The symptoms of a Xanax detox or withdrawal can begin within hours of quitting the medication, and typically peak in severity within 1-4 days. People experience the following symptoms during withdrawal: seizures, muscle pain, numb fingers, headaches, anxiety, sensitivity to light/sound, insomnia, heart palpitations, panic attacks, paranoia, blurred vision, loss of appetite, tremors, sweating and diarrhea.
It is recommended to go through a supervised medical Xanax detox and a tapering of Xanax dosage, rather than quitting the medication all at once. Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs that increase the inhibitory neuron, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and thereby reduce over activity in the brain and central nervous system.
Xanax (Alprazolam is its generic form) is one of the most popular of these medications. It was reported by CBS news that in the United States in 2011, it was the 11th most prescribed medication. Typically prescribed to treat panic and anxiety disorders, relieve stress and tension, to help with insomnia and as a muscle relaxer, Xanax becomes commonly abused as it activates pleasure cells in the brain. In a report from the Drug Abuse Warning Network, it was said that almost 10 percent of pharmaceutical related ER visits are due to the use of benzodiazepine (benzo) or alprazolam. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has indicated that Xanax is thought to be very addictive and use of the medication for longer than a month, can lead to dependence. Over a period of time, Xanax begins to influence the production of GABA in the brain. Eventually, the brain will reduce or stop making naturally occurring GABA without the use of Xanax. GABA is a natural sedative that slows certain brain functions and reduces reactions to stress. Therefore, once the medication leaves the body, withdrawal symptoms can occur as the brain will try and regain its natural balance of GABA. Going through withdrawal without the help of a medical professional, can be very dangerous and possibly life threatening.
Psychological and Physical Withdrawal Symptoms
Xanax is designed to slow down the body’s heart rate, temperature and blood pressure in order to minimize stress, anxiety and panic attacks. It is a central nervous system depressant. It may also help in reducing epileptic seizures. The brain will get used to the presence of Xanax and if it is suddenly unavailable, these functions will return. Rapid onset of respiration, blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate can lead to seizures that may cause coma or even death. Physical warning signs to watch for during Xanax withdrawal are:
Muscle Aches, blurred vision, headache, jaw tension and/or pain in teeth, tingling in arms and legs, numbness of fingers, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, cramps, heart palpitations, impaired respiration, tremors, sensitivity to sound and light, changes in sense of smell, insomnia, sweating or fever, hypertension and insomnia.
It is not advised that the use of Xanax be suddenly stopped. All vital signs need to be closely monitored during a Xanax detox. Going “cold turkey” can result in dangerous side effects, such as grand mal seizures, and may be fatal without medical assistance. The Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association has documented the effects of sudden withdrawal from benzodiazepine.
Withdrawal Timeline for Xanax
Typically considered a short acting benzodiazepine, Xanax has an average half-life of 11 hours, as reported by the FDA. Once the drug is no longer active in the blood plasma (usually 6 – 12 hours after the last dose) withdrawal symptoms begin.
In the beginning, the patient will experience rebound symptoms that the drug was intended to suppress. These early withdrawal symptoms typically last 1 – 4 days. The next stage would be acute withdrawal and can last a few days or up to four weeks. During acute Xanax detox and withdrawal, all symptoms may be present and will likely peak around two weeks. At this point it is likely withdrawal symptoms will begin to improve. A few people, however, may experience protracted withdrawal. This can include drug cravings and psychiatric symptoms and can last weeks, months or years if not addressed by a mental health professional.
Unique Xanax Detox & Withdrawal Factors
Xanax detox and withdrawal can be affected by different factors with each individual. As the body becomes more and more dependent on Xanax, the more intense and longer lasting the withdrawal symptoms will be. Different people develop stronger dependence and more quickly than others depending on their age when they first used it, genetics, how much they used and the method in which they ingested it, how long they used it and whether or not it was used with alcohol or other drugs. Underlying mental health issues, family history of addiction, stress and medical issues can also affect how long withdrawal symptoms may last for an individual or how many side effects they experience. Withdrawal symptoms of Xanax can be lessened and much safer with the supervision of mental health and medical professionals who are trained in these areas.
Importance of Xanax Detox Centers
A Xanax detox center with medical and mental health professionals who are available to offer necessary support and treatment are the best option for someone going through withdrawal from Xanax. A professional detox center like Milestone Detox is able to offer monitoring, supervision and support in a safe environment. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be much more safely controlled, and side effects reduced, with a tapering schedule set by a medical professional. By slowing the use of Xanax over a period of time, more severe withdrawal symptoms can mostly be avoided. At times, a substitute for Xanax may be used during detox, like the longer-acting benzodiazepine, Valium (diazepam). Having a small amount in the bloodstream will control drug craving and withdrawal symptoms until the drug is out of the system completely. Other medications like beta-blockers, antidepressants may also be effective for Xanax withdrawal symptoms.
It is believed by medical professionals that gradual dose reductions and a combination of therapy methods are the safest way to detox from benzodiazepines. Stress management techniques and tools for prevention of relapse are important during the initial Xanax detox and can be taught during therapy sessions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help patients to realize the connections between thoughts and actions and help them to make more positive decisions. Holistic methods such as acupuncture, meditation, yoga and massage therapy may also be included to help with stress and healing. It is also important to follow healthy eating habits as Xanax may also change appetite and cause weight loss. A better diet will also help with the healing of the body.
During Xanax detox and withdrawal, Milestone Detox can provide the most supportive and comprehensive medical environment needed during all stages of detox to ensure successful recovery. If you or a loved one need help, call one of our professional admissions team members for a free and confidential assessment.