Last updated on July 1st, 2019 at 12:12 pm
1 out of 7 Americans will struggle with addiction.
What does the word addiction mean to you? For most people, when they hear of someone being an “addict”, they think of them as lacking willpower. If they really wanted to quit, they would just stop, right?
Unfortunately, addiction is a deceptive disease that doesn’t have anything to do with willpower. Many people are aware they have a substance abuse problem yet they don’t know what to do about it.
Fortunately, new studies are helping medical communities better understand addiction. Previous negative stereotypes are being erased and treatment methods are improving.
People are learning that addiction is a chronic disorder that usually requires some kind of intervention. Without outside help, it can be more difficult and even impossible for the individuals to quit using a substance.
Are you or a loved one suffering from an addiction to Xanax? Learning about Xanax withdrawal can help prepare you for what lies ahead. Read on to learn about how and when you should quit taking Xanax.
How Xanax Works
Xanax withdrawal is easier to understand when you know how Xanax works. The official medical name for Xanax is alprazolam, and it belongs to the benzodiazepines family.
While benzodiazepines aren’t opioids, they are a type of painkiller and tranquilizer. Because Xanax affects your mood, it’s considered a type of psychoactive drug. It’s also a sedative with effects that are similar to those of valium.
Doctors usually prescribe benzodiazepines with the intention of the patient using them temporarily. Minor wounds, surgeries, and dental procedures often result in a prescription for benzodiazepines. However, they can also receive a prescription to take on an as-needed basis for panic disorders.
What Does Xanax Do to Your Brain Chemistry?
Xanax affects your brain and central nervous system with the purpose of helping your body to calm down. Xanax is meant to treat anxiety and problems with panic disorders. It works by communicating with your brain’s GABA neurotransmitter.
GABA is short for gamma-aminobutyric acid. Your body naturally produces the chemical GABA to produce sedative effects. If you’re in distress, your brain receives a message.
Your body tells your brain that you are feeling a negative emotion and need help. Anger, sadness, anxiety, and fear all send signals to your brain that you should try to relax.
In an effort to calm you down, your body will release GABA. After you take Xanax, it works on enhancing your GABA neurotransmitter’s activity. As a result, more of the calming chemical enters your bloodstream.
When used for a long time, Xanax can cause mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. If you take high dosages for a long period of time, the withdrawal symptoms can become more intense. After a long period of use, Xanax will no longer be as effective on your body.
Xanax isn’t a bad medication–it’s actually very good at helping people overcome their anxieties. However, many people struggle with its addictive properties. Individuals who have had drug and alcohol problems before are more prone to becoming addicted.
The standard dose for Xanax is usually between .75 and 1.5 milligrams. Directions for dosages will be different for every individual. However, in most cases, doctors will tell patients to only take Xanax when they really need it.
How Long Does It Stay In Your System?
Xanax begins working the moment your body starts to digest it.
Within minutes of taking it, you’ll feel the drug affecting your central nervous system. When you take it in high dosages, Xanax can give users a euphoric relaxation. It’s easy to abuse Xanax because it works quickly and is noticeably effective.
Many people with an addiction to Xanax say they use the drug to escape from negative feelings. You can become addicted to Xanax even if you take the recommended dosage. Your body begins to crave the mental escape and feeling of peace.
After taking Xanax for a few weeks, it can start to become habit forming. You’ll notice that you feel the need to take more of the drug and you feel anxious when you’re running low.
The high you feel from high dosages of Xanax only lasts 2-4 hours. During that time the user won’t feel an ounce of pain or worry. However, after the high has worn off, you might feel sluggish and tired.
After prolonged use of Xanax, your body will build a tolerance. Your body will no longer respond to the drug at the same level it was before.
Instead of releasing a lot of GABA, your brain will only release a little bit. As the GABA production slows down, the user will have to take even higher dosages.
You can become dependent on Xanax to regulate your brain’s activity. If you develop a dependence on Xanax, you’ll only be happy when you have it in your system. After developing a dependency, you can start to experience problems with withdrawal symptoms.
Next, we’ll explain exactly what withdrawal means.
What Is Xanax Withdrawal?
It is possible to become addicted to a substance that you have a prescription for. Individuals are most likely prescribed Xanax because of a problem that’s affecting the quality of their life.
The problem could be anxiety issues, panic disorders, or other feelings of fear and impending doom. Anxiety and panic disorders can be symptoms of a chemical imbalance. Xanax is helpful but doesn’t fix the chemical imbalance causing the anxiety or panic.
Instead, Xanax is more like a band-aid that helps cover up the symptoms with a temporary solution. Withdrawing from benzodiazepine (Xanax) can be even more dangerous than withdrawing from cocaine. Fear of previous anxiety symptoms resurfacing can add extra stress to the user.
