Whether you have been prescribed Xanax for anxiety or muscle spasms or you’ve bought it recreationally thinking that it’s a safe way of giving you a buzz, you have probably found that when you try and stop taking it you experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Maybe you’re concerned that a loved one has become addicted to Xanax. Whatever your reasons for reading here, we will show you what to expect when you stop taking Xanax, how to manage symptoms safely and how to be free of Xanax addiction for good.
- Despite being a prescribed medicine Xanax – also known as alprazolam – is highly addictive and you can develop a dependency after just three or four weeks.
- If you stop taking Xanax you may experience withdrawal symptoms which can range from sweating and fatigue to hallucinations and seizures.
- The severity of these symptoms depends on how long you’ve been taking Xanax, in what quantity and whether you’ve been taking it alongside alcohol or another drug.
- Withdrawal symptoms can be managed medically by gradually reducing the amount of Xanax you’re taking or substituting it with a less-addictive drug.
- It is very difficult to come off Xanax alone and without professional help. Fortunately, there is a great deal of support available and addiction treatments vary so it’s easy to find one that suits you.
- Once you’ve overcome your symptoms, ongoing treatment can help you deal with any triggers you might face and help you develop strategies to ensure you don’t relapse.
What are Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms?
As Xanax is prescribed by doctors – and even when bought for recreational use it is Class C which is considered a ‘soft drug’ – you might have thought it couldn’t be addictive and any withdrawal symptoms would be minor. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Xanax calms down your central nervous system, slowing down its functions including brain activity. This is helpful on a short-term basis if you’re anxious or panicked and unable to sleep, but its effects can linger and alter your brain chemistry. The more you take, the more damage it can do.
Anyone who takes Xanax can experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms and while some may be mild, they can also be severe to the point of fatal. Even if you are on a low dose of Xanax, with your doctor’s blessing, the symptoms are comparable to coming off alcohol or barbiturates.
It can be difficult to accept that you have an alprazolam addiction, especially if you started taking it in good faith and on medical advice. You may feel scared about coming off it as every time you try and stop you feel like death warmed up.
Please be aware that help is available and, regardless of the extent to which you have abused Xanax, with the right addiction treatment it is possible to manage and minimise symptoms safely and put your Xanax dependency behind you.
Psychological Symptoms of Xanax Withdrawal
- Panic attacks
- Memory loss
- Loss of cognitive function
- Poor co-ordination
- Sensitivity to light, sound or touch
- Psychosis (delusion and delirium)
Physical Symptoms of Xanax Withdrawal
- Shaking (also known as delirium tremens or the DTs)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach upset
- Inability to sleep
- Excessive fatigue
- Muscle Spasms
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness (jelly legs)
- General feeling of being unwell
- Cravings for more Xanax
If you stop taking Xanax even for a relatively short period of time you can experience any or all of the above.
Acute Withdrawal from Xanax
Because of its addictive properties Xanax is usually only prescribed for a couple of weeks. If you have been taking it for longer than this, or in very high doses, you may find you suffer with acute symptoms once you stop.
This could mean tiredness to the point of being bedbound, depression to the point of feeling suicidal and ‘rebound anxiety’, which means your anxiety could be worse than it was when you were first prescribed Xanax to deal with it. In serious cases, you may experience psychosis and seizures.
Acute symptoms can last for up to six weeks. It can be very dangerous to manage these symptoms alone and it is recommended you have help in place before beginning your Xanax detox.
How Long Will Symptoms of Xanax Withdrawal Last?
It takes about two days for Xanax to leave your body completely, but you will probably start experiencing symptoms before that. The length and severity of symptoms depend on the length of your alprazolam addiction, the depth of your Xanax abuse and whether you’ve been taking it alongside alcohol or another drug.
Alcohol and Xanax are both sedatives and when taken together their effects are multiplied. This can lead to excessive fatigue, extremely poor coordination and very bad memory loss.
