Xanax withdrawal involves letting your body grow accustomed to life without the drug. It is a perfectly natural and very healthy process that starts you on the path to healing.
But just because it’s natural and healthy doesn’t mean this process is always pleasant. In fact, some of the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal can be severely uncomfortable, and some can even be life-threatening.
Because Xanax withdrawal can be dangerous, most experts recommend that you get treatment in a facility that offers both monitoring and medical care. But if you are concerned about enrolling in a detox program, you may be able to take advantage of at-home care. You’ll just need to work with a professional to get the job done.
Why Do You Need Withdrawal?
Xanax is a benzodiazepine medication that is known to interfere with chemical processes within the brain. It works along the dopamine pathway, which the brain uses to signal happiness and reward. The drug can have a sedating effect on the brain’s electrical signals, causing a feeling of calm.
In the early days of an addiction, you may have taken small doses of Xanax on an irregular basis. But in time, you may have discovered that those small doses didn’t seem to bring about the same effect. You may have taken bigger and bigger doses as the addiction progressed.
According to an article in Psychiatric News, the maximum approved dose of Xanax is 4 mg (milligrams) per day. It isn’t uncommon for people with an addiction to take up to 20 mg per day.
Very high doses of drugs can cause an immense amount of damage to brain cells, and they may not be able to function properly without the presence of drugs. In a sense, the drug use has optimized these cells for drug use.
Withdrawal allows your brain cells to return to their pre-drug state so that they can function properly even if you never take Xanax again. Withdrawal is not considered a treatment for addiction, as this process will not help you learn how to deal with Xanax cravings, but it is considered the first step toward recovery. When you have been through withdrawal, you can work on developing those vital sober habits in treatment.
When is At-Home Withdrawal Unsafe?
When a drug of abuse causes a reaction, it is not at all uncommon for the opposite reaction to occur during withdrawal. Xanax, for example, causes sedation of electrical signals in the brain. During withdrawal, when the reverse takes place, a great deal of electrical activity can take hold in the brain, and that can cause seizures.
A case study published in Emergency Medicine News makes the risk of seizures quite clear. Here, a man developed seizures in association with Xanax use, and since his family was nearby, they could get him the help he needed to make the seizures stop. If he had been alone, it’s possible those seizures could have taken his life.
Because Xanax withdrawal can come with seizures, it is reasonable to say that it is not safe to go through withdrawal at home alone. Getting help in a detox facility means having access to medical treatment around the clock, just in case seizures appear.
It Might Not Be Safe for People to Go Through an At-Home Detox From Xanax if They:
- Have an underlying psychiatric illness
- Use other drugs in addition to Xanax
- Take very high doses of Xanax
- Inject Xanax
- Have a history of seizures
These attributes can increase the risk that a serious problem will appear during detox, and it means that having access to a medical team is very important.
It’s also important to note that Xanax side effects can persist for weeks, if not months. According to research published in the journal Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, people can experience cognitive deficits from benzodiazepine use for six months or even longer. This is an older study, but the data remains pertinent.
This means people might be at risk for relapse to Xanax for an incredibly long time. Those who do not have plans to enroll in treatment programs after at-home detox are likely to relapse to drug use. Transfer to treatment is a common part of structured detox, and it could mean the difference between recovery and relapse for some.
How Does At-Home Withdrawal Work?
Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be “extremely unpleasant.” They can include the following:
- Aching muscles
Symptom severity can also vary, according to the World Health Organization, meaning that you may not feel better with each passing day. You may feel well on one day and then feel horrible the next. The brain does not tend to heal in a linear fashion, especially when drugs are removed very quickly.
In theory, you could stop taking Xanax abruptly and simply wait for your symptoms to fade away. But this process can be extremely uncomfortable and dangerous, so it isn’t advisable. Instead, you can work with a doctor on a plan for your at-home withdrawal.
Your doctor can assess your health and the severity of your addiction before you start withdrawal, and your doctor might help to treat underlying conditions that make at-home withdrawal particularly dangerous. Your doctor also can provide you with medications to help ease you through the process.
According to research published in the journal Australian Prescriber, Xanax is one of the most powerful benzodiazepines on the market. A 2 mg Xanax tablet is the equivalent of four 5 mg diazepam tablets in terms of the perception of intoxication. Xanax hits the body quickly and takes a long time to fade away. Those attributes make Xanax particularly dangerous, but they also hold keys to one’s recovery.
As experts writing in the journal La Presse Medicale explain, doctors can switch people taking Xanax to another form of benzodiazepine, and the dose of that medication can be tapered by 25 percent each week. Patients following this protocol need to stay in touch with their doctors during this process, and they need to describe any new symptoms that appear as they move through a taper.
In a study of the efficacy of this approach, published in the journal BMC Psychiatry,researchers report that patients prefer this tapering approach. Even though this approach takes longer, and even though it requires that you maintain a connection with a doctor, it does seem to be an effective and preferred method. You can follow this protocol at home.
While you are moving through an at-home taper, you will need to take care of your health. You may not feel ready to go to work or spend time with friends, at least at first. You may not have enough energy to exercise, care for children, or tackle other rigorous tasks. Be patient with your body and only do what you can. Get help with tasks.
You may also have intense cravings for Xanax, and you will need a community that can keep you safe. You may benefit from moving into a trusted family member’s house for a time so that you will be far from your dealers and at-home temptations. Your family member can also keep watch over your recovery and get you help quickly if you do develop seizures as you heal.
Other Options to Try
While it’s certainly possible to work through Xanax at home with the help of a doctor, this is not your only option. You can also enroll in a medical detox program to get the help you need. In a program like this, you will be far from the temptations that surround you at home, and you will have medical staff to step in if something goes wrong.
Most programs involve moving into a facility for at least 10 days, and during this time, you may not be allowed to contact friends or family members. As you recover, you may earn those privileges back, but you may need to cede control in early stages.
Ultimately, a medical detox program provides the safest way to withdraw from Xanax. While you can technically detox at home, it should only be done in consult with a physician.