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What Do Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms Look Like? Signs & Symptoms of Xanax Withdrawal

It is a drug prescribed to millions of Americans daily, year after year. It is used most frequently to treat a long list of conditions and disorders ranging from simple sleep quality disruptions or ability, such as insomnia or parasomnia, to anxiety and panic disorders. It is a drug called Xanax, 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 somewhat limits its availability, the ease with which a prescription can be obtained leads Xanax to be an incredibly heavily abused drug. 

Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax are considered the most powerful among similar benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines like Xanax are also incredibly addictive, not only because they produce intensely enjoyable effects but also because the withdrawals are 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 immediate onset of withdrawal symptoms can be quite intense in many situations.

During Xanax use, the brain becomes accustomed to the Xanax, managing the body’s dopamine levels 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, 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 initially felt by the individual beginning withdrawals will be a sudden resurgence of any symptoms that it may have been legitimately prescribed to treat. This frequently includes intense anxiety and panic. 

Additional Xanax withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Muscular tension
  • Tremors
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability or aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Hypersensitivity to light and/or sounds
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Numbness in the face, hands, and/or feet
  • Tingling in the extremities

 

Most individuals undergoing Xanax withdrawal and detox will experience several or even many of these symptoms during recovery. Of course, 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 it for a long time can expect to experience more intense withdrawal symptoms and to experience them for longer. Conversely, individuals who only used small amounts or built dependency over a short period before beginning detox can likely expect milder symptoms and should be on the shorter end of the withdrawal.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline & Dangers of Detoxing Alone

Withdrawal symptoms generally happen when someone with Xanax dependence suddenly stops taking it. The detox process becomes even more dangerous if the individual has 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 someone detoxing to begin having suicidal thoughts.
  • Anxiety and depression: People detoxing often experience severe depression, anxiety, 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.

Xanax withdrawal can be divided into 4 stages:

  • Stage 1 – The first withdrawal symptoms begin within 6 to 12 hours following the last dose. 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 your symptoms 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 return to normal lives without medication. However, some people realize 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 ease off of drugs to lessen withdrawal symptoms gently. By lowering your doses over time, you are far less likely to have the serious withdrawal symptoms experienced by those who quit cold turkey.

How Withdrawal Symptoms May Point to a Xanax Addiction: How To Know if You Are Addicted To Xanax

Many potential signs 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. Physical signs of addiction, changes in behavior, and other signs may be harder to pinpoint.

Some physical signs that may point to a problem with Xanax include the individual slurring speech, displaying excessive drowsiness, headache, dizziness, a high 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. 

However, the one physical sign that will never be wrong about Xanax addiction is the presence of withdrawal symptoms. If you or someone close to takes Xanax and subsequently experiences any withdrawal symptoms if it isn’t taken on time, then there is undoubtedly a chemical dependence at work. If this is the case, 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. In addition, 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 often 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. Suppose you or anyone close to you may have a problem with Xanax addiction and experience Xanax withdrawal symptoms. In that case, you must reach out to experienced addiction professionals before attempting detox.

Working with experienced professionals in a medically supervised environment can effectively manage potential Xanax withdrawal symptoms or complications. In addition, recovery can begin in a safe and comfortable location, allowing the individual to build a strong foundation for the future. Contact Ocean Recovery today to get started on your journey to an addiction-free life.

Sources:

Ocean Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial policy.

1. Osborn CO. How Long Does Withdrawal From Xanax Last? Verywell Mind. Published January 2, 2022. Accessed July 29, 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/xanax-withdrawal-4685921

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Infinite RecoveryAscendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed July 29, 2022