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Article Summary

How To Stop Using Xanax

While trying to learn how to stop using Xanax, you may encounter some problems. For starters, your body might still continue craving for more of the drug to feel functional and healthy. This means that you may not want to quit using the drug - particularly because of the comfort you feel when you are on it.

Secondly, the withdrawal symptoms you are likely to experience when you try to quit may compel you to continue using. Your body will feel worse than you've probably ever felt before, and you will undergo an unpleasant experience. Therefore, you may decide to keep using simply because failure to do so is too unbearable and uncomfortable.

However, there are some things you can do to help you quit Xanax once and for all. Read on to find out more:

Weaning Yourself From Xanax

If you abuse benzodiazepines like Xanax for a long time, you may become physically dependent on it. This means that when you try to quit, you may experience anxiety, psychosis, and seizures.

This is why it is highly recommended that you work with a medical team to create a safe and effective tapering plan. The duration and rate of the tapering process will, however, depend on how long you have been using the drug and how much damage it might already have caused on your body.

Once your mind and body are addicted to and dependent on Xanax, you may experience a variety of uncomfortable and disconcerting withdrawal symptoms. These include high blood pressure, convulsions, and insomnia among other symptoms that might prove relentless unless you get the right treatment. Withdrawal might even send you into fits of depression, rage, and paranoia.

Other potential threats that come with withdrawing from Xanax include, but are not limited to:

  • Insomnia
  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • De-realization

Failure to stay in rehab for long or think that it is okay to continue socializing with other addicts and substance users after your treatment is complete are some of the mistakes that you might make. This is why it is highly likely for you to relapse unless you have a support network to back you up as you try to adjust to a lifestyle of sobriety.

Relapse might also happen if you do not seek the right type of treatment for your particular condition. In fact, medical detoxification is one of the important steps that you have to take when you start withdrawing from benzos - otherwise the withdrawal might prove too intense or abrupt for you to give up Xanax.

About Xanax

Xanax, which is also referred to as alprazolam, is a sedative that depresses the central nervous system. Some of its short term effects include sleep induction, drowsiness, relief from anxiety, and muscle relaxation.

However, when you use this drug for long or take a daily dose higher than 4 mg, your risk of becoming dependent on and addicted to it will significantly increase. This risk is also higher for people with a personal or family history of substance use disorder.

On the other hand, abusing Xanax in the long term can cause social isolation, confusion, persistent disorientation, speech problems, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, and depression - among other adverse effects. Withdrawing from the drug also leads to symptoms like hallucinations, rapid heart rate, vomiting, tremors, nausea, and sweating.

Xanax Statistics

Xanax addiction is rampant, especially given the statistics related to it. Consider the following figures:

a) Rate of Addiction

In 2015, close to 700,000 people aged 12 and above reported struggling with tranquilizer use disorders.

b) Emergencies

In 2011, more than 10 percent of all visits to emergency departments related to the non-medical use of pharmaceuticals involved Xanax abuse.

c) Gender

Men tend to show a slightly higher rate of benzo abuse - with more than 3,148 men reporting that they had used this class of drugs in the past year while 974 reported that they had abused it within the past month. This was in comparison to about 2903 women who reported past year use while 900 reported past month use.

d) Overdose

In 2014, the report of overdose deaths related to benzodiazepine abuse was at 8,000 - the highest figure since 2011.

e) Teen Xanax Abuse

In 2015 alone, 4.7 percent of teens in the 12th grade reported that they had used tranquilizers like Xanax in the past year - which was a slight drop from previous years. The use of these drugs among 8th graders, however, was at its lowest level - with only 1.7 percent reporting that they had used the class of drugs in the previous year. Overall, the abuse of tranquilizers was found to have gone down since 2001 in all 12th, 10th, and 8th grade populations:

f) Use

In 2015, over 4000 people reported that they had abused or misused Xanax.