While people with a less severe alprazolam addiction can be over their withdrawal symptoms in four days, those who have abused Xanax for a while can see their symptoms last for a prolonged period of time. This can be hard to accept but rest assured with the right help you can detox safely and minimise your symptoms whatever the timeframe
Six to 24 hours: you start feeling anxious and can’t sleep, and you’re tempted to reach for the Xanax.
One to four days: headaches, insomnia and anxiety are common. You may feel as though you have the flu and experience nausea vomiting and diarrhoea. The risk of seizures starts 24 hours after your last dose.
Four to 14 days: symptoms peak during this period and rebound anxiety can be particularly intense, as will muscle spasms. You may also experience shaking, sweating, confusion, memory loss, hallucinations and a general feeling of being unwell.
Fourteen days to six weeks: while headaches and muscular aches should lessen by this point and your risk of seizures decrease, you may have more stomach upset during this period. Anxiety and insomnia are still present.
Six weeks to months or even years: around 10 to 15% of people with an Xanax addiction develop post-withdrawal syndrome which means psychological symptoms persist indefinitely and your cognitive function and ability to deal with stress are severely affected.
As symptoms can be prolonged and severe, cravings for Xanax can be intense and the chance of relapse is high. This is another reason why tackling detox alone and without professional help is not advised. You will need strategies to deal with triggers and avoid spiralling back into addiction.
Where is the Best Place to Detox from Xanax?
Xanax detox – the process when your body and brain respond to the drug leaving your body and it not being replaced – is not pleasant. It is best done in a professional, supportive and controlled environment.
You may feel embarrassed to be in the position of having to undergo detox, especially if you were prescribed Xanax by the doctor. Maybe you know a loved one who is battling a Xanax addiction but is too ashamed to ask for help. Whatever the situation, rest assured that you or they are not alone and you or they will not be judged.
If you want to beat your Xanax addiction, you need to ask for help. There is a lot of support available, including medications that you can take to reduce the effects of your withdrawal symptoms.
The idea that you can simply flush your Xanax down the loo and brace yourself for a few days of feeling under the weather is not always realistic. While physical symptoms usually subside after a few weeks, the psychological after effects can endure. As Xanax affects the central nervous system and alters brain behaviour, you really need psychological support when you come off Xanax.
Can I Detox from Xanax at Home?
While you might feel more comfortable at home and think if you stock up on comfort food and boxsets you’ll be fine, detoxing at home is not advisable. Not only are the cravings for Xanax so intense you will be tempted to relapse, but Xanax withdrawal symptoms are so strong and persistent that they can be life threatening. Experiencing seizures, hallucinations or suicidal thoughts on your own can be very dangerous to you and others.
If you feel detoxing at home is your only option then speak to your GP and be honest about the fact you have a Xanax addiction and you are now planning to come off it. They may prescribe medicines for you to take to wean you off, or deal with any symptoms. They can also signpost you to local support groups that you can access via phone or email.
If you can, let a friend or family member know what you’re going through so they can keep in touch to offer moral support and check that you’re OK.
Medically Supervised Detox from Xanax
It is highly recommended that you detox from Xanax under medical supervision. If you stop taking Xanax suddenly you will suffer severe and possibly life-threatening symptoms and face intense cravings which may result in you relapsing, and even overdosing.
With professional supervision you can avoid this cliff edge as medics can reduce your dose gradually (known as ‘tapering’) in a controlled way. This can take around 10 weeks. Your symptoms can also be monitored and treated, and you can receive ongoing psychological support.
Crucially you can also tackle the reasons why you developed a Xanax addiction in the first place, and seek treatment for those alongside strategies for how to deal with triggers and avoid another spiral into alprazolam addiction.
Can Medicines Help you Detox from Xanax?
There are a number of medicines that can be prescribed to help reduce the severity of detox symptoms although these must be taken under medical supervision. You may even be prescribed a drug from the same family of benzodiazepines as Xanax, such as clonazepam.
