Xanax Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, & Detox
Although a Xanax withdrawal timeline will differ by person, medical detox can help you gradually taper your Xanax dose to reduce the risk of Xanax withdrawal symptoms.
Xanax (alprazolam) is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine in the U.S., representing a third of all benzo prescriptions in 2019. As a Schedule IV controlled substance, Xanax can cause addiction, abuse and dependence. If you take Xanax regularly and try to stop suddenly, you can experience unpleasant and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Knowing what to expect when quitting Xanax is important if you consider stopping the drug..
Why Does Xanax Cause Withdrawal?
Xanax causes withdrawal because a person taking it often becomes physically dependent on the drug. Physical dependence means your brain and body have become accustomed to the drug’s presence and struggle to adapt if the drug is suddenly stopped. This manifests as Xanax withdrawal symptoms. Specifically, Xanax enhances the action of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. When Xanax is stopped, the brain needs to rebalance because the natural GABA it makes on its own is no longer getting the extra boost from Xanax.
How Much Xanax Causes Withdrawal?
Quitting Xanax can cause withdrawal symptoms at any dose. If you are physically dependent on even a small amount of Xanax, stopping it can trigger withdrawal. People can become physically dependent on Xanax in different timeframes, so the manufacturer recommends using the smallest dosage for the shortest possible time.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Xanax can cause several different withdrawal symptoms. While some are physical withdrawal symptoms, others are psychological and impact your mental state.
Physical Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:
- Fast pulse
- Hand tremors
- Trouble sleeping
- Nausea or vomiting
- Grand mal seizures
Psychological Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:
Xanax Withdrawal Seizures
In some cases, Xanax withdrawal can cause grand mal seizures, characterized by loss of consciousness and muscle spasms. This occurs because Xanax works to enhance the GABA activity in the brain. As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA slows down the brain’s activity. However, if you suddenly stop Xanax, the brain’s activity can spike, manifesting as seizures in some cases.
If someone has quit Xanax and is experiencing a seizure, you should call 911 for medical attention.
Xanax Rebound Anxiety
Xanax is prescribed to treat several different medical conditions, including anxiety and panic disorders. If Xanax has been helping control your anxiety and you suddenly stop taking it, your medical condition may no longer be controlled, and your anxiety may increase or worsen. If you are prescribed Xanax for anxiety, you should not stop taking it unless your doctor tells you it is safe. Rebound anxiety from Xanax withdrawal can wax and wane and may last months.
How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Last?
Xanax withdrawal symptoms occur in stages lasting different time lengths. While the initial withdrawal stages may only last a few weeks, protracted withdrawal symptoms can linger months after a person quits Xanax. The duration of withdrawal can differ based on the person, how much Xanax they take and if they take any other substances besides Xanax.
Xanax Withdrawal Timeline
Although a Xanax withdrawal timeline will differ by person, a typical withdrawal timeline is as follows:
- Stage one: Withdrawal symptoms begin one to two days after the last Xanax dose.
- Stage two: The intensity of withdrawal symptoms tends to peak on the second day.
- Stage three: Withdrawal symptoms generally continue for two to four weeks, if not longer. Symptoms often wax and wane during this time.
- Stage four: Withdrawal symptoms may enter a final protracted stage, improving only to fluctuate and worsen over the next few months.
Other FAQs About Xanax Withdrawal
Can Xanax Withdrawal Kill You?
Deaths from benzodiazepine withdrawal are exceedingly rare, with only a few cases reported. Although Xanax withdrawal can cause dangerous complications like seizures, and studies have found that the person may need to be admitted to intensive care or be intubated, deaths are very uncommon.
Can You Detox From Xanax at Home?
It is important to only detox from Xanax while under a doctor’s care. If your doctor says you can wean yourself off Xanax at home, you may be able to detox at home. If your doctor recommends against this, you may need to be admitted to a medical detox facility to ease off Xanax while under medical supervision.
Is It Dangerous To Stop Taking Xanax?
It is dangerous to stop taking Xanax cold turkey, especially if you have not discussed quitting with your doctor. Your doctor should be involved in your decision to stop Xanax and the safest way to quit.
How To Stop Taking Xanax Safely
The safest way to stop taking Xanax is by making a plan with your doctor. If you take a low and infrequent Xanax dose, your doctor may tell you to stop it without an issue. However, if you are on a higher dose of Xanax or take the medication regularly, your doctor may recommend other options, like a Xanax taper or medical detox.
Tapering Off Xanax
A Xanax taper means slowly decreasing the dose over time until you are on a low enough dose to stop the medication without withdrawal effects.
Experts recommend tapering the Xanax dose by around 0.25mg–0.5mg every three to seven days, although a slower taper schedule may be needed in some cases.
A medically-supervised Xanax detox program is another option to wean off Xanax. In a medical Xanax detox program, a medical team will provide round-the-clock monitoring as your system is slowly cleansed of Xanax in a comfortable setting.
Your medical team can help gradually taper your Xanax dose to minimize the risk of withdrawal symptoms. This means the length of medical Xanax detox can differ by person. Medications can sometimes treat or prevent Xanax withdrawal symptoms, including drugs like prochlorperazine for nausea.
If you or a loved one struggles with Xanax, call our intake experts at The Recovery Village Cherry hill at Cooper to see how we can help. Don’t wait; contact us today.
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- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Protracted Withdrawal.” July 2010. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- Lann, Meredith A.; Molina, D. Kimberley. “A fatal case of benzodiazepine withdrawal.” American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, June 2009. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- Thornton, Stephen L.; Whitacre, Jeffrey; Pallo, Nicholas; et al. “A Retrospective Review of Morbidity and Mortality Associated with Acute Benzodiazepine Withdrawal at a Midwestern Academic Medical Center.” Kansas Journal of Medicine, March 19, 2021. Accessed August 11, 2022.
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- Drugs.com. “Alprazolam.” November 9, 2020. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- PsychDB. “Sedative, Hypnotic, or Anxiolytic (Benzodiazepine) Withdrawal.” Accessed August 11, 2022.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.