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Can You Quit Xanax Cold Turkey?

Quitting Xanax cold turkey is generally not recommended for a variety of reasons. As with other benzodiazepines, suddenly stopping use of Xanax after dependence has formed can trigger withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be dangerous and even life-threatening.

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Xanax is a type of benzodiazepine drug that is used in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorder. As a Schedule IV drug, Xanax (alprazolam) can potentially cause physical and psychological dependence, even after only short-term use.

As a result, quitting Xanax can often present a challenge, especially to individuals who use Xanax in higher dose amounts for a prolonged period of time. If you want to stop taking Xanax, consult a doctor, even if you have been using the drug without a prescription.

What Happens When You Quit Xanax Cold Turkey?

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Quitting “cold turkey” means suddenly and abruptly stopping use without any sort of medical guidance or treatment. With some substances, cold-turkey quitting is a viable method, but with benzodiazepines, this is not a recommended approach.

Quitting Xanax suddenly and without weaning off the drug causes the body and brain to go through withdrawal. This can come with very serious side effects, some of which require immediate medical attention.

Dangers & Risks of Quitting Xanax Cold Turkey 

One of the biggest reasons to avoid quitting Xanax cold turkey is that withdrawal symptoms can become so severe that it causes a relapse. Instead, it is recommended to taper off Xanax gradually, allowing the brain and body time to adjust to a declining dosage of the medication.

In addition, cold-turkey detox results in withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be severe. Stopping use suddenly ensures that you will likely feel the full severity of withdrawal. Undesirable withdrawal symptoms that are likely include the following:

A tapered approach to withdrawal, under medical supervision, is needed.

  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Delirium
  • Shakiness
  • Muscle aches
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Coma

As you can see, some of these potential withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, and in some cases, they can even be life-threatening. This is why medical detox is required for benzodiazepine withdrawal.

Is It Safe to Quit Cold Turkey at Home?

No, if Xanax has been used for any sort of extended period of time, it is not considered safe to quit Xanax cold turkey at home. A tapered approach to withdrawal, under medical supervision, is needed.

Certain symptoms can occur during benzodiazepine withdrawal, such as heart palpitations, respiratory issues, hallucinations, and psychosis. Intense withdrawal symptoms can result in a coma or even death. If severe withdrawal symptoms are prevalent while quitting cold turkey, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to avoid serious consequences and health complications.

By consulting with medical professionals during detox, any undesirable withdrawal symptoms can be treated accordingly when needed, which will keep individuals safe throughout this process.

How to Quit Xanax Safely

Again, tapering off benzodiazepines is the recommended approach for withdrawal. Since Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine, you may first be switched to a long-acting benzo, such as Valium, before you are tapered off that drug.

How Does Tapering Work?

Tapering off Xanax generally takes around eight weeks. Slowly, lower dose amounts are given, often on a weekly basis. 

This slow reduction controls withdrawal symptoms and cravings, letting the body adjust to decreasing dosages. Other medications and treatments may also be used to reduce discomfort during this process.

While tapering off Xanax will enable the withdrawal process to be successfully completed, this isn’t enough to ensure recovery. Therapy is needed as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program.

After detoxification and rehabilitation, therapy and support group work are often recommended for individuals struggling with drug dependence.

How Long Does It Take to Detox Completely From Xanax?

The length of time it takes to successfully detox from Xanax and other benzodiazepine drugs will depend on various individual factors, such as how long Xanax has been used, genetic factors, biological factors, and the level of anxiety experienced prior to using Xanax. If an individual has been misusing other substances in addition to Xanax, this will also complicate the withdrawal timeline.

Acute withdrawal symptoms tend to last anywhere from 10 to 14 days. Withdrawal symptoms will usually peak within two weeks.

By the eight-week mark, people will usually start to begin feeling normal, although certain withdrawal symptoms, such as drug cravings and mood disorders, can last for months or even years after quitting Xanax.

Working with medical and addiction treatment professionals will help to ensure you safely get through the withdrawal process with minimal discomfort. While quitting Xanax cold turkey may result in a shorter withdrawal timeline, it is not considered safe. Consult an addiction treatment professional to ensure you get through withdrawal safely.

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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated May 10, 2024
  1. Management of Benzodiazepine Misuse and Dependence. (October 2015). Australian Prescriber.
  2. Challenges of the Pharmacological Management of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal, Dependence, and Discontinuation. (May 2018). Therapeutics Advances in Psychopharmacology.
  3. Experiences With Benzodiazepine Use, Tapering, and Discontinuation: An Internet Survey. (April 2022). Therapeutics Advances in Psychopharmacology.
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