Drug and Alcohol - Dual Diagnosis

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline and Treatment

What is Xanax Withdrawal?

Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be prolonged and complex. Here's a timeline of Xanax withdrawal, along with more useful information about Xanax abuse.

Xanax addiction is a growing problem in the United States. The prevalence of Xanax's availability – both through legal and illegal channels – has led to the growth in addiction rates. Many people may start using Xanax for recreational purposes without realizing the drug's addictive potential or the dangers of abuse.

Addiction to Xanax can adversely affect both the user and those close to them, including financial pressure, legal issues, relationship conflict, and health issues.

By the Numbers:

According to data from the National Institutes on Drug Abuse's 2015–2016 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, approximately 12.5% of Americans use benzos. About 2.1% of them abuse these medicines. The criteria for a benzodiazepine use disorder are met by about 0.2% of people.

A little over 11.8 percent of people who misused benzos did it to get high, while others did it because they were addicted. Approximately 22.4% of people who abuse them do so to enhance sleep, ease tension, or manage stress.

Finally, 5.7% of those who used benzos did it to experiment with the prescription drug. 

What Is Xanax?

Alprazolam is a medicine marketed under the name Xanax and is a member of the benzodiazepine class of drugs. It is a prescription drug frequently used to treat sleeplessness, panic attacks, and anxiety disorders. Xanax works by increasing the activity of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which helps calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety symptoms. The drug is available in both immediate-release and extended-release formulations.

Xanax is a controlled substance in the United States, which means it has the potential for abuse and dependence. It is classified as a Schedule IV drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has a low potential for abuse relative to other drugs in the same category but still carries a risk of physical and psychological dependence.

It should only be taken under the supervision of a healthcare professional and should not be used for extended periods or in higher doses than prescribed. Abruptly stopping the medication can cause withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, hallucinations, and insomnia.

Common side effects of Xanax include drowsiness, dizziness, headache, dry mouth, and difficulty concentrating. More severe side effects may include confusion, memory problems, slurred speech, and difficulty breathing, requiring immediate medical attention.

When you start taking Xanax, you must let the doctor know about any vitamins, medications, or herbal treatments you're doing because they could mix and have negative consequences. Also, as it can affect the growing fetus, Xanax should not be taken by pregnant women.

How Does Xanax Work?

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter, is increased in the brain as Xanax comes into effect. GABA is a chemical messenger that lowers anxiety and helps to relax the neurological system.

Neurons in the brain communicate by sending and receiving signals through a synapse gap. When a signal arrives at the end of a neuron, it releases a neurotransmitter that crosses the synapse and binds to a receptor on the receiving neuron. This triggers a response in the receiving neuron, which can excite or inhibit its activity.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it reduces the activity of the receiving neuron. When GABA binds to its receptor on a neuron, it opens a channel that allows negatively charged ions to enter the neuron, which makes it less likely to fire a signal. This helps to calm the nervous system and reduce the symptoms of anxiety.

Xanax enhances the activity of GABA by binding to a specific site on the GABA receptor, which makes the channel more sensitive to the effects of GABA. This means that when GABA is released in the synapse, it has a more substantial inhibitory effect on the receiving neuron, which reduces the nervous system's activity and helps reduce anxiety. 

The number and sensitivity of GABA receptors in the brain may decline due to extended Xanax use, which may aid in the emergence of tolerance and dependency. Because of this, Xanax should only be consumed under the guidance of a medical practitioner, and it shouldn't be used more than the recommended dosage or for prolonged periods.

What are Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms?
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What Are the Symptoms of Addiction to Xanax?

Xanax is a drug with a significant risk of addiction and abuse. A person develops a Xanax addiction when they continue to use the drug despite its detrimental effects on their lives. As a result, the drug may become physically and psychologically addictive, and tolerance may develop, requiring higher dosages to produce the same results.

The symptoms of addiction to Xanax can vary from person to person, but some common signs include the following:

Symptom

Outcome

Taking larger doses of Xanax than prescribed or using it more frequently than recommended.

Individuals may start to increase their dosage without a healthcare professional's advice, as they feel that their current dose is no longer effective in treating their symptoms.

Craving Xanax and feeling like you need it to function normally.

Individuals may experience strong urges to use Xanax and may feel like they cannot function normally without it.

Continuing to use Xanax despite negative consequences such as financial problems, relationship difficulties, or legal issues.

Individuals may continue to use Xanax even though it has caused problems in their personal or professional life.

Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of Xanax.

Individuals may spend a lot of time thinking about Xanax and may prioritize obtaining and using it over other activities or responsibilities.

Withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using Xanax include anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, muscle tension, and seizures.

In addition, individuals may experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop using Xanax, making quitting difficult.

Using Xanax despite knowing it is causing physical or mental health problems.

Individuals may continue to use Xanax even though it is causing negative physical or mental health consequences, such as memory problems or difficulty breathing.

Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of Xanax, such as driving or operating machinery.

Individuals may take risks while under the influence of Xanax, which can result in accidents or injuries.

Neglecting responsibilities or losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable.