Quitting Xanax

As mentioned above, Xanax is a short acting CNS (central nervous system) depressant. Xanax is also the brand name for the medical drug, alprazolam, which is commonly prescribed for treating panic disorders and anxiety. However, this drug is also abused for the calming and euphoric effects it provides.

Abusing Xanax and becoming addicted to it, however, comes with a variety of severe consequences. On the other hand, withdrawing from it tends to produce intensely uncomfortable symptoms that can prove life threatening.

It can also be quite difficult to stop using this drug - particularly because the withdrawal period may last for several weeks, or go on for a couple of months. In the same way, its psychological withdrawal effects may cause you to relapse.

Today, most people will start using the drug to deal with stress and cope with anxiety. With time, however, you may find that it is becoming increasingly hard for you to take part in normal and everyday activities unless you first take the drug.

During withdrawal, therefore, you may experience rebound insomnia and anxiety - and you may start using Xanax again to deal with these rebound symptoms. On the other hand, withdrawal might also cause you to experience suicidal thoughts and depression.

Although quitting Xanax isn't necessarily easy, it is achievable. As always, the first step to full recovery is realizing that you need outside help. After that, you should ask for assistance.

As far as possible, it is highly inadvisable to try and quit this drug on your own. Instead, you may want to talk to an addiction professional or check into a rehabilitation facility to kick start your journey to full recovery from Xanax addiction.

Benefits Of Quitting

Some people start abusing Xanax because they need the drug to help them feel relaxed and at ease in social situations. However, they might eventually find that they have become psychologically dependent on it.

Since these people rely on Xanax as a coping mechanism, they may have a hard time stopping. Although you may be tempted to continue abusing the drug to help you combat anxiety - among other reasons - the benefits that come with quitting far outweigh these perceived benefits of continued use.

Consider the following:

a) Reduced Consequences

When you stop abusing Xanax, you will eliminate the risk of suffering consequences in the future. Abusing the drug in the long term tends to be accompanied by problems with finances, employment, and relationships.

After quitting, however, you may experience improvements in all of these areas. You will also prevent yourself from getting into other problems - like accidents - as a result of the drug.

b) Improved Physical and Mental Functioning

Abusing Xanax in the long term sometimes leads to agitation, confusion, depression, impaired coordination, and memory loss. When you quit, however, you may be able to relieve and reverse these symptoms. This will allow you to continue living your life without having to be under the influence of the drug or from recovering from its various adverse effects.

c) Freedom

Quitting means that you will no longer have to use Xanax to feel better. Learning how to manage stress and anxiety will sever your dependence on the drug, and you will finally be able to cope with your everyday life without resorting to the substance.

Xanax Effects

As we mentioned above, Xanax may cause psychological and physiological dependence - particularly if you abuse it. On the other hand, if you use the drug recreationally, you will be significantly more likely to suffer withdrawal - the risk for which increases when you take a daily dose higher than 4 mg. Having a family history of mental health problems, addiction, or substance use disorder may also increase your risk of developing an addiction to this drug.

In most cases, the withdrawal symptoms will show up 6 to 8 hours after your last Xanax dose. These symptoms will, thereafter, peak on the 2nd day before you seen an improvement on the 4th or 5th day. That said, the psychological symptoms of withdrawing from Xanax are hard to differentiate from general anxiety.

Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Clouded senses
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Dysphoria, or a sense of unease that ranges from severe to mild
  • Heightened sensory perception, that sometimes gets to the point of intense discomfort
  • Impaired concentration
  • Muscle and abdominal cramps
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Pins and needles sensations on the skin
  • Rebound anxiety symptoms
  • Rebound panic disorder symptoms
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Since some of these withdrawal symptoms might prove to be life threatening and severe, it is highly recommended that you undergo medically supervised detoxification. When you have a severe addiction or you've been abusing Xanax in the long term, it might be necessary for you to receive round the clock supervision and monitoring by a qualified and certified medical team.

