Xanax is the brand name given to a sedative drug known as alprazolam. It is the most commonly prescribed of the benzodiazepine class of medications. Benzodiazepines, or benzos for short, have a number of clinical functions related to the central nervous system. Xanax is used for the treatment of anxiety, anxiety due to depression, panic disorders and other such mental health issues.
With Xanax use comes the potential for a destructive habit to emerge. Users often develop a dependence after being on a Xanax prescription for several months. In addition, becoming dependent on benzos can also be the unintended consequence of recreational Xanax use. Such strong cravings are referred to by physicians as a substance use disorder.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax are considered safe medications when used as directed. In fact, these drugs replaced the exceedingly more dangerous barbiturates of the past. Barbiturates were not only addictive, but the chance of a lethal overdose was high as well. That is not to say that benzos do not come with such worries, too. A withdrawal from long-term Xanax or other benzodiazepine use is among the most hazardous of any type of drug. It is for this reason that users wishing to or medically required to quit must go through a gradual detox program.
Stopping Xanax use outright without a come-down period is never the answer. Tapering off Xanax is the preferred method practiced by treatment and rehabilitation centers nationwide. It takes professional knowledge and experience to properly determine how to taper off Xanax and other benzodiazepines of its kind.
A Xanax taper is a procedure put in place to counteract withdrawal symptoms. Tapering is intended to accomplish two fundamental things for Xanax users: weaken the withdrawal and re-adapt the body to how it once was before ever using Xanax. As one may imagine, this process does not occur overnight — it requires meticulous planning and structured guidance.
The reasons why someone may choose a Xanax taper are plenty, not the least of which being the jeopardies of withdrawal. Benzodiazepines create an unsafe scenario once use is suspended. As mentioned previously, Xanax withdrawals are some of the most serious and potentially deadly. Experts assert that only an alcohol withdrawal, perhaps the most dangerous of them all, is more likely to be lethal.
To grasp just why users would wish to avoid a Xanax withdrawal, one must first understand why withdrawals are so uncomfortable. Symptoms and side effects of a Xanax withdrawal peak at approximately two weeks after a final dose. Plus, it is estimated that some 50-80 percent of all Xanax users will experience intense withdrawal symptoms. These indicators include:
- Irritability: A person going through withdrawal may not act like themselves due to many other symptoms weighing them down physically and psychologically.
- Trembling or spasms: Withdrawals are often characterized by involuntary muscular movements or convulsions.
- Headaches and confusion: The central nervous system is essentially rebooting itself like the organic supercomputer that it is. Thus, a withdrawal brings dissociative and confused behavior along with it.
- Nausea and vomiting: The stereotypical idea of withdrawal often manifests as an incapacitated individual clinging to a toilet for hours. This isn’t too far from the truth.
- Insomnia: Disrupted sleep patterns may result from over-active neurological responses.
The list only begins here. Far more severe side effects can take place, including panic attacks, psychosis, hallucinations, seizures, and, if not undergone in a clinical setting, potential Xanax relapse. Report any life-threatening reactions to the proper medical professional as soon as possible.
When the question of “how to taper off Xanax” arises, one answer always seems to come up: Never attempt to quit cold turkey. This conclusion goes back to the dangers associated with benzodiazepine withdrawals — dangers that can be mitigated with step-by-step progression and reduction in use.
Tapering off Xanax equates to a 5–10 percent reduction in use every week. While not everyone’s Xanax taper schedule is the same, this offers a baseline approach to start the process off. A more aggressive schedule of a 25 percent decrease per week is possible, but this is only recommended for long-term users who have tried other approaches in the past.
A Xanax taper chart for this scenario may look like:
- Week 1: This constitutes the beginning of the taper process. Little to no reduction occurs.
- Week 2: Xanax dose reduced by 25% percent.
- Week 3: Dose is once again reduced by 25 percent.
- Week 4: Total reduction of 50 percent by this point.
- Week 5-8: No change in dose for one month.
- Week 9 and Beyond: 25 percent reduction per week until cessation or desired Xanax dose reached.
Some doctors may switch a Xanax user over to Valium for their taper. This leads to a marked change to any previous Xanax taper schedule, but for good reason. For one, Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine, meaning it stays in the body for a longer duration, and thus leads to fewer withdrawal symptoms overall. Additionally, Valium comes in smaller dosages. It becomes more straightforward to track progress on a Xanax taper chart when a substitute benzo is used. After all, it’s much easier to remove a single low-dose Valium pill from a regimen than it is removing a fraction of one Xanax pill. Dose calculations should be the least of one’s worries during the tapering process.
Self-detox on Xanax can be effective. However, professionals advise that this only be used as an intermediate step before treatment at a rehabilitation center. Either way, tapering is an ongoing effort, and the time put in is certainly worth the results.
Going through a Xanax withdrawal can be difficult, but professional help makes it easier. Safety and support during detox from compassionate clinicians and physicians at The Recovery Village sets you up for success during withdrawal and through the rest of recovery. If you’re ready to get started and take the first step toward a better life, call 352.771.2700 today.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.