Symptoms of Xanax Withdrawal
The opioid epidemic has the press screaming at the top their lungs. From overdose fatalities, a spike in heroin usage, and the growing amount of people addicted to painkillers, it is one of the most talked about current issues in the news today. Yet with all that exposure, other problems America is facing in the same vein seem to be swept under the rug.
Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are currently having their own silent epidemic. Benzos are a family of medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. They are by in large sedative, anxiolytic, and hypnotic. You may know them in forms like Librium, Valium, and Xanax, with the latter being the most popular.
While it is true that the opioid epidemic is now the #1 killer of Americans under the age of 50—taking the throne of quite literally everything else—sadly painkillers are not the only prescription pill harvesting addicts and claiming lives. Last year, more than 30,000 Americans sought treatment for a Xanax addiction, and 1/3 of all prescription pill-related overdoses were attributed to Benzodiazepines. Over 50 million Xanax prescriptions are written annually and it has now climbed the leaderboard and sits comfortably in the top ten most popular medications in America.
While anax addiction is statistically not as harmful or threatening as opioid addiction, that does not mean it lacks dexterity in killing its user, nor that it is an easier addiction to curb. Xanax, unlike other drugs, is one of the few substances that can cause fatalities in the withdrawal phase. Similar to alcohol, the body acclimates so vehemently with the drug, that in its absence its functionality can wane. Believe it or not, despite opioids are considered a more deadly addiction, you cannot die at the hands of an opioid withdrawal. You can with Xanax.
If you have landed here, it might be that you are preparing to detox from Xanax. Or perhaps someone beloved is struggling with an addiction and trying to get back on their feet. While you can study detoxing home remedies, consulting a professional comes with our highest recommendation. This is not simply a drug where withdrawals are miserable and the user needs to bear the consequences and push through it. This is a drug that depletes the mind of its natural resources, resulting in a ‘short-circuit’ of sorts once the drug is removed. Quitting cold turkey is never recommended.’ That’s why it is imperative that a user gets help with a Xanax withdrawal as soon as they decide to get clean.
In this article, we are going to explain all the Xanax withdrawal symptoms you can expect once removing Alprazolam from your system.
How Xanax Works
When it comes to withdrawals, it is important to understand the nature of the drug in question. In an oversimplified explanation, Xanax stimulates a chemical in your brain responsible for sedation, governing your moods, and inducing calmness. This chemical is a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA for short). Mental illness is often linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Anxiety disorders are no different. It is often assumed a panic or anxiety condition is onset by an insufficient supply of GABA.
Alprazolam, the generic name for Xanax, stimulates GABA. Problem is: Xanax was not developed for long-term use. Studies have shown that benzodiazepines across the board lose their efficacy after long periods of use. Once the body builds tolerance, dependency is created, and the user has to dramatically up their dosages, the brain can actually mistake Xanax for GABA entirely.
You might think that is somewhat of a dismal problem. Without the calming chemical, you will have more anxiety but that is to be expected from withdrawals. Unfortunately, in this case, it is a much more colossal problem. GABA is not only responsible for balancing excitatory neurotransmitters; it is integral to the brain’s functionality. It assists neurons in their quest to communicate with each other. Once the brain is depleted of GABA, it can go haywire and forget how to communicate with the body. Blood pressure can lower, the respiratory system can surrender, and death or seizures may follow.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
As stated previously, the science is not hard to follow; a rapid cessation of drugs the body has acclimated to will, in essence, evoke all the drug initially intended to suppress, sending the peripheral nervous system and brain into a plummeting fall of distress, with all excitatory mechanisms racing into overdrive.
When it comes to withdrawal symptoms, we are going to list those which are most frequent, and then break down the full gamut of symptoms that can arise at the end.
Difficulty Sleeping, Insomnia, Night Terrors
Benzodiazepines, Xanax being one of them, are not uncommonly prescribed for sleep aid. Some anxiety-disorders are sleep-specific. Victims lay to rest and have a difficulty falling asleep due to racing thoughts, muscle spasms, and heart palpitations. While Xanax can be a miracle in this regard, the type of sleep that benzos induce is not always the type of sleep your body needs.
Still, it acclimates to it. Once Xanax is removed from the body and the sensory system shifts into hyper-drive, sleeping can become nearly impossible. Those withdrawing from Xanax complain about muscle spasms, racing thoughts, extreme anxiety, and the inability to lose consciousness.
If sleep comes, it is often wrought with night terrors. Benzos inhibit REM sleep, the type of sleep your body requires most. As the brain begins to uncover the natural sleep cycle, the outpour of chemicals can cause excessive dreaming. Detoxing addicts complain about having frequent nightmares which constantly drive them awake. These often occur more than once per night.
Believe it or not, if sleep comes and is accompanied by these vicious nightmares, it is actually a sign that your brain is healing. The vivid nature of the dreams means your brain is trying to restart its normal sleep cycle but, in simpler words, being a bit too enthusiastic about it.
Worry not, this period will wane. This initial Xanax detox timeline is anywhere from 2-6 weeks but over time the need for sleep will outweigh the impairment. Residuals, vivid night terrors, and difficulty sleeping can linger but will eventually fade.
One of the difficult parts about quitting Xanax is the onslaught of anxiety that returns in its absence. This is also a huge vehicle for addiction. A user will take Xanax to mitigate their anxiety, marvel at the efficacy of the drug, and then fear life without it. A common withdrawal symptom is panic attacks, as this is one of the strongest weapons of anxiety.
Panic attacks occur when the peripheral nervous system experiences a boost in activity, which then triggers the brain’s fight or flight mechanism. Often, sufferers describe the episodes as ‘feeling like they’re going to die.’ The physical response, fueled by adrenaline, can be nearly unbearable. The heart races, hands sweat, and the brain falls victim to panic.
