Common Withdrawal Symptoms of Xanax Abuse

Common Withdrawal Symptoms of Xanax AbuseXanax is the brand name of a medication known as alprazolam.  It is a benzodiazepine drug often prescribed to treat anxiety or panic disorder. Like other benzodiazepine drugs it carries a high risk of causing physical dependence. Those who become dependent on Xanax may experience serious withdrawal symptoms when they cease taking the drug or reduce their dosage.

The medical website RxList notes that dependence on Xanax can develop even after relatively short-term use of the drug at recommended medical dosages. Longer periods of use (more than 12 weeks) and higher dosage amounts increase the risk. Of the two factors taking higher doses (more than 4 mg. a day) seems to be more related to difficulty tapering off of the drug.

Xanax and Neurotransmitter Levels

Xanax works in part by raising GABA levels in the body. GABA is a neurotransmitter associated with relaxation. The human body is always seeking to maintain balance, or homeostasis, and when it senses that neurotransmitter levels are out of balance, it adapts generally by producing less of a given body chemical or by making receptor cells less sensitive. This adaptation leads to tolerance in which larger doses of the drug must be taken to achieve effects formerly received from smaller levels.

If a drug continues to be taken, the body continues to adapt and push back against its effects. Eventually it adapts to such a degree that certain biological processes and neurotransmitter levels are only in balance when the drug is present in the body. This is drug dependence. When the drug is not regularly consumed, the body’s “push back” is unopposed, neurotransmitter levels are out of balance and withdrawal symptoms occur. Because of the nature of the biological adaptations, withdrawal symptoms are generally opposite in nature from the drug’s primary effects. Many of the symptoms of withdrawal from Xanax are related to low levels of GABA.

Common Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Xanax withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Sleep disturbances – Insomnia is a frequent Xanax withdrawal symptom. A Fox News article notes that dreams may also become more intense and that sleep may be disturbed by nightmares.
  • Anxiety and Panic attacks – Because many people use Xanax, either medically or recreationally, to counteract anxiety, it is easy to assume that any anxiety experienced is a return of the original condition. It may, however, be a withdrawal symptom. Often withdrawal anxiety is more intense than what was originally experienced. People in withdrawal from Xanax may also experience panic attacks, which may include rapid heartbeat, shaking, sweating and difficulty breathing.
  • Mood disturbances – Depression is a common withdrawal symptom from many drugs including Xanax. In addition to feelings of sadness, it may involve suicidal thoughts, apathy, or excessive sleeping. Other mood disturbances that may occur during withdrawal include an increase in obsessions, aggression, or irritability.
  • Flu-like symptoms – Some withdrawal symptoms may feel like having a stomach flu. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are not uncommon. Other gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation are also possible. Sufferers frequently feel lightheaded and experience dizziness, weakness and general malaise. There may be a decrease in appetite and a corresponding weight loss.
  • Sensory disturbances – There are a number of sensory disturbances that may result from Xanax withdrawal. Some people experience heightened sensory perception, in which senses become more acute. Everyday sounds may become extremely irritating. Dysosmia, or an altered sense of smell, is common. This may involve both heightened awareness of odors and confusion, in which typically pleasant smells seem unpleasant. Blurred vision is also not uncommon.
  • Confusion and cognitive impairment – Concentration and short-term memory is often impaired in people suffering from Xanax withdrawal. They may also suffer from what is sometimes called clouded sensorium, a mental state involving confusion, lack of ability to think clearly and a lack of full awareness of surroundings. People in withdrawal from Xanax may also experience hallucinations, usually visual. In addition they may experience depersonalization or derealization, in which they feel detached from their bodies and as if they are watching themselves from another perspective. Sudden re-experiencing of vivid memories from long ago is also possible.
  • Nerve and muscle problems – Xanax withdrawal can cause muscle cramps, twitches and stiffness.  Spasms and tremors are not uncommon. Nerve effects may include paresthesias in which there is a feeling of tingling, pricking, or burning. People may also experience itching or alternate between numbness and other abnormal sensations such as feeling excessively hot or cold.
  • Pain – Headaches may be experienced by people in withdrawal from Xanax. It is also possible to have pain in the jaw or teeth.
  • Heart abnormalities – People in withdrawal from Xanax may experience tachycardia, an unusually rapid heart rate. A healthy rate is generally considered to be between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
  • Seizures and delirium – A publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration notes that withdrawal from benzodiazepine drugs like Xanax may mimic withdrawal from alcohol in many ways and that, similar to alcohol, the most serious complications are delirium and seizures. The authors note that seizures may occur without being preceded by other withdrawal symptoms.

We Can Answer Your Questions

People who have become physically dependent on Xanax need to undergo detox under medical supervision. Those who have developed addiction need further treatment. If you are in need of help, give us a call. Counselors who staff our toll-free helpline can answer your questions and help you find a treatment program that meets your needs. They can even check your insurance coverage if you wish.  The helpline is staffed 24 hours a day, so there is never a wrong time to call. Why not call now?

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