Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Many prescription medications, even those that are not considered to be addictive, produce withdrawal symptoms when a person stops taking them. Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, potentially dangerous or life-threatening. In particular benzodiazepine drugs, like Xanax, are unique in how severe both the psychical and psychological symptoms can be and how long they can last.
If you are struggling with an addiction to Xanax, it’s important to know about the effects of this medication, withdrawal symptoms, and to understand what treatment options are available to help you safely get on the road to recovery.
What is Xanax?
Xanax, the brand name for the drug alprazolam, is a common medication for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. It is a central nervous system depressant and works by slowing down heart rate and promoting a feelings of calmness. It has both sedative and hypnotic properties to make users feel relaxed and quickly eliminate symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders.
Xanax is part of a class of medications called benzodiazepines, which is a major class of prescription drugs that are primarily designed to treat anxiety disorders and panic disorders. When used under the supervision of a healthcare professional, Xanax can be helpful in address withdrawal symptoms from other substances.
Because it is effective for managing acute symptoms of certain mental health disorders, Xanax became one of the more widely prescribed medications in the United States. Unfortunately, it was soon found that there were a number of downsides to this medication. Xanax has the potential to be misused and there is a risk of dependence and addiction. Additionally, it can have severe and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms, particularly if people use the medication for long periods of time, use more than is prescribed, or misuse the medication.
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome
Xanax withdrawal can include a host of possible symptoms, meaning that the condition is considered to be a “syndrome.” The severity of the symptoms depends largely on how high the ending dose was, how long the drug was taken, and whether the individual stopped taking it all at once or slowly tapered off the dose.
Possible Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:
- Disturbed sleep.
- Panic attacks.
- Excessive sweating.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Memory issues.
- Intestinal problems and nausea.
- Muscular weakness.
- Weight loss.
- Suicidal ideations.
The most severe and dangerous of these symptoms tend to only happen to individuals who have been taking high doses of the drug for a very long time and/or those who quit taking the drug suddenly without tapering off. However, severe symptoms can appear even after a small decrease in the dose. This is why it is highly recommended that individuals not attempt to quit “cold turkey,” or attempt to detox on their own.
It’s much more common for individuals to experience more mild withdrawal symptoms, particularly anxiety. Benzodiazepine medications like Xanax are known for their tendency to cause a condition called “rebound anxiety,” which is a bout of anxiety that is more intense than what the person experienced before starting the medication. People can end up having intense panic attacks, which can make it very difficult to resist the temptation to take more Xanax. This is why it is important to seek the help of qualified addiction treatment specialists.
What Causes Withdrawal Symptoms?
The reason withdrawal symptoms happen is because drugs like Xanax physically change the brain over time. Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the activity of the neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) that naturally produces sedation effects. When a person takes a medication that artificially activates a part of the brain like this, the brain attempts to compensate by making the receptors less sensitive or generally decreasing activity in this area of the brain. This is called developing a tolerance to a drug.
When tolerance occurs, people find that the same dose of their medication no longer produces the desired effect. They must increase the dose in order to control anxiety symptoms, or, in the case of abuse, achieve a high. As doses increase, the GABA neurotransmitters become less and less naturally active.
At this point, if someone stops taking the drug, there is suddenly a severe lack of activity in the GABA area of the brain. The lack of activity in the GABA area prompts the brain to increase activity in the excitatory systems, producing more serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. Because this area is meant to sedate and calm people naturally, without it working properly, people can experience severe anxiety along with other disturbing symptoms.
There isn’t a typical timeline that Xanax withdrawal follows since a tapered approach is generally used with benzodiazepine withdrawal. Oftentimes, individuals who are addicted to Xanax are switched to a longer-acting benzodiazepine and then slowly tapered off that medication over a period of weeks or months. A tapered approach can largely reduce or even eliminate withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment Options for Xanax Addiction
Medical detox is highly recommended for individuals struggling with addiction to benzodiazepines, like Xanax, who are ready to get on the road to recovery. The goal of a medical detox is to make the withdrawal period as comfortable as possible for the individual. Any symptoms that appear are treated with nonaddictive medications. The individual can also be constantly monitored for seizures and other potentially life-threatening emergencies.
It’s important to note that detox is generally the first step in treatment. While in detox, your treatment team will work with you to develop a care plan that will include evidence-based therapies and treatments. Based on your needs, a level of care will be recommended:
- Inpatient addiction treatment.
- Partial hospitalization program (PHP).
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP).
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. That’s why our addiction treatment center in South Florida offers short-term, month-long, and long-term programs. However, the longer that an individual remains in treatment, the better the outcome. While in treatment, people will learn new coping skills for dealing with triggers and build a support network and community — all while building a firm foundation for a life in recovery.
Drug and Alcohol Rehab near Miami, FL
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs, including Xanax, know that there is help. The experienced addiction treatment team at Recovery First Treatment Center have the knowledge and expertise to help you find hope, health, and healing.
Contact our admissions navigators at to get more information about our center, how to start admissions for rehab, and to learn about ways to pay for treatment. You can also find out if your insurance will cover some or all of treatment by speaking with one of our navigators or