The duration of Xanax withdrawals depends on the individual. When an addictive substance is used regularly, dependence eventually forms. Once use of the substance ceases, unpleasant, painful, and sometimes dangerous side effects occur. This is known as withdrawal. Defined by the American Psychological Association, withdrawal is a syndrome that develops after cessation of prolonged, heavy consumption of a substance, with symptoms varying by substance but generally including physiological, behavioral, and cognitive manifestations.
Withdrawal symptoms differ based on the substance of abuse, with some manifesting mild withdrawal symptoms while others yield painful and dangerous symptoms. Regardless of the substance that has been abused, withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, which is why it is highly recommended to seek a professional detox clinic to assist in the process. Clinicians at these facilities will monitor the withdrawal process and ensure the individual feels safe and supported.
What is Xanax?
Xanax is a benzodiazepine tranquilizer drug, alprazolam, which is used to cure generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic attacks, and panic disorder triggered by anxiety. This sedative medication is an important medication for many individuals who suffer from severe anxiety in certain situations, panic attacks, social anxiousness, and other acute problems related to high levels of panic in particular.
Since Xanax is a fast-acting benzodiazepine, it quickly binds to receptor cells in the brain, providing almost immediate relief that lasts for hours. Since Xanax works immediately, doctors rarely prescribe it for regular use. Because all benzodiazepines can rapidly lead to physical dependence and tolerance, they are almost never prescribed for more than two weeks of daily use.
In 2011, these sedatives were the second-most misused and abused drug among people age 65 and older, resulting in thousands of emergency room admissions.
How Does Xanax Work?
Xanax works by increasing the amount of the GABA, a neurotransmitter, in the brain to promote calmness and relaxation. Individuals with anxiety conditions are able to remain calm in stressful situations to curb panic attacks and calm their bodies’ overactivity by increasing GABA levels. When taken as directed, Xanax can be a safe and efficient drug. Instead, it is commonly misused.
How Does Xanax Addiction Develop?
Long-term use of Xanax for legitimate reasons can quickly escalate into misuse and addiction, which is why Xanax use progressing from misuse to dependence and addiction should be concerning. Taking a pill daily, even for legitimate reasons, when it is continued past the short-term recommendation can result in long-term problems like dependence and addiction. According to research, about 40 percent of those taking Xanax daily for severe anxiety for at least six weeks (the suggested duration is two to four weeks) become addicted.
The body experiences a type of high that includes euphoria and relaxation without being diagnosed with clinical anxiety and taking Xanax. Some equate the sensation to a feeling of calm and overall health. That’s because Xanax increases GABA in the brain. However, seeking to recapture that feeling by taking more Xanax or taking it more often can quickly lead to addiction. The brain subsequently produces less GABA on its own, forcing the user to increase the amount of Xanax they consume to achieve the same euphoric, relaxing, and calming effects.
Signs of Xanax Addiction
You do not have to intentionally abuse Xanax in order to develop a Xanax dependency. Xanax addiction may result from long-term use or large doses. At first glance, this prescription drug appears to be harmless, but it may result in life-threatening medical problems later on.
An individual taking Xanax for the first few days will probably be especially drowsy and experience a loss of coordination, but as the body grows accustomed to the drug and its effects, these side effects disappear. Once this happens, a Xanax tolerance is likely to have already developed. To achieve its calming effects, users must take more Xanax, and without it, they will be unable to function throughout the day. Signs of Xanax addiction include:
- Lack of coordination
- Cognitive deficits
- Delirious states / out-of-body experiences
- Breathing difficulties
- Poor concentration
- Slurred speech
- Aggressive or impulsive behavior
- Slowed brain function
- Slowed pulse and breathing
- Dizziness or fatigue
When do Xanax Withdrawals Start?
Within 24 hours of the last dose of Xanax, withdrawal symptoms can begin, and they may persist for several days to a few weeks. Researchers have identified two phases of benzo withdrawal—acute withdrawal, which lasts anywhere from 5 and 28 days after cessation of benzodiazepines, and a more prolonged withdrawal phase, which can last one year or longer, in some cases.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal vary based on the length of the addiction. For the average person, symptoms appear within the first few days and last approximately two weeks. If the Xanax addiction is severe, symptoms of withdrawal can be life-threatening.
