About 20 percent of all Americans have abused prescription drugs by using them for medical reasons.
One of the most commonly abused drugs is Xanax, or Alprazolam by its generic name. Though originally created to help people manage the symptoms of their anxiety and panic attacks, many people unwittingly become addicted to this benzodiazepine pill.
If you suspect that your own Xanax use has spiraled out of control, or if you’re concerned that someone you care about is currently abusing Xanax, you may be curious about recovery and treatment options.
You’re also likely to be wondering what you should expect when it comes to Xanax withdrawal.
In addition to pointing out the signs of addiction and why the drug is so addictive, we’ll also provide you with a rough timeline of withdrawal from Xanax. Then, we’ll tell you how you can find the right treatment plan for yourself or someone you love.
What Makes Xanax so Addictive?
In order to fully prepare for the withdrawal symptoms from Xanax, you first need to understand what makes it so addictive.
The percentage of people who have developed an addiction to Xanax has risen steadily over the past few years.
While this certainly has to do with an increase in Xanax prescriptions, the truth is that addiction and deaths from overdoses are becoming more and more commonplace in America. National attention on emergencies like the Opioid Crisis makes it clear that addiction is a serious issue.
The point here is that addiction can happen to anyone, at any time. It doesn’t discriminate based on social class, gender, age, or religion. The addict could be the medical doctor that gives you your annual checkup, the college professor, or the hardworking PTA mom whose addiction eventually turns her homeless.
So, how do people become addicted?
First of all, it’s incredibly easy to build up a high tolerance for Xanax (and other benzos) fairly quickly. You might find that you need to take a higher dosage of pills and take the pills more frequently than you did in the past just to feel the same results.
Plus, many people enjoy the feelings of bliss and relaxation that abusing Xanax creates. Xanax actually interferes with your brain’s GABA receptors, which gives you an enormous rush of endorphins.
In other words, the “rewards sector” of your brain is activated, and you feel good.
Soon, you’ve taken so much that you realize you can no longer go about your normal daily routine without a huge amount of pills.
Now, let’s take a quick look at some of the most common signs and symptoms of a Xanax addiction.
The Signs of Xanax Addiction
There are physical, behavioral, and psychological signs of a Xanax addiction. The severity of these symptoms will vary from addict to addict, and will usually depend on the amount they abuse and how long they’ve been taking Xanax.
You may notice that the addict seems tired all the time and that they can’t focus or even go about daily life with the same energy they used to. Their speech may start to slur, and they may have trouble with coordination and even walking normally.
If the addict is your partner, you may also notice a lack of a sex drive. They may complain of being nauseous or light-headed, and frequently tell you that they feel dizzy or have a headache.
You may start to notice that they’re forgetting details of important conversations, or that they sleep through things like their work alarms or other key events.
The addict may seem confused, and you may feel like you need to walk on eggshells around them. It’s hard to tell what sets them off these days, but their mood swings have become intense and frequent.
At times, they seem almost manic. They speak quickly, but what they say really doesn’t make much sense. Soon afterward, they become enraged or fall into a crying fit.
You may feel like the addict just isn’t around as much anymore, and when they are, they just seem to want to stir things up. They’re accusatory, they blame you for things that aren’t your fault, and they only seem to come around when they need money from you.
In short, they’re just not the friend, parent, or romantic partner you once knew. Perhaps you’ve even recognized a few of these symptoms in yourself.
What Makes Xanax Withdrawal Worth It?
You know firsthand that attempting to negotiate with an addict can be a nightmare.
If you’re the person with the addition to Xanax, you may also be curious about why you should bother to go through the pain and process of Xanax withdrawals.
First of all, when you’re addicted to Xanax, you face real-world consequences for your actions. You’ll lose friendships, potentially your jobs, and maybe even custody of your children.
But getting clean and sober is about a lot more than just getting your emotional life back on track.
There are serious long-term and immediate health risks to Xanax users.
These include severe depression and the development of possible mood disorders, a loss of or extreme damage to brain cells, and even a loss of memory.
In addition to experiencing hallucinations and paranoia, a long-term abuse of Xanax seriously increases your likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. You’ll also be much more likely to have seizures, a heart attack, or a stroke.
This risk is compounded if you use other drugs and drink alcohol to excess while taking Xanax.
Of course, the risk of overdose and death is always present when you’re abusing Xanax or any other type of benzos.
This, more than anything else, should be the reason why you get treatment. Now, let’s take a closer look at what you can expect from a Xanax withdrawal.
