Xanax is a sedative medication that slows down thinking and other processes of the brain. In small doses, this effect is useful to manage disorders of thought like anxiety. People with anxiety have unusually high levels of worry and stress compared to others.
Despite its medical usefulness, Xanax is an addictive substance. Addiction can start even if someone uses the drug as prescribed by their doctor, but is more likely when the drug is abused.
Upon entering a rehab program to treat Xanax addiction, a person may enter the initial phase of medical detox. During medical detox, the body metabolizes and removes Xanax from the system.
Detox is a critical stage on the road to recovery, and those who have gone through it may view this process as a turning point in their lives. While withdrawal from alprazolam and other benzodiazepines can be a challenging experience, the benefits can be life-changing.
Table of Contents
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms & Side Effects
The experience of Xanax detoxification and withdrawal can be unpleasant, but it is a necessary step that paves the way for long-term healing.
Xanax has a half-life of about 11 hours, meaning that it takes about 50 hours for the body to remove it altogether. This may seem like a long time, but Xanax has one of the shortest half-lives compared to other benzodiazepines. Therefore, withdrawal symptoms can set in more quickly compared to similar drugs.
To stop taking the drug, Xanax use should usually be tapered for safety. Stopping it “Cold-turkey” can lead to severe side effects like seizures.
To safely stop taking Xanax, a person should always consult a medical professional. People with a legitimate prescription should speak with their prescriber. People taking it without a prescription should consider substance use disorder (SUD) treatment.
- Physical Withdrawal Symptoms:
Physical Xanax withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Convulsions or seizures
- Diarrhea or soft stool
- Increased menstrual bleeding, breast tenderness and menstrual cramping for women
- Heart palpitations or tachycardia
- Muscle spasms or twitches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sore, stiff muscles
- Sweating or excessive perspiration
- Tremors or shaking (particularly in the hands)
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms:
In addition to physical side effects, Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be psychological as well, including:
- Anxiety and panic
- Confusion or depression
- Heightened senses (e.g., noises seem louder, lights seem brighter)
- Insomnia or restless sleep
- Nervousness or tension
- Paranoia and fear
- Withdrawing from family and friends
The collective symptoms of detoxification and withdrawal are referred to as benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.
Symptoms happen in a progression. Starting with symptoms like anxiety, tremor, and muscle aches, and leading to cravings and mood symptoms. The severity of withdrawal varies greatly depending on how much of the drug was abused and for how long.
While withdrawal symptoms can occur for individuals who are taking Xanax exactly as their physician prescribed, it is much more common for people who abuse it.
Xanax Withdrawal Timeline
Xanax withdrawal can last anywhere from weeks to months. Some people have even experienced symptoms for years after their last dose. Xanax and other benzodiazepines are unique for how long symptoms can last.
The length of Xanax detox and withdrawal depends on several factors. An example timeline may look like:
- Stage 1: The Beginning
Six to 12 hours after the last dose: Symptoms will begin around this time. The most common initial symptoms are anxiety, trouble sleeping and headache.
- Stage 2: The Rebound
One to four days after the last dose: Anxiety and insomnia intensify during this stage. For people who started Xanax to treat anxiety, they will experience a “rebound” of their symptoms at this time. Their symptoms may return worse than before, underscoring the importance of medical detox. Flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are also common at this stage. Usually, all of these symptoms will begin to lessen on the fourth day. Seizure risk is high at this time.
- Stage 3: The Downward Slope
Five to fourteen days after the last dose: The symptoms are past their peak and will begin to lessen. Anxiety and insomnia are still prevalent, but headaches and muscle aches should start to decrease. Gastrointestinal discomfort (stomach ache) may arise during this phase and continue for weeks or months. Seizure risk decreases.
- Stage 4: The Return
Two weeks to several months after the last dose: Normal functioning eventually returns, but this may take a long time for some. People commonly report gastrointestinal and mood symptoms for weeks or months. A trained addiction professional can help the process of adjusting the treatment plan to keep withdrawal symptoms at a minimum.
A person’s environment can also change the pace of withdrawal. For this reason, rehabilitation centers are generally the best place for people to undergo the detoxification process, as it is a safe environment, free from familiar triggers. Many factors affect the severity and length of Xanax withdrawal symptoms. A person’s unique chemistry will often make a difference. How much and how often Xanax was taken are significant factors as well.
FAQs About Xanax Withdrawal
- How long does Xanax withdrawal last?
Xanax withdrawal symptoms may last from days to weeks, to months or years. Xanax and other benzodiazepines are notorious for being difficult to stop using. A trained medical professional can help make this process as comfortable as possible, but it will still be unpleasant.
If a taper method is used to stop Xanax, this will significantly increase the time taken to withdraw completely. Xanax tapers can last four months or longer.
- How long does Xanax stay in your system?