Antidepressants can be prescribed to help with the low mood you might feel as part of the detox and there are medicines to help with other symptoms such as stomach upset. The anticonvulsant carbamazepine has been proven to minimise Xanax withdrawal symptoms, especially the serious ones such as seizures.
How to Get Help for Xanax Addiction
You may struggle to come to terms with an addiction to Xanax, especially if you took it on medical advice. Even if you bought it illegally, thinking it was a pretty safe way to add some pep to your party, you might be ashamed to find yourself with addiction and facing some pretty brutal Xanax withdrawal symptoms that have altered your mood and behaviour.
It is important that you get help. Firstly you need help to focus on what got you here in the first place. What are the underlying reasons for your Xanax addiction and how can they be dealt with safely? Whether you or a loved one has mental health issues or a dependency on alcohol or other drugs, there are plenty of organisations that can help deal with those.
Even when you complete detox and you feel the worst is behind you, you will need ongoing help to develop strategies to deal with triggers and avoid relapse. Just as addiction affects people in different ways, not everyone responds to the same treatment so you need to find the right one for you or your loved ones. If your drug use has affected your partner or family they may also benefit from addiction treatment.
Support Groups for Xanax Addiction
You may feel like the only person in the world with a Xanax addiction, especially if you’ve never taken an illegal drug in your life, but you’re not. Support groups bring together people like you who are in the same boat and you can help and inspire each other as you embark on the journey away from addiction together.
Support groups allow you to talk openly and honestly with others and share the burden of Xanax addiction and detox. You can continue using support groups for years and even forever.
Counselling and Therapy for Xanax Addiction
If you started taking Xanax to deal with your anxiety you will probably feel worried about stopping it and having your anxiety return. Counselling can help you deal with the reasons behind your worries and arm you with the ability to cope without Xanax in your life. It can confront and tackle why you turned to Xanax in the first place and help you develop strategies to deal with future triggers.
Therapies for Xanax addiction come in various shapes and sizes and include individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, even equine therapy which involves horses. There will definitely be a therapy for you and this can continue long after you’ve kicked your Xanax addiction.
Outpatient Rehab for Xanax Addiction
If you have abused Xanax for a long period of time and your withdrawal symptoms are likely to be severe, or if you are at high risk of relapsing or harming yourselves or others by the mood-altering effects of Xanax detox, rehab is the best type of addiction treatment for you.
For people with family or work responsibilities, outpatient rehab in one of the country’s many treatment centres might be the only option. You receive medical supervision and psychological support, can attend at times convenient to you and have access to experts via phone or email at other times.
The downside with outpatient treatment is that you will not be supported in person 24/7 which means you may struggle to deal with triggers in your everyday life.
Residential Rehab for Xanax Addiction
Being cared for while living in a rehab centre, where you can received wraparound support from trained professionals who are on hand to respond to your every need day or night is the safest type of help for anyone undergoing detox, especially those whose addiction has been prolonged.
Treatment centres are like hotels with comfortable living facilities, a pleasant environment and all meals provided. You will be monitored around the clock and prescribed medication if necessary, meet likeminded people and be given a Xanax addiction treatment programme best suited to you.
Xanax Addiction FAQ
Is it Illegal to Take Xanax?
No, as Xanax is a prescribed medicine. However, it is illegal to buy it off the internet or on the street.
Why Can’t I Stop Taking Xanax?
Xanax is highly addictive but with the right support you will be able to stop taking it.
Can I Hide My Xanax Addiction From Family and Friends?
If you seek help immediately you may be able to do so. Addiction treatment is private and discreet.
Will Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms Ever Go Away?
With ongoing medical and psychological support your symptoms can be treated for as long as you need, even for a lifetime.
Will Xanax Ruin My Brain?
Xanax does have an effect on the brain but the addiction treatment can help put it right.
I’ve Been Taking Xanax for So Long, is it Too Late for Me to Detox?
No, it is never too late. No matter how long you’ve been taking Xanax, the right treatment can help you kick it for good.