Xanax (alprazolam) is the most widely prescribed benzodiazepine medication in the United States. It is prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and certain types of seizures.
When taken for an extended period of time, even as directed, Xanax dependence can develop. Dependence occurs when the body is so acclimated to having a particular substance that it cannot function normally without it, resulting in withdrawal symptoms. Although withdrawal symptoms simply demonstrate the body’s ability to regulate itself and return to normal, Xanax can produce severe, life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal.
The Xanax withdrawal timeline usually begins within the first 24 hours after your last dose and can last for 1-2 weeks. Completing withdrawal on your own can be dangerous, so it’s always best to talk to your doctor and slowly taper off Xanax or seek help from a trusted drug detox facility.
Symptoms of Xanax Withdrawal
Xanax works by acting on the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When you take Xanax, excess GABA develops in the brain, producing feelings of relaxation and sedation. Your body will react naturally to excess GABA by working harder to overcome the depressant effects.
If you suddenly stop taking Xanax after taking it regularly for an extended period of time, your body will continue working as though Xanax is in your system. This causes your cells to get overstimulated, leading to excess levels of norepinephrine and other stress hormones. This overactive, excited state causes uncomfortable, agitating symptoms of withdrawal.
Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal include:
- Panic attacks
- Sleep problems
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle spasms
- General discomfort
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
- Hallucinations and delusions
Due to the risk of psychosis and seizures, you should never stop taking Xanax cold turkey unless you do so under medical supervision.
How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Last?
The Xanax withdrawal timeline usually begins within 24 hours of your last dose and can last for 1-2 weeks. However, the severity and duration of withdrawal can vary from person to person based on a variety of factors, including:
- Taking multiple types of benzodiazepines (taking alprazolam with long-acting benzodiazepines like diazepam can increase the withdrawal timeline)
- How often and how much you used
- The dose you were taking
- Mental health conditions
- Your overall health (age, weight, metabolism, liver function, kidney function, etc.)
Some studies show that genetic makeup can influence the pharmacological effects of Xanax. For example, research shows that individuals of Asian descent require more time to get Xanax out of their system than caucasian individuals do.
Xanax Withdrawal Timeline
There are two types of Xanax: extended-release (Xanax XR) and immediate release. If you are detoxing from Xanax ER, your symptoms may not begin for a couple of days, and your withdrawal symptoms may last longer than someone who is detoxing from immediate-release Xanax.
Since the onset of symptoms can vary based on which type of Xanax you are taking, the withdrawal timeline can be divided up into stages:
Symptoms will begin 1-2 days after your last dose. The most common initial symptoms are trouble sleeping, anxiety, and headache. Other flu-like symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur during this stage.
Stage two refers to when symptoms peak or are at their worst. This typically occurs between 2-6 days after your last dose. You may experience a variety of flu-like and anxiety-provoking symptoms. Seizures can also occur during this time, however, if you make it two days without having a seizure, it is unlikely that one will occur later in the withdrawal timeline.
6-14 days after your last dose your symptoms should start to subside. After 14 days, acute withdrawal symptoms should be over, but you may experience some lingering psychiatric and emotional issues.
Stage four involves post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS refers to long-lasting withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, cravings, inability to experience pleasure, and suicidal thoughts. These symptoms are best managed with the help of an addiction treatment program and lifestyle changes.
How a Xanax Detox Center can Help
Drug and alcohol detox centers can provide 24-hour supervision and medical monitoring to ensure the safety of people who are detoxing from Xanax. Most detox programs will prescribe a long-acting benzodiazepine, such as Valium (diazepam), and slowly reduce the dose that you take every 1-2 days. By slowly lowering your dose of benzodiazepines, your body can slowly adjust to functioning normally without them. This tapering method can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications like seizures.
In the rare event of a seizure or another medical complication, the nursing staff will be ready to intervene and provide life-saving medical care. Detoxing under medical supervision not only ensures your safety, but it also reduces your risk of relapse and helps you stay sober.
Find Help for Xanax Abuse and Addiction
Detox is only the first step toward recovery. At Woburn Wellness, we will help you find a trusted Xanax detox center so you can detox safely before transitioning to one of our supportive outpatient benzodiazepine rehab programs.
Don’t wait any longer to start your recovery. Contact us today for a confidential, risk-free assessment.