Xanax, or alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine that when misused can cause medical emergencies, including overdose, deadly accidents under the influence, complications, and addiction.
Warning Signs of Misuse
According to the 2011 Treatment Episode Data Set Report, 60,200 people who received some type of drug misuse treatment were addicted to benzodiazepines like Xanax. That number has almost tripled since 1998 (it was 22,400), which shows that benzodiazepine addiction is growing each year. Learning how to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction can be a powerful tool to help people seek recovery. Some signs of misuse may include:
- Suffering relationships: This includes marriage troubles and/or strained friendships.
- Family problems: This may involve neglecting responsibilities and family members.
- Work problems: individuals may tend to skip work or become unproductive at their job, sometimes during a withdrawal period.
- Economic struggles: This may include worry over a lack of money, irresponsible spending.
- Cognitive impairment: This includes slurred speech or difficulty articulating words.
- Weight loss: Stress, lack of appetite, and unhealthy lifestyle choices can cause a sudden loss of weight
Physical Signs of Xanax Misuse
Misusing Xanax may exhibit some of the following warning signs physical symptoms:
- Dry mouth
- Memory trouble
- Inability to focus
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
Side Effects of Xanax Misuse and Addiction
Because Xanax is primarily a central nervous system depressant, virtually all of its potential side effects involve how the mind works and the impact on its functioning. Each of the following side effects from Xanax can be especially likely in cases of prolonged use.
- Lack of coordination
- Slurred speech: Brain functions are intentionally slowed with Xanax and with that, cognitive skills, thought processes, communication, language, and verbal interference slow.
- Confusion: Disorientation, haziness, aimless wandering can occur.
- Memory loss: This may include a slight case of impairment when attempting to remember something; usually only short-term memory is lost and in some cases only temporarily.
- Sedation: This includes varying levels of sedation, ranging from mild to severe and lasting up to three to four days for those who take large dosages of Xanax.
Long Term Health Concerns
Benzodiazepine drugs, like Xanax, have additional health issues than can occur when used for an extended period of time. When used for a prolonged time, the brain becomes tolerant to the drug, increasing the risk for an overdose. Stopping suddenly may lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms as the brain rebounds in an attempt to balance itself. These symptoms may include seizures, a spike in blood pressure, and intense anxiety. Long-term use of Xanax can also lead to depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, as well as the potential for disrupted memory and cognitive functions.
Dangers of Suddenly Stopping
Quitting Xanax all at once is a huge shock to the body and the mind. And while many individuals believe they can “muscle through” the withdrawal symptoms or simply aren’t aware of the danger to begin with, it is important to understand that this is a serious situation.
Stopping the use of Xanax suddenly can lead to a wide variety of withdrawal symptoms. Some of these are unpleasant but not necessarily dangerous, including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle pain
Other withdrawal symptoms, however, can place people in serious danger. Some of these include:
To avoid these side effects and to have the best possible chance at successfully avoiding relapse, individuals should not stop using Xanax use suddenly. Instead, there are guidelines to follow that can help make the process a bit easier.
How to Stop Safely & What to Expect
When stopping Xanax it is almost always better to taper the detox process.
Always speak with a professional so that they understand what medications you are taking and can help create the best withdrawal plan possible.
Timeline of Detox and Withdrawal
Though not everyone will experience the same benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms or experience similar symptoms in the same way, in general, the following timeline may describe what patients experience during benzo detox. For those who took a low dose of Xanax for a short period of time, the duration and experience of withdrawal symptoms are generally limited to rebound anxiety lasting for up to 4 days. That is, if the patient was taking Xanax in an attempt solely to manage anxiety symptoms and not for the purposes of misuse, then stopping use of the medication may result in a rebound effect, or a return of anxiety symptoms for a brief period.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms & Effects
Xanax withdrawal can be severe, and even fatal if detox is done too quickly or without medical supervision. Symptoms usually begin with a few hours of the last Xanax dose and increase over time until they peak after a few days, linger, and then slowly begin to dissipate. They may last for a few weeks or longer. If the person struggling with the addiction was taking a high dose of Xanax at the time of detox, additional withdrawal symptoms may include seizures and/or symptoms of psychosis.
Typically, physical symptoms of Xanax withdrawal include:
- Blurred vision and sensitivity to light
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in the sense of smell or sensitivity to smells
- Aching muscles and headaches
- Cramps and diarrhea
- Sweating or fever
- Tingling in the arms and legs or numbness in the extremities
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
- Breathing difficulties
Because Xanax is a prescription medication that’s used to treat certain conditions and symptoms, these symptoms return when a person stops using the drug. Xanax withdrawal produces rebound symptoms, which means that when the symptoms do return, they tend to be more severe than they were before the drug. The most common psychological effects of Xanax detox include:
- Short-term memory loss
Tips to Get Through Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
- Enroll in professional detox: A professional detox program will be able to provide supervision that will help the patient weather all withdrawal symptoms safely and effectively and become drug-free by the end of the process. Therapeutic support, as well as medical monitoring and care, ensure that the patient is safe as they undergo detox.
