Last Updated on May 30, 2022 by
Last Updated on May 30, 2022 by
If you have experienced other withdrawal symptoms not listed here, you are invited to make a voluntary medical report online to FDA’s Medwatch site, that may be useful to others in the future.
WARNING: Never stop using benzodiazepine drugs suddenly. Withdrawals can be eased by gradually tapering down instead of stopping all at once, especially for rapidly acting benzodiazepines such as Xanas.6,7-10
Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be harsh, extremely difficult for some, and cannot be handled like other types of drug withdrawal. The strategy for eliminating benzodiazepines needs to be precise, and very gradual. Find out more about effective holistic support for the process.
Studies show that Xanax withdrawal symptoms include a uniquely concerning profile of rebound anxiety compared to other benzodiazepine withdrawal syndromes. One study published in the 2018 Journal of Addiction Medicine showed after a 4-week taper, 15 out of 17 participants who had been treated with Xanax for panic disorder experienced increased panic attacks, and 9 of the 17 also experienced newly emerging withdrawal symptoms like insomnia, malaise, dizziness, and tachycardia (racing heart rate at rest).25
Another study published in the 1990 Journal of Clinical Psychiatry followed its participants who were diagnosed with combat-induced PTSD and were being treated with Xanax. Subsequent to an 8-week long Xanax withdrawal, all 8 reported worsening anxiety, rage reactions, hypersensitivity, intrusive thoughts, newly emerging insomnia, sleep disturbances, and nightmares. Of significant concern, 6 of the 8 participants in the study experienced homicidal ideation. During or post Xanax withdrawal, 4 of the 8 experienced suicidal ideation, and 7 of the 8 reported increased irritability and other undesirable side effects persisting after the 8-week Xanax withdrawal process.29 According to the aforementioned study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine in 2018, delirium and psychosis are more frequently reported Xanax withdrawal symptoms compared to other benzodiazepine withdrawal syndromes, although the study notes that similar studies of other benzodiazepines are scant.25
The 1987 American Journal of Psychiatry reported that only 4 of 17 participants in a Xanax withdrawal study could complete their withdrawal as scheduled, that is within 4-5 weeks, and only 4 more could complete it within 7-13 weeks. Of the 17 participants, 15 experienced increased panic symptoms, and 9 participants reported newly-emerging withdrawal symptoms such as weakness, insomnia, malaise, lightheadedness, tachycardia, and others.27
A study published in Archives of General Psychiatry compared 60 participants taking Xanax for 8 weeks, and the same number taking a placebo. After a 4-week withdrawal, the medication group experienced increased anxiety and recurring panic attacks whereas the placebo group did not. The study recommends patients being treated for panic disorder with Xanax be withdrawn over at least an 8-week period.26
Xanax is a tranquilizer in the benzodiazepine drug class, FDA-approved to be used as a sedative to treat anxiety and panic disorders.1 It comes in immediate or delayed-release versions. Benzodiazepines are often prescribed longer than is recommended by health authorities, putting consumers at risk of dependence and addiction. According to the Heather Ashton guidelines, benzodiazepines should be taken for a few days to a few weeks. These guidelines also suggest that Xanax withdrawal need not be traumatic if done correctly and with individual support care in place.2
Information is provided below, on the most frequently requested topics concerning Xanax and Xanax withdrawal. Always do your best to research before starting or stopping Xanax or other medications.
Xanax is a central nervous system suppressant and is primarily prescribed to treat anxiety or panic disorders. If you suffer from anxiety and/or panic attacks, there are studies showing how methods of controlled breathing, exercise, yoga, and other nonpharmacological interventions can be highly effective, for example, turning off a panic attack or reducing their frequency without drugs.35,36
CAUTION: Just as you would not drink and drive, Xanax’s dampening effects on alertness and cognitive function make driving or operating machinery inadvisable while under the influence of Xanax.
Xanax is a brand or trade name for the generic drug, alprazolam. Other brand names in the US include Gabazolamine-05 and Niravam.
Xanax has developed a presence as a street drug that can be purchased for as little as $5 a pill. Its popularity is possibly due to its sedative effects and pleasurable sensation of mild euphoria. According to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, numerous street names have evolved, including bricks, footballs, bars, zanbars, and others.3
Quitting Xanax or any benzodiazepine drug abruptly can be deadly. A gradual taper is the FDA’s recommended approach to lessen these severe and potentially life-threatening Xanax withdrawal symptoms. Several factors can affect the timeline of your withdrawal including how long you used Xanax, how high the dosage, general health, age, and even some genetic factors that may affect the rate of clearing from the body. Xanax has an extremely short half-life, which makes a smooth withdrawal nearly impossible. A recommended strategy to discuss with your prescribing caregiver is to transition over to a longer-acting benzodiazepine such as Valium© that may allow a less problematic withdrawal schedule. We invite you to read more about options for Xanax withdrawal used at Alternative to Meds Center, including cross-tapering methods and others. Always seek professional guidance or inpatient care for your best outcome.2,6-10
A side effect is a “secondary” effect, typically undesirable, as opposed to the beneficial effects of a drug. The FDA requires that a drug must have more benefits than safety concerns to be sold in the US. Side effects occur most often when starting or stopping a drug, or when increasing or decreasing the dosage of a drug. 4
Xanax can cause mild as well as more serious side effects. According to statistics compiled by the US Gov., Xanax side effects range from mild to severe, in some cases, life-threatening.5 The list is long, so we have grouped these adverse effects into categories for clarity.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Xanax withdrawal symptoms and Xanax side effects have many similarities which may cause some physicians unfamiliar with Xanax withdrawals and side effects to misdiagnose the ups and downs of Xanax withdrawals. An incorrect diagnosis may be given, either thinking the patient has relapsed, or some newly emerging mental disorder has occurred, leading to further errors and complications in treatment.34
Xanax side effects may include:
Nervous System disorders: Akathisia, insomnia, abnormal involuntary movements, twitching, impaired coordination, muscle tone disorders, weakness, lightheadedness, dizziness, menstrual difficulties, infrequent or stopped menstrual periods, infertility, blurry vision.
