Xanax is a benzodiazepine that is prescribed to patients suffering from mental anxiety and stress. Xanax works by increasing the activity of certain neurotransmitters that inhibit the normal activity of the brain, producing a sensation of calmness and relaxation. Benzodiazepine is an addictive drug and prolonged use of it results in serious complications and can be fatal in some cases. The one main complication linked to an addictive drug is its withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms of Xanax include dizziness, concentration problems, neck and face pain, and muscle spasms. But can Xanax cause seizures? This is one of the most heated debates regarding the withdrawal symptoms of any addictive drug.
What are the Seizures? Seizures can be defined as sudden uncontrolled electrical changes in the nerve cells of the brain. Symptoms depend on the severity of the seizures, some causing drastic changes in the body while some going unnoticed. If you are taking a high dosage of benzodiazepine regularly, you are most likely to experience severe seizures once you suddenly stop its intake. When you start taking benzodiazepines regularly, the brain becomes dependent on the dosage of this drug to suppress sensations like stress. It is because of the tendency of our brain to adopt the changes it goes through every day.
Table of Contents
Causes of Xanax Withdrawal Seizures
Some of the most evident causes of withdrawal symptoms are:
Long-term Xanax Use
Long-term use of any addictive drug that has a depressant action in the nervous system has the potential to cause withdrawal symptoms. These drugs work on the exact mechanisms as those followed by the inhibitory neurotransmitters in the body. Similarly, long-term use of alprazolam, the medical term for Xanax, gradually damages the body’s tendency to cope with mental states like anxiety, stress, and panic attacks without these drugs. Taking addictive drugs after regular intervals makes your body used to those drugs and when you stop using them, your body may respond to that with various symptoms. Long-term use of Xanax, even for a month, makes your body addicted to its effect and when equal or high dosage is not taken on time, the symptoms that appear can be dizziness, lack of concentration, headache, and withdrawal seizures.
High Dosage of Xanax
Like any other addictive drug, Xanax influences the normal response of neurotransmitters by inhibiting them. Body mechanisms work in a way to stabilize any change in the body caused by external factors like addictive drugs. Similarly, the body produces tolerance when there is prolonged use or abuse of Xanax. When the body develops tolerance against any drug, the person requires to increase the dosage to experience the same results as before. As the Xanax dosage increases with time, the body’s dependency on this drug increases up to a level that the body no longer will be able to inhibit any sensation without it. At this stage, if you quit using Xanax suddenly, it results in an electrical imbalance in the CNS, the seizures.
Low levels of GABA
Gamma-Amminobutyric Acid (GABA) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter produced by GABAergic neurons in the central nervous system. GABA inhibits the normal flow of impulses between the neurons, reducing brain activity and producing a sensation of relaxation. When an individual takes Xanax for a long time, it influences the normal production of GABA. As long as the individual is dependent on medicines to relax the nervous system, he may not notice any lacking. But as soon as he stops taking the normal dosage, the body has to start the normal production of GABA again to normalize body responses. It can result in decreased production of GABA, resulting in abnormal electrical stimulation in the body.
What types of Seizures are Caused by Xanax Withdrawal
The brain communicates with the body using electrical impulses. Any change in the brain that influences the flow of electrical impulses and deviates them from normal, results in seizures. Symptoms of seizures like loss of concentration, confusion, headache, and jerking moments are not always evident. Sometimes the electrical disturbance can only be seen through Electroencephalogram (EEG).
Benzodiazepine is used for the treatment of stress, anxiety, and mental relaxation. It performs its function by stimulating the effects of GABA. When the supply of benzodiazepine to the body is terminated, the body has to start the production of GABA. And in this duration, the decreased amount of GABA results in producing uncontrolled electrical impulses which may last from 30 seconds to two minutes. When your body experiences seizures, the affected brain cells start to send uncontrolled impulses to the brain tissues around it. If the seizures last for quite a long time, they damage the brain cells permanently, causing symptoms if they appear. Xanax seizure risk varies with the dependency of the body on the drug.
How to Prevent Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Xanax is prescribed to patients dealing with anxiety and stress. Most patients find themselves addicted to this drug once they start observing its effects. If you are one of those and want to stop this addiction or the potential side effects of Xanax, it is not a gentle decision to stop the medications immediately. Stopping addictive drugs like benzodiazepine cold turkey can lead to severe complications like seizures. You need to make a plan for the escape from benzodiazepine without facing any complications. The most effective way is to reduce the dosage slowly. This way, your body starts to adopt the changes because of the low dosage of the drug. The human body is highly adaptive to external or internal changes. Reduction in the quantity of medication slowly gives your body time to adapt to the effects. Soon your body will perform normally even without the medications. You need a doctor to observe all these withdrawal changes and provide you with a safe and comfortable environment until you start feeling perfectly normal without taking medications. This is a time-consuming procedure and requires patience to show its complete effect.
Even if you don’t want to quit the medications anytime soon, take the balanced dosage to minimize future complications. And If your body develops a tolerance against the drug, coordinate with your doctor rather than increasing the quantity accordingly.
Are Xanax Withdrawal Seizures Dangerous
To predict the severity of the seizures, we need to understand the root cause of withdrawal seizures. When a person uses Xanax for a long period or takes high dosages makes the nervous system dependent on the medications. But when the benzodiazepine medication is stopped, it takes time for the body to normalize its function without the benzodiazepine effects. During this adoption period, the body begins to make GABA. GABA is produced to overcome the lack of benzodiazepine and cause relaxation in the activity of the nervous system. Meanwhile, decreased stimulation of GABA can result in abrupt electrical stimulations in the brain. The medical term for this condition is seizures and how dangerous seizures can be, varies from person to person. Usually, when the Xanax seizure threshold is achieved by the body, the results are not severe. A person may experience seizures without any damage to the brain tissues. But there are complications, sometimes repeated seizures can lead to the condition called epilepsy. If left untreated, it can damage the brain tissues permanently and in the end, cause death.
What to do in the Event of Seizures
You don’t always notice when your body crosses the seizure threshold. But in some cases, seizures can be painful and risky, especially in those dealing with withdrawal symptoms of Xanax like anxiety attacks. If you experience seizures and the symptoms are evident, you need to stay calm and try to control yourself. If you are with the patient, you need to take certain first aid measures that are:
- Adjust the posture of the patient in a way he or she can breathe easily.
- Put some soft cushioning under the head and neck of the patient.
- Clear the area around the patient to avoid any injury due to uncontrolled moments of the patient.
- Usually, seizure attacks don’t require emergency medical attention, but the condition of the patient should be kept in mind before taking any such decision.
What can cause seizures?
Anything that influences the flow of electrical impulses in the brain can cause seizures.
Does alprazolam withdrawal cause seizures?
If you are taking alprazolam for a long time, sudden discontinuation of it can cause serious complications like seizures.
Can stopping drugs cause seizures?
Not all but cold turkey stopping of addictive drugs like benzodiazepines can have severe complications including seizures.
What happens to a person during the event of seizures?
A person experiencing seizures may show jerking moments, dizziness, and loss of sensations.