These episodes can be controlled, however, and are all part of the withdrawal process. As stated before, the imbalance Xanax abuse creates leaves the brain weak, vulnerable, and somewhat crazed. As long as someone experiencing withdrawals understands that panic attacks are normal during this period, they will be better equipped in handling them.
Rebound anxiety and panic attacks are mutually exclusive. Sadly, one of the most difficult parts about quitting Xanax is accepting that you may have created a worse problem than that which you had beforehand. Due to the shock your peripheral nervous system experiences, as your brain desperately tries to balance itself, the anxiety can return with a new vigor.
It is, in fact, rebound anxiety that often causes users to relapse and one of the main withdrawal symptoms professionals try and medicate. Someone suffering from anxiety most likely took Xanax because they were unable to cope with their ailment independently. When that very condition returns worse than before, the panic can create a downward spiral.
This is one of the principal reasons it is important to detox from Xanax in professional care. The rebound anxiety can cause PTSD and affect the user in a way that justifies the Xanax addiction entirely. Some users claim they experienced nothing more terrifying or severe as rebound anxiety. This is something to prepare for if you or someone close to you plans on detoxing.
While this falls under the bracket of rebound anxiety, it can also come about independently. Those suffering from anxiety-disorders typically have an excess of excitatory neurotransmitters. By nature they are hypersensitive. When they deplete the body of Alprazolam once it is already acclimated to the drug, that hypersensitivity can skyrocket.
Hearing, taste, smell, sight, and touch can become hypersensitive. Lights may be harder to stare at. Loud noises are amplified. Odd or invasive tastes and smells come and go throughout the day, keeping the user in a heightened state of awareness or fear. Some claim that the normal speaking decibel sounds like a scream. Others report the feeling of ‘crawling bugs’ burrow deep into their hair.
We know this sounds horrible, but it is also a natural part of the process. Xanax withdrawals are on par with alcohol withdrawals and can drive the sensory system into chaos. While these bouts of hypersensitivity can linger, it will wane, and your senses will balance once more.
GABA, as aforementioned, governs the brain’s moods. It is responsible for stabilizing our emotions in times of volatility. Being that Xanax can deplete the brain of this chemical, often the floodgates are opened for emotional instability. The person going through a Xanax detox can experience a rollercoaster of emotions day to day, with some swings occurring hourly.
If this occurs, know that it is normal, but the red flag to be keen on is depression. Depressive symptoms are not uncommon when it comes to Xanax withdrawal and there are plenty of cases in which a patient requires an antidepressant to stabilize.
This period of emotional volatility needs to be closely monitored, however, as suicidal thoughts can accompany these episodes. Aside from interacting with GABA, neurotransmitters can also deplete or reduce the functionality of serotonin and norepinephrine, two chemicals responsible for fueling your reward system. In other words, they are what keep you happy. Without those chemicals, depression can ensue, and if this occurs the risk for mania or suicide increases.
Benzodiazepines are considered tranquilizers. They can be prescribed for reason none other than to mitigate seizures or muscle spasms. You can deduce that in their absence the body can no longer rely on the benzo to calm the muscles. This leads to extreme muscle tension, which can cause jerking, spasms, ticks, or downright pain in certain parts of the body.
This too is linked with rebound anxiety, as this sort of ‘stiffness’ and muscle behavior is also a symptom of severe anxiety. While incredibly uncomfortable, this too will wane, and the muscles will eventually behave appropriately.
Without a doubt the worst and most severe withdrawal symptom outside of death, is severe psychosis. The brain—shell-shocked from this sudden absence—loses its sensibility and welcomes entropy. Hallucinations are not uncommon. Someone withdrawing can experience terrifying auditory or visual hallucinations, which furthers their anxiety and can leave them in a mental state significantly worse than before.
Delusions occur as well. A user in detox can begin to believe in a false reality. This is particularly alarming, as the symptoms mirror that of an initial schizophrenic. Often, these bouts of ‘madness’ are curbed once the user realizes it is simply Xanax toying with the mind, and the brain working to heal the wound caused by the benzodiazepine. Rooted in anxiety, once a mentor or professional convinces a user the hallucinations are simply a symptom of withdrawal, they tend to grow less in presence and severity.
An Overview of Xanax Symptoms
- Stiffness and irregularities in the muscles
- Stomach cramps
- Digestive issues
- An increase or decrease in appetite
- Foreign tastes and smells-Rashes
- Extreme lethargy
- Imbalance (dizziness when walking normally)
- Mood swings
- Mental lethargy
- Rebound anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Memory problems
- Cognitive deficiencies
- Night Terrors
We could have added ‘death’ as a category within withdrawal symptoms but there is no reason that should ever become someone’s fate. Detoxing from Xanax is a dangerous, tricky, and difficult process. It is one of the few withdrawals that can stop the body’s respiratory system. If you are considering detoxing from Xanax or know someone currently facing an addiction, it is paramount that you seek professional help immediately. Alternate medication, certain types of therapy, and a waning-off schedule can be implemented to ensure a user’s livelihood.
These detox periods are serious. More often than not, if the problem is severe, the person detoxing will have their vitals monitored during the first few days of detox. In most cases, it is easy to say ‘just get on with it.’ While that advice could be beneficial for something like a cigarette addiction, the invasive nature of Xanax gives withdrawals an entirely new danger. Be safe. Educate yourself. Seek professional help.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a Xanax abuse or any other illicit drug abuse, please contact our Orange County rehab today. Our supportive recovery center can help any addict regain their life back. Contact us now for a brighter future tomorrow.
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