Gastrointestinal disorders: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, increased salivation.
Cardiovascular disorders: tachycardia, hypotension
Dermatological: skin, & subcutaneous tissue disorders: Stevens-Johnson syndrome, rash, sweating, photosensitivity.
Psychiatric disorders: emotional blunting,6 mania, hypomania, anxiety, irritability, memory impairment, derealization, depression, confusion, decreased/increased libido, disinhibition, dysarthria (difficulty in articulating speech), fatigue, sexual dysfunction, infertility.
Metabolism disorders: Weight loss, weight gain, increased/decreased appetite.
Special Notes on Pregnancy: Use in pregnancy is associated with depressed respiration and withdrawal symptoms post-birth in the infant. Infant Xanax withdrawals include irritability, restlessness, tremors, hyperreflexia (overactive reflex response), inconsolable crying, and feeding difficulties. A study out of Sweden in 1989 reported 8 infants suffering from impairment of vitality at birth, signs of mental retardation, and other severe problems where benzodiazepines were regularly used by the mother during pregnancy.28
There are several safety warnings on Xanax packaging. These are:
Below are some of the most frequently asked topics about Xanax withdrawal, including safety, health risks, mechanism of action in the brain, and other important subjects of interest. It is recommended that a person learn as much as possible about a drug before starting or stopping a prescription.
At Alternative to Meds Center, we specialize in safe Xanax withdrawal treatments. Another pillar of treatment of equal or even greater importance is to provide the testing and therapies that can relieve symptoms for which prescription drugs may have been prescribed in the first place.
The FDA recommends that for day-to-day stress or tension, such as workplace stress, family discord, or other challenges, benzodiazepines should not casually be prescribed in these cases.2
However, it is known that as of The Top 300 Drug Stats Report for 2021, Xanax ranked at #37 of the top 300 most prescribed drugs in the US. More Xanax prescriptions were written than for Oxycodone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and Penicillin combined.21 Deaths due to benzodiazepines rose from 1000 per year in 1999 to roughly 9,000 per year in 2019. Also of concern, one-third of benzodiazepine prescriptions were accompanied by prescriptions for opioid medications, a potentially lethal combination. Tragically, 85% of benzodiazepine overdose deaths involved opioids. And despite recommendations for short-term use only, the CDC reports that many of these prescriptions have gone on long-term. 21,22
Xanax withdrawal will likely need to be more carefully monitored after long-term use. Xanax addiction and Xanax dependence can occur whether one was pleasure-seeking or just seeking relief. These factors make a perfect storm for long-term drug injuries.
A particularly popular aspect of the Alternative to Meds program is investigative lab testing to detect accumulated toxins and facilitate their removal from the body. It is true that some symptoms like anxiety and insomnia could be related to neurotoxicity, especially troublesome in our industrialized world. Environmental medicine informs us that pollutants, including pesticides, food additives, and heavy metals, do have the capacity to damage and interfere with normal healthy hormones, reproductive systems, neurochemistry, and innumerable parts of the complex body. These substances have been overlooked in mainstream mental health treatment.23 Alternative to Meds Center has observed that clearing these toxins from the body is a positive and in many cases necessary step toward restoring natural mental health improvements and long-term success.
Safe tapering is another specialty at Alternative to Meds Center. We can help those who have found limited or no success in drug-based treatments or failed attempts at discontinuing Xanax, and who wish to discontinue Xanax in a comfortable, safe, and gradual manner and also find relief from original symptoms, as well as those induced by benzodiazepine use or improper Xanax withdrawal in the past.
We invite you to contact us at Alternative to Meds Center for further information on gradual and comfortable Xanax withdrawal, especially if you are struggling with Xanax addiction or dependence issues, and you are looking for holistic answers using safe, alternative mental health treatments.
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Originally Published Sep 13, 2018 by Diane Ridaeus
Dr. Michael Loes is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pain Management and Addiction Medicine. He holds a dual license in Homeopathic and Integrative Medicine. He obtained his medical doctorate at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1978. Dr. Loes performed an externship at the National Institute of Health for Psychopharmacology. Additionally, he is a well-published author including Arthritis: The Doctor’s Cure, The Aspirin Alternative, The Healing Response, and Spirit Driven Health: The Psalmist’s Guide for Recovery. He has been awarded the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s “Excellence in Research” Award.
Diane is an avid supporter and researcher of natural mental health strategies. Diane received her medical writing and science communication certification through Stanford University and has published over 3 million words on the topics of holistic health, addiction, recovery, and alternative medicine. She has proudly worked with the Alternative to Meds Center since its inception and is grateful for the opportunity to help the founding members develop this world-class center that has helped so many thousands regain natural mental health.