Some of these withdrawal symptoms might occur even if you are tapering purposefully. This is because your body will start adjusting to the lower amounts of the substance in its system.

The Importance Of Undergoing Medical Detox

However, not everyone who abuses Xanax chooses to undergo medical detoxification. Some of them may choose to decrease the dose of the drug they take on a daily basis but find that they cannot complete the process.

You may experience great difficulty with this quitting option - particularly if you are also battling another mental health disorder (such as the one that you might have started taking Xanax to medicate).

For instance, if you have panic disorder, your doctor might prescribe Xanax as the most effective treatment medication. After using the drug for a long time - or even misusing it - you may become dependent on it.

When you start tapering off it, therefore, you will experience intense withdrawal discomfort. Additionally, the symptoms of the panic disorder that Xanax was intended to treat will resurge.

Therefore, the best solution would be to get medical help. This way, you will receive medical supervision and your tapering would be controlled. As a direct result, you may avoid some of the negative outcomes of sudden withdrawal - including but not limited to seizures and psychosis. While undergoing medical detoxification, the team in charge of your case will also ensure that you are supported and safe.

Undergoing medical detox will also ensure that you are properly hydrated. This is important because dehydration may seriously exacerbate the symptoms that come with Xanax withdrawal.

You will also be advised to avoid mild stimulants - such as caffeine - because they might boost the activity of withdrawal. Of course, you should keep away from other addictive and intoxicating substances, like alcohol.

In other instances, you may be put on a diet of smaller, blander meals. This will help you stay well feed especially if you feel nauseated. Alternatively, the doctors may recommend foods that are high in protein to help keep your strength up.

Curbing Xanax Cravings

You may start abusing Xanax even without a prescription. Alternatively, you may use the drug for non-therapeutic purposes. Either way, both forms of abuse can quickly lead you down the path to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

When you stop using this drug, you might experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms, which might be accompanied by strong and intense cravings for Xanax. This might be due to - in part - persistent neuronal changes that would have occurred when you were addicted to the drug. Once you make a decision to stop abusing Xanax, it is important that you learn how to recognize these cravings. This could help you overcome them and eventually prevent yourself from relapsing.

Some of the common symptoms of cravings for Xanax include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Inability to concentrate and focus on the task at hand because of the Xanax thoughts preoccupying your mind
  • Increased heart rate
  • Preoccupying thoughts about the drug
  • Reminiscing about your past use of the substance
  • Sweating
  • The presence of pill bottles as triggers

Since Xanax is a fast acting substance, your cravings may begin a couple of hours after you stop using it. The longer you have been using this drug, and the higher your doses, the more severe your cravings and withdrawal will be.

Additionally, research now shows that if you naturally have a negative mood, you may experience more intense cravings for benzodiazepines like Xanax - at least in comparison to someone with a more positive or neutral mood.

At the moment, benzodiazepine addiction is most commonly treated using CBT (or cognitive behavioral therapy). This form of therapy usually focuses on the deep connections between behavior, feelings, and thoughts. As such, the therapist will work on repairing any dysfunctional thoughts you have, with a view to influence more positive behavior and thoughts.

Additionally, the therapist will teach you a couple of coping strategies that you can use whenever you experience cravings for the drug, or when you encounter a strong trigger. You may also learn the following coping skills:

a) Avoidance

One of the best ways to counteract your cravings for Xanax is to learn how to avoid any situation that might lead to these cravings. For instance, you should try and keep away from environments where other people might be using intoxicating substances.

b) Distraction

You may also want to engage in healthier activities free of Xanax. These activities could potentially help to free your mind with thoughts about using the drug, or preoccupation with it.

c) Relaxation

Your therapist may teach you relaxation techniques like deep breathing and guided imagery. By so doing, you will be able to deflect any negative emotions that could cause you to experience drug cravings.

