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April 19, 2019

What to Expect Coming Off a Xanax Addiction


If you or someone you know is struggling with a Xanax addiction, then you are probably aware by now of the dangers that come with it. There are only a few drugs out there that actually have the power to be deadly when a person decides to stop using them, and Xanax and other benzodiazepines are at the top of the list.

Over the last few years, Xanax has quickly become one of the most popular “party drugs” for the younger generation and continues to be one of the most commonly used antidepressants among middle-aged and older adults.

The question is if it is so dangerous, why do so many people continue to take it?

Extremely powerful, extremely addictive

Unfortunately, the current population of Americans is one of the most medicated in recorded history. The rates of depression and anxiety are at an all-time high, along with addiction.

Xanax, while extremely common among prescriptions used to counteract these mood disorders, is also one of the most commonly abused medications in the country. Primarily because it is fairly affordable and pretty powerful.

The danger here is that it is also very addictive, and as mentioned before, can be dangerous to withdrawal from. The drug itself has a pretty short half-life, meaning users will be tempted to use more and more to get the same effects.

On the other hand, people naturally develop a tolerance to the drug pretty quickly, despite what they may tell you, which means again, that users will have to continue to use more and more to get the desired effect.

So, for someone who is struggling with a Xanax addiction, what can they expect when they decide to stop using?

Depending on the User

Just like with any other substance, the withdrawal process for someone with a Xanax addiction is going to vary based on how frequently a person used and the amounts they used. For someone who uses irregularly, and in very small quantities, they probably won’t notice much more than a bad hangover feeling.

However, for those people who use often, regularly, and in large quantities, they are going to have some dramatically different withdrawal symptoms.

The main thing to focus on is for those people with a Xanax addiction who have been using pretty regularly, withdrawing in a professional detox setting under medical care is definitely the best option to keep you safe and healthy during the process.

The Initial Stage

This can start just a few hours after the last use and is often characterized by:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Cravings

For the most part, people who struggle with Xanax addiction are probably well aware of the symptoms of short-term withdrawal, as it is the precursor to using more. Similarly to any other substance addiction, these are the tell-tale signs that the brain and body require more of the drug.

For people who are planning to quit using Xanax, by this point they are hopefully already safe inside the safety of a detox center or are on their way to one.

The Acute Stage

This second stage of the Xanax withdrawal process is often the most dangerous. This will be the time when the body begins to shut down and the mental distress begins to intensify. Those withdrawing from Xanax addiction can expect to experience:

  • Digestion Issues (nausea, Constipation, Diarrhea)
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme Mood Swings
  • Numbness of the extremities
  • Confusion
  • Extreme Cravings
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Panic
  • Seizures

Again, it is extremely important to be going through this process in a medical detox setting, where other medications can be provided to help ease these symptoms, and trained staff will be on hand to monitor the individual.

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The Post Acute Withdrawal Stage

This is usually the final stage and can last anywhere from a week to a few months after the last use. The post-acute withdrawal phase happens for every long-term drug user, and for those who struggled with a Xanax addiction, the side effects are primarily mental and emotional more than physical.

Many Xanax users will experience:

  • Confusion
  • Trouble concentration
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Difficulty finding a regular sleeping pattern
  • Cravings, of course

Diagnosis vs. Addiction

When it comes to prescription drugs, the tricky area lies in the fact that many people have actually been diagnosed with some sort of mental or mood disorder that they were told required them to use this medication. Although many people who struggle with Xanax addiction started about by taking them as a recreational drug, a larger majority of people were originally prescribed them based out of what they thought was a necessity.

So when it comes time to decide, as a Xanax user, if it is better to face the uncertainty of depression and anxiety without the medication or to face Xanax addiction because of the medication, it makes sense that it is difficult for many users to decide to quit.

Other Alternatives

Thankfully, for the thousands of Americans who have made the decision to stop using Xanax, but still have difficulty with emotional regulation, there are dozens of other, far less addictive options to take as a medication.

Antidepressants: Lexapro is a medication often prescribed to people who are in substance abuse treatment facilities as a safer and less addictive alternative to Xanax. Along with it are Paxil, Celexa, Mirtazapine, and Prozac. It can take some time for the individual to adjust to these new medications, but overall they seem to provide a much more leveled out and less risky approach to depression.

Blood Pressure Meds: Prescriptions such as propranolol and prazosin help regulate heart rate and blood pressure, which plays a major role in regulating anxiety.

Natural Remedies

Understandably, many people who have been struggling with Xanax addiction or heavily reliant on prescription medications for long periods of time will feel wary about going all natural for their depression and anxiety relief. Most people want to feel a more powerful reaction when they take something to curb their mental disruption and feel that natural remedies don’t pack enough punch.

When it comes to holistic alternatives, the key is less about instant gratification, and more about the process, which is, for a long term recovering addict, something that will come in handy throughout their recovery.

For example:

  • Melatonin and Magnesium for sleep, along with a nighttime sleep ritual to help calm the nerves and prepare the brain for sleep
  • Chamomile and Valerian to help relieve anxiety, taken as a capsule or in tea
  • Yoga, Meditation, and frequent exercise boost endorphins and release serotonin to calm anxiety and fight off depression
  • Massage and continued therapy also help to explore trauma, deep-rooted behavior patterns, and stress that is held in the body.

Whether you are struggling with a Xanax addiction or worried that your use will eventually lead to addiction, help is available when you are ready.