Sweating is common when going through withdrawal. This is the physical body’s way of ridding itself of all remaining traces of the substance.
An individual withdrawing from this highly addictive benzodiazepine is likely to experience increased levels of anxiety. As a common anxiety medication, Xanax interacts with neurotransmitters in the brain to produce a calming sensation. The absence of Xanax can increase the individual’s anxiety to higher levels than before they started medicating.
Due to profuse sweating, vomiting and diarrhea that are likely to occur during the withdrawal stage, the body becomes extremely dehydrated. This intense dehydration causes muscles and joints to cramp up, producing involuntary spasms.
Xanax abuse causes a chemical alteration within the brain. Once withdrawal begins, the individual may feel depressed as Xanax is no longer altering neurotransmitter activity as was once frequently occurring.
As the most dangerous symptom of Xanax withdrawal, these seizures can be fatal if the individual is unsupervised. When an individual abruptly stops taking Xanax, its absence causes abnormal nerve activity within the brain and the individual is at high risk for seizure as a result.
Due to the severity of some of these symptoms and the potential for life-threatening side effects, such as seizures, clinical supervision within a professional detox facility is highly recommended.
How Long Does it Take to Withdraw From Xanax?
Xanax is notoriously difficult and dangerous to withdraw from. As a benzodiazepine, Xanax withdrawal can cause life-threatening seizures when usage has stopped. According to Griffin Memorial Hospital, withdrawal seizures usually occur in patients who have been taking these medications for long periods of time and at high doses, with the severity of seizures ranging from a single episode to coma and death.
The length of Xanax withdrawal depends on the length of the addiction and the quantity of the drug regularly used. Those who have abused Xanax for a short time, or only used very little, may have a significantly shorter withdrawal period and display relatively mild symptoms.
In contrast, those who have struggled with Xanax abuse for an extended amount of time, or in large quantities, may experience an extended withdrawal stage and more dangerous symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms typically show up within the first few days and last up to two weeks. Rarely, Xanax withdrawal can take up to one month.
Factors That Affect Xanax Withdrawal
Xanax withdrawal can be influenced by a number of variables. Long-term use of higher doses of benzos, concurrent use of multiple benzos, length of use, and the use of shorter-acting benzodiazepines are all associated with more severe acute benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. Alprazolam withdrawal may result in higher instances of rebound anxiety than other benzodiazepines, particularly when used for long periods of time. These rebound symptoms are frequently more severe than they were prior to the use of Xanax.
There are also worries about Xanax use in certain populations. The drug’s pharmacological effects are thought to be influenced by how the body absorbs, metabolizes, and eliminates its active forms. Research suggests that Xanax might be metabolized more slowly in older adults, individuals with liver disease, and those who are overweight. Research indicates that Asians may experience higher peak concentrations and longer elimination times for Xanax compared to Caucasians.
Treatment for Xanax Withdrawals
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that medical professionals use a schedule to help patients taper benzodiazepines safely because of the difficulties associated with withdrawal and discontinuation. Clinicians may use a drug such as Valium (diazepam) to help keep patients in withdrawal as comfortable as possible over a period of days or weeks as they gradually decrease the dose of benzodiazepines.
Although detoxification is an important first step toward overcoming drug addiction, it is not always enough to support an individual’s long-term recovery. Medical detoxification may serve as an excellent starting point for more intensive treatment, where evidence-based behavioral therapies and counseling can help people avoid relapses and achieve long-term sobriety.
Asheville Recovery Center Can Help
It is extremely important to seek help immediately if you or a loved one is struggling with substance addiction or withdrawal. The founders of Asheville Recovery Center, as well as many of our addiction therapists, have struggled with addiction and now enjoy life in recovery. They understand the struggles of addiction and how difficult it is to overcome alone.
While we do not have a detox facility, we can refer you to a quality clinic where experts can supervise your withdrawal phase. Upon successfully completing the detox process, we will work with you to formulate a custom treatment plan designed to fit your individual needs. If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call (828)518-6996 and speak with an addiction expert today so you can take the first step towards a rewarding life of sobriety.