Doctors have prescribed Xanax to almost 50 million people for help with anxiety, panic attacks, and more.
As a benzodiazepine, Xanax (or Alprazolam) works within the GABA receptors of your brain and central nervous system to help you feel calm.
There are several different dosages of Xanax that you can take — however, it’s important to note that, when not used correctly, Xanax can be addictive.
In some cases, you may notice that you’ve built up a high tolerance in as little as six months.
If getting off Xanax is a priority for you, then you need to make sure you do it safely.
So, what do you need to know about how to stop taking Xanax?
Keep on reading this post to find out.
Never Quit Cold Turkey
What is one of the most important things you need to know about getting off Xanax?
Going cold turkey is never the right approach.
We know that, especially since deaths from overdoses on benzos like Xanax are on the rise, you may feel that the best thing for your health is to put down your pill bottle and never pick it up again.
However, doing that could cause you to experience severe withdrawal symptoms. This is because your body has developed a chemical dependency on Xanax. Depriving your body of the pills could cause it to start shutting down.
When you stop taking Xanax completely, your brain’s GABA activity plummets. Soon, your body begins to look for other ways to produce a healthy amount of neurotransmitters.
This puts you at a high risk for experiencing some dangerous withdrawal symptoms. These include tremors and full-body convulsions, seizures, entry into a coma, and even feelings of mania.
Be aware that, even if you don’t feel these Xanax withdrawals within the first few hours of going cold turkey, they may appear after a few days without the pills.
In some cases, you may experience severe withdrawal effects even after you’ve stopped taking Xanax for good. That’s why it’s so important to enter into a medically-supervised detox program — especially if you’ve been taking Xanax for a long period of time. They can help manage your withdrawal so that you don’t suffer any long-term effects.
Why You Should Stop Taking Xanax
Some people are so afraid of the potential Xanax withdrawal symptoms that they wonder if it’s worth getting off Xanax.
After all, it’s only a pill, right?
When abused, Xanax can lead to serious consequences on your long-term health.
People who abuse Xanax often struggle with memory problems and general confusion. In fact, many aren’t aware that long-term abuse of Xanax actually makes you more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
In some cases, you may experience extreme, frightening psychosis. Xanax abuse can cause both auditory and visual hallucinations, which can worsen any pre-existing psychological conditions you may have.
You’re also more likely to develop seizures and lose lots of your overall muscular coordination. Expect to feel not only tired, but exhausted and lethargic, almost all the time.
Of course, we haven’t even discussed yet the serious consequences that abuse and addiction can have on your relationships, your finances, and your career.
Understanding the Xanax Withdrawal Timeline
If you’re weaning off Xanax in a medical environment (we’ll talk in more detail about what to expect later on in this post), we know you’re curious about the withdrawal timeline.
In general, you should expect to experience the first symptoms of withdrawal between 6-12 hours after you’ve taken your final dose.
Remember that if you take fast-acting Xanax, you may experience symptoms even sooner than that. During your initial withdrawal phase, you’ll likely deal with intense anxiety and paranoia. You’ll also feel restless, and will probably deal with insomnia.
Soon afterward, you’ll begin to enter the second phase of withdrawal from Xanax. This is, unfortunately, the most difficult part of the withdrawal timeline. You should expect it to last for about 1-4 days in total.
You may deal with nausea and vomiting, continue to have insomnia, experience panic attacks, and suffer from diarrhea. In some cases, your symptoms will feel somewhat like the flu — think chills and fever, excessive sweating, and a loss of appetite.
The next phase, which can last for up to two weeks after the second withdrawal stage ends, is somewhat of a continuation of the above symptoms. However, they’ll begin to subside during this time.
You’ll begin to feel better after about 14-15 days off Xanax completely. This is likely when you’ll enter a longer-term treatment program and rehabilitation center.
Understanding Your Detox Options
Anywhere from 10-20% of people who have to take Xanax will eventually become addicted to the medication.
Because of alarming numbers like these, you’ll have lots of different ways of getting off Xanax.
In some cases — especially if your addiction is more severe — you may even use other benzos to help your body learn how to detox from Xanax. This helps you go through detox without experiencing withdrawal symptoms that could cause you harm.
This is part of the process of tapering off of Xanax, and it’s something that you should never attempt on your own.
Coming up with your own Xanax taper schedule is dangerous, and it’s likely that you’ll start using again because the symptoms you will experience will be so intense.
Benzos like Valium are given in smaller dosages, gradually weaning you off of the drug. Your treatment team will ensure that you only take safe dosages of the medication.
