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Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax is a sedative drug, used to treat conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. It relaxes the body and makes it easier for an individual to stay calm or fall asleep, but it can also be addictive.

An individual using Xanax can develop a dependency on it, meaning that they experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.

These symptoms can range from person to person, affecting both an individual’s physical and mental health. In some cases, they can even be fatal.

Detoxing from Xanax is best done with the help of medical professionals. Not only does this boost the chances of a successful detox, but it also ensures that an individual’s wellbeing is not needlessly thrown in harm’s way.

Xanax and withdrawal

Xanax – also known by its trade name, Alprazolam – is a common anti-anxiety and insomnia medication.

Belonging to the Benzodiazepine group of drugs, it is a sedative that boosts Gamma-Aminobutyric acid activity in the brain, creating an overall calming effect.

In spite of this, the substance has a high abuse risk compared to other drugs of the same group [1]. It affects the brain in a similar way to alcohol, and when taken frequently or large doses, Xanax poses the risk of physical addiction. For this reason, it cannot be prescribed by the NHS.

An individual can take so much of the substance that it alters their body’s chemistry, causing them to become dependent on it in order to function.

As a result, withdrawal symptoms can develop when an individual suddenly stops Xanax use. These can vary from person to person, as can how long they last. Withdrawal can be very dangerous, and even fatal in some cases.

Common Physical & Mental Withdrawal symptoms

Due to the physical dependence the body develops on Xanax after prolonged use, it can struggle to cope when the substance is suddenly taken away.

The body can therefore react adversely to its absence, and this results in withdrawal symptoms.

While they can vary between individuals, there are Xanax withdrawal symptoms known to commonly occur. These can affect both physical and mental health.

Physical symptoms include:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Shaking and seizures
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Body aches, pains, and stiffness
  • Insomnia or restlessness
  • Headaches

Mental symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Inability to concentrate

After an individual stops using Xanax, their immediate symptoms tend to specifically consist of those which they were originally taking the substance to reduce. These are known as rebound symptoms [2].

For example, if an individual were using the drug to help their anxiety or panic disorder, they might find that they are predominantly experiencing anxious and panicked thoughts during withdrawal.

Fatal effects

If not managed correctly, Xanax withdrawal can cause symptoms of a much more dangerous nature. Like alcohol withdrawal, it can put an individual’s life at risk.

After stopping Xanax use, an individual’s body may react is an extreme way, causing very serious seizures or cardiac arrest.

Duration of withdrawal

Compared to other Benzodiazepines, Xanax’s effects are experienced quickly. As a result, withdrawal tends to begin very soon after use and last for little more than a few weeks.

Day 1

Withdrawal commences very quickly. Within 6 hours of Xanax use, its initial effects wear off and withdrawal symptoms kick in.

The first to manifest are often increased anxiety and mood swings.

Day 2-4

Symptoms are at their strongest during the first few days of withdrawal. Rebound symptoms also become prevalent during this phase, as well as more intense bouts of their initial anxiety.

The most common symptoms to take effect in the first few days tend to be the physical ones. These include sweating, body aches, and nausea.

Day 5-14

Following the initial few days of withdrawal, symptoms tend to reduce in severity.

They can last for several more weeks, and even though they have widely lessened, symptoms can remain prevalent.

Mental symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia can continue, as well as some of the more long-term effects like weight loss.

Day 15+

Withdrawal symptoms usually pass completely after two weeks. While some symptoms may persist – possibly for up to two years – this generally marks the end of Xanax withdrawal.

Factors to consider

It is common for Xanax withdrawal to follow the timescale outlined above, but there are factors that might affect how each individual case plays out.

What symptoms develop, how severe symptoms are, and how long each stage of withdrawal lasts all depend on the circumstances of the individual. These circumstances include:

  • The length of an individual’s Xanax addiction
  • How much Xanax an individual takes
  • How frequently an individual takes Xanax
  • Whether any other substances are taken at the same time as Xanax, such as alcohol
  • Any pre-existing physical or mental health conditions

Xanax detox

Stopping the use of Xanax is a complicated and often dangerous thing to do. This is because those who attempt it often withdraw the substance very suddenly from their system. This is commonly referred to as going ‘cold turkey’.

This method is dangerous, and it makes the more serious withdrawal symptoms more likely. When an individual wants to detox from Xanax, it is best that they speak to their GP about the options available to them to ensure that the process is both safe and successful.

Tapering off

With the help of medical professionals, the pace of detox is much slower and effective. Instead of being suddenly taken away from the body, the use of the substance is gradually reduced. This is known as ‘tapering off’.

As the use of Xanax is slowly reduced, the body is able to adjust to its absence gradually. This stops the body’s chemistry from suddenly becoming imbalanced and therefore prevents it from going into shock.

Handling withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms, however, can still occur. When they do, medicinal substitutes can be prescribed to reduce their effect on the individual and keep the body stable.

For example, weaker Benzodiazepines might be used to sustain the body’s chemistry while protecting it from Xanax’s dangerous effects.

Withdrawal symptoms are often what makes an individual relapse during detox. When alone, they struggle to combat their negative effects, and so cave in to reduce their pain or discomfort.

Medicinal substitutes take this burden away from the individual, reducing their chances of relapsing, and improving their ability to engage in beneficial recovery activities.

Additional treatments

Xanax is usually taken to combat an anxiety-related disorder. Therefore, it is beneficial to try and tackle this source of negative thoughts and emotions during detox.

Through therapies, an individual is able to learn about the harmful ways in which they think, and develop alternative ways of behaving in the future.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), for example, looks to help individuals identify emotions and thought processes that compel them to abuse Xanax. It then encourages them to develop healthier ways of responding to these prompts, therefore giving them an alternative option to substance abuse.

Those with anxiety might learn techniques for calming down or becoming more attentive to the present moment, allowing them to become relaxed without having the depend as much on drugs such as Xanax.

Therapies such as CBT are helpful as they reduce the chances of individual relapsing in the months and years following detox. They tackle the root cause of substance abuse, and look to change an individual’s way of thinking for the better.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846112/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7841856/

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