some people may continue to feel light symptoms for around three to four weeks.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
Roughly 10% to 25% of long-term benzodiazepine users experience protracted withdrawal. Also called post-acute withdrawal syndrome, this refers to a wide collection of mild symptoms that can occur after the worst of withdrawal is over. You may feel a little tired, achy, or “off” for months. Other people may feel fine for weeks and then have a recurrence of withdrawal symptoms. This stage can last for around three to 12 months.
Xanax Withdrawal vs. Rebound Symptoms
If you have been taking Xanax to medicate for an anxiety disorder or other mental health condition, you might also end up experiencing rebound. Rebound is different from withdrawal, and not all patients will experience it. Xanax rebound essentially means that the symptoms of your anxiety disorder will come back and will typically be worse.
Rebound symptoms go far beyond the general stress and anxiety that most people feel during withdrawal. It can include anxiety bad enough to keep you from doing daily tasks, and you may suffer from recurrent panic attacks. Xanax rebound is a very serious condition, so you should talk to a mental health professional if you think you are experiencing it.
Should You Be Concerned About Withdrawal?
Unlike overdose, withdrawal is not directly fatal. However, this does not mean it is completely harmless. Symptoms can be severe enough to cause problems.
Physical Health Problems
Withdrawal greatly stresses the body. All the vomiting and diarrhea can cause serious issues like dehydration. For those with pre-existing health problems like heart disease, the irregular heart rate, vomiting, and other symptoms can make your health worse. Even if you are physically healthy, withdrawal can cause dangerous seizures. Benzodiazepines like Xanax are one of the few types of drugs that can cause deadly seizures during withdrawal.
Mental Health Challenges
In addition to the physical health problems, withdrawal is also problematic from a psychological perspective. It can worsen anxiety, depression, and other conditions. Furthermore, withdrawal is so unpleasant that it makes it hard to stop using Xanax. If you are trying to stop using the drug completely, withdrawal can test your resolve. This is another reason why it is so important to have support during the withdrawal period.
How to Manage Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
We know withdrawal can sound intimidating, but it does not have to be an extremely stressful, painful event. The right care can help you greatly. If you are thinking about quitting Xanax use, it is a good idea to consult with a detox center. Professionals can help you explore your options and find the safest way of discontinuing usage. If you are already in the middle of a Xanax withdrawal, you should still go ahead and talk to a medical professional. There are multiple treatments that can help. Here are some of the best methods for dealing with detox.
Tapering Can Reduce Withdrawal
The safest and most reliable form of reducing withdrawal is tapering. A taper involves a person gradually reducing the amount of Xanax they take over the course of weeks or even months. This helps the body acclimate to functioning without Xanax again, so you avoid the worst of withdrawal symptoms. Since Xanax is such a short-acting benzodiazepine, it can be difficult to taper with it. Some people may benefit from switching to a longer-acting benzodiazepine, like diazepam, because it keeps their levels more stable.
Tapering on your own is technically possible, but it can be tricky to moderate your doses when you are dealing with dependence or substance use disorder. Many people choose to taper under medical supervision. A detox center can give you a controlled dose so that you are less likely to take all your drugs at once. When properly done, tapering can almost entirely reduce withdrawal symptoms. In addition to preventing life-threatening seizures, tapering can also help stop issues like headaches, nausea, and tremors.
Medications to Help With Withdrawal Symptoms
Whether you taper or not, you might need other medications to help with withdrawal symptoms. The most common medications are simple, over-the-counter medications that help with insomnia, nausea, and pain. If these medications are not helping much, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medications and other treatments as well.
People going through very severe withdrawal may require more medical care. If a person ends up hospitalized due to Xanax withdrawal, they most commonly require IVs for hydration and anti-seizure medications to reduce the risk of dangerous seizures. Some people may also need antipsychotic medications, anxiety medications, or depression medications to help with the mental effects of withdrawal.
Other Care for Patients Dealing With Withdrawal
When people think of Xanax detox, they often picture a medical team that helps to monitor a patient and provide them with the right medications at the right time. However, that isn’t the only service provided by a detox center. All the stress of detox can make recovering people feel very fragile. They can often benefit from additional therapy, support, and encouragement during this sensitive time. By focusing on intensive therapy during detox, people can stay motivated and find healthier ways of dealing with all the stress.
Keep in mind that withdrawal can continue even after the first wave of initial symptoms is over. It can take time for a person to fully recover. During this period, lifestyle changes are helpful. If possible, you should try to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, eat well, and do light exercise. This gives your body a better chance of dealing with all the taxing effects of withdrawal. Holistic therapies, like meditation and art, can also help to provide peace and healing throughout withdrawal.
What Can You Expect After Xanax Withdrawal?
Once you get out of withdrawal, it might feel like the hard part is over. However, even though you will not be struggling with intense physical symptoms anymore, you still need to be careful. Addiction is a very complex condition that cannot be overcome just by getting through withdrawal. If you do not take appropriate care, you may end up using Xanax and triggering withdrawal all over again. To treat a Xanax use disorder, you typically need to visit a rehab center that provides addiction care.
Benzodiazepine Maintenance Therapy
For patients who are struggling with intense dependency, medication-assisted maintenance therapy can be useful. This involves giving patients a low dosage of a mild, slow-acting benzodiazepine like diazepam. Maintenance therapy can reduce cravings without causing the disastrous effects of addiction.
Behavioral Therapy for Xanax Addiction
The other most common treatment for Xanax use disorder is behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy is a broad range of treatments where you talk and listen to a mental health professional. This sort of therapy comes in many forms, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or grief and trauma counseling. The goal of therapy is to treat the mental aspects of addiction. It encourages patients to look at the triggers for their drug use and find ways of coping with cravings.
If you or a loved one is dealing with Xanax addiction, you do not have to struggle alone. First City Recovery Center is here to help. Our Indiana drug rehab program provides compassionate and effective care. We provide medical detox care to support you through withdrawal, and then our partial hospitalization program and outpatient program can give you the tools you need to overcome addiction. Contact us today to learn more about our services.