Individuals may become less interested in activities they used to enjoy and may neglect their responsibilities at work or at home.

Continuing Xanax even after it has caused problems in personal relationships or work performance.

Individuals may continue to use Xanax even though it has caused problems in their relationships or work performance.

Though Xanax addiction can have adverse effects, recovery is achievable with the proper care and support.

What Is the Half-Life of Xanax?

The half-life of a drug is the amount of time it takes for half of a Xanax dose to leave your system. Knowing this is useful to determine how long Xanax stays in a person's system. However, drug half-life depends on multiple factors. Age, weight, the amount of Xanax taken, and more all play a role in how long it takes for the body to process Xanax.

That said, for most people the half-life of Xanax lasts for around 12 hours. In some cases, Xanax's half-life can last longer.

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What Is Xanax Withdrawal?

Like other addictive drugs, the body eventually gets used to the presence of Xanax. This happens much more quickly when Xanax is abused. When a person stops using Xanax (especially if they quit without tapering off) they will experience very unpleasant physical and mental symptoms.

These withdrawal symptoms can even be fatal in some cases; Xanax withdrawal can include seizures. Also, withdrawal symptoms depend largely on how long a person has been abusing Xanax. Longer periods of Xanax abuse mean more extreme withdrawal symptoms.

Having said that, withdrawal from benzos like Xanax is far, far easier at a drug detox center or drug rehab. Detoxing at these facilities is safer because withdrawal symptoms can be monitored. Patients are kept comfortable, meaning relapse is far less likely.

How Long Does Withdrawal From Xanax Last?

This is never an easy question to answer.

Withdrawal from drugs like Xanax depends on multiple factors. Age, gender, history of drug use and more determine how long withdrawal from drugs lasts. At a minimum, long-term Xanax users can expect a week or more of withdrawal symptoms.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Exhaustion

  • Body aches

  • Intense mood swings

  • Flu-like symptoms, including diarrhea and vomiting

  • Aggressive behavior

  • Feeling detached from one's self

  • Sweating

  • Tention

  • Rapid heart rates

  • Memory loss

Not everybody will experience all of these symptoms. Again, detoxing from Xanax with professional help is far more comfortable.

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Xanax Withdrawal: A Timeline

Although everybody's experience during Xanax withdrawal is different, there are certain phases most people pass through.

Phase 1 of Xanax Withdrawal

Xanax is a very fast-acting drug, which means withdrawal symptoms will start mere hours after it was last used. The first phase of Xanax withdrawal usually lasts for two days. Relapsing during this phase is very common.

Phase 2 of Xanax Withdrawal

Acute Xanax withdrawal starts around 48 hours after the drug was last used. This is when the symptoms tend to intensify, with flu-like symptoms, mental symptoms, body aches, and more. Acute Xanax withdrawal tends to last for around a week.

Phase 3 of Xanax Withdrawal

Late withdrawal from Xanax is a double-sided coin. On one hand, withdrawal symptoms are much less intense; on the other hand, symptoms of Xanax withdrawal can linger for a long period of time. This is largely due because the body is learning how to handle stress and emotional responses after being dependent on Xanax.

Rebound Symptoms of Xanax Withdrawal

During late withdrawal, it's common to experience rebound symptoms. These symptoms can be fairly intense, especially if someone was taking Xanax to manage a co-occurring mental condition like depression or anxiety. Rebound symptoms are symptoms of these mental disorders that can temporarily become more intense during Xanax withdrawal.

Complications of Xanax Withdrawal

Benzos like Xanax are among the most difficult drugs to withdraw from. Here are some of the dangerous side effects that may occur with Xanax addiction:

  • Coma

  • Seizures

  • Hallucinations

  • Psychosis: A break with reality

Again, detoxing from Xanax with professionals makes these complications less likely, and easier to manage.

What Are the Side Effects of Addiction to Xanax?

Addiction to Xanax, a potent benzodiazepine medication, can have numerous physical and psychological side effects. These effects can vary in severity depending on the dosage, frequency, and duration of use, as well as the individual's health status and susceptibility. 

Physical Dependence

One of the most notable effects of addiction to Xanax is physical dependence, which occurs when the body adapts to the drug and requires it to function normally. Physical dependence can lead to withdrawal symptoms if the drug is discontinued or the dosage is lowered, such as seizures, tremors, sweating, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and insomnia.

Cognitive Impairment

Prolonged Xanax use can cause cognitive impairment, affecting memory, attention, and concentration. Individuals may experience confusion, disorientation, forgetfulness, and difficulty completing tasks.

Mood Disturbances:

Addiction to Xanax can cause significant mood disturbances, such as depression, anxiety, irritability, and agitation. These symptoms can exacerbate the person's pre-existing mental health conditions or lead to new ones.

Respiratory Depression

High doses of Xanax can cause respiratory depression, which can be life-threatening in severe cases. Respiratory depression occurs when breathing slows down and becomes shallow, leading to decreased oxygen levels in the body.

Dizziness and Falls

Xanax addiction can increase the risk of dizziness, loss of balance, and falls, especially in older individuals. These effects can increase the risk of fractures, head injuries, and other accidents.