Xanax Withdrawal: What to Expect
If you decide to enter into treatment or have convinced someone you love to go, the first phase of your plan will likely be a detox process.
This is much safer than quitting Xanax “cold turkey,” but it helps to know what to expect.
Keep in mind that the type of withdrawal symptoms you deal with will depend on the other medications or alcohol you’re using or abusing, if you have any psychological issues, and your general health.
The withdrawal symptoms from Xanax will also vary in length and severity depending on how much Xanax you’ve been taking.
Immediate or Early Symptoms
In most cases, the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal begin about 12 hours after the last dose of Xanax has been taken.
The immediate symptoms listed here will usually last throughout the entire detoxification process, but will gradually become less severe.
Usually, however, the first few days of the detox (days one through four) are the most difficult.
You may experience a wide variety of physical and emotional symptoms during this initial phase. They can include numbness in the extremities of the body, pain, headaches, blurry vision, and intense sweating.
You may find that your anxiety is at an all-time high, perhaps even worse than it was before you started taking Xanax. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common signs of Xanax withdrawal.
This psychological instability is one of the reasons why it’s so important not to quit on your own. The temptation to use again in a futile attempt to “regain control” is simply too great.
You may also deal with a loss of appetite, increased heart rate, and find that you’re overly sensitive to light and sound. Sleeping will also be a challenge during this phase, so expect to deal with insomnia.
Finally, tremors in the hands and throughout the body are very common in the early stages of withdrawal. “The shakes” can be irritating and difficult to control. You may find that you also feel incredibly nauseous and that you feel generally sore throughout your entire body.
Serious Xanax Withdrawal Risks
Unfortunately, many people are at a high risk of experiencing more severe consequences of withdrawal.
Once again, this is where we remind you that it’s never a good idea to stop using on your own – it could kill you.
For example, you could have a grand mal seizure, which means that you completely lose consciousness in addition to have muscle convulsions. In some cases, you may go into a coma. This is less likely if you detox through a medical program.
You may also experience psychosis, including paranoid delusions and frightening hallucinations. Though the majority of your psychological treatment will take place in rehab, some mental health care may be provided during the detox phase as well.
Additionally, some addicts are at risk for malignant hyperthermia, which happens when your body temperature goes over 106 degrees. In rare cases, this may cause bleeding in your brain.
If this happens, you’ll want to be in a place where you’re able to get immediate and professional medical attention. That’s just one more reason why you should enter a detox facility.
You should also be aware that, depending on the nature of addiction, you may face protracted withdrawal. This means that your withdrawal symptoms can last for several weeks or even months longer than the average user.
Additionally, these symptoms could come on seemingly out of nowhere.
In such cases, medication and a more specific detox/treatment program may need to be created.
Potential Xanax Withdrawal Remedies
Especially if your team feels that you’re at a high risk for some of the more severe Xanax withdrawal symptoms mentioned above, you may need medication to help you to make it through the detox process.
There are several different medications that you could be prescribed.
In some cases, you’ll need to be given a dosage of a long-acting benzo like Valium, with the intention of gradually and safely decreases your dosage over time.
In some cases, medications like Gabapentin, Divalproex, and Carbamazepine can also be used to help to ease withdrawal symptoms.
The idea here is that you’ll be able to better control your overall cravings for the pills because a small amount of them are still in your bloodstream. You may also be given anti-depressants and beta-blockers, depending on the opinions of your medical team.
Soon, you’ll be ready to enter into talk therapy. Treatments often include cognitive behavioral therapy. This helps you to recognize the triggers that cause you to want to use and gives you effective coping mechanisms to resist the urge to do it.
You’ll also work with your team to address the psychological reasons why you may have become addicted to Xanax in the first place. You’ll slowly learn how to rebuild your life without Xanax.
The journey will certainly be a challenge, but we can promise you that it’s well worth it. Now, let’s talk about how you can begin your first step on the road to recovery.
Are You Ready to Get Help for a Xanax Addiction?
We hope that this post has taught you more about the reasons for Xanax addiction, as well as what you can expect out of Xanax withdrawal.
You don’t have to spend the rest of your life letting your Xanax addiction control things. You shouldn’t let the potential symptoms of Xanax withdrawal stop you from getting the help that you need, either.
Instead, find the right detox and rehab center for you.
Let us help you understand your insurance, connect with a facility that’s a good fit for your personality and level/type of addiction, and much more.
Reach out to us to get started.