In the United States alone there are 18.1% of the American population, age 18 year and older, who are diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder. (ADAA). Add to that the poverty, social media, poor sleep habits, violence and overall unrest of contemporary life reinforces the depression and anxiety.
Due to the prevalence of these disorders the meds like Xanax continue to be among the best-selling prescription medications every year.
Alprazolam, benzodiazepine, is known by its brand name, Xanax. This medication is classified as sedative-hypnotic and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) drugs called benzodiazepines. Sedative hypnotics are also known as tranquilizers and sleeping pills.
As soon as researchers discovered that alprazolam would be effective in treating anxiety and panic disorder, psychiatrists began prescribing Xanax to patients. While the use of Xanax has become emblematic of our times, many users are lapsing into abuse and addiction accidentally or intentionally. This puts them at risk of experiencing dangerous side effects, symptoms, and even death.
Keep in mind, Xanax is a potent medication and can be addictive even when taken as prescribed by a doctor. When used correctly, the risk of addiction is low but still there.
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Weaning off of Xanax: What to Expect
Xanax works by increasing GABA activity in the brain. GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is the brain’s natural sedative and benzodiazepines simply enhance its functioning. When a person intake Xanax, the excitability of the brain is decreased, brain calms down and produces drowsy effect but also causes changes to many of the body’s essential systems.
Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax) users quickly develop tolerance and start needing larger doses to achieve desired effects. Once a person develops tolerance he/she needs larger doses of benzos to get the GABA system functioning at a ‘normal’ level. If a person with a Xanax tolerance suddenly stops taking their medication, GABA activity drops substantially and this causes equally substantial increases in the activity of the brain’s excitatory dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline systems.
This sudden hyper excitability produces Xanax withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety. This anxiety (rebound anxiety) can be worse for the people who had anxiety before taking Xanax. The rebound hyper excitability of the brain can cause jitteriness, muscle tension, stiffness and seizures.
A Xanax taper is a way to slowly cut down on Xanax doses to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Taper off can help reduce these risks and make the withdrawal process safer, smoother and more comfortable.
Timeline for Tapering Off of Xanax
Tapering should be slow and gradual, it doesn’t really matter how long it takes and what’s most important is making steady progress towards your goal while minimizing your discomfort along the way.
However, this process does not occur overnight, it requires meticulous management, structured guidance and supervision from a health care professional. The most important thing in cessation of a Xanax is patient safety. There is no perfect method guaranteed to prevent a painful withdrawal but many of the methods that can lead patients to a tolerable taper, and somehow all of them maximize the patient’s chance for:
- Successful cessation
- Complete healing
Remember, not everyone’s Xanax taper schedule is the same, mentioned below offers a baseline approach to start the process off. The recommended taper is a 5-10% reduction in use every week. A more aggressive 25% reduction per week is possible, but it should only be done if recommended by an expert.
You can do:
- A direct taper: where you make steady reductions off whatever benzo you’ve been using.
When starting with Xanax 8 mg, a direct taper guide may look like:
Add the table
|Week 1||Reduce by 5% to 10% (7 mg to 7.5 mg daily)|
|Week2||Dose reduced by 25% (approx.5.5 mg daily)|
|Week3||Dose is once again reduced by 25% (4 mg daily)|
|Week4||Dose is once again reduced by 25% (3 mg daily)|
|Week 5-8||No change in dose for 1 month. (3 mg daily)|
|Week 9+||25% reduction per week until cessation or desired Xanax dose is reached|
2. A substitution taper: where, if you’ve been using a short-acting benzodiazepine like Xanax, you first switch off to a longer acting benzodiazepine like diazepam, and then once stable on the diazepam, start to taper down. This is well-known and strongly recommended method by the best-known authority on benzodiazepine withdrawal, also known as the Ashton Manual. This works because longer-acting benzodiazepines stay in the system longer and help to maintain the body’s concentration of the drug over a longer period as the taper occurs thus making withdrawal symptoms easier to manage.
How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Last?
Xanax withdrawal timeline is not the same for all the patients as drug use history of everyone is different. There are some factors that may have a role in Xanax withdrawal process and overall timeline for detox, such as the following:
- Length and severity of drug abuse
- Half-life of the drug used
- Age, gender and body fat percentage
- History of Poly drug use, if any.
- Prior history of other medical illness
Stage 1 6-12 HOURS
The first signs of withdrawal symptoms can occur as soon as 6-12 hours after the last dose. Common symptoms in this stage are elevated heart rate, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, trouble sleeping, and mood swings. It is important to monitor for seizures during this phase.
Stage 2 1-4 DAYS
Acute signs of withdrawal may peak one to four days after the last dosage. Within these days, symptoms can intense and be quite uncomfortable. Dangerous symptoms like seizures or delirium may also be observed at this stage. It may also be challenging to sleep, mood swings and anxiety could set in.
