The art and science of Xanax tapering can baffle even licensed professionals, let alone the person who is suffering through the process.
Xanax, like all benzodiazepine drugs, cannot be tapered haphazardly. The level of care needs to be absolutely precision-based, keenly attentive, and only using tried and tested protocols for success.
Do Your Symptoms
Alternative to Meds has been the expert on benzo tapering for over 17 years. We invite you to review our published evidence regarding our clients’ amazing success rates. It is possible that some people can come off of benzodiazepines easier than others. However, more frequently we find that persons really do struggle with the Xanax tapering process. Without proper preparation and guidance, the process can be excruciating. And, when a person has become neurotoxic, the body will need to be cleaned out so this neurotoxic barrier is gone, which will ease the tapering process considerably. There are many other steps we do to soften and ease the process of getting off benzodiazepines and reducing and eliminating symptoms that have been troublesome in the past, and which probably led to being medicated in the first place.
15 Years Experience by Professionals Who Understand Your Journey.
Alternative to Meds Center’s Xanax Tapering Program
Our Xanax cessation program is solidly founded upon three main goals. One is stopping Xanax (alprazolam) gradually and safely, and the second primary goal is to use natural Xanax alternatives to avoid being left with debilitating side effects.
The third primary goal for helping our clients is to discover and treat (reduce, eliminate, fix, repair) root causes for the original symptoms that led to starting the prescription in the first place. This is what we call “natural mental health.”
There is a lot of information that can be learned about benzodiazepines, including safe Xanax tapering and strategies for recovery. For anyone who is or has been trying to quit Xanax or other similar drugs, this short article can only be a quick summary of the most key points on the subject. Much more research is available regarding getting off Xanax safely and gently. Please contact us if we can help in this regard.
Xanax for Treating Unwanted Symptoms
Benzodiazepines are used to treat:
Short-term treatment of anxiety
Short-term treatment of insomnia*
Pre-surgical sedative (one-time only)
Alcohol withdrawal (1-5 days to prevent seizure)
* Using benzodiazepines for more than a very short time can produce harsh discontinuation effects, according to published cautions.1,6
If a person could reduce or entirely eliminate such symptoms as insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, etc., without relying on prescription drugs, it is likely that a significant percentage of both patients and doctors would have chosen non-drug therapy over pharmaceuticals. Most people would never opt for taking a drug that is so troublesome to stop taking. While benzodiazepines are able to dampen troublesome anxiety or insomnia for a brief period, these symptoms can return and sometimes with a vengeance even though one continues to take the drug.
However, in addition to the original symptoms returning, side effects from Xanax may also begin to emerge. Due to the largely inadequate training that medical doctors receive, (after all, medical doctors are not mental health specialists), the usual response to “treat” persisting side effects is to increase the dosage. Or, switch their patient to another drug, or multiple drugs. This common experimentation approach often leads to worsening symptoms. The consequences can be quite unpredictable at this juncture. Doctors are trained to think they are preventing a relapse. They seem unaware that the more drugs they prescribe the worse their patient gets. There seems to be little recognition of the liability of benzodiazepine side effects, and the problem of tolerance, meaning the reduced efficacy that benzos provide when taken past a few weeks’ time. More information on these two important subjects can be found below and could be of great interest and importance to any person or their loved one who may be looking at benzodiazepine tapering for relief. For those who enroll in our program, the clients receive a thorough educational component on how benzodiazepines and other drugs affect the CNS, and how diet, nutrition, and rebuilding healthy neurochemistry naturally are key to recovery.7
Tolerance — Special Cautions re Xanax Tapering
As early as 1988, the British Association of Pharmacology issued warnings against using benzodiazepines for acute insomnia or disabling anxiety for longer than 2 to 4 weeks.1 This was based on several safety studies that concluded when benzodiazepines are so prescribed, they should be given only in the lowest dose possible and only for 2 to 4 weeks at the absolute maximum. This was because tolerance tends to build up so quickly, which typically results in new symptoms emerging and original symptoms returning and often intensifying.