- Do not leave detox early: Leaving a professional detox program early is almost guaranteed to result in relapse, and relapse during the detox period can be deadly. It is important that patients have access to any and all resources that will make their experience more comfortable and ensure their safety as the days unfold.
- Connect with other people: Other patients who are currently undergoing detox, those who have recently experienced detox and understand the process, and therapists who specialize in substance misuse treatment can all be helpful resources during detox. The withdrawal symptoms experienced by those detoxing off Xanax are unique, and it can be a great benefit to patients to realize that theirs is not an isolated experience. Reaching out to a therapist can mean that the patient receives encouragement, guidance, and assistance in making it through detox and beginning the process of recovery.
- Make healthful choices: Though making thoughtful and positive choices on a moment-by-moment basis may not be the focus during the first week of withdrawal symptoms, slowly patients will begin to have room for more than just detox symptoms. First, hydrating regularly and often is important. Dehydration will only worsen physical and mental health symptoms. Once food becomes a palatable idea, avoiding fried, sugary, and fatty foods in favor of small fruit- and vegetable-based snacks will ensure that the brain and body have the nutrients necessary to function. Also, throughout detox, gentle exercise like walks can help to clear the mind and help the body to mend after addiction.
- Utilize holistic therapies: There are a number of holistic therapies that can be helpful in managing Xanax withdrawal symptoms, depending upon the specifics of the patient’s experience. For example, massage and body work can be effective in helping to manage headaches, muscle pain and stiffness, and anxiety. Additionally, acupuncture and aromatherapy may help to lessen stress and irritability, and yoga and meditation can be positive choices later in detox to help get the body and mind back on track after addiction.
- Follow up with therapeutic treatment: Though intensive therapy is not a part of detox, it is a necessary follow-up treatment to detox. Learning how to find coping mechanisms other than Xanax use is essential, especially for people who struggle with an anxiety disorder. Additionally, addressing issues that may make it more difficult to maintain sobriety are an important part of becoming stable in a new life that is defined by positivity and wellness.
Multiple Phases of Treatment
Detox is an important first step when attempting to overcome addiction, but it is not the only step in transitioning from active drug use to long-term sobriety. Comprehensive care begins with professional detox and continues with a range of therapeutic therapies chosen based on the patient’s needs, and is followed by aftercare services. Like the specifics of withdrawal symptoms, the specific therapies that will be most appropriate will vary from patient to patient. Many will find healing through incorporating any combination of the following:
- Stabilization: In some cases, especially when the patient is taking a high dose of Xanax, the first step in treatment will be stabilization.
- Detox: Physical withdrawal symptoms can be significant, as described above, or they may play a relatively small part in the overall treatment experience of the patient. Most will experience some level of discomfort in the first days or weeks of recovery, and if this is a challenge, then detox will be necessary.
- Diagnostic evaluation: It is important to identify all the issues that are challenging to the patient’s ability to remain in recovery. Assessments for potential brain trauma, co-occurring mental health conditions, pain, trauma, learning disabilities, and/or behavioral conditions may be appropriate as well as treatment for underlying conditions.
- Traditional treatment options: Personal therapy, group therapy, 12-step meetings, and other forms of traditional treatment have long been the building blocks for most addiction treatment programs. Millions of patients have been able to successfully utilize these treatments in order to aid them in addressing substance abuse problems, symptoms of co-occurring disorders like anxiety, family dynamics, and the process of reaching future goals in recovery.
- Alternative treatment options: A wide range of treatment options – from equine-assisted therapy and outdoors therapy to psychodrama and more – have all been proven to assist in helping patients to better understand why they abused substances and to find ways to manage those issues more effectively. In some cases, the non-verbal nature of the therapies was beneficial in helping patients to explore different ways of relating to others, themselves, and the world.
- Holistic treatment options: Therapeutic interventions like yoga, tai chi, massage, acupuncture, and more can all help to relieve physical and mental stress. These holistic options also teach effective coping skills, like clearing the mind and focusing on the breath, which can aid in better management of anxiety.
- Aftercare and follow-up treatment: As effective as inpatient or outpatient rehab can be in helping to stabilize patients in recovery and create the foundation for a life in sobriety, aftercare and alumni involvement is also crucial.
Ready to Move Forward
For many people struggling with substance misuse, the thought of undergoing withdrawal symptoms is less than appealing. Many postpone entrance into treatment simply because they don’t feel prepared to undergo detox. With the right resources and with medical supervision, your loved one will be able to successfully navigate detox. Contact us at Futures Recovery Healthcare to connect your loved one with the treatment needed to begin a bright future without drugs and alcohol abuse.