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What is Xanax?

Benzodiazepine also known as “Xanax” is a type of medication that is used to treat symptoms of anxiety, panic disorders or depression and helps to balance out the chemicals in the brain so that the person can function at a normal level. Belonging to the group of drugs known as benzodiazepines, Xanax is the most prescribed anxiety medication that is used in the United States.

Xanax works by changing the number of neurotransmitters in the brain which in turn can help a person become calm, relaxed and feeling better. When taken correctly, it is considered very safe and effective. It slows down the amount of movement of your brain chemicals which could be unbalanced, which can help resolve the symptoms of tension and anxiety.

Physical Side Effects

As with every medication, comes some side effects that can occur as a result of taking it. These side effects can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Poor coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Memory problems
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stuffy nose
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight changes
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lowered libido
  • Swelling in hands or feet
  • Headache
  • Excessive sweating

Positive Side Effects

Xanax works to increase the effects of a brain chemical and causes a calm, relaxed feeling. It also helps to increase the excitement levels in the brain which can treat anxiety or panic disorders.

  • Anxiety relief
  • Easing of muscle tension
  • Loss of insomnia

Withdrawal Symptoms

Typically, withdrawal symptoms can happen between 8-12 hours after the last dose or use of the drug. If you do not gradually stop your dosage, it is more likely for withdrawal to occur and it can happen more quickly. Some studies have shown that the worst of the withdrawal symptoms happen during the second day of stopping use.

“Estimates suggest that about 10 to 25 percent of long-term benzodiazepine users experience what’s known as protracted withdrawal. Protracted withdrawal is a prolonged withdrawal experience marked by waves of mild psychological symptoms that come and go over the course of several months.”

Physical Symptoms of Withdrawal

Some physical symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Racing pulse
  • Hyperventilation
  • Sweating

Psychological Symptoms of Withdrawal

Some psychological symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Delirium

Relief and Coping

The best chance at having an easy withdrawal from Xanax is to gradually taper off the drug and to reduce the dosage in small amounts. This means gradually taking a smaller dose of the drug over several weeks to ensure your body can handle the lack of the drug. It can be done on your own, but the safest option is to see a prescribing doctor to get the correct dosing that will make the person the most comfortable.

It is difficult to gradually reduce the amount of Xanax in your system because it is a quick-acting drug that metabolizes fast in your body. This means that the amount in your system will go up and down which makes it difficult to slowly reduce the dosage. To help reduce these symptoms of withdrawal, doctors will prescribe a different long-acting benzodiazepine such as diazepam. Switching to diazepam makes it easier to quit and once stabilized on this drug, the doctor can slowly taper the dose a little it at a time. This allows the body to get used to functioning without the drug in their system.

Dependency Problems with Xanax

When Xanax is used long-term it is extremely addictive. It is the number one prescribed medication to treat anxiety and a high percentage of teens (70%) who have an addiction to Xanax get it from a family member’s medicine cabinet.

Because the tolerance to Xanax develops so quickly, people need more and more to feel the same effects of the drug. People who suffer from addiction to Xanax may take anywhere from 20 to 30 pills per day. If they decide to stop taking it, they could suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, tremors or restlessness. When withdrawal symptoms occur, there is a dependency problem.

Signs of Abuse

Once someone becomes addicted to Xanax then all other responsibilities and interests in life usually start to dissipate such as school life, employment, family, relationships etc.

  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Engaging in risky behaviors such as driving under the influence
  • Obsessing about getting Xanax and planning out getting more
  • Legal problems that arise from using the drug
  • Inability to stop using the drug
  • Continuing to use the drug despite the negative consequences associated with it

Xanax can be abused if the following occur:

  • Taking multiple pills
  • Injecting it
  • Snorting it
  • Taking it via blotter paper
  • Taking it with other drugs or alcohol

If a person decides to quit using the drug it is not recommended to quit cold turkey. The severity of withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the person, but they are similar to a barbiturate or alcohol withdrawal. If severe enough and convulsions happen, then the withdrawal from Xanax could be deadly.

Detox is the Foundation for Recovery

One person’s treatment plan will look different from another person’s because each plan is individualized. When your plans are developed, both you and your case manager will sign them in agreement. A copy will go into your chart and you will be offered a copy to keep. You may also work with a therapist to develop plans for you and your family.

Those who struggle with addiction will find that the detox process can be difficult and can be accompanied by potentially serious withdrawal symptoms such as aches, fever, nausea, and fatigue. Because detox leaves the body and mind vulnerable, it also raises the risk of overdose, which can sometimes prove fatal. This is why home-based detox is not recommended; instead, those with addiction are encouraged to pursue medically supervised detox through Experience Recovery.

We use science-based, clinically proven models that provide a safe, expedient, and fully effective detox process, preparing the client for ongoing treatment and recovery.