Xanax Withdrawal: Signs, Symptoms, & Timeline

Xanax Withdrawal
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Dr. Joshua Yager is an Atlanta native, board-certified family practice physician who is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of his community.

Table of Contents

Withdrawing from Xanax (alprazolam) can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms, making medical supervision during detox crucial for your safety.

This article explores the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal, the risks associated with unsupervised benzodiazepine detox, and ways to seek help for Xanax addiction.

What is Xanax Withdrawal?

Dependence on a drug like Xanax means the body has adapted to its presence for normal functioning. Stopping or reducing the drug leads to withdrawal symptoms, which can vary from person to person. However, many experience a common pattern in the Xanax withdrawal timeline, with symptoms emerging and subsiding in specific sequences. Those who use Xanax in higher doses or over longer periods tend to develop a stronger dependence, face greater challenges in reducing or stopping their use, and endure more intense withdrawal symptoms. Continued use of Xanax, despite negative consequences, can lead to addiction, where the individual persists in using the drug despite its harmful impacts.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms and intensity of Xanax withdrawal can significantly vary from one person to another. Research suggests that approximately 40% of individuals may experience severe withdrawal symptoms, while around 60% may encounter milder symptoms. The range of withdrawal symptoms from Xanax can include:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Hyperventilation and tremors.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Muscle spasms and aches.
  • Loss of appetite, sweating, and general discomfort.
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, or touch.
  • Abnormal sensations and feelings of detachment from the body.
  • Psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and delirium.
  • Seizures, including grand mal seizures.

Common Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Insomnia, fever, and painful teeth.
  • Digestive issues like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Weight loss, headaches, and blurred vision.
  • Muscle aches, tense jaw, and altered sense of smell.
  • Tingling in limbs, numb fingers, and heart palpitations.
  • Hypertension, cramps, and raised body temperature and blood pressure.

Common Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax, as a benzodiazepine, affects brain areas related to mood, motivation, and reward. Prolonged abuse can lead to physical dependence or addiction, causing lasting changes in the brain. Upon cessation, the brain requires time to adjust, leading to symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety, depression, and detachment.
  • Focus issues, restlessness, and delirium.
  • Hallucinations, feelings of unreality, and mood swings.
  • Panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

In rare cases, alprazolam withdrawal symptoms can emerge up to two years after stopping the medication, known as PAWS. These symptoms can persist for 18 to 24 months post-detox but gradually become less severe and frequent with ongoing treatment. Common PAWS symptoms include:

  • Persistent anxiety and chronic insomnia.
  • Aches and pains.
  • Difficulties with complex tasks and poor concentration.
  • Sexual dysfunction and depression.

Understanding the breadth and duration of Xanax withdrawal symptoms is crucial for anyone undergoing detox or supporting someone in their recovery journey. It highlights the importance of professional guidance and tailored treatment plans for effective and safe recovery.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

When Does Xanax Withdrawal Start?

Xanax withdrawal begins as the body processes and eliminates the drug. After taking Xanax, its concentration in the bloodstream reaches its peak within one to two hours. In healthy adults, the average half-life of Xanax is about 11.2 hours, meaning that half of the drug is metabolized and cleared from the body approximately 11 hours after ingestion. It’s around this time that withdrawal symptoms may start to emerge as the drug’s concentration in the body diminishes.

If someone is using extended-release Xanax, the onset of withdrawal symptoms will generally take longer to appear. The duration of Xanax withdrawal varies from individual to individual but typically spans a few weeks. Understanding these timelines is crucial for anyone preparing to undergo or support someone through Xanax withdrawal.

Xanax Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline of Xanax withdrawal, as well as the severity of those symptoms, depends on the following variables:

Initial 6–12 Hours

Physical withdrawal symptoms may begin as Xanax, a short-acting benzodiazepine, starts to leave the body. Due to its rapid metabolism, symptoms can appear sooner than with other benzodiazepines.

