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Article Summary

Xanax Withdrawal

Xanax withdrawal can turn out fatal, particularly due to some of its symptoms - which may be dangerous. As such, you should never try to quit without the express permission and supervision of a team of medical professionals and addiction treatment experts.

Luckily, there are many different and effective medical detoxification options that can help you overcome your Xanax abuse, and find freedom from the drug. Read on to learn more about this drug and what happens when you decide to stop using it:

Understanding Xanax

Xanax can be extremely addicting. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), for instance, reports that even using this drug according to a doctor's prescription can cause dependence. This is especially so when take high doses or use the drug longer than one month.

The substance works by influencing the GABA chemical in the brain and the CNS (central nervous system). GABA is a natural sedative that your body creates to slow down certain bodily functions. It can, for instance, mute your natural reaction to stress and panic attacks.

Xanax will, over the course of time, influence how the body produces GABA. Therefore, your brain might stop making this chemical unless you have the drug in your system. Eventually, you may become dependent on the substance, meaning that withdrawal will kick in after it leaves your bloodstream.

At this point, your brain will struggle to regain the natural sense of balance and order that is normal for most people. This is why it is highly recommended that you undergo detoxification under medical assistance, since Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be potentially life threatening and dangerous.

Today, Xanax is mostly prescribed for the treatment of panic disorders and anxiety. It can also be used to relieve tension and stress, relax your muscles, and help you sleep. However, since it activates the brain's pleasure centers and makes users feel good, you might start abusing it.

Why Xanax Withdrawal Happens

Some people may eventually start taking Xanax in larger doses or for longer periods than their doctors prescribed. When this happens, they will increase their risk of becoming dependent on the drug. Similarly, they may end up suffering from acute withdrawal when they stop taking this substance.

Xanax withdrawal will occur when you are physically dependent on the drug and you suddenly stop using it. However, without this drug, you won't feel normal or be able to function. Instead, you will experience psychological disturbances and actual physical pain.

Although Xanax belongs to the class of drugs referred to as benzodiazepines, it is among the most dangerous because of the incidence of withdrawal. This substance, for instance, has a tendency to leave the body much faster than the other longer acting benzos. This might lead to severe and sudden withdrawal.

Even if you abuse extended release versions of the drug, you might also suffer strong withdrawal symptoms - much stronger than most of the other benzodiazepines. This could be because Xanax is sometimes 10 times more potent than the other substances in the same class of drugs - including Klonopin and Valium. This means that it will hijack your brain's reward centers more intensely than these other drugs.

In the same way, Xanax has a relatively short half-life. As a direct result, it will get into the body and go out quite fast. This quality makes the drug even more highly likely to cause physical, emotional, and psychological dependency than the other benzos.

The short half-life also means that you may start withdrawing from the drug even between your scheduled and recommended doses. This might powerfully reinforce your psychological dependence on it.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax was designed to be used in the short term and on an as-needed basis. This is because it has one of the highest potentials for addiction among the class of drugs it belongs to - benzodiazepines.

As such, some people may suffer withdrawal after taking this drug for a couple of weeks - or even during their prescribed mode of use. However, if you abuse the substance by taking large doses or using it for a prolonged period, your withdrawal will be accompanied by more severe effects - including seizures and hallucinations.

The following are some of the withdrawal symptoms that may arise when you stop using Xanax:

a) Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax is a CNS depressant. This means that it works by slowing down blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate. It can therefore prove effective if you need to minimize panic, stress, and anxiety. The drug also works well in reducing epileptic seizures.

However, if your brain gets used to the drug and these things are slowed down regularly, then the functions might "rebound" when you suddenly remove Xanax from your system.

This may cause a rapid rise in respiration, heart rate, body temperature, and - of course - blood pressure. You may also suffer seizures, leading to a coma or to sudden death. Consider the following additional physical signs of Xanax withdrawal:

  • Alteration in your sense of smell
  • Blurred vision
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hypertension
  • Impaired respiration
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Numbness of fingers
  • Sensitivity to sound and light
  • Sweating
  • Teeth pain
  • Tension in the jaw
  • Tingling in the legs and arms
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

Therefore, you should never stop using Xanax suddenly or even attempting quitting its use through the cold turkey method. Instead, you should do so under medical supervision to ensure that all your vital signs - including temperature, respiration levels, heart rate, and blood pressure - are monitored closely as the drug leaves your body.

One of the particularly dangerous side effects of suddenly quitting this medication is grand mal seizures, which might prove fatal if you do not receive professional medical assistance while withdrawing from Xanax.

b) Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax - like any other benzodiazepine - works by acting on the parts of the brain responsible for motivation, mood regulation, and reward. When you form a dependency to it, these regions will also be affected.

If you are dependent on the drug, therefore, and you decide to stop using it, your brain will require some time to get back to its usual levels of functioning. As a direct result, the emotional symptoms that accompany benzodiazepine withdrawal tend to be quite powerful. This is because paranoia, panic, and anxiety might increase when you remove Xanax from your body.

