Quitting Xanax abruptly can cause undesirable withdrawal symptoms, some of which may require medical intervention. In the worst cases, benzodiazepine withdrawal can be deadly.
Xanax, Benzodiazepines & Addiction
Xanax, which is known generically as alprazolam, and other benzodiazepines can be both physically and mentally addictive. These drugs are powerful sedatives, and they have a high likelihood of abuse and dependence with continued use. Because of this, most prescriptions for benzos are given on a short-term basis.
It’s important to follow prescription guidelines, and never take Xanax and other benzodiazepines without a doctor’s prescription. However, even individuals who use Xanax in smaller doses can have trouble quitting this drug.
Once dependence has formed, a tapered approach to withdrawal is needed. If you suddenly stop taking Xanax without medical supervision, it can be dangerous.
Xanax Tapering Guidelines & Schedule
Generally, the max daily dose for severe anxiety disorder is 4 mg of Xanax. For those who use Xanax for panic disorder, the maximum daily dose may be around 10 mg per day.
The FDA asserts that those who take Xanax in doses of 4 mg or more may have more difficulty tapering down to zero than those who take smaller doses per day.
Oftentimes, doctors will recommend switching to a long-acting benzodiazepine before initiating a taper. Drugs with long half-lives tend to work better for tapers than short-acting benzodiazepines.
Here is a sample Xanax tapering schedule:
|Week 1||Reduce by 5%–10%|
|Week 2||Reduce by 25%|
|Week 3||Reduce by 25%|
|Week 4||Reduce by 25%|
|Weeks 5-8||Maintain current dose amount|
|Week 9+||25% reduction in dose per week until reaching zero|
Your specific tapering schedule will be personalized by your doctor. If you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms, they may slow your taper, reducing your weekly dose by smaller increments or even keeping you at the same dose for a while.
The Dangers of Tapering Off Incorrectly
Tapering off Xanax on your own could result in adverse effects and will put you at risk of experiencing intense withdrawal symptoms. This can not only be dangerous, but it can also greatly increase your likelihood of relapse. People want to make the discomfort of withdrawal go away, so they return to Xanax abuse.
Here are some of the symptoms you can expect if you quit Xanax use cold turkey:
- Suicidal ideation
- Panic attacks
- Muscle spasms
- Irregular pulse
Intense cases of benzodiazepine withdrawal can lead to coma and even death. Again, this is why medical supervision is always needed for benzodiazepine withdrawal. You should never attempt to design and manage your own taper or detox from Xanax or any other benzodiazepine. Professional help is needed.
A doctor will manage your taper and ensure you stay safe throughout the process. If you experience withdrawal symptoms at any point, they will likely raise your dosage and slow the taper.
Why Do Withdrawal Symptoms Occur?
Withdrawal symptoms occur because the body and brain have become accustomed to the presence of a drug. When that drug is absent, the body is thrown into a state of imbalance.
Withdrawal symptoms are often opposite effects to those brought on by a substance. For example, Xanax manages anxiety, so one of the withdrawal symptoms associated with it is anxiety.
Rebound effects are associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal. This is a return of symptoms that the medication was originally intended to manage. For Xanax, rebound effects include anxiety and insomnia.
Symptoms like increased irritability, anxiety, and insomnia typically last for a few days, but they can persist for weeks or months, depending on the severity of the drug dependency.
Can Properly Tapering Off Xanax Help With Withdrawal Symptoms?
Yes, tapering off Xanax can control withdrawal symptoms. While the tapering process might not eliminate withdrawal symptoms fully, it will greatly reduce their severity.
You’ll work with a doctor to manage withdrawal symptoms during this process, as your feedback will help them assess the right dosage levels for your taper. In addition to raising your tapering dosage if you experience symptoms, a doctor will also be able to treat specific withdrawal symptoms as needed. They may incorporate other medications that won’t interfere with your tapering schedule to give you relief from undesirable symptoms.
Support After Medical Detox
Both during and after detox, individuals are encouraged to explore therapy and support groups for continued support after stopping benzodiazepine abuse. Therapy will help you get to the bottom of why you abused Xanax and equip you with healthy tools that will help you avoid abusing substances in the future. Most often, this therapy takes place in both individual and group settings.
While there is no cure for addiction, you can successfully manage your substance use disorder for the rest of your life. You just need the right help and support to find your path to recovery.
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