Xanax can cause withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, if you become physically dependent on the drug and then suddenly stop taking it.

Article at a Glance:

  • Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine medication.
  • Quitting benzodiazepines cold turkey, especially if you take a high dose or have used the drug for a long time, can cause severe withdrawal symptoms like seizures.
  • High-dose, long-term benzodiazepine use is also a risk factor for developing seizures later in life.
  • If you take a benzodiazepine and want to stop, talk to your doctor about tapering off the drug instead of stopping suddenly.

Xanax Withdrawal Seizures

Seizures are a possible complication of Xanax (alprazolam) withdrawal. High-dose or long-term Xanax users are particularly at risk of seizures if they quit cold turkey. Quitting Xanax cold turkey refers to suddenly stopping the drug without slowly weaning off of it.

Xanax works by enhancing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. This effect causes your brain to become physically dependent on the drug over time. If you have been regularly taking Xanax and suddenly stop, your brain will suddenly have much less GABA than it is used to. Low levels of GABA are linked to seizures, which is why benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause seizures to occur.

Related Topic: How to Safely Get Off Benzodiazepines

Xanax Seizure Risk

Less than 2% of people prescribed benzodiazepines like Xanax have a benzodiazepine use disorder. However, because this group is physically dependent on the drug, withdrawal symptoms can occur within a few hours of the last dose.

One of the most serious potential side effects of Xanax withdrawal is seizures. Along with the risk of seizures, other potential symptoms of Xanax withdrawal can include:

  • Involuntary physical movements
  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Memory problems
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle pain or stiffness
  • Panic attacks
  • Tremors

In severe cases, withdrawal symptoms can also lead to coma or death.

Association Between Benzodiazepine Use and Epilepsy Occurrence

Although benzodiazepines can help treat epileptic seizures in some cases, studies show these drugs can also be a risk factor for developing epilepsy later in life if you do not already have the condition. This is especially true for those who take high benzodiazepine doses or have been taking the drug for 30 days or longer.

FAQs

Can benzodiazepines cause epilepsy?

Studies show that high-dose or long-term use of benzodiazepines is a risk factor for developing epilepsy.

Which drugs can lower the seizure threshold?

Studies show that high-dose or long-term use of benzodiazepines is a risk factor for developing epilepsy.

A variety of common drugs can lower the seizure threshold and make one more likely to occur. These include tramadol, bupropion and diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

What benzodiazepine is best for seizures?

Clobazam is a preferred benzodiazepine for seizure control because it causes less sedation than other benzodiazepines. Depending on your medical history and other personal factors, however, your doctor may select a different benzodiazepine for your seizures.

Xanax Seizure Prevention

If you currently take Xanax and are thinking about stopping the drug, it is important to talk to your doctor to avoid withdrawal seizures. This is especially true if you have been using a high dose of Xanax or have been taking the drug for a long period of time. Your doctor may recommend a Xanax taper, which is a way of slowly weaning you off Xanax to prevent withdrawal symptoms like seizures.

If you struggle with Xanax use, your doctor may recommend an inpatient medical detox program. In this setting, you receive 24/7 medical care in a safe, comfortable environment to help prevent seizures and other dangerous Xanax withdrawal symptoms.

Summing Up — Xanax and Seizures

Although taking high-dose benzodiazepines can increase your risk of developing seizures over the long term, stopping benzodiazepines like Xanax cold turkey can also cause seizures. If you’re in this situation, the best thing you can do is seek professional help to stop using Xanax. To prevent seizures or other serious complications when quitting Xanax, it’s best to work with physicians to create a plan for gradually weaning off the drug.

If you’re ready to stop using benzodiazepines like Xanax, The Recovery Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about Xanax addiction treatment programs that can work well for you.

Jonathan Strum
Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Jessica Pyhtila
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
Sources

Allen, Mary J.; Sabir, Sarah; Sharma, Sandeep. “GABA Receptor.” StatPearls, February 17, 2021. Accessed October 18, 2021.

Food and Drug Administration. “FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA requiring Boxed Warning updated to improve safe use of benzodiazepine drug class.” September 23, 2020. Accessed October 18, 2021.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Research suggests benzodiazepine use is high while use disorder rates are low.” October 18, 2018. Accessed October 18, 2021.

Hu, Xiaohong. “Benzodiazepine withdrawal seizures and management.” The Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, February 2011. Accessed October 18, 2021.

Harnod, Tomor; Wang, Yu-Chiao; Kao, Chia-Hung. “Association Between Benzodiazepine Use and Epilepsy Occurrence.” Medicine, September 18, 2015. Accessed October 18, 2021.

Zagaria, Mary Ann E. “Common Causes of Drug-Induced Seizures.” U.S. Pharmacist, January 20, 2010. Accessed October 18, 2021.

Ochoa, Juan G.; Kilgo, William A. “The Role of Benzodiazepines in the Treatment of Epilepsy.” Current Treatment Options in Neurology, April 2016. Accessed October 18, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.