Despite being commonly prescribed in the United States, Xanax is not safe for everyone. Some people may abuse the drug and develop an addiction.

Article at a Glance:

  • Xanax (brand name for alprazolam) is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.
  • It takes the body about 50 hours to rid itself of Xanax.
  • Xanax withdrawal can take weeks, months or even years.
  • Detoxing from Xanax can be dangerous to do alone.
  • The safest way to cope with withdrawal from Xanax is with medical detox in a rehab facility.

Xanax is the brand name for the drug alprazolam, a benzodiazepine. It is prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders and is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States.

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, such as 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 it 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.

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
  • Headache
  • 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. Psychological Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and panic
  • Confusion or depression
  • Heightened senses (e.g., noises seem louder, lights seem brighter)
  • Insomnia or restless sleep
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness or tension
  • Paranoia and fear

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome

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 benzo 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 their withdrawal symptoms can last.

The length of Xanax detox and withdrawal depends on several factors. An example timeline may look like:

Stage 1: The Beginning (One to Two Days After Last Dose)

Symptoms will begin around this time. The most common initial symptoms are anxiety, trouble sleeping and headache. People who started Xanax to treat anxiety may 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.

Stage 2: The Rebound (14 to 28 days after the last dose)

The symptoms are past their peak and start to lessen. However, they may unexpectedly get worse after improving, and then repeat. Anxiety and insomnia are still prevalent, but headaches and muscle aches should start to decrease. Gastrointestinal discomfort (stomach ache) may arise during this phase. Seizure risk decreases.

Stage 3: The Return (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 adjust 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 that is free from familiar triggers. 

Many factors affect the severity and length of Xanax withdrawal symptoms, and a person’s unique chemistry will often make a difference. How much and how often Xanax was taken are significant factors as well.

Xanax Withdrawal Seizure Timeline

Seizures from Xanax withdrawal tend to be grand mal seizures, characterized by convulsions. They can occur anytime during the acute withdrawal phase, with the highest risk starting 24 hours after the last dose. Because Xanax withdrawal symptoms can wax and wane, it is possible to have serious symptoms like seizures even if you start to feel better during the withdrawal process.

FAQs About Xanax Withdrawal

How long does Xanax withdrawal last?

Xanax withdrawal symptoms may last for days, weeks, months or even 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.

How long does Xanax withdrawal insomnia last?

Xanax withdrawal insomnia often lasts a few months. Before that time, insomnia may improve only to worsen again.

How much Xanax causes withdrawal symptoms?

Xanax withdrawal can happen at any dose but is more likely at higher doses. The risk of physical dependence and withdrawal increases not only with dose, but also with how long you have been taking the medicine. For this reason, the lowest dose of Xanax should be used for the shortest time possible.

What helps with a Xanax withdrawal headache?

Xanax withdrawal headaches can be treated with over-the-counter medications. These include:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol): 1000 mg every four to six hours as needed, up to a total dose of 4000 mg in a 24-hour period
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin): 400 mg three times a day as needed
What helps with Xanax withdrawal nausea?

Nausea from Xanax withdrawal can be treated by a few different prescription medications. These include

  • Metoclopramide: 10 mg up to three times a day
  • Prochlorperazine: 5 mg up to three times a day
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:

These remedies are often very helpful for people during Xanax withdrawal. Alternative remedies are recommended as the first line of defense before moving on to medications. It is important that medication is taken exactly as prescribed.

Xanax Detox

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.

Rehabilitation centers typically provide additional care that family and friends are unable to offer. However, the recovery process does not end at detoxification and withdrawal, and these steps are only the beginning.

Sobriety requires a new set of skills that rehab 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 and maintain a drug-free life in recovery.

Can You Detox From Xanax at Home?

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 since detoxing from Xanax can cause serious complications like seizures.

How Long Does It Take To Detox From Xanax?

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.

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.

If you’re ready to begin the treatment process for Xanax addiction, The Recovery Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about Xanax addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

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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
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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

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.