Xanax (Alprazolam) Withdrawal & Addiction Treatment
Xanax (alprazolam) is a short-acting benzodiazepine prescribed for treating generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adults.1
Xanax and other benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that, when used chronically, can cause physiological dependence and addiction.1,2,3
This page will discuss Xanax dependence and addiction, Xanax withdrawal, and how Xanax addiction is effectively treated.
Is Xanax Addictive?
Yes,3 Xanax is potentially addictive for several reasons:
- Misusing Xanax in large amounts can cause a substantial release of dopamine, a brain chemical involved in feelings of reward and pleasure.4 This increase in dopamine activity is believed to reward or reinforce continued use.5
- Chronic Xanax use can cause someone to develop a strong physiological dependence, meaning someone may experience severe and dangerous withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit using Xanax.2,3
Dependence and addiction will further be discussed in the following sections.
Xanax Dependence and Addiction
As stated above, chronic use of Xanax can cause someone to become dependent on the drug.
While dependence can be a strong contributing factor to addiction, dependence by itself does not necessarily indicate addiction. If they are using the drug as prescribed, a person can be dependent on Xanax but not addicted.
Conversely, someone who is addicted to Xanax may not be physically dependent on it.6
Dependence is a physiological adaption of the body to a substance like Xanax. When a person develops physical dependence, their body has become used to the presence of the drug.
If this person stops taking the substance, they will experience symptoms of withdrawal and may feel that they need the drug to function normally.6
People may develop Xanax dependence even when they are taking it as intended for only a few weeks.1 However, taking Xanax for longer periods increases the risk of dependence.1
Xanax addiction—clinically known as sedative use disorder—is a chronic but treatable condition characterized by the compulsive use of Xanax despite serious negative consequences.
Addiction can include physiological problems like dependence, as well as several harmful behavioral patterns that have a serious negative impact on someone’s life.7
The development of addiction often involves functional changes within the brain that impact a person’s motivation, thoughts, and behaviors.5
A person with a sedative use disorder will display several behavioral and physical signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction.7 Fortunately, there are Xanax addiction treatment options that can help someone achieve lasting sobriety.
Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms
Common Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:7
- Hand tremors.
- Rapid pulse.
- Psychomotor agitation.
- Fleeting visual or auditory hallucinations.
Is Xanax Withdrawal Dangerous?
Withdrawal from any benzodiazepine can potentially cause seizures, which can be fatal.3, without treatment, around 20-30% of people in benzodiazepine withdrawal will experience a grand mal seizure.5
Medical supervision during Xanax withdrawal can effectively mitigate the likelihood and risk of dangerous Xanax withdrawal symptoms, making the process much safer and more comfortable.3
How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Last?
Xanax withdrawal timeline may vary between patients. Generally, Xanax withdrawal starts 6-8 hours after the last dose and the symptoms peak by the 2nd day.7 The most acute Alprazolam withdrawal symptoms typically improve by the 5th day.7
Some patients suffer from protracted withdrawal syndrome in which milder withdrawal symptoms last for weeks or months.8
Possible symptoms of PAWS include:9
- Memory impairment.
- Paresthesia (burning or prickling sensations).
- Formication (feeling like insects are crawling under the skin).
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Medical detox is a process that helps someone experience Xanax as safely and comfortably as possible.3
Often, a patient may be given tapering doses of a long-acting benzodiazepine to help safely withdraw from Xanax dependence.3 Some patients may be given phenobarbital to manage Xanax withdrawal.3
Detox is an important component of Xanax addiction treatment but it is seldom enough for someone to achieve long-term recovery. Most people need continued treatment to address the many contributing factors to their addiction.3
Xanax Addiction Treatment Options
Effective addiction treatment often involves multiple evidence-based components, including, but not limited to, behavioral therapy, peer support, psychoeducation, and treatment for co-occurring disorders.10,11
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