d) Self-Talk

In most cases, the thoughts you get when you are on your own could influence your behaviors and emotions. Therefore, as you try battle your addiction to benzodiazepines like Xanax, you might want to stay positive and continue encouraging yourself all the way to full recovery.

e) Talking

When you experience cravings, you should never keep the ideas and feelings to yourself, otherwise they will only start getting stronger. Instead, talk to a friend, a member of your family, or your 12 step sponsor about the experience.

f) Meditation

You could also learn how to repeat positive mantras or even listen to some relaxing music. Although this might take some practice, it could eventually be the missing link you need to overcome your cravings for Xanax

g) Exercise

Research shows that regular intense cravings is beneficial as an adjunct to drug abuse treatment. This is because it releases endorphins that promote the feelings of happiness and well-being commonly associated with addictive substances like Xanax.

Xanax Treatment Medications

As you undergo Xanax withdrawal, your doctor may recommend MAT - medication assisted therapy - to deal with the symptoms and effects that arise when you stop abusing this drug.

Some of the medications that the might prescribe for your detox include, but are not limited to:

a) Anti-Seizure and Antihypertensive Medications

Your doctor may choose to directly manage your troublesome withdrawal symptoms by using anti-seizure and/or antihypertensive medications like carbamazepine, clonidine, and propranolol. These drugs are effective against seizures, tremors, and anxiety.

b) Flumazenil

There has been some research into flumazenil, which works as a benzodiazepine antagonist drug. The doctors might either implant it underneath your skin or recommend that you use it as a patch or a cream.

Preclinical trials show that flumazenil is effective at decreasing some withdrawal symptoms from Xanax addiction. It also works to improve motor functioning, mood, memory, and cognition.

However, seizure is still a concern with this form of treatment, which is why it is yet to receive approval from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for use in mitigating the effects of withdrawing from benzodiazepines.

c) Long-Acting Benzodiazepines

On the other hand, your medical detox team might use longer acting benzos like Valium (diazepam) or Klonopin (clonazepam) to manage your withdrawal symptoms. The effects of clonazepam, for instance, come with a relatively gradual onset. This means that it may prove to be effective at alleviating your withdrawal symptoms over the long haul - after which it could be easier to taper it off gradually.

d) Barbiturates

Last but not least, your doctor may recommend barbiturates like Phenobarbital. During withdrawal, these drugs have been found to be effective as Xanax substitutes.

Relapse And Cravings

After you stop abusing Xanax, it is essential that you are aware of certain thoughts and behavior that could cause you to relapse. These warning signs can help you understand what is happening, and ensure that you avoid relapse even before it happens. You can also use them to ask for the treatment you need to be able to continue on the path to a healthy life free of addictive and intoxicating substances.

Some of the early warning signs of a Xanax relapse, to this end, include but are not limited to:

  • A lack of belief in the recovery program you are on
  • Believing that it is possible to start using the drug again without necessarily falling back into your old pattern of abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction
  • Exhibiting patterns of defensiveness and denial
  • Intense disintegration of personal and professional relationships
  • Losing interest in activities you once found pleasurable
  • Reconnecting with old acquaintances and friends who you used to take Xanax with
  • Romanticizing your past use of the drug

All these are some tell-tale signs that a relapse is impending. When you notice them, the most important thing you can do is take all the necessary steps required to ensure that you do not relapse.

Xanax Addiction Treatment And Recovery Options

Giving up Xanax can be difficult - especially if you try to do it on your own. If you end up experiencing acute withdrawal, you might even end up suffering some life threatening and fatal health complications.

The best solution would be to attend a drug treatment and recovery program. This will ensure that you get the quality physical and mental healthcare you require. It may also be the missing link you need to ensure that you increase your chances and opportunities for full recovery from addiction.

In most cases, medically assisted detoxification might be the first step towards full recovery. It will often take place in an outpatient or inpatient setting depending on your particular needs and preferences.

