Xanax Withdrawal and Addiction

Many of us have been there. You are feeling anxious - your heart is racing, you feel as though you might pass out. You've told yourself you're going to die or go crazy. Panic attacks are absolutely no fun! In fact, they send scores of people to emergency rooms all over the world. When doctors find nothing wrong, it only heightens the anxiety. I mean after all, something MUST BE Wrong! How else do you explain the horrific sensations and emotions you went through during the panic attack? Unfortunately, many people are never told what they've just experienced. The people that are diagnosed as having had a panic attack are usually prescribed Xanax (alprazolam), or something similar to ease their anxiety.

Xanax is really very effective. Within about half an hour it starts to calm that racing heart, and diminish those terrifying feelings. I absolutely love Xanax, don't you? There lies the problem! Xanax (or any other sedative) is meant to be a short-term solution to anxiety or panic. Unfortunately, if it works, many people keep taking it, and doctors keep prescribing it. And before you know, you are among the many who are addicted. After awhile it takes more and more of the medication to achieve the same results that you got from the original dose. That is exactly what happened to me.

I took Xanax for nearly twelve years. It's extremely hard to believe! Where did the time go? My original prescription was for 1/2 mg three times a day as needed. This was fine for awhile, but pretty soon I was unable to sleep at night, because of the anxiety. So guess what? You guessed it...my dose was increased to 1mg at night. Well, over the years my dose continued to increase until I was prescribed 1mg three times a day, but was told I could take 2mgs at night in order to achieve sleep.

After a few years, I started to abuse my prescription. What I mean by abuse is that sometimes I would save my daytime dose for a rainy day. If I had a day where I was particularly anxious, depressed or angry, I would take well over my prescribed dose. There were a couple of occasions where I took as much as six milligrams at a time. Do not try this at home! Too much Xanax can slow your respirations to the point that you could stop breathing.  If you mix alcohol with Xanax it's a real recipe for disaster. Fortunately, I'm not a drinker, so I never attempted that.

Enough was enough. Xanax was starting to effect my entire life in a negative way.  It was time to stop. I probably don't need to tell you that I went through absolute hell when I started to go through withdrawals. Some people choose to go into a rehabilitation center to detox from Xanax, but that isn't always an option for everyone. Thank goodness I have a VERY supportive family! My parents kept my medication (Xanax) for me, and gave me the proper dose each day. This way, I was able to avoid the temptation of taking more than I should while I was cutting my dose, until eventually I wasn't taking any at all. This wasn't easy for anyone involved!

Essentially, withdrawal symptoms from Xanax feel like the opposite of the therapeutic effects. Xanax withdrawal can produce especially severe withdrawal symptoms. Here is a list of psychological and physical symptoms:

Psychological symptoms: anxiety** (including panic attacks), depression**, insomnia*, serialization/depersonalization* (feelings of unreality/detachment from self), obsessive negative thoughts*, (particularly of a violent and/or sexual nature) rapid mood changes* (especially including outbursts of anger or rage), phobias* (especially agoraphobia and fear of insanity), dysphoria* (loss of capacity to enjoy life; possibility a combination of depression, anxiety, and serialization/depersonalization), impairment of cognitive functioning*, suicidal thoughts*, nightmares, hallucinations, psychosis, pill cravings. Note that it is far more common to fear psychosis than it is to actually experience it.

Physical