Xanax Withdrawal

Xanax withdrawal can cause an array of debilitating symptoms, including anxiety and insomnia. It can also cause life-threatening seizures. Medical experts say the best way to get off Xanax is with a slow taper. In severe cases, inpatient detox is necessary.
Topics On this page
| | 16 sources

Xanax, or alprazolam, is a popular anti-anxiety drug used by millions of Americans. But regular use of the benzodiazepine can easily lead to physical dependence.

When dependence on Xanax occurs, a person’s body will require the drug to function normally. Ceasing use or lowering one’s dose can bring on unpleasant and life-threatening withdrawal reactions.

Benzo dependence can develop with four to six weeks of continuous use, according to a 2007 study in the British Journal of General Practice. At least a third of people who use benzos, including as Xanax, will experience withdrawal symptoms when reducing their dosage.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax withdrawal can cause an array of physical and psychological problems. Withdrawal can come on when a person lowers their dose or quits using Xanax suddenly.

Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Altered sense of smell
  • Mental fog or cloudy thinking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle cramps and twitching
  • Tingling in the arms and legs
  • Blurred vision

Withdrawal symptoms tend to be more severe with short-acting benzos, such as Xanax and Ativan, than with longer-acting benzodiazepines. Avoidance of withdrawal symptoms is often a contributing factor to Xanax addiction.

Can Xanax Withdrawal Kill You?

Taking too much Xanax or mixing it with other drugs can lead to a Xanax overdose — but Xanax withdrawal can also be deadly.

Xanax withdrawal can trigger seizures, which can be fatal. Seizures are more common when a person stops the drug abruptly. That’s why it’s never advisable to quit “cold turkey.”

Seizures are also more likely in someone taking high doses of alprazolam, such as those contained in Xanax bars — but seizures can occur at any level of use or dependence.

Severe withdrawal symptoms can also lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

What Does Xanax Withdrawal Feel Like?

While Xanax withdrawal is different for everyone, many people describe the process as difficult and miserable.

People who have misused other drugs have described Xanax withdrawal as worse than withdrawal from opioids and other drugs — in part because it’s so long-lasting and unpredictable. Symptoms don’t always decline in a steady fashion, and symptoms may fluctuate.

Christy Huff, a cardiologist who became dependent on Xanax in 2015, developed dozens of symptoms when tapering off Xanax.

Huff was prescribed the drug to treat insomnia related to a painful eye condition. But when she tried to quit the drug cold turkey, she was sleeping only three hours a night. She could barely swallow or eat and ended up losing 20 pounds.

Through online research, Huff discovered she needed to taper off the drug slowly — but even gradual weaning proved miserable.

In a series of tweets, Huff chronicled more than 79 symptoms during her Xanax taper, including “teeth chattering chills” and “bone crushing, soul sucking” fatigue. Other symptoms ranged from ringing of ears to teeth clenching to morning dry heaves to “dark and tortured” thinking.

Today, as co-director of the nonprofit Benzodiazepine Information Coalition, Huff uses her personal story to educate others about the dangers of benzodiazepine drugs.

Xanax Withdrawal Timeline

The onset of Xanax withdrawal is related to how long Xanax stays in your system. Alprazolam has a half-life of about 11 hours, meaning half the drug has left the body in that time. Withdrawal symptoms usually begin within 24 hours to 48 hours of stopping the drug or lowering your dose.

The acute phase of Xanax withdrawal can last anywhere from five days to four weeks. Symptoms usually peak at two weeks and most people will return to normal within eight to 14 days.

Protracted Withdrawal

In some people, symptoms seem to resolve only to flare up in wavelike intervals. These recurrent episodes of symptoms are known as protracted withdrawal.

Typical symptoms of protracted withdrawal include: anxiety, insomnia, trouble thinking, depression, sensory problems and gastrointestinal trouble.

Interdose Withdrawal

People taking high doses of Xanax and other short-acting benzos can also experience withdrawal symptoms in between doses of the medication. Interdose withdrawal symptoms occur when the drug wears off and usually present with early morning anxiety or anxiety in between doses.

The FDA product label for Xanax advises that a patient’s total daily dosage be broken up and given on a more frequent basis if interdose withdrawal symptoms develop.

Interdose withdrawal symptoms are a sign of physical dependence. If you are experiencing interdose withdrawal symptoms or other Xanax side effects, talk to your doctor.

Treatment Options for Xanax Withdrawal

Unfortunately, many people are unable to successfully quit taking Xanax on their own.

A medically managed detox can provide additional support to help you overcome Xanax dependence and addiction. Depending on the severity of your dependence, you may be able to detox on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Xanax Taper

Xanax withdrawal is best managed by slowly weaning off the drug. Your doctor can prescribe a tapering schedule to gradually reduce your dose over several weeks or months.

This won’t necessarily prevent withdrawal symptoms, but it may make them more tolerable. Gradual tapering also gives your brain time to adapt to the drug’s absence and decreases your risk of suffering a life-threatening seizure.

Your doctor may also choose to switch you to a longer-acting benzo, such as lorazepam (Valium), before beginning your taper. This often eases withdrawal symptoms and helps patients stick to their tapering regimen.

Inpatient Detox

If your withdrawal symptoms are severe, you may need hospitalization or inpatient care at a detox center.

An inpatient detox provides round-the-clock support and medical monitoring. You’ll likely receive medications to minimize the risk of seizures and relieve other symptoms, such as anxiety, nausea and insomnia.

Some inpatient detox centers also offer holistic treatments, such as yoga, meditation, and massage to assist your healing.

Rehab and Treatment for Xanax Addiction

Once you’re stable, you can begin the next steps of recovery. Not everyone who develops a dependence on Xanax is addicted, but the two often go hand in hand.

Dependence can become addiction when a person continues using Xanax despite negative consequences. A person who is addicted to Xanax will experience cravings and a compulsion to use the medication.

Benzo treatment and rehab provides intensive therapy and counseling that teaches you skills to help you live drug-free. Call today to learn how rehab can help break the bonds of a Xanax addiction and get your life back on track.

Medical Disclaimer: DrugRehab.com aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Amy Keller, RN, BSN
Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
As a former journalist and a registered nurse, Amy draws on her clinical experience, compassion and storytelling skills to provide insight into the disease of addiction and treatment options. Amy has completed the American Psychiatric Nurses Association’s course on Effective Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder and continuing education on Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Amy is an advocate for patient- and family-centered care. She previously participated in Moffitt Cancer Center’s patient and family advisory program and was a speaker at the Institute of Patient-and Family-Centered Care’s 2015 national conference.
Kim Borwick, MA
Editor, DrugRehab.com

Was this article helpful?

How helpful would you rate this article?


    DrugRehab.com logo

    Thanks for helping us make our website better for visitors like you!

    View Sources

    Ready to make a change?

    Get cost-effective, quality addiction care that truly works.

    Start Your Recovery
    We're here to help you or your loved one.
    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Calls will be answered by a qualified admissions representative with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), the owners of DrugRehab.com. We look forward to helping you!

    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Phone calls to treatment center listings not associated with ARS will go directly to those centers. DrugRehab.com and ARS are not responsible for those calls.