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Quitting Xanax Safely: Establishing a Path to Lasting Recovery


Weaning off of prescription medications can be a tricky process. As a drug is used more and more, the body becomes more reliant on the drug, which can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms when the drug is no longer present.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms, in particular, are many and varied, and can be difficult to deal with on your own—particularly if you have not been taking the drug as prescribed. Quitting Xanax safely—and for good—requires empathetic care, patience, and medical expertise.

Understanding Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzodiazepines are drugs that act on the central nervous system and produce a calming effect by enhancing the effects of GABA, a naturally-occurring chemical in the body. Xanax, which is a benzodiazepine, is highly addictive when taken in high doses.

GABA is a natural sedative in the brain, responsible for slowing down particular functions and muting reactions to stress. Over time, Xanax may cause the brain to stop producing GABA naturally, making the body completely reliant on the drug to achieve the same calming effects most people experience regularly. If the brain becomes dependent on Xanax and the drug is subsequently removed from the system, the brain immediately begins to struggle to regain its natural sense of balance and order. Not only can this lead to an increased risk of addiction, but it can also trigger serious withdrawal symptoms.

There are two forms of Xanax withdrawal symptoms—physical and psychological—both of which can have detrimental effects on one’s overall wellbeing.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax, being a central nervous system depressant, slows down heart rate, blood pressure, and lowers body temperature as it minimizes anxiety, stress, and panic. Xanax has also been used to reduce the risk of epileptic seizures, although this form of treatment is not considered mainstream.

Removing Xanax abruptly without medical supervision can result in numerous physical disruptions, including:

  • Unstable blood pressure
  • High or low body temperature
  • Diarrhea, cramps, vomiting
  • Headache, muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tremors, tingling in extremities
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Respiration issues
  • Rapid heart rate or palpitations
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Coma

In severe cases, many of these symptoms can be fatal.

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

Because Xanax has a direct impact on the brain, a user’s psychological state will be impacted if Xanax is abruptly removed from the system. The psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting Xanax include:

  • Nervousness or tension
  • Confusion or depression
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia or restless sleep
  • Paranoia and fear
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, or hobbies
  • Heightened senses
  • Anxiety and panic

Experiencing these effects are often referred to as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, or benzo withdrawal, which encompasses multiple stages of withdrawal. Starting with anxiety and insomnia, those detoxing from Xanax will often feel like they have a prolonged flu. This is followed by the return of whatever psychological issues the person was facing before going on Xanax, which can make it difficult not to relapse.

The severity of benzo withdrawal varies greatly depending on the amount of Xanax a person was taking prior to detoxification, and how long this person was on the medication. Although withdrawal symptoms can occur even if one is taking Xanax exactly as prescribed, intense withdrawal is often linked to those who misuse or are addicted to the medication.

Quitting Xanax Safely Requires Medical Guidance

Those looking to detox from Xanax can expect to go through four stages of withdrawal. The severity and duration of each stage varies, and may look different for each user depending on brain chemistry and personal circumstances:

  • Stage 1 (The Beginning): Symptoms often begin to surface within six to 12 hours after taking the last dose. Insomnia and anxiety are common during this time, and are often the first symptoms experienced.
  • Stage 2 (The Rebound): Lasting typically between one to four days, this stage is characterized by the continuance of insomnia and anxiety, coupled with stomach discomfort including nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Stage 3 (The Downward Slope): Typically, new symptoms do not occur at this stage, but symptoms from the previous stages often linger for another five to 14 days.
  • Stage 4 (The Return): The last stage is the hardest for some, as this stage can trigger the return of unwanted psychological conditions. Stage 4 presents itself two weeks after the last dose.

While it may be tempting to try quitting Xanax cold-turkey and detox at home, attempting to handle withdrawal without medical guidance is dangerous and can result in symptoms lasting for weeks, even months, longer than necessary. Additionally, detoxing at home offers none of the comfort or expert support that can be found at a dedicated addiction treatment facility both during and after the detox period.

Setting the Stage for Sustainable Addiction Recovery

One of the benefits of seeking professional detox help, aside from the security it provides, is that it should then be fairly easy to transition from this stage to the next stage of recovery with the help of your clinical team. For most, this will mean entering into some type of long-term treatment program.

Whether you enroll in an inpatient, outpatient, or a PHP (partial hospitalization) program, a comprehensive treatment plan gives you both the support you need to facilitate the beginning stages of healing and the tools you will require to continue healing even beyond this stage of recovery. Just as it would not be advisable to heal your own broken leg without medical aid, so too is it important to accept the help of expert addiction specialists to recover from the mental and physical damage your addiction has inflicted.

If you or a loved one needs help quitting Xanax safely, New Choices Treatment Centers is a leading provider of detox and long-term addiction treatment services in San Antonio, TX. Call us at (726) 888-7003 or contact us today to learn more.