Medically Reviewed by Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.
Xanax (alprazolam) is a widely used anti-anxiety prescription drug. It is a depressant that produces a calming effect to reduce nervous tension, anxiety, PTSD, or panic attacks. Like many other mood-altering drugs, it comes with the potential for misuse, and there are mental and physical risks associated with long-term use.
How Does Xanax Work?
Xanax is considered safe when used as prescribed, but it can be addictive. It increases the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), causing feelings of relaxation by slowing down nervous system activity. In large doses, Xanax causes a “high” similar to alcohol intoxication because it acts on the nervous system in a similar manner. Some use Xanax as a recreational drug because it acts quickly, usually within 15 minutes.
Xanax is not recommended to be used for longer than six weeks. Tolerance develops with long-term use, resulting in the need for higher or more frequent doses to get the same effect. Once addicted, suddenly stopping can cause unpleasant, serious, and possibly lethal withdrawal symptoms.
Stopping Xanax “cold turkey” is not safe. Withdrawals last about 2 weeks and can be severe. Quitting suddenly can lead to sometimes fatal seizures, heart attack, stroke, panic attacks, and cognitive impairment. Medically supervised detox is highly recommended to minimize the risk of medical issues and reduce the chances of relapsing.
Detoxing at a treatment facility ensures that emergency medical services are available should major physical, psychological, or emotional symptoms occur during withdrawal. At the same time, the patient can receive the support and therapy needed to identify their triggers, handle cravings, and reduce the risk of relapse.
Common physical withdrawal symptoms from Xanax include seizures, tremors, agitation, cravings, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, increased heart rate and blood pressure, hallucinations, muscle spasms, difficulty concentrating, memory issues, confusion, and restlessness. Psychological symptoms can include guilt, shame, depression, and social withdrawal. Symptoms typically begin 8 to 12 hours after the last dose. The intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms vary, depending on dosage/frequency of use, the length of time it has been used, if other substances have been used in combination, and other medical conditions.
About 15 percent of individuals have protracted withdrawal symptoms, experiencing occasional recurrences of nausea or tremors, as well as anxiety, mood swings, and cravings. These may occur months or even years after breaking the addiction.
Xanax withdrawal can cause “rebound anxiety,” and is often worse than the initial anxiety that prompted Xanax use at the start. Some studies indicate that rebound anxiety may also appear between prescribed Xanax doses, which sometimes leads patients to increase or accelerate their next dose to get temporary relief. This also opens the door to abuse and addiction.
What Is The Safest Way To Detox From Xanax?
Consulting with a medical professional or addiction specialist is the best way to start the Xanax detox process. Treatment plans are customized to meet the needs of each patient, but detoxing from Xanax is best done under medical supervision at a detox facility. Doctors who design detox treatment plans will take into account all the substances a person has been using and determine the safest treatment options.
Withdrawal symptoms can be safely managed through a tapering schedule, or slowly reducing the dosage of Xanax over time. Valium or Klonopin (similar but less potent drugs) may be substituted for Xanax during detox to reduce cravings. Antidepressants, beta-blockers, and other medications may also be used to control specific symptoms of withdrawal.
Tapering allows the brain and body to adjust slowly to the reduction of Xanax, reducing the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. The tapering schedule will be customized based on the severity of the addiction and the lifestyle and personality of the patient. The timing of dosage reductions depends on the withdrawal symptoms — longer time between reductions usually creates a more comfortable detox. Keeping discomfort to a minimum makes it more likely that patients will complete the detox process successfully, as withdrawal symptoms are the most common reason for relapse.
How Long Does Xanax Detox Take?
Because of the potency of Xanax, most addiction specialists say that it takes a minimum of 8 weeks to safely and fully taper off.
Detoxing is only the first step in recovery; rehab and therapy are the vital next steps. Rehab should continue as residential treatment at a recovery facility or as outpatient treatment (individual or group therapy sessions).
The underlying mental health issues that initially led to Xanax use may still exist after detox, so therapy programs are important. Therapy helps patients understand the root causes of their addictions, determine what triggers their urge to use, and develop coping skills to avoid falling into relapse. Group therapy, family therapy, support groups, and 12-Step programs can help clients develop a caring network to fall back on while they continue their recovery.
Why Choose Into Action Recovery Centers?
Into Action Recovery Centers takes pride in providing a high level of treatment and a holistic approach to recovery for those who suffer from addiction. Our comfortable detox facility is designed with the client’s needs foremost in mind. Our staff includes master’s level counselors, licensed chemical dependency counselors, 24-hour nursing professionals, a staff psychiatrist, a staff chef, and direct care personnel. Our counseling staff provides individualized treatment and care for our clients with an emphasis on tailoring treatment to the specific needs of each individual. Additionally, our staff provides family counseling, relapse prevention, life skills, and grief and trauma counseling.
Into Action Recovery Centers provides an abstinence-based program and all of our staff members have a strong understanding of the recovery process through personal experience. We are passionate about sharing the process involved in living a drug and alcohol-free life. We offer free aftercare for the men who complete our program and have a strong alumni network that remains active in the community. We also offer other amenities such as dietician-prepared meals, mindfulness-based meditation training, outings, and fitness training.