Xanax, also more widely known as alprazolam, is an anti-anxiety medication from the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Many doctors prescribe this medication to treat panic disorder or anxiety disorders that cause undue interruption in the individual’s life. When Xanax is taken for a prolonged period of time, Xanax detox may be necessary in order to help the individual safely and effectively stabilize.
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What is Xanax Detox?
Xanax detox is a process of stabilization that is necessary after an individual has taken Xanax repeatedly for a prolonged period of time (at least 4 weeks). Like many benzodiazepines, Xanax can be habit-forming and does tend to cause distinct changes in the brain when it is taken successively over a period of 30 days or more. As such, many users will require medical intervention as well as a process of slowing weaning off the Xanax in order to safely detox and prepare for counseling or behavioral intervention.
According to SAMHSA, “detoxification refers to the process of reversing a patient’s physical dependence.” When an individual enters treatment for Xanax addiction, he or she will begin a period of “sobering up” during which the Xanax is metabolized and the patient is stabilized. The period of time that it takes to effective detox from Xanax can range anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on the severity of the addiction, the amount of Xanax in the user’s system, the length of time the Xanax was used and the method of detoxification the is used.
Who Needs Detox?
According to the journal Addiction, if you have taken Xanax for a period of time more than 30 days or if you have used excessive amounts of Xanax for a short duration of time (5-7 days) you may need detox in order to safely overcome the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal. While detoxing from Xanax is rarely a life-threatening situation, there are risks involved.
You may need detox if:
- You have taken Xanax for 4 weeks or more.
- You have taken excessive amounts of Xanax for a period of 5 days or more.
- You have been taking Xanax for a prolonged period of time.
- You suffer from anxiety.
- You suffer from other health conditions.
- You feel sick or otherwise upset when you don’t have Xanax.
- You are addicted to Xanax.
- You suffer from symptoms of withdrawal when you quit taking Xanax or when your dose is reduced abruptly.
What Happens in Detox?
During detox, the patient is provided with medical treatment and care that is geared toward helping him or her to feel at ease during withdrawal. The idea of detox is primarily to stabilize the patient so that he or she can be prepared physically for counseling and therapy following the detoxification period.
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Recognizing that withdrawal symptoms are often the leading cause of relapse in patients who are trying to overcome Xanax addiction, the focus of detox is to reduce symptoms of withdrawal and to eliminate cravings so as to substantially reduce the overall risk of relapse.
According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, patients who undergo Xanax detox may experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms that can begin very quickly after the drug is eliminated from the user’s treatment regimen. Symptoms of withdrawal that are commonly treated in detox include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Upset stomach
In rare, but very possible cases, Xanax withdrawal can lead to serious side effects that require immediate medical treatment. Such side effects may include:
- Hallucinations that pose a serious risk to the user’s safety.
- Seizures which can lead to other serious health problems.
- Fever which can spike and cause organ damage.
How Long will Detox Take?
There is no specified time period during which a user will be completely free from the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal. Various individual circumstances come into play when determining the length of time that a user will have to continue receiving treatment in detox. Some of the elements that can increase the amount of time that it takes to stabilize and effectively overcome withdrawal include:
- The amount of time that the user was taking Xanax. Longer use equals a longer detox phase.
- The amount of Xanax that was regularly taken. Higher doses equal longer time necessary to detox.
- The individual health of the user. Those in good health generally detox more quickly.
- Whether detox has occurred in the past. Each subsequent withdrawal period tends to be longer and more uncomfortable for the user.
Methods of Treatment
During Xanax detox, you will likely face many challenges but the various methods of treatment that are used to assist you in your recovery efforts can help you to establish your goals and to achieve them too. The most common methods of treatment that are used in detox include:
- Tapering the dose to gradually reduce Xanax use without provoking significant withdrawal symptoms.
- The administration of other anxiety medications such as Ativan or a similar medication.
- The use of behavioral therapy to help control behavioral response to anxiety.
- The use of support groups to elicit supportive care from peers and others in recovery who can help to establish health relationships that are conducive to recovery.
- Counseling and therapy to reduce the impact of trauma or stress that is often the underlying cause of anxiety.
According to the World Health Organization, the safest way to manage Xanax withdrawal is to gradually taper the dosage amount.
Most often, Xanax detox will take place under the direct supervision of a doctor, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the process must take place in a hospital or residential setting. If tapering is the chosen method of detox, the patient will likely visit a doctor or treatment professional once every 2-3 days to determine the appropriate balance of dose reduction to reduce withdrawal symptoms whilst eliminating the drug from everyday use.
Inpatient detox involves spending time in a residential setting in which around-the-clock monitoring can take place to ensure patient safety. While inpatient detox is an acceptable method of treatment for Xanax addiction, it’s not always feasible or affordable for all patients. Many cannot leave their jobs or other responsibilities while they detox and thus inpatient detox becomes more of an obstacle than it does a helpful offering.
If you are heavily addicted, if you cannot control your drug use, or if you have tried tapering off and relapsed or increased your dose back up, inpatient detox may be right for you. Through this method, you will be removed from the dangers of monitoring your drug use on your own and you will have the benefit of around-the-clock care that ensures your abstinence and your overall safety and health.
For most, Xanax detox can take place in an outpatient setting. Here, you will visit a doctor or treatment professional on a regular basis to discuss your symptoms of withdrawal and to work toward a common goal of tapering the drug use off until you reach a zero dose. Outpatient detox is generally more affordable and easier to commit to than residential detox but it also leaves a lot of the recovery process up to the addict to monitor which can increase the risk of relapse.
Outpatient detox may be right for you if:
- You have a strong system of support through friends and family at home who will help you to monitor your drug use.
- You are not heavily addicted to Xanax.
- You do not suffer from extreme withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking Xanax.
- You have not already tried this method of detox.
Both methods, inpatient and outpatient, can be highly effective when there is a strong commitment from the patient to remain abstinent.
If you’re ready to get help, consider the great benefits of Xanax detox and take your first steps toward sobriety by calling 800-483-2193(Who Answers?) today!
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (1997). Appendix A- Pharmacotherapy- A Guide to Substance Abuse Services for Primary Care Clinicians.
- Addiction. (1994). The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). TIP 45 Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
- World Health Organization. (2009). Withdrawal Management- Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.