Sexual Dysfunction

Long-term Xanax use can lead to sexual dysfunction, such as reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, and difficulty achieving orgasm.

Liver Damage

Prolonged Xanax use can also cause liver damage, impairing liver function, and potential liver failure.

Relationship and Social Problems

Addiction to Xanax can lead to relationship and social problems, as individuals may prioritize obtaining and using the drug over their personal and professional responsibilities. This can lead to estrangement from loved ones and social isolation.

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What Are the Reasons for Addiction to Xanax?

Addiction to Xanax, a potent benzodiazepine medication, can develop for various reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons for addiction to Xanax:

Prescription Drug Misuse

Xanax addiction can develop when an individual misuses the medication by taking it more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed. They may use the drug to cope with anxiety or other mental health conditions or to experience the calming effects of the medication.

Self-Medication

Some individuals may use Xanax to treat underlying mental health conditions, such as anxiety or panic disorders. They may continue to use the drug even after their symptoms have been resolved, leading to addiction.

Peer Pressure

Xanax addiction can develop from peer pressure or social influence. Individuals may start using the drug recreationally to fit in with a certain group of people or to enhance the effects of other substances, such as alcohol or opioids.

Genetics

Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to addiction, making them more susceptible to developing an addiction to Xanax.

Co-Occurring Mental Health Conditions

Individuals with co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, may be at a higher risk of developing Xanax addiction. They may use Xanax as a form of self-medication, leading to addiction. The combination of addiction with a mental health disorder is known as a dual diagnosis.

Trauma

Xanax addiction can also develop due to traumatic experiences, such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or sexual assault. Individuals may use Xanax to cope with trauma symptoms like anxiety and panic attacks.

Stress

In some cases, addiction to Xanax can develop as a result of unaddressed stress or life changes, such as job loss, divorce, or financial problems. Individuals may use Xanax to cope with these stressors, leading to addiction.

How Long Does Xanax Stay in the System?

The amount of time that Xanax, a potent benzodiazepine medication, stays in the body can vary based on several factors, including the individual's age, weight, liver function, metabolism, dosage, and duration of use.

However, here is a general timeline of how long Xanax can stay in the body:

Drug Test

Timeline

Blood Test

Xanax can be detected in a blood drug test for up to 24 hours.

Urine Test

Xanax is detectable in the urine for up to 1-6 weeks.

Saliva Test

In saliva, detectable traces remain for up to 2.5 days after its last use.

Hair Test

A hair drug test can detect Xanax for up to 90 days.

The effects of Xanax can last longer than the medication itself, particularly in people with a history of heavy usage or addiction. Depending on how severely addicted you are, withdrawal symptoms may appear after the drug has left the body and last for a few weeks or months.

Recovery From Addiction to Xanax

Benzodiazepine drugs like Xanax are frequently recommended to treat anxiety and panic disorders. However, despite its potential for treating these diseases, it has a high potential for addiction, mainly when used in higher dosages than recommended or for extended periods.

As a result, a person's health, relationships, and general well-being can suffer significantly from Xanax addiction. Yet, it is possible to overcome Xanax addiction with the correct care and assistance.  

Here are some steps that can be taken toward recovery from addiction to Xanax:

  • Acknowledge the problem: The first step towards recovery from Xanax addiction is acknowledging the problem. Denial and avoidance can make seeking help and beginning the recovery process more difficult.

  • Seek professional help: Addiction to Xanax is a serious condition that often requires professional drug treatment. This can include inpatient drug rehab or outpatient drug rehab programs, counseling, and medication-assisted treatment.

  • Taper off Xanax use: Stopping Xanax use can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, so it is essential to taper off the medication under medical supervision gradually. NEVER take the "cold turkey" approach with Xanax.

  • Address underlying issues: Xanax addiction is often linked to mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Addressing these issues through therapy or other forms of treatment can help reduce the risk of relapse.

  • Build a support network: Recovery from addiction to Xanax can be challenging, so it is vital to have a support network. This can include family, friends, support groups, or a sponsor.

  • Practice healthy habits: Healthy habits, such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleep hygiene, can help support overall physical and mental health during recovery.

  • Avoid triggers: Identifying and avoiding triggers, such as certain people, places, or situations that may increase the risk of relapse, can be an essential part of maintaining sobriety.

Xanax Addiction Is a Serious Medical Issue. The Edge Treatment Center Will Help

Addiction isn't the only risk of Xanax abuse. Counterfeit pills are an ever-present risk. Overdosing on benzos is frequently lethal. In some cases, Xanax can even be contaminated with fentanyl.

Don't take these risks! The Edge Treatment Center will help you break the cycle of Xanax abuse. At our long-term outpatient drug rehab, highly trained professionals, including physicians, therapists, and addiction specialists, use evidence-based treatment methods proven to be effective in treating Xanax addiction. Professional treatment for Xanax addiction is necessary for long-term sobriety and for preventing these negative consequences.

Don't risk Xanax addiction. Get help today, and reach out to The Edge Treatment Center.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

Dual Diagnosis

March 27, 2023