Undergoing withdrawal should only be done under medical supervision. This way, you will be closely monitored and watched for any signs of suicidal ideation and action as well as depression.

That said, withdrawing from Xanax can leave you feeling out of sorts - generally speaking. You might also be jumpy, irritable, and quite unable to bring your emotions under control.

Additionally, you may experience other side effects, including but not limited to hallucinations, memory loss (short term), trouble concentrating, nightmares, and mood swings.

As always, you are going to need the support of a team of mental health professionals as well as counseling and therapy to ensure that you can effective manage and control all the psychological symptoms of withdrawing from this drug.

The following symptoms may occur suddenly and will typically show up a couple of hours after your last dose of Xanax:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Increased anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Suicidal thoughts

c) Rebound Symptoms

If your doctor prescribed Xanax as a treatment for insomnia, panic disorder, or generalized panic disorder, you may experience severe rebound symptoms when you stop using the drug.

These symptoms usually come in the form of intensified effects of pre-existing psychological problems and disorders. They may, therefore, include inability to sleep, panic attacks, and anxiety.

Most of these rebound symptoms, however, will typically fade after a week or thereabouts. At this point, you will have to undergo specialized treatment for the underlying disorder.

Duration Of Xanax Withdrawal

Even though Xanax withdrawal tends to be more intense than withdrawing from the other benzodiazepines, it usually does not last quite as long. Since this substance is a short acting benzo, its effects will show up much sooner and disappear just as fast - in comparison to other benzos.

That said, Xanax withdrawal will start as soon as you deprive your body and brain of the drug. You may experience this condition a couple of hours after your last dose, and they will normally last for around a week.

In some instances, however, these withdrawal symptoms might appear for close to 2 years after you stop using the drug. This condition is commonly referred to as PAWS (or post-acute withdrawal syndrome) or as protracted Xanax withdrawal.

Xanax Withdrawal Timeline

As mentioned above, Xanax is a short acting benzo, with a half-life of about 11 hours according to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Therefore, when it is no longer active in your bloodstream (where it acts on blood plasma), you may start experiencing withdrawal. This usually happens 6 to 12 hours after you took the last dose of the drug.

The early withdrawal symptoms will generally last anywhere between 1 and 4 days and cover the rebound symptoms that the Xanax prescription might have been intended to deal with.

After that, you will undergo acute withdrawal, which lasts for anywhere between a couple of days to about a month. During this stage, you may experience all the typical symptoms of Xanax withdrawal. After that, the symptoms should start improving.

You may also experience protracted withdrawal from Xanax. This condition often includes intense cravings for the drug, as well as other severe psychiatric symptoms and issues.

Protracted withdrawal usually lasts for several weeks - although you can experience it for months or even years particularly if you fail to get medical help from a qualified mental health expert.

Consider the following:

a) 6 - 12 hours

The effects of using Xanax may wear off within 6 hours and give way to withdrawal. Since your body and brain will be starved of this drug, you may also experience irritability and anxiety - which will only get worse as you progress through withdrawal.

b) Days 1 - 4

During the first few days after you stop taking Xanax, your withdrawal symptoms will be the most intense. They will peak with rebound insomnia and anxiety. Additionally, you may suffer other symptoms - including sweating, muscle pain, and shaking. However, these symptoms will start improving after the 4th day.

c) Days 7 - 14

The symptoms of withdrawing from Xanax may last for about a fortnight after you stop using it. When you get to this point, the worst might be over and you will experience less severe effects. However, insomnia and anxiety might still persist.

d) Days 15+

Lingering symptoms, if any, should be mild by this point. However, you may experience protracted withdrawal symptoms even in those situations where all the initial symptoms have completely disappeared. The protracted symptoms may fluctuate and last for close to 2 years.

Factors Affecting Xanax Withdrawal

Xanax withdrawal is unique for everyone - as is dependence and addiction. However, your withdrawal might be affected by a variety of factors. For starters, if your brain and body are highly dependent to the drug, your withdrawal might last longer and be more intense.

Other factors that might influence the intensity and duration of Xanax withdrawal include, but are not limited to:

  • Dosage amount
  • Environmental factors
  • Family (or prior) history of substance use disorder and addiction
  • High stress levels
  • How long you have been using/abusing Xanax
  • Mental health issues
  • Method of ingestion
  • Mixture with other intoxicating drugs, such as alcohol
  • Underlying medical complications
  • Your age when you first started using the drug
  • Your genetics

Conclusion

Since Xanax withdrawal can be intense and severe - or even lead to fatal outcomes - it is essential that you undergo medical detox. This way, you will be able to benefit from the help that will be provided by mental health and medical professionals who are experienced and trained treat drug abuse, dependence, and addiction - with a specific focus on benzodiazepines (in general) and Xanax (in particular).

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