Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms, and What You Can Do About Them
Understanding Xanax withdrawal symptoms and what to do about them is crucial if you or a loved one has an addiction to the drug.
A benzodiazepine called Xanax, commonly known as alprazolam, is used to alleviate anxiety. Long-term Xanax usage may lead to the development of both psychological and physical dependency. Even if benzodiazepines are used as directed, physical dependency on them may develop in days to weeks, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It may also be risky to quit taking Xanax “cold turkey” since doing so suddenly might produce severe withdrawal symptoms. What you should know about Xanax withdrawal symptoms and how to deal with a Xanax addiction is provided below. Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
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General Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
There is no specific time or dose that determines if Xanax addiction signs will be present. But in general, the risk for physical dependence can increase as the dosage and duration of use increases. Even after a few weeks, Xanax withdrawal symptoms can develop if you stop using the drug or reduce your dose. These symptoms can include the following, according to the Merck Manual:
- Troubling dreams
- Awakenings while sleeping
- Feeling tension in the morning
The severity of withdrawal symptoms increases with continued chronic usage. Seizures are perhaps the most hazardous side effect of Xanax withdrawal, says Christian Small, MD, an addiction medicine expert and CEO of Headlands Addiction Treatment Services, in a statement to WebMD Connect to Care.
Other severe Xanax withdrawal symptoms, according to Mayo Clinic, include:
hallucinations involving sound
Sadness or an empty feeling
loss of enjoyment or interest
According to American Addiction Centers, dependence may arise sooner depending on the dosage before tolerance develops after around 6 months of usage. About 44% of benzodiazepine users are predicted to develop dependence at some point. Even if you are using benzodiazepines as directed by your doctor and in modest dosages, it may be difficult to quit using them, and you may still have withdrawal symptoms. Low doses of Xanax or tapering might cause the following common Xanax withdrawal symptoms:
- Depressed mood
- Inability to sleep
- Feelings of irritation of agitation
- Inability to pay attention
- Poor memory or forgetfulness
- Muscle aches and tension
Withdrawal symptoms often include the symptoms that drove the individual to take the drug in the first place. This is because the brain has adapted to the presence of the drug, and withdrawal is the process of the brain adapting to the absence of the drug. During Xanax withdrawal, individuals may experience rebound anxiety, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and long-term withdrawal symptoms. Read on to learn more about each, how they can be managed, and more.
Xanax Rebound Anxiety
Another concern associated with abruptly stopping Xanax is rebound anxiety. This happens when your anxiety symptoms reappear and are worse than before. Rebound anxiety is mostly felt as an increase in physical symptoms, although it may also include an increase in concern and panic. Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain are bound by benzodiazepines like Xanax, which increases GABA activity. GABA is a neurotransmitter that reduces brain and central nervous system activity. When you take Xanax to relieve your anxiety, GABA is increased, which helps to reduce brain activity and calm you down. Your muscles could start to relax, and you might start to feel tired.
However, benzodiazepines like Xanax soon become tolerable by the brain, which may lead to dependency. And when someone abruptly ceases using these drugs, it becomes challenging for the GABA receptors in the brain to function normally without the assistance of Xanax. Consequently, anxiety levels could rise.
According to a 2018 review study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, Xanax withdrawal symptoms are often more severe than those brought on by withdrawal from other benzodiazepines. This could be as a result of the drug’s high strength and short half-life, which increases the likelihood that it will lead to acute rebound anxiety.
In most cases, within 24 hours of stopping your medication, rebound anxiety can start to manifest. Rebound anxiety treatment options include:
- Working with your doctor or psychiatrist to follow a tapering schedule
- Switching to a medication like diazepam (Valium), which has a longer half-life than Xanax and is less likely to cause rebound anxiety
- Working with a therapist to learn healthy coping strategies for your anxiety
- Cutting back on caffeine