Stage 3 5-14 DAYS
General symptoms should be slowly dissipating at this stage. Though, some emotional symptoms may persist during this stage, such as mood swings, confusion, and anxiety.
Stage 4 2-4weeks
At around 4 weeks, most of the mild withdrawal symptoms should have subsided. However, heavy users who have been on Xanax for a while may have lingering psychological symptoms for up to a year or more.
Xanax Withdrawal Signs & Symptoms
People who take Xanax in large doses, or for longer than prescribed period are at highest risk of developing an Xanax addiction. Coming off Xanax abruptly triggers withdrawal symptoms when someone is physically dependent on it. In the absence of the drug, the body and mind experience discomfort, and they frequently experience emotional and physical pain along with psychological symptoms. This is the body’s natural way of responding to cessation of Xanax.
Some physical and psychological symptoms Xanax withdrawal are discussed below:
Physical dependency is a condition in which unpleasant physical symptoms occur if a medication is suddenly stopped or taken in smaller doses, especially if you take it for several days to several weeks. Physical symptoms of Xanax withdrawal include:
- The mild physical symptoms of withdrawal are: muscle tension, weakness, headaches, sweating, shivering, nausea, vomiting, and having “pins and needles.
- Long term use or high doses may cause seizures. Seizures are commonly observed when a person abruptly stops taking Xanax. Seizures are associated with GABA deficiency and are considered some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms followed by increased heart rate and palpitations.
Psychological addiction includes fear of withdrawal symptoms or the return of symptoms for which the drug had been prescribed or used. Even short-term abuse of Xanax can cause long-term brain changes that can lead to mental health issues. Psychological withdrawal symptoms of Xanax are given below:
- Anxiety and panic disorders
- Restlessness, agitation, and reduced concentration
- Depression, mood swings, and suicidal ideation
- Memory problems
Dangers of Xanax Withdrawal
Those who are physically dependent on the drug if attempt to quit abruptly (i.e. cold turkey) may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. In fact the cold-turkey approach is stuffed with problems including:
- Delirium or psychotic episodes
- Abnormal body sensations: twitching, muscle stiffness, lack of coordination etc
- Hypersensitivity to loud noises
- Hyperventilation and panic attacks
Weaning off cold turkey doesn’t involve the recommended tapering process. A person may not have the personal skills or professional support to navigate the psychological discomfort, pain, or dangers that may be presented during and after withdrawal.
The cold-turkey method doesn’t have any of the safeguards of medical detox, including the care of professional medical staff who are prepared and ready for any emergencies that may arise.
Coping & Relief for Xanax Withdrawal
There is no quick fix for benzodiazepine withdrawal reportsAmerican Addiction Centers. One may be drug free after some days or weeks but psychological symptoms, in many cases, linger up to a year, For is reason professionals emphasize on mastering self-help skills and continued social and psychological support parallel to Xanax detoxification.
Here are some of the effective coping strategies patients can use to find relief from Xanax withdrawal symptoms:
Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule
A regular sleep schedule will reset the body’s internal clock. Patients can train their bodies to get a quality sleep by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
Exercise helps increase blood flow to the brain and regulate hormone imbalances that may be contributing to anxiety. It also releasesendorphins, feel-good hormones that reduce pain and improve mood.
Spend Time in the Sun
Exposure to sunlight is vital in regulating body’s natural circadian rhythm to promote better sleep and prevent insomnia.
Eat Healthy Foods
Some foods are loaded with nutrients by nature that help reduce anxiety and regulate brain chemicals.
Stay Busy and Productive
Staying busy can be a productive way to channel their anxiety. Staying occupied on any task during the day can also make patients feel more tired at the end of the day so that they can fall asleep more easily at night.
If you are struggling with Xanax addiction and looking for professional help? Worry no more, the help you need is here
AT NAD TREATMENT we offer innovative NAD IV Therapy that helps you taper off benzodiazepines like Xanax safely and effectively with outpatient treatment that can work in just 8 to 10 days.
How much Xanax causes withdrawal?
The smallest dose, if taken regularly even as prescribed, can cause withdrawal.
What happens when Xanax is abruptly stopped?
When a person’s body gets used to Xanax, they find it impossible to function without it. When intake is suddenly stopped, their body, primarily brain, rebounds, and mild to severe withdrawal symptoms set in.
Can Xanax withdrawal cause delirium?
Yes, Delirium is a well-known complication of withdrawal from sedative hypnotic drugs including Xanax. It is more common when:
Used drug for long time or improperly
Stopped Xanax abruptly
How to detox our body from Xanax?
Weaning off following tapering guidelines is one of the safest, effective and widely used ways on how to detox our body from Xanax. You can choose between direct taper and substitution taper.
Note that, coming off Xanax cold turkey can be dangerous and not recommended way of detoxing from Xanax. At Nad Treatment we offer customized Therapy Plan.