Days 1 to 4

Withdrawal symptoms usually emerge one to two days after the last dose. Common symptoms include flu-like signs such as muscle aches, sweating, nausea, and loss of appetite. Other physical symptoms might include shaking, headaches, blurred vision, diarrhea, and vomiting. A critical early symptom is the risk of seizures, most likely within the first 24–72 hours. Seizures can occur regardless of the dosage or whether the drug was tapered off gradually or stopped abruptly.

Days 5 to 14

During this phase, acute withdrawal symptoms persist. Alongside physical symptoms, individuals may experience mental health issues like heightened sensitivity to stimuli, sleep disturbances, difficulty focusing, anxiety, irritability, aggression, and depression. The risk of seizures diminishes, and the intensity and frequency of symptoms generally decrease.

Up to One Month

Symptoms typically last between two to four weeks, though some individuals may experience a longer withdrawal period. Physical symptoms usually subside first, but mood and sleep issues may continue.

Beyond One Month

For those who initially took Xanax for panic disorders or insomnia, these symptoms might return, sometimes more frequently or intensely. These long-term withdrawal symptoms can persist for several months or more.

Understanding this timeline is crucial for anyone undergoing Xanax withdrawal or supporting someone through the process, ensuring appropriate expectations and management of symptoms.

How Long Do Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

The length of Xanax withdrawal symptoms can vary, particularly for those who initially started taking the drug for mental health issues. Post-discontinuation, some individuals experience persistent symptoms like panic attacks, fatigue, rapid heart rate, and suicidal thoughts. In certain cases, anxiety levels may even escalate beyond what was experienced before starting Xanax. It can be challenging to discern whether these are withdrawal symptoms or a resurgence of the original mental health disorder. These symptoms can persist for several months.

In such scenarios, switching to a different benzodiazepine might be beneficial. Alternatives like diazepam have similar effects but generally pose a lower risk of abuse, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, exploring non-pharmacological treatments is often a valuable approach.

Managing Xanax withdrawal symptoms can also be influenced by self-care practices. Maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated are essential. Consulting with a healthcare provider about symptom management is advisable. For instance, over-the-counter pain relievers can be effective for managing aches and pains during withdrawal.

Taking these steps can potentially reduce the duration and intensity of Xanax withdrawal symptoms, aiding in a smoother recovery process.

Xanax Withdrawal Timeline

Factors that Affect Xanax Withdrawal Duration

The length and intensity of Xanax withdrawal can vary significantly due to a range of factors. Key elements influencing withdrawal duration include:

  • Genetic and Health Factors: A person’s genetic makeup and overall physical and mental health can significantly impact withdrawal. Factors like age, sex, and race also play a role.
  • History of Substance Abuse: Individuals with a personal or family history of substance or alcohol addiction may be more prone to developing a stronger dependence on Xanax, potentially leading to a prolonged withdrawal period.
  • Dosage and Duration of Use: Those who have been using Xanax in doses above 4 mg per day or for extended periods tend to experience longer and more intense withdrawal symptoms.
  • Method of Cessation: Severe withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, are more likely in individuals who abruptly stop taking Xanax or do not taper their dosage gradually.

Understanding these factors is crucial for anyone preparing to undergo Xanax withdrawal or supporting someone through the process, as it helps in tailoring the approach to individual needs and circumstances.

How Much Xanax Causes Withdrawal?

The likelihood of experiencing physiological dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms increases in patients who consume more than 4 mg of Xanax daily for 12 weeks or more. However, it’s important to note that even those on lower doses, particularly over extended periods, may still face withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation of the medication. Staying below a 4 mg daily dose of Xanax does not entirely eliminate the risk of withdrawal.

Research indicates that approximately one-third of individuals who use benzodiazepines, like Xanax, for six months or longer may experience withdrawal symptoms. This highlights the need for careful monitoring and management of Xanax use, regardless of the dosage, to minimize the risk of withdrawal complications.

Is Xanax Withdrawal Dangerous?

Withdrawing from Xanax without medical oversight can be hazardous, and in some cases, life-threatening. Seizures are a serious risk during withdrawal and can cause physical harm. Other side effects, such as dehydration from diarrhea or vomiting, can also pose health risks. Additional complications like heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, and delusions may occur. Therefore, it’s strongly advised to undergo Xanax withdrawal under the guidance of healthcare professionals in a specialized Xanax Detox program.

