He was smart, athletic and kind. Then, in the ninth grade, Caleb tried Xanax for the first time. That’s all it took. Mixing pills with alcohol soon became “an everyday thing.” He and his friends weren’t concerned. After all, they thought Xanax was a safe high and that doctors prescribe the pills all the time. It certainly could not be as dangerous as heroin or crack, they figured. But, Caleb figured wrong. He never made it past 19 years old. On his last birthday, Caleb died from an overdose of Xanax and methadone while celebrating with friends.
Xanax is in the drug class benzodiazepine. Yes, doctors prescribe Xanax to treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia among other conditions.
But while many Americans like Caleb and his friends tended to see Xanax as harmless chill pills that even older people take, the number of benzodiazepine overdoses escalated by a factor of 10 between 1999 and 2017.
Xanax use is even more alarming among adolescents, say substance abuse authorities. Even worse, many teenagers who are hooked take daily doses of the drug combined with other dangerous opioids and alcohol. But Xanax does not discriminate by age.
Benzodiazepines continue to be an ingredient in one-third of fatal opioid overdoses including the death of rapper Lil Peep, who reportedly died after taking Xanax pressed with fentanyl. Even when taken as prescribed, Xanax can lead to dependence and, in many of these decisions to stop, a lengthy and vicious bout with withdrawal.
The deadly abuse of Xanax and other benzodiazepines the past several years can be blamed on the fact that more of the pills are being made available. Nearly 50 million Xanax prescriptions are written annually in the United States. Xanax and other benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to treat both physical and mental conditions. Also known by the generic name alprazolam, Xanax may also be administered to prevent seizures and muscle spasms or to reduce the side effects of anesthesia after a painful operation.
What is Xanax Withdrawal?
When taken orally, Xanax triggers a neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-Aminobutyric acid, which slows down messages within the central nervous system to create an artificial feeling of relaxation. As use continues, tolerance increases, which means the nervous system becomes accustomed to the enhanced GABA activity. When this level of tolerance is no longer maintained, withdrawal begins.
Because Xanax withdrawal is difficult to predict, dosages of the drug should be lowered gradually before completely stopping its use. Otherwise, withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and even dangerous. The best advice is to taper off Xanax.
In other words, do not stop “cold turkey.” When Xanax is discontinued abruptly, the severity of withdrawal symptoms can swing rapidly and:
- Affect coordination and increase the risk to fall
- Increase the possibility of delirium and seizures
- Intensify the anxiety it was initially designed to treat
What are Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms?
Because Xanax is considered a short-acting benzodiazepine, the relaxing effects are not as prolonged as other drugs in its class, such as Valium. That also means withdrawal systems can surface rather quickly when use is stopped — sometimes as soon as two days. The first signs of Xanax withdrawal are likely to include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Irritation or agitation
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Muscle aches and tension
- Numbness or tingling in arms and legs
The Duration and Intensity of Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms Will Depend on:
- Liver function
- Dose and frequency of use
- Use in combination with other substances
- Use in combination with other substances
Prolonged effects from discontinued use are referred to post-acute withdrawal, which may be more comparable to anxiety disorders, such as insomnia, restlessness and panic attacks.
What are the Stages of the Xanax Withdrawal Timeline?
Don’t expect to wait very long after the last dose of Xanax for withdrawal symptoms to emerge, which is usually within a few hours. Withdrawal symptoms may extend for up to three to four weeks. For an idea of what to expect, Xanax withdrawal can be broken down into four stages, which include:
The first one to three days of Xanax withdrawal are the most difficult. Because the risk of seizure is high, Xanax withdrawal at this stage should be under the guidance of a medical professional.
Unfortunately, the next four days of Xanax withdrawal may not be any more comfortable. Heart rates are likely to remain elevated and a good night’s sleep will be difficult to enjoy. An individual undergoing Xanax withdrawal will continue to be irritable and depressed and probably begin to crave the drug.
Emotional symptoms including depression, irritability, and difficulty sleeping continue to make Week 2 of Xanax withdrawal unpleasant. The good news is that the potential for a seizure will have faded.
Sleeping becomes easier across the third and fourth weeks of Xanax withdrawal. Except for headaches, most physical symptoms will have dissipated. However, mental symptoms including the anxiety for which the drug was initially prescribed may return. For this reason, the potential for relapse is high.
Treatment for Xanax Withdrawal
The most comfortable Xanax withdrawal will involve a reduction in dosage over a predetermined period. Doctors may also prescribe carbamazepine, valproate, trazodone or clonidine to alleviate discomfort associated with Xanax withdrawal. These sedating drugs are frequently used to treat withdrawal from opioids and other benzodiazepines.
Why Should I Detox?
Confronting a problem is never easy, but admitting a concern is the first step toward a solution. Congratulate yourself.
Now, recognize that Xanax withdrawal is extremely dangerous and not to be taken lightly. The best and safest withdrawal from Xanax should be under the care of a trained medical professional.
This type of help is best found at a residential treatment facility, which specializes in detoxification from chemical dependency.
Here, a doctor can prescribe medications to alleviate the pain and suffering associated with Xanax withdrawal and medical staff can monitor progress and respond to any complications promptly.
Withdrawal from Xanax can be as difficult as you decide to make it. The easier choice is to detox in a quiet and comfortable surrounding where you can focus your attention on getting sober and a life without drugs.
What is the Next Treatment Step?
Detoxification is only the first step on a path toward continued sobriety. Any real chance at sustained sobriety will require determination, commitment and an extended stay at a residential treatment center.
Here, you will be fitted with a personalized recovery plan customized to meet your issues and unique circumstances. To strengthen your resistance to relapse and to start feeling good about yourself, you will also be exposed to group therapy, one-on-one counseling, educational lectures and workshops as part of your recovery program.