Alprazolam, which goes under the brand name Xanax, is a prescription benzodiazepine medication. Xanax is typically prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. It can also be administered to enhance anesthetic effects for patients undergoing a painful surgical procedure. Doctors also prescribe Xanax for patients suffering from muscle spasms or seizure control. Tranquilizers also fall under the category of benzodiazepine medications. Other brand names for these drugs include Ativan and Valium.
Xanax interacts with the user’s central nervous system and causes decreased anxiety, sedation, and muscle relaxation by telling the inhibition receptors in the brain to relax. This medication acts fast and the effects last for about 6 hours, but the user will experience most of the benefits within the first hour of taking it.
Most people typically abuse Xanax because of the sedative effects produced by the drug. Benzodiazepines like Xanax are also commonly abused, they can be easily obtained in most areas.
When users start abusing Xanax instead of taking it as prescribed, it can lead to Xanax addiction, dependence, and tolerance. Even users who are taking the medication according to prescribed doses can develop an addiction unknowingly.
Xanax Withdrawal Timeline
Users who take large doses of Xanax for extended periods or even recreationally have a higher risk of becoming addicted to the drug. Such individuals also have a higher likelihood of experiencing withdrawal and serious side effects such as hallucinations and seizures.
Xanax withdrawal symptoms usually start presenting once a physically dependent Xanax user suddenly stops taking it. Since they have become physically dependent on the drug, they are unable to function properly or feel normal without it. Thus, they will experience psychological symptoms as well as physical and emotional pain.
Various factors influence the duration of Xanax withdrawal. This may include the duration and extent of Xanax abuse, the user’s age, and the drug’s half-life. People who have been taking Xanax for longer often experience more intense withdrawal. A long-term benzodiazepine user may expect at least 5 days of experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Some underlying medical issues and health conditions may also influence the duration of withdrawal as the brain and the body try to get back to their original state. Xanax has a short half-life meaning it is a short-acting drug, so the withdrawal symptoms typically start only a few hours after taking the last dose and they can occur suddenly.
Xanax’s half-life is 8 to 16 hours in an individual with no health problems. Its mean half-life is 11 hours, which is much shorter than that of other benzodiazepines. It also takes an average of 44 to 55 hours or roughly 2 days for the drug to be eliminated from the body. The symptoms will peak as the acute withdrawal stage begins and taper off gradually for at least a week.
However, keep in mind that some serious chronic symptoms of Xanax abuse such as insomnia, dysphoria, and anxiety can continue for weeks or months after withdrawal. This is because heavy, long-term use of benzodiazepines alters the systems in the body and brain. Even though the psychological benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms might be the most continuous, the physical symptoms are even harder to bear.
It can be hard to pinpoint a specific timeline for Xanax withdrawal because everyone experiences it differently. Xanax withdrawal typically starts with strong cravings for the drug accompanied by feelings of restlessness and anxiety.
The initial stage gets worse as the calming effects of the drug start wearing off, and the symptoms start to peak. Benzodiazepine withdrawal usually starts within 12-24 hours and 6 hours after taking the last dosage. A majority of the symptoms will last for about 7 to 10 days.
Early Withdrawal: 1st-2nd Day
Since Xanax has a short half-life, withdrawal frequently begins about 6 to 12 hours after the last dose. The initial two days of withdrawal can be very difficult for users and there is a high risk of relapse. Symptoms experienced during this stage include:
- Rebound anxiety
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Loss of appetite
Acute Withdrawal: 2nd- 6th Day
The symptoms experienced during this phase of withdrawal are similar to those of a hangover and will occur after the Xanax has been eliminated from the body. However, it may take longer for the drug to be eliminated from the body for people who have misused or abused Xanax for a long time. Some symptoms experienced at this phase of acute withdrawal include:
- Weight loss
- Short-term memory loss
- Heart palpitations
- Abdominal pain
- General anxiety
Late Withdrawal: 6th-14th day
Most users who make it to the 6th day of the withdrawal timeline have experienced the worst symptoms, but this does not mean they are out of the woods. Even though the physical symptoms might be diminishing, the emotional withdrawal symptoms such as moodiness, depression, and anxiety might go on long past the early stages.
At this time, the body is trying to re-learn the right endorphins and emotional responses it needs to generate at specific times. Xanax tells the user’s brain how to feel when they are on the drug. However, recovery helps the person learn to control their brain’s natural chemical balance again over time. Symptoms experienced during this time include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Sleep disturbances
The duration of withdrawal will depend on how much Xanax the user has been taking and how long they have been taking it. However, some people will still abuse Xanax because they are afraid of what they will go through during withdrawal.
Protracted withdrawal is the extended withdrawal period from Xanax during which the person experiences mild recurring psychological symptoms that can last for several months to a year.
Now that we know what to expect with the Xanax withdrawal timeline, we can see the importance of seeking professional help to quit using Xanax. With the right kind of support from addiction specialists and recovery facilities, this can help to have a much safer and more comfortable detox experience. A medically-supervised detox process can ensure the user is well-monitored and taken care of by qualified staff.