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Xanax Withdrawal

Xanax, or alprazolam, is a prescription drug that belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines. Also known as a tranquilizer, Xanax can be helpful when it comes to contending with high anxiety, sleeplessness, or panic attacks. However, the potential for dependence and abuse is quite high. In fact, some are calling Xanax addiction a silent epidemic, as many people are addicted and afraid or ashamed to talk about it or ask for help. 

The number of people being prescribed Xanax and other benzodiazepines increased more than 67 percent between the years of 1996 and 2013, and those numbers continue to climb. Xanax is a short-acting benzo, meaning that it only works for a short time. It depresses the nervous system and slows down its functioning, producing a calming effect. Once a pill is taken, the calming effects can be felt within just a few short minutes, although when going off the medication, withdrawal symptoms begin rather quickly. 

What Are Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms?

Even though abusing Xanax can have serious consequences on your health, note that it is also quite dangerous to stop using Xanax cold turkey; quitting the use of Xanax abruptly can even be life-threatening. The drug should be tapered slowly over time under medical supervision.

Within a day or two of quitting Xanax, withdrawal symptoms may begin, such as:

  • Concentration difficulties
  • Increase in anxiety or panic attack
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Sensitive to sound and light
  • Blurry vision
  • High blood pressure
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Paranoia
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Racing, obsessive thoughts
  • Hyperactivity

More severe withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures
  • Death

What Are the Stages of Xanax Withdrawal Timeline?

Xanax has an average half-life of 11 hours, so withdrawal can begin as soon as six to 12 hours after the last time a user takes Xanax, depending on dose, the person’s tolerance, etc. It usually takes between two to four days for the drug to pass through the body, but withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks or months. This general timeline shows the stages of Xanax withdrawal for four weeks, but note that some symptoms can last far longer. 


Because Xanax is a short-acting benzo, withdrawal symptoms like irritability and anxiety can be felt within six to 12 hours after the last dose. 


The first few days are bound to be the worst and also pose the most serious risks – especially for seizures. This is one reason medical monitoring is highly important.  During this first stage, the individual may experience symptoms ranging from nausea, vomiting, difficulty sleeping, muscle aches, anxiety, and irritability.


Getting through the first few days is a milestone, but there still are some daunting withdrawals that can occur that first week. The most severe symptoms may be over, but other symptoms such as a racing heart, mood swings, trouble sleeping, and depression may pop up. Cravings may intensify as well, and if anxiety is something that the user initially struggled with, some anxiety can return. 


At this point in the Xanax withdrawal timeline, the more dangerous symptoms have passed. At this point, you may still experience symptoms like insomnia, depression, anxiety, and some fatigue or apathy.  Cravings should be reducing nicely.


You may notice some improvement in symptoms during weeks three through four, especially in the areas of insomnia and cravings.  Psychologically, you may still feel as if you want Xanax, especially if anxiety is something you struggle with. Various other symptoms can linger on for weeks or perhaps even months. 

Factors Affecting Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms and the timeline can vary from person to person depending on several factors.  The dosage, how long the drug has been used or abused, how dependent the mind and body is on the drug, and whether or not it’s been mixed with other drugs are all factors that can affect withdrawal symptoms. Other factors include the mental health of the person, levels of anxiety or stress, or level of supportive environment. 

Why Should I Detox?

If you would like to come off of Xanax, it’s important that you understand the seriousness of the matter, because coming off Xanax cold turkey can be deadly. This is why a medical detox is necessary so that medical professionals can monitor a patient around-the-clock and assist with a tapering off of the medication. Additionally, each patient ought to be assessed individually because those that take other drugs along with Xanax put themselves at serious risk when detoxing. 

What Is the Next Treatment Step?

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to Xanax, your first step will be to undergo detox to begin weaning off the drug. This medically monitored detox is necessary to safely begin addressing the addiction and making the necessary changes toward sobriety. Rest assured that sustained recovery is possible, but don’t try to do it alone. Choose a qualified detox center and begin the recovery process in a safe and secure environment. 

Sad woman dealing with xanax withdrawal

The Detox Process

Detoxing from Xanax should begin with a medically supervised detoxification program, where the user will be tapered off Xanax over time. This means that lower dosages will be given over time to decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms felt. 

Sometimes the user may be given a longer-acting benzodiazepine like Valium as a substitute for Xanax. This longer-acting benzo will help curb more withdrawal symptoms and cravings than the shorter-acting Xanax. There are also other medications that may be used to treat some Xanax withdrawal symptoms, like beta blockers or antidepressants. 

Once you’ve begun detoxing, undergoing behavioral therapy can also help manage the withdrawal symptoms short and long term.  Common behavioral therapies include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This type of therapy helps change any faulty thought or behavior patterns that could have led to addiction.
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI) – This type of therapy addresses the “whys” of how a person’s addiction started. It helps to increase the drive for sobriety.
  • Contingency Management (CM) – CM gives rewards when healthy thoughts and behaviors are followed through, like attending support groups or achieving milestones.

Start Your Journey to Recovery Today

If you or a loved one are addicted to Xanax and you’re wanting to stop taking it, know that you’re not alone. Though Xanax is an effective drug for reducing anxiety and panic attacks, it’s also easy to become addicted to or abuse, especially if it is combined with other drugs. In addition, it should only be used as a short-term treatment for anxiety.

Do not try to detox from Xanax cold turkey or on your own as this can cause potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Please reach out for help from a professional at a treatment center today. There are inpatient and outpatient treatment programs that offer detox services to help you get through the withdrawal symptoms so that you can enjoy freedom from dependence on medications. A supervised medical detox is your ticket to finding freedom from the physical and psychological dependence on the drug. 


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