Can you Quit Xanax Cold Turkey?

Quitting Xanax abruptly, or ‘cold turkey’, carries significant risks due to the potential for life-threatening side effects. One of the most severe risks is the occurrence of grand mal seizures. During such a seizure, the brain loses control over vital functions, including breathing. The duration of a seizure can vary, and even a brief period without oxygen can result in lasting brain damage or death.

Beyond the physical dangers of seizures, the psychological withdrawal symptoms can be intense. These symptoms might drive individuals to engage in risky behaviors to alleviate their discomfort. The physical distress experienced during withdrawal can be so severe that it may lead a person to resume using Xanax or other substances to escape these unpleasant sensations.

Given these risks, a gradual and medically supervised approach to discontinuing Xanax is crucial for safety and long-term success.

Xanax Withdrawal Treatment

Treatment Options for Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Detoxing from Xanax “cold turkey” is rarely safe, and safer alternatives are available. These include:

  • At-Home Detox with Physician Support: This is often suitable for individuals prescribed Xanax who need to discontinue its use. Dependence on Xanax doesn’t necessarily imply addiction, so a gradual tapering off the medication under a doctor’s guidance can be effective without the need for full-blown addiction treatment.
  • Medical Detox in a Rehab Facility: This is the recommended approach for individuals with a substance use disorder. Medical detox provides comprehensive support, ensuring the withdrawal process is as safe as possible. Post-detox, individuals have the option to transition into treatment programs for Xanax addiction.

Medications for Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax withdrawal can be physically and mentally taxing. In drug rehab centers, clinicians may prescribe medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. These can include treatments for nausea, vomiting, mood disturbances, seizures, tremors, and nightmares. The specific medication regimen is tailored to the individual’s needs, with additional care for those with co-occurring mental health disorders.

Xanax Withdrawal Remedies

Simple yet effective strategies can significantly improve the withdrawal experience:

  • Hydration: Essential to combat dehydration, a common issue due to symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Meditation: Mindfulness practices can notably reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.
  • Counseling: Discussing experiences with a counselor can be beneficial during the emotional rollercoaster of withdrawal.
  • Exercise: Helps counter withdrawal lethargy and stimulates endorphin release, easing some withdrawal symptoms.
  • Dark, Quiet Spaces: Beneficial for those hypersensitive to light and sound during detox.

These remedies are often the first line of defense before resorting to medications. It’s crucial that any prescribed medication is taken exactly as directed by healthcare professionals.

Xanax Withdrawal Treatment at Hope Harbor Wellness

Hope Harbor Wellness offers expert and compassionate Xanax addiction treatment in Atlanta. Our Xanax drug rehab centers, dedicated to holistic recovery, are ideally situated to offer you the support you need.

Our compassionate Xanax outpatient program collaborates with top-tier medical Xanax detox facilities, ensuring a safe and effective detox process. Once free from addictive substances, you can seamlessly transition into one of our specialized Xanax outpatient treatment programs at Hope Harbor Wellness, designed to address substance use disorders:

  • Outpatient Rehab: A flexible program tailored to fit into your daily life.
  • PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program): Offers a structured yet non-residential approach to treatment.
  • IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program): Provides more intensive care while allowing you to maintain daily responsibilities.
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program: Caters to those with co-occurring mental health disorders.

Our Xanax treatment programs incorporate a variety of interventions:

  • MAT (Medication-Assisted Treatment): Utilizes medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Psychotherapy: Addresses underlying psychological aspects of addiction.
  • Group Therapy: Offers peer support and shared learning experiences.
  • Individual Counseling: Provides personalized guidance and support.
  • Family Therapy: Helps heal and strengthen family relationships.
  • Holistic Therapies: Focuses on overall well-being, including physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
  • Aftercare: Ensures ongoing support post-treatment.

Embark on your journey from Xanax addiction to recovery with Hope Harbor Wellness. Trust in our dedicated team to guide you every step of the way. For more information or to start your journey, call our admissions team at 678-605-9725.

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