The drug also affects your brains chemistry and causes your mind to need the drug to function properly. Xanax withdrawal happens when you abruptly decrease the dosage or stop taking the drug. The previously suppressed chemical imbalances will now begin to resurface.
Except now your brain expects the presence of Xanax to help regulate its systems. Your brain adapted to using Xanax and now you’re asking it to function on its own. The previous problems with anxiety are now exacerbated by your brain’s inability to fix the problem.
Withdrawal can begin within hours after you stop taking Xanax. Immediately, individuals can start to feel both emotional and physical side effects. After a few days, the symptoms can worsen in intensity.
Physical Symptoms of Withdrawl
There are several physical symptoms of Xanax withdrawal.
Here is a list of some of the symptoms you could experience during withdrawal:
- Trouble sleeping
- Blurry vision
- Numbness in fingers
- Lack of appetite
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Women may have intense menstrual cramps
- Tingling in legs and or arms
- Tightness in jaw
- Tooth pain
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle spasms
Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is another way to describe these unpleasant symptoms. Everyone will have their own unique experience of quitting Xanax.
Psychological Symptoms of Withdrawl
Along with physical symptoms, there are psychological symptoms too.
Here’s a list of the different withdrawal symptoms you could experience:
- Sensitivity to an external stimulus (like lights and sounds)
- Suicidal tendencies
- Isolation from loved ones
Your personal brain chemistry can affect the withdrawal experience. A previous chemical imbalance can affect the intensity of the symptoms. If you had major anxiety problems before, the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal could be more intense for you.
Cold Turkey Detox
How you quit will affect your withdrawal from Xanax symptoms. Quitting cold turkey means you immediately stop taking Xanax. Abruptly quitting any addictive substance can cause your withdrawal symptoms to intensify.
Your body’s central nervous system can go into shock when you don’t wean off Xanax.
Your brain will exhaust itself as it tries to make up for the lack of GABA. In many cases, the symptoms will come in waves. Users may think they are finally free of withdrawal symptoms.
Yet after a short while, they find themselves facing another wave of debilitating symptoms. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after you thought you were in the clear is a form of post-acute withdrawal syndrome(PAWS).
The syndrome causes people to suffer through emotional and physical pain even though the drug is no longer in your system. If you experience PAWS, you may have the following issues:
- Problems remembering things
- Loss of appetite
- Problems paying attention
- Low energy levels
Benzodiazepine has been a leading cause for a few fatality cases. In most of the cases, the individual isn’t passing away from an overdose of Xanax but rather from quitting abruptly.
One case involves a female user who was using high dosages of Xanax. The woman took approximately 200mg of Xanax over the course of 6 days. After she ran out, she quit taking the drug altogether.
Four days later she went to the hospital with a high temperature, hypertension, and seizures. About 15 hours after entering the hospital, the woman passed away. Sadly, she probably could’ve survived if she hadn’t tried to quit alone.
A safer way to quit Xanax is to taper off and slowly lower your dosages. Quitting without medical supervision is dangerous and can be deadly.
Slowly Quitting Xanax
The safest method for detox is to taper off using medical supervision. You might be wondering how long Xanax withdrawal lasts. The answer will vary from person to person.
Depending on how long you’ve been using Xanax, you might need extra time to detox. Having medical professionals guide the process will help protect you from life-threatening situations.
You can avoid problems with psychosis and seizures when you slowly wean off the drug. While you go through medical detox, the medical staff will look out for your safety and well-being. To help you taper off your Xanax, they will slowly lower your dosage over time.
The amount they lower your Xanax dosage to will depend on how much you were taking previously. The recovery process could take up to 8 weeks or in some cases even longer. Your physician will slowly lower the dosage more and more every week.
Your friends and family members can be a great support system while you’re withdrawing from Xanax. However, they shouldn’t be your only source of support. You should always have medical assistance to detox successfully and safely.
While family members may mean well, they could accidentally make things worse for you.
Certain family members might try to use a tough love approach while other members may hover and over-focus on your needs. The stress caused by relying on family for detox can actually end up prolonging your withdrawal symptoms.
Finding a Treatment Center
You or your loved ones don’t have to go through Xanax withdrawal alone.
Addiction treatment services can guide you to the help you need. Recovery becomes possible the moment you or a loved one acknowledges the need for treatment.
Addiction Treatment Services helps provide families with the answers they need to get treatment. Our goal is to help simplify things for you by providing you with guidance. Our team of experts work within the industry and can help you understand the different treatment processes and options.
We can also help you comprehend how insurance plays into entering a treatment program. After you feel comfortable with how the treatment works, we can begin to make referrals. Our team can recommend professional intervention services. We can also refer you to the best addiction treatment centers.
Let us guide you and your family to the best help possible. Contact us today to schedule an intervention, ask questions, or request more information.