It is a drug prescribed to millions of Americans every single day, year after year. It is used most frequently to treat a long list of conditions and disorders that range from simple disruptions in sleep quality or ability such as insomnia or parasomnia, to anxiety and panic disorders. It is a drug called Xanax, and it is one of the most popular benzodiazepines.
Benzodiazepines are complex drugs that interact with neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA. They cause an increase in serotonin and dopamine levels, while also increasing GABA activity. Since serotonin and dopamine are two of the most powerful “feel-good” chemicals your body produces, this causes a feeling of intense relaxation and pleasure when misused or abused.
Xanax is a relatively fast-acting drug and is only available by prescription for approved disorders or conditions. While not being available in an over-the-counter capacity does limit its availability somewhat, the ease with which a prescription can be obtained leads Xanax to be an incredibly heavily abused drug.
Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax are considered some of the most powerful among similar benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines like Xanax are also incredibly addictive, not only because they produce intensely enjoyable effects, but because the withdrawals are so uncomfortable. Even taking Xanax for as little as a week of prescribed use can begin forming dependencies that will produce withdrawals.
What Are The Symptoms of a Xanax Withdrawal?
Dopamine is one of the body’s primary mechanisms for feeling pleasure, and it is generally released in moderate quantities when we eat, win competitions, or accomplish a goal. While it does feel pleasurable, it makes the body want that feeling, which is how Xanax begins building a use-reward cycle and a chemical dependency.
Since Xanax alters the dopamine production and release in your body, it quickly becomes very closely associated with feeling good. When a dose is missed, or too many half-lives have gone by without more Xanax, the result is the immediate onset of withdrawal symptoms that in many situations can be quite intense.
During Xanax use, the brain becomes accustomed to the Xanax managing the dopamine levels for the body by continually forcing more to be released. During the detox and Xanax withdrawal stage, the brain and body will suddenly be forced to deal with a jarring shortage of dopamine, with the brain no longer being able to support the level of dopamine production that the individual requires to feel normal.
This sudden lack of dopamine, combined with an underactive GABA system, is what causes the symptoms experienced during Xanax withdrawal. The symptoms that the individual experiences and the intensity of those symptoms will often vary wildly depending on the individual, their medical history and physical condition, and several factors relating to their addiction profile.
Some of the most common symptoms felt initially by the individual beginning withdrawals will be a sudden resurgence of any symptoms that it may have been legitimately prescribed to treat initially. This frequently includes intense anxiety and panic.
Additional Xanax withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Muscle Aches
- Muscular Tension
- Mood Swings
- Irritability & Aggression
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Blurred Vision
- Hypersensitivity To Light & Sound
- Difficulty Breathing
- Numbness In Face, Hands, Feet
- Tingling In The Extremities
Most individuals going through Xanax withdrawal and detox will experience several or even many of these symptoms during their recovery. There is the possibility that you may only experience a very small number of symptoms, but it is relatively rare for Xanax withdrawals to be that simple.
The intensity of the symptoms will depend on many factors, most of which will be unique to the individual experiencing the withdrawals. In general, those that used larger amounts of Xanax, or used for a long time can expect to experience more intense withdrawal symptoms and to experience them for longer. Individuals that only used small amounts, or built dependency over a short period before beginning detox can likely expect more mild symptoms, and they should be on the shorter end of the withdrawal timeline.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline & Dangers of Detoxing Alone
Withdrawals symptoms generally happen when someone with Xanax dependence suddenly stops taking it. The detox process becomes even more dangerous if the individual had been mixing Xanax with alcohol or other depressants. The way the body is affected by the detox process varies from person to person, but some withdrawal symptoms are pretty common, such as insomnia, anxiety, and flu-like symptoms.
The most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Flu-like symptoms: This includes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Hallucinations: This happens in rare cases when neurons in the brain become overexcited.
- Memory problems: It is not uncommon for someone to have memory problems for a few months after quitting Xanax.
- Suicidal ideations: Xanax withdrawal leads to stress and anxiety, which can often lead to someone who is detoxing to begin having suicidal thoughts.
- Anxiety and depression: People detoxing often experience severe depression and anxiety, as well as mood swings and stress.
Because long-time Xanax users generally have both physical and psychological dependencies, withdrawal symptoms can be especially uncomfortable, even dangerous. Quitting cold turkey can lead to serious symptoms such as depression, paranoia, rage, high blood pressure, and convulsions.
- Stage 1 – Within the first 6 to 12 hours following the last dose, the first withdrawal symptoms begin. During stage 1, withdrawal symptoms are the strongest and most uncomfortable. The most common symptoms during this portion of detox are anxiety and insomnia.
- Stage 2 – 1 to 4 days after the final dose of Xanax, stage 2 begins. Insomnia generally persists, flu-like symptoms may begin, and the rebound symptoms set in. Rebound symptoms are a stronger version of the symptoms you had before taking benzodiazepines.
- Stage 3 – Symptoms begin to taper off, although withdrawals could last from 5 to 14 days. During phase 3, the most common symptoms are insomnia and anxiety.
- Stage 4 – By this time, symptoms should be mild enough for most people to get back to their normal lives without medication. Some people do realize that their psychological conditions have not improved enough to go without medication entirely.
The recommended plan of action when it comes to quitting Xanax is to taper your use. Tapering is a process that allows your body to gently ease off of drugs in order to lessen withdrawal symptoms. By lowering your doses over time, you are far less likely to have the serious withdrawal symptoms that are experienced by those that quit cold turkey.
How Withdrawal Symptoms May Point to a Xanax Addiction: How To Know if You Are Addicted To Xanax
There are many potential signs that can indicate an addiction or dependence problem with Xanax. Even if you have never experienced issues with Xanax, it can be helpful to know what to look for. There will be physical signs of addiction, changes in behavior, as well as other signs that may be harder to pinpoint.
Some of the physical signs that may point to a problem with Xanax include the individual slurring speech, displaying excessive drowsiness, headache, dizziness, an elevated sex drive, increased salivation, nausea, constipation, and lack of coordination. Additional physical signs that someone is taking Xanax in a dangerous manner are lack of concentration, confusion, and lack of focus. Since the drug has effects similar to other drugs, it can be hard to determine simply by physical signs.
The one physical sign that will never be wrong about Xanax addiction, however, is the presence of withdrawal symptoms. If you or someone you are close to takes Xanax and subsequently experiences any form of withdrawal symptoms if it isn’t taken on time, then there is undoubtedly a chemical dependence at work. If this is the case, be sure to reach out for help to safely manage the detox process.
Behavioral indications that you or someone you love may be addicted to Xanax include social withdrawal, sudden strange or risky behavior, and beginning to lie or becoming unusually secretive. Doctor shopping is a very strong sign that someone has a problem with a prescription drug like Xanax since they will often need multiple prescriptions to support their habit.
The effects of addiction are also relatively hard to ignore for anyone close to the individual with the dependency. They will often begin to shrink their social circle to those involved with Xanax procurement or use, and will often begin to neglect all other relationships. There will also be changes to their employment or job status or a sudden change in grades at school.
How to Mitigate Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Xanax withdrawal can be incredibly dangerous and loaded with potential medical complications, particularly for anyone that took high doses or was on a long-term prescription. If you or anyone you are close to may have a problem with Xanax addiction and experiencing Xanax withdrawal symptoms, it is crucial that you reach out to experienced addiction professionals before attempting detox.
By working with experienced professionals in a medically supervised environment, any potential Xanax withdrawal symptoms or complications can be effectively managed. Recovery can begin in a safe and comfortable location that allows the individual to build a strong foundation for the future.