Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
Due to the potency of Xanax, it is possible to become physically dependent on it. If you stop taking the drug after this point, withdrawal symptoms will occur. They generally last 5 to 7 days, but some symptoms may persist for a month or longer.
Withdrawal symptoms include a greater sense of anxiety, depression, and problems sleeping.
Dependence on Xanax develops relatively quickly. Some people may become dependent on Xanax in as little as 3 to 6 weeks.
How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Take?
Xanax withdrawal generally occurs in two forms: acute and protracted.
Acute withdrawal symptoms are symptoms that occur shortly after taking Xanax for the last time, and they clear up quickly compared to protracted withdrawal symptoms. With protracted withdrawal, symptoms continue long after the cessation of the initial acute symptoms.
Xanax has a half-life of 8 to 16 hours, meaning it exits the body relatively quickly compared to other benzodiazepines. This means withdrawal symptoms may begin within a few hours of taking Xanax if a person does not take another dose of the drug.
Acute Xanax withdrawal generally lasts for 5 to 7 days, but protracted withdrawal symptoms can persist for months.
Patients may experience “rebound anxiety” for weeks after their last dose of Xanax. Rebound anxiety is the presence of anxiety that may be worse than the initial anxiety for which a person began taking Xanax.
What Can Affect Xanax Withdrawal?
While there is a general timeline you can expect, a variety of factors can influence how long Xanax withdrawal lasts as well as the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Factors include the following:
- Dosage: If you are taking a higher dose of Xanax, acute withdrawal symptoms may be more severe.
- Mixing Xanax with other benzodiazepines: Mixing Xanax with another benzodiazepine may cause more severe withdrawal symptoms. It will also increase the likelihood of overdose.
- How long Xanax has been used for: People who have been using Xanax for longer periods may experience more serious withdrawal symptoms, given that their bodies may be more dependent on the drug.
- The person’s health: People who were more anxious before taking Xanax, who have other substance misuse issues, or who have other co-occurring mental health disorders may have more severe symptoms compared to those with lower initial levels of anxiety or without co-occurring conditions.
Signs Somebody Is Going Through Xanax Withdrawal
Many of the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal are related to anxiety itself, as the medication is primarily used as a treatment for anxiety. Some of these symptoms are listed below:
- Panic attacks
- Problems sleeping
- Tremors in the hands
- Spasms, pain, or stiffness of the muscles
- Losing weight
- Excessive sweating
- Trouble concentrating
- Mood swings
Other, non-anxiety-related symptoms generally have to do with a difference in perception compared to others. This can include auditory issues, such as hyperacusis, where normal sounds seem incredibly loud, or the feeling of viewing oneself from the outside looking in.
In severe cases, Xanax withdrawal can cause dangerous and worrying symptoms. These symptoms include seizures and potentially psychosis, which manifests in the form of hallucinations or confusion about one’s surroundings as well as problems with memory.
Treatment Options for Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Xanax is one of the most potent benzodiazepines prescribed to patients. Because of this, treatment of Xanax withdrawal should be carefully monitored and supervised by medical professionals. No one should attempt to suddenly stop taking Xanax or any benzodiazepine on their own after a period of sustained use.
Even under the supervision of medical professionals and following the recommended withdrawal procedures provided by the manufacturer itself, Xanax withdrawal symptoms are more severe than the withdrawal symptoms associated with other benzodiazepines.
The most common way to treat Xanax withdrawal is by gradually decreasing the dose a patient is prescribed. In some cases, the patient will be switched to a longer-acting benzodiazepine and then tapered off that medication.
Medications to Help Withdrawal
While other benzodiazepines are commonly used to treat Xanax withdrawal, more research must be done in order to determine the specific drugs that present the best treatment.
Clonazepam is a benzodiazepine that is sometimes used to treat Xanax withdrawal because it has a much longer half-life of 17 to 60 hours. Withdrawal symptoms take longer to set in, and it’s easier to taper off this medication than Xanax.
Medications that are used to prevent seizures are sometimes recommended for Xanax withdrawal. While there are some promising results in the use of these medications, more research must be completed before they become available for widespread use.
Another medication that has seen some success in the testing phase for treating Xanax withdrawal is flumazenil. Flumazenil is generally used to treat patients who have overdosed on benzodiazepines. While more research is needed before the drug is approved to treat withdrawal, flumazenil may reduce both acute and protracted withdrawal symptoms.
The Need for Medical Supervision
No matter which withdrawal approach is recommended, people should always be under medical supervision when withdrawing from Xanax or any benzodiazepine. You can get this assistance in an addiction treatment program.
In addition to medical support, you can also get emotional and psychological support, which increases the likelihood that you’ll safely and successfully make it through the withdrawal process.
Benzodiazepine Dependence and its Treatment With Low Dose Flumazenil. (November 2012). British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory. (July 2010). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal. (January–February 2018). Journal of Addiction Medicine.
Rebound Anxiety in Panic Disorder Patients Treated With Shorter-Acting Benzodiazepines. (October 1987). The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
Tapering Patients Off of Benzodiazepines. (November 2017). American Family Physician.
High-Dose Benzodiazepine Dependence: A Qualitative Study of Patients’ Perception on Cessation and Withdrawal. (May 2015). BMC Psychiatry.
The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome. (November 1994). Addiction.
Challenges of the Pharmacological Management of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal, Dependence, and Discontinuation. (November 2017). Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology.
Flumazenil. (May 2022). National Library of Medicine.