During the detox, your medical team will help you taper off the drug through weaning. This means that you will take smaller and smaller doses of the drug over a given period of time to help your body start getting used to staying without Xanax. Tapering is particularly effective at minimizing withdrawal symptoms.

On the other hand, if you are severely addicted to this benzodiazepine, your physician might recommend that you receive round the clock monitoring at a facility as you undergo withdrawal. They may additionally prescribe other medications to ensure that your detox is as safe as possible.

After detox, it is highly recommended that you make the transition to a full addiction treatment program - that will include relapse prevention, therapy, and aftercare. Some of the common treatment options for people addicted to Xanax include:

a) 12-Step Programs

When you participate in a 12-step program, you will be provided with support and structure. You will, therefore, have to follow the laid-out step by step process required for full recovery. The program may also provide you with support from other group members until you fully overcome your addiction to Xanax.

b) Individual/Group Therapy and Counseling

Therapy and counseling are crucial for full recovery. They are designed in such a way that they will help address most of the reasons why you became addicted to this drug in the first place. Additionally, they will work towards enhancing your overall mental health and self-esteem.

In particular, the treatments might be focused on CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). The techniques used with this form of therapy are often designed in such a way that they will help you learn how to cope with triggers and stress - which might compel you to want to abuse Xanax. On the other hand, the therapy might focus on stress reduction techniques and motivational interviewing. Additionally, group counseling is important because it will ensure that you are challenged and supported by your peers as you take the journey to full recovery.

Overall, therapy may help you address any and all co-occurring mental health problems that might have contributed to your addiction and which could - if unchecked - cause you to relapse.

c) Inpatient Treatment

Most people who are addicted to Xanax choose to leave the familiarity and comfort of home and their surroundings to check into a residential or inpatient treatment facility. This allows them to focus on their addiction for a certain period of time - which will typically range from 29 days to three months, or even longer.

Residential treatment and rehabilitation is highly recommended, especially if you have recurring, multiple, or particularly severe addictions. This is because it will minimize the opportunities for relapse.

In most cases, you will find that inpatient rehabilitation is highly structured and that your contact and communication with the outside world is somewhat limited. Typically, treatment may include 12-step groups, support groups, intensive counseling and therapy, medically assisted detox, and - in some cases - alternative therapies.

Some facilities also offer luxury amenities as part of the residential rehabilitation package. These amenities include private rooms, gourmet meals, and spa treatments, among many others.

d) Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient rehabilitation often takes place in clinical settings that you have to attend part time. As a recovering Xanax user, you will get to attend detox appointments, educational meetings, and support groups. The difference with residential treatment is that you won't live in the rehabilitation facility. This means that you will still be able to attend to your other responsibilities at work, school, or home.

Supportive Care For Xanax Addiction

As mentioned above, you may require medical detox to overcome your addiction to Xanax safely. However, your supportive care might also entail other interventions. These include motivational interviewing (MI) and CBT.

However, since recovery from substance use disorders tend to be an ongoing journey and process, it should continue after your initial treatment. This is because it can be particularly challenging to maintain your sobriety once you leave the treatment and rehabilitation environment.

To this end, there are many different aftercare programs designed to help you avoid relapse and stay sober. As you continue recovering from Xanax addiction, therefore, you might find the following options useful:

  • 12-step programs
  • Counseling
  • Outpatient visits
  • Relapse prevention
  • Sober living communities
  • Support groups

Overall, overcoming your addiction to and abuse of Xanax may not be as easy as you think. However, given the fact that there are so treatment options out there, you can make the process a little easier for yourself using outside help.

Once you leave the treatment environment, you may encounter some triggers - including former friends you used to abuse the drug with, adverse situations, and more. This is where aftercare programs can come in to mitigate the situation and ensure you do not relapse.

As with any other kind of addiction, you should keep in mind that recovery is always an ongoing process that you have to keep at until you are fully over your previous behavior, feelings, and thoughts of using. When you get to this point, you will know that you are finally done with Xanax.

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