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Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam, a prescription drug primarily used for the short-term management of anxiety and panic disorder.1 This drug is a benzodiazepine, a class of central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Xanax alleviates anxiety by inhibiting abnormal excitatory signaling in the brain.2
Suddenly discontinuing Xanax may result in symptoms such as:1,2,3
One potential feature of acute benzodiazepine withdrawal is rebound anxiety, a return of anxiety symptoms that are greater in severity than they were before Xanax treatment was initiated.1, The rebound anxiety should resolve within 2-3 days; however, the baseline-level anxiety may recur afterward and remain until it is treated in some other way.
For short-acting benzodiazepines such as Xanax, withdrawal will begin relatively quickly, within 6-12 hours. Symptoms will generally peak in intensity on the second day and many will largely resolve within 4 or 5 days.5
This timeline is only an estimate and individual differences and patterns of Xanax use may influence the timeline. Factors that may influence the severity of acute withdrawal include:4
Shorter-acting benzodiazepines may be associated with more severe withdrawal syndromes than longer-acting benzodiazepines.4 For those wanting to quit Xanax, it’s important to seek medical assistance. Inpatient medical detox provides 24-hour supervision and care for acute Xanax withdrawal and also often serves as an entry point into further addiction treatment.
It is most likely to be successful when:3
While detox is necessary, more comprehensive therapeutic treatment will benefit those who are addicted to the drug. Detox is an invaluable part of treatment but primarily focuses on the physical dependence and withdrawal management.
The compulsion to use Xanax will likely still be there even after withdrawal syndrome resolution. Addiction treatment can address the issues behind this compulsion and help you grow your motivation to stay sober.
In treatment, you may also learn new drug-refusal skills and will work on developing a sober support network you can lean on should you feel compelled to use Xanax again. Finally, several behavioral therapeutic techniques may offer you non-pharmacologic ways to help manage your anxiety (even if alternate medication treatment is initiated).