You’ll also have access to other more standard medications in detox to help you to manage the symptoms of withdrawal. In some cases, things like common pain relievers (think Tylenol and Advil) will be able to help you. You may also find that you need to take medications to stop your nausea, like Dramamine.
Especially if you’re suffering from intense gastro-intestinal issues during withdrawal, your medical team may also suggest anti-diarrheal medications.
You’ll also need to make sure that you’ve kept an eye on your overall water intake during the detox process.
You’ll be at a higher risk of dehydration, especially if you’re experiencing withdrawal side effects like vomiting and diarrhea.
Getting enough liquids is also key because serious dehydration can cause seizures. Since during the detox process you’re already at a higher risk for seizures, you need to take hydration seriously.
Co-occurring Mental Health Issues and Xanax Withdrawal
In many cases, those that struggle with an addiction to Xanax also have some sort of a mental health disorder.
This is called a co-occurring disorder, and throughout your treatment, you’ll need to work on developing a plan to help you manage both sides of this difficult coin. But if you have a co-occurring disorder, know that you’re not alone.
In fact, about 8 million people in the United States alone have co-occurring disorders that can cause them serious stress and make them more likely to become addicted to drugs, pills, or alcohol.
It doesn’t matter whether the addiction or the mental health issue came first. The important thing is that you take both of these issues seriously.
Since your mental health issues will increase during the detox process, it’s important that you and your team come up with a plan.
Getting off Xanax also means that you’ll need to stop taking SSRIs and other forms of medication for your mental health. This makes a lot of people nervous, and for good reason.
In the vast majority of cases, you’ll still be able to take the non-benzo mental health medications prescribed to you during the detox process. Of course, if you’re frequently getting sick, the medication won’t be as effective.
This is why cognitive behavioral therapy and standard talk therapy often begin during the detox process itself. Now, let’s take a look at other ways to treat your mental health during the recovery process.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
It’s important to note that a huge part of learning how to stop taking Xanax for good is to make sure that your mental state has its own recovery process.
While therapy and rehab won’t necessarily be able to completely cure your depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorder, it will be able to teach you coping mechanisms, and will help you to understand the underlying causes of addiction.
One of the most popular methods is cognitive behavioral therapy.
Cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT for short, helps you identify and overcome unhelpful or unproductive patterns of thought. We all have “learned” behaviors influenced by both our genetics and the environments in which we grew up.
In most cases, we’ve all had to develop coping mechanisms and even survival strategies. However, not all of these are healthy or even effective.
CBT is all about understanding not only your own behavior but also what motivates other people. It also has a distinct focus on improving your own sense of self-worth and overall confidence.
You’ll face your fears and will likely even confront difficult realities about your past experiences. In some cases, you may even use role-playing to help you to better understand your overall thought process.
Other Forms of Therapy
Of course, CBT is far from the only kind of therapy that you’ll receive during the rehabilitation process.
In many treatment centers, talk therapy and mental health programs exist to give you the tools that you can use to fill up your recovery toolbox. What works for one person might not be as effective for another, and vice versa.
It’s important that you find a treatment program that treats the whole person. In other words, detoxing alone isn’t enough. You may find that you need to “re-learn” how to live a sober lifestyle.
You may need to understand how to feed your body in a healthy way, or how to master different forms of exercise, and much more.
In some cases, you may even need to find a treatment program that helps you to address and reconnect with members of your family and others that your addiction has hurt.
You may choose to enter into a sober living facility once you complete your inpatient treatment. In some cases, you may even transition into an outpatient program. This means that you’ll spend part of your day at the treatment center, and part of it out in the “real world.”
Your treatment team will be able to help you to develop a recovery program that’s uniquely suited to your needs.
You have no idea how wonderful life can be when you get off Xanax. Are you ready to get started on your own recovery?
Do You Need Help Getting off Xanax?
If you need help getting off Xanax, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. There are millions of people that experience the same hardship you’re going through. There are also people that care and want to help you.
It’s not necessarily your fault that you developed a dependency on Xanax, and it’s not a sign of weakness, either. Many people don’t even realize that they’ve become addicted to Xanax until the symptoms of withdrawal have become unbearable.
If you need help, you shouldn’t quit cold turkey or attempt to wean yourself off of Xanax alone. Doing so only makes you likely to start using again, and it’s dangerous.
Instead, let us connect you to the kind of help that you truly need. No matter what sort of treatment you’re looking for, we’ll help you find it.
A better, benzo-free life is possible, and you can begin to feel like you’re in control of your life again.
Reach out to us to learn how you can get started. We’ll help you start living your best life today!