The presence of Xanax in the body can be detected through the following tests:
- Urine: In urine, Xanax can be detected within hours of use and up to 5 days after use
- Hair: Xanax can be detected in hair for up to 90 days after last use
- Blood: In blood, Xanax can be detected within one hour of use and up to 5 days after use
- Saliva: In saliva, Xanax can be detected immediately after use and up to 2.5 days after use
- Breast milk: Xanax can be detected in breast milk within one hour of use and up to 3 days after use, but Xanax is not recommended for use in nursing mothers
Multiple factors affect how long Xanax stays in your system.
- How do I know if someone is on Xanax?
Even if you’re prescribed by a doctor to take Xanax, some negative side effects may occur with the use of this drug. Physical symptoms may include dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, dry mouth, sluggishness, and lack of coordination. These common side effects aren’t necessarily always signs of abuse, rather they may occur with any use of this drug.
Regardless of the reason, someone takes Xanax, the effects usually start to occur within about an hour and last for around six hours in total. The more Xanax a person takes, the more likely they are to experience the following signs of abuse. Common signs of Xanax addiction that are visible to observers include trouble with cognition and also trouble forming words properly. A lot of times people who are on Xanax will sound similar to someone who is intoxicated from alcohol because of slurring.
Treatment Options for Withdrawal Symptoms
People may try to detox “cold turkey,” but this is not often safe. Safer options include at-home Xanax detox with the support of a physician or medical detox in a rehab facility.
At-home detox may be more common for people taking Xanax with a prescription who need to stop taking it for one reason or another. A person may be dependent on Xanax, but this does not mean they are addicted. They will benefit from a doctor slowly tapering their medication, but addiction treatment is not necessary.
Medical detox in a rehab facility is the safest option for people with substance use disorder. Not only can medical detox provide support and make withdrawal as safe as possible, but the person then has the option to continue into Xanax addiction treatment.
- Medications for Xanax Withdrawal:
Withdrawal from Xanax can be both physically and mentally uncomfortable. Depending on the rehab center, some clinicians may prescribe taper medications to soothe some of the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal.
Some common medications include those used to treat nausea and vomiting, mood symptoms, seizures, tremor and nightmares. The type and length of medication therapy will depend on the needs of the individual.
Those diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder may need additional specialized care.
- Xanax Withdrawal Remedies:
The most straightforward advice that will make the most significant impact is to stay hydrated. Symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea make dehydration common.
Detox and withdrawal are taxing processes on the body. During this time, the body needs all the hydration and nutrients it can get to recover.
Some other small tips to ease the withdrawal process include:
- Meditation: Practicing mindfulness may significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Counseling: Many people experience a wide range of emotions during this time and find it helpful to discuss their experience with a counselor.
- Exercise: Exercising can help combat the lethargy of withdrawal as well as prompt the brain to release endorphins, easing some of the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal.
- Dark, Quiet Spaces: Finding quiet areas can be helpful for people undergoing detox from Xanax as they are often hypersensitive to light and sound.
These remedies are often very helpful for people during Xanax withdrawal. It is important that medication is taken exactly as prescribed. Alternative remedies are recommended as the first line of defense before moving on to medications.
Xanax detoxification and withdrawal are critical steps on the road to recovery. The process itself can be dangerous without proper guidance, so having medical supervision is crucial to a person’s safety during this time.
If someone decides to undergo at-home detox, they should inform their loved ones and seek help from a medical professional, such as a doctor or a nurse, to keep an eye on the process. Friends, family and medical professionals can provide critical support to ensure medical detox continues as planned. While at-home detox is an option, people living with a severe addiction should seek professional treatment. Alprazolam withdrawal can cause serious complications.
The process typically involves medical support while the body clears the drug. The half-life of Xanax is about 11 hours, so it takes the body 50 hours to completely clear it.
Detox will usually be extended for those using a taper plan. In these cases, detox may take as long as several months because the process is based on whether the drug is still in the body. Some people may be able to taper faster while in a medical detox facility.
Rehabilitation centers typically provide additional care that family and friends are unable to offer. The process does not end at detoxification and withdrawal, and these steps are only the beginning.
Sobriety requires a new set of skills that rehabilitation facilities and therapy programs can help provide. These skills are gained through individual counseling, family counseling, group therapy, support group meetings and other forms of treatment. This skill development can help people remain sober in recovery for a drug-free life.
Finding Help for Addiction Treatment
If you or someone you know is addicted to Xanax and looking for a reputable Xanax detox program, there are centers across the United States that can help. These can range from small, local clinics to full-service rehab centers. The Recovery Village offers a full continuum of care programs, including medical detox, in their nationwide network of facilities. If you are looking for options closer to home or searching for a local peer support group, searching recovery resources by zip-code can be a helpful way to find treatment.
Grohol, John M. “Top 25 Psychiatric Medications for 2016.” July 8, 2018. Accessed September 28, 2019.
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.