Footprints to Recovery

Xanax Withdrawal: What Are the Dangers?

Medically Reviewed by Lisa Tomsak, DO

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Xanax is a type of benzodiazepine. Benzos were originally viewed as a safe alternative to barbiturates when it became clear that barbiturate abuse and overdose were becoming a serious problem. Over time, it also became clear that benzos could lead to abuse and addiction. Since then, the medical community has tried to limit benzodiazepine prescriptions, especially for long-term use. Because pf this Xanax withdrawal needs to be done in a medical setting.

Even if you take benzos like Xanax as prescribed, you can develop a tolerance within a couple of weeks. This can lead to dependence, which means if you’re prescribed benzos for insomnia, for example, you’ll need to take increasing amounts of them to get the same effect as time goes on.

Because of the way benzos impact your central nervous system, you can quickly develop a psychological and physical dependence on them. This means you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them. The severity of withdrawal symptoms is based on several things, but some research finds that 40% of people who take benzos for 6 months or more will have moderate to severe benzo withdrawal symptoms when they stop.

How Long Is Xanax Withdrawal?

The length and severity of Xanax withdrawal from any drug depends on factors like:

  • Your individual health
  • Co-occurring medical conditions
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders
  • How long you’ve been using the drug
  • How much of the drug you’re taking
  • If you’re taking other drugs or abusing alcohol

In general, the most bothersome symptoms of Xanax withdrawal usually happen in the first couple of weeks. These effects can come on as early as six to eight hours after you stop taking the drug. Xanax withdrawal symptoms like insomnia or anxiety can linger for several months for some people.

The withdrawal timeline may occur in two phases:

Phase one: This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome and can range from a week to a month after you quit taking Xanax. Phase one may include Xanax withdrawal symptoms like:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Paranoia
  • Stomach issues

Phase two: This is known as protracted withdrawal syndrome and can last for several months after you stop taking Xanax. During Xanax withdrawal, you may have rebound anxiety or insomnia. Malaise (a general feeling of discomfort and uneasiness) and depression can also stick around in protracted withdrawal. Some people experience memory issues during this time as well.

What Are Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms?

Xanax withdrawal symptoms can range from mild symptoms like insomnia to severe symptoms like seizures. Severe Xanax withdrawal symptoms are less common but are possible in certain situations. That’s why you should never try quitting Xanax cold turkey without your doctor’s help. Xanax withdrawal symptoms may include:
  • Behavior changes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Excessive sweating
  • Odd movements
  • Sensitivity to touch, light, or sound
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Appetite changes
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Poor concentration
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Low mood or depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Is Xanax Withdrawal Dangerous?

Withdrawing from benzodiazepines like Xanax can be dangerous. Some of the more severe Xanax withdrawal symptoms can lead to death directly or indirectly. Untreated seizures can cause death if they’re intense enough to block breathing for long periods of time. Psychological Xanax withdrawal symptoms like paranoia, hallucinations, and depression can fuel dangerous or self-harming behaviors and even suicide.

Studies show that older people are at increased risk of dangerous outcomes from long-term benzo use and withdrawal. The risk increases even more if they also use alcohol or other drugs. Some elderly people have suffered the following benzo withdrawal effects:

  • Falls
  • Heart attacks
  • Delirium
  • High heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure

Xanax detox and withdrawal should always take place under the care of medical professionals and detox specialists. It doesn’t matter if you’re abusing Xanax: If you’re dependent on the drug, you can experience withdrawal symptoms.

What Can You Take Instead of Xanax?

Because the addictive properties of Xanax are more well-known these days, medical professionals are opting for alternatives when possible. Some alternative medications to Xanax include:

  • Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
  • Buspirone
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • Anticonvulsants

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend behavioral interventions with or without medication like:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Exercise
  • Good sleep hygiene
  • Mindfulness

These medication and behavioral interventions can benefit people who may have been taking Xanax for:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Insomnia

Medical Detox for Xanax

When people think of detox, they often think of going cold turkey and quitting everything on their own. But that is never a good idea, especially if you are addicted to Xanax. Xanax detox and withdrawal should always take place under the care of medical professionals. Medically assisted detox ensures you’re safe and as comfortable as possible during withdrawal. Medical detox from Xanax can help to ease withdrawal symptoms. Quitting Xanax suddenly can cause:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart attacks

By tapering off Xanax gradually under medical supervision, you will stay safe if these potentially dangerous side effects occur. The most severe symptoms typically subside within three to seven days. You may stay in a detox center that entire time or move into residential treatment while doctors continue to closely monitor your withdrawal symptoms and vital signs.

Additionally, medical detox provides 24/7 support and monitoring. This is important because it can be easy to relapse when going through detox on your own. With around-the-clock care, you are less likely to make impulsive decisions that could jeopardize your recovery.

Finally, medical detox can help to prepare you for long-term treatment. After completing detox, you need to participate in some form of therapy or counseling to maintain sobriety. Xanax detox alone is not enough to achieve lasting recovery, but it’s an important first step.

What Happens After Xanax Detox?

Alcohol and drug detox is the first step in recovery. If you’ve been abusing Xanax, you need professional addiction treatment; otherwise, relapse is imminent. Alcohol and drug rehab helps you address the issues that fuel substance abuse. These often include challenges like:

  • Co-occurring mental health disorders like depression and anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Relationship problems
  • Unhealthy attachment styles with early caregivers, like parents
  • Grief and loss
  • Lack of coping skills

Treatment for Xanax abuse and other addictions typically includes a blend of individual and group therapy. You’ll learn relapse prevention skills and may take part in traditional and holistic treatment for Xanax addiction like:

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Family therapy/family program
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Trauma treatments like EMDR
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Fitness
  • Mindfulness

Looking for Help?

If you or a loved one is struggling, we can help. Footprints to Recovery offers a full continuum of care for Xanax treatment that includes:

The effects of Xanax abuse can be dangerous. Treatment for Xanax addiction at Footprints to Recovery is evidence-based and engaging. We’ve helped thousands of people recover. Call us to learn more about our treatment programs and how we can help you take the first step in reclaiming your life from Xanax addiction.

Questions about treatment options?

Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.

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