If you regularly take Xanax and abruptly stop, you’ll likely experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, a Xanax taper can help you avoid this risk.
Article at a Glance:
- There are several ways to stop using addictive substances like Xanax, including a slow taper.
- A taper involves gradually decreasing the dose, which helps to prevent uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
- If you believe you are addicted to Xanax, seek addiction treatment or talk to your doctor to begin tapering off the drug.
Tapering or Weaning off Xanax
A Xanax (alprazolam) taper is a way to slowly reduce Xanax doses to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Tapering is intended to accomplish two fundamental things: lessen withdrawal symptoms and readjust the body to how it was before the drug was used. However, this process does not occur overnight — it requires meticulous planning and structured guidance from a health care professional.
If someone regularly takes a benzodiazepine like alprazolam, quitting abruptly can lead to a variety of uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous withdrawal symptoms. A taper can help reduce these risks and make the withdrawal process safer and more comfortable.
Xanax Taper Plan/Schedule
The recommended taper is a 5% to 10% 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 25% reduction per week is possible, but it should only be done if recommended by your physician.
When starting with Xanax 8 mg, a taper chart may look like:
- Week one: Reduce by 5% to 10% (7 mg to 7.5 mg daily)
- Week two: Xanax dose reduced by 25% (around 5.5 mg daily)
- Week three: Dose is once again reduced by 25% (4 mg daily)
- Week four: Dose is once again reduced by 25% (3 mg daily)
- Week five to eight: No change in dose for one month. (3 mg daily)
- Week nine and beyond: 25% reduction per week until cessation or desired Xanax dose is reached
Tapering is an effective way to reduce the number of withdrawal symptoms. Tapering allows the body to slowly adjust to decreasing levels of GABA and compensate appropriately.
A 0.25 mg of Xanax is the lowest available dose and would not require a taper.
A Xanax XR taper would be about the same as tapering off the immediate-release version.
Switching From Xanax to Valium
Some doctors may switch a Xanax user over to Valium for their taper. This will affect the Xanax taper schedule, but for good reason. Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine, meaning it stays in the body for a longer duration. As a result, it leads to fewer withdrawal symptoms overall. Additionally, Valium comes in less potent but larger doses, so it is easier to split.
Tracking progress on a Xanax taper chart becomes more straightforward when a substitute benzo like Valium is used. After all, it’s much easier to remove a single low-dose Valium pill from a regimen than remove a fraction of one Xanax pill.
Self-detoxing from Xanax can be effective. However, professionals advise that this should only be used as an intermediate step before treatment at a rehabilitation center. Either way, tapering is an ongoing effort, but the time put in is certainly worth the results.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms and side effects of alprazolam withdrawal can begin three to four hours after taking the final dose. Further, around 40% of people who take benzodiazepines for longer than six months will have moderate to severe withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can 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: During withdrawal, the central nervous system is essentially rebooting itself like the organic supercomputer that it is. As a result, withdrawal brings dissociative and confused behavior along with it.
- Nausea and vomiting: Withdrawal symptoms can commonly include nausea and vomiting, which makes it harder to stay hydrated.
- Insomnia: Disrupted sleep patterns may result from overactive neurological responses.
The list only begins here. More severe withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Panic attacks
Report any life-threatening reactions to the proper medical professional as soon as possible.
How To Get off Xanax Without Experiencing a Seizure
The best way to stop taking alprazolam without experiencing seizures or other severe withdrawal symptoms is to follow a taper schedule provided by your doctor or treatment team. If you are in a substance abuse treatment program, you may also be given additional medications to prevent dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Stopping alprazolam without a taper can increase the risk for seizures, especially in people who have had seizures in the past.
Why Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms Occur
Withdrawal symptoms occur because medications like Xanax alter how messages are sent between brain and nerve cells. Alprazolam increases the effects of a neurotransmitter called GABA. Over time, the body makes less GABA in response to these abnormally high levels.
When someone stops taking Xanax suddenly, they have too little GABA. As a result, they may experience “activating” withdrawal symptoms like tremors and seizures.
Searching for Help
Your doctor is an excellent resource when it comes to helping you wean off Xanax. They can help you design a taper schedule to decrease your Xanax use gradually over time. This may involve prescribing lower doses of your medication so you do not need to split up higher-dose pills. Addiction treatment programs can also help if you’re struggling to control your Xanax use or are misusing the drug.
Relapse Prevention Strategies
Xanax withdrawal symptoms can sometimes increase the risk of relapse, so avoiding them can help reduce this risk. By limiting withdrawal symptoms through a medically managed taper, you increase your chances of successfully staying off Xanax in the future.
Medically assisted detox is always your best option if you are trying to taper your drug or alcohol use. The Recovery Village provides 24-hour detox care at facilities nationwide, and each care plan can be customized to meet your exact needs. Contact us today to learn more about our medical detox programs and find a treatment program that works well for your situation.
Cosci, F., et al. “Acute and Persistent Withdrawal Syndrome[…]otropic Medications.” Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 2020. Accessed October 18, 2021.
Hood, Sean; et al. “Benzodiazepine Dependence and Its Treatm[…]Low Dose Flumazenil.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, November 2021. Accessed October 18, 2021.
National Center for PTSD. “Effective Treatments for PTSD: Helping P[…]rom Benzodiazepines.” 2015. Accessed October 18, 2021.
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