These recommendations were reiterated in 2018 and published in other guidelines that indicated that benzodiazepines prescribed for acute insomnia or disabling anxiety should be considered a “one-off” and the 2- to 4-week period includes coming off the drug, meaning tapering Xanax to zero as quickly as possible. While this is much preferable to taking benzos for 20 years and then being unable to stop taking them easily, it remains that even after such a short time as 4 weeks, reactions can be extremely difficult to tolerate, especially if attempted too quickly. It typically takes longer than a few days or a week to be able to achieve tolerable and successful results, so the problems of how to safely come off Xanax and similar drugs are often “baked into the cake” at the point of receiving a prescription.1,6,7
The study also concluded that benzodiazepines should not be used at all in treatment for mild anxiety or long-term insomnia. While the drug can suppress or mask symptoms, benzodiazepines can in no way be considered curative agents. And after stopping Xanax, or other benzos, the symptoms will commonly return, sometimes referred to as “having a relapse.”
Therefore, it seems likely that some people could have been prescribed benzodiazepines in error, and perhaps the drugs were taken for much longer periods of time than the guidelines stipulate. If so, trying to quit Xanax or similar drugs may have devolved into quite a complex issue. In fact, this is probably closer to the “norm” in the US rather than the exception, as most US doctors seem to be surprisingly unaware of these cautions and safety studies and guidelines. This, unfortunately, may have left many patients in a position of inadvertent drug dependence or addiction, in a position of trying to avoid harsh and intolerable withdrawal effects from stopping Xanax. Yet, very little help or information is available for a person about how to get off Xanax or similar medications. We can help.
Xanax Tapering Before Pregnancy
Studies show an association with many troubling outcomes in infants where the mother was taking Xanax or other benzodiazepines early in pregnancy or before conception. Such outcomes included ectopic pregnancy and a higher rate of intensive care admissions for these newborns. This is a significant health risk worthy of consideration if a woman taking benzodiazepines is of child-bearing age and especially when a woman is planning a pregnancy.5
Finding and Treating Root Causes
For anxiety and insomnia, there may have been a missed opportunity to delve into root causes before simply offering the patient a prescription for benzodiazepines. For instance, did you know that Cambridge University published a study in 2018 that outlines a relationship between gut bacteria, anxiety, and depression? 2
It would be prudent to investigate the root causes of unwanted symptoms before starting on benzos. Some commonly overlooked contributors include a dysfunctional thyroid, cardiovascular health issues, a body that has accumulated toxins, urban-living stress, poor diet, and food allergies. All of these factors may contribute to or cause anxiety.3,8-15
There are many biological, genetic, dietary, and toxic issues that can be lab tested and then treated, and if these are causing a person’s stress and anxiety, then the treatment of the underlying causes (neurotoxin removal for example), will help answer conditions like anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia. These and other areas must be checked if a person is to enjoy a thorough diagnosis of what is causing their anxiety or insomnia. That will open the door to reducing or entirely eliminating the symptoms, as well as reducing or eliminating the need to take anti-anxiety benzodiazepines or other masking drugs. This is one of the goals of our program.
Holistic Methods at Alternative to Meds
At Alternative to Meds Center, a wide range of holistic treatments are used before, during and after Xanax tapering.
9. Aucoin M, LaChance L, Naidoo U, Remy D, Shekdar T, Sayar N, Cardozo V, Rawana T, Chan I, Cooley K. Diet and Anxiety: A Scoping Review. Nutrients. 2021 Dec 10;13(12):4418. doi: 10.3390/nu13124418. PMID: 34959972; PMCID: PMC8706568. [cited 2022 June 9]
This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.
Dr. Samuel Lee
Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente. He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.
Lyle Murphy is the founder of the Alternative to Meds Center, a licensed residential program that helps people overcome dependence on psychiatric medication and addiction issues using holistic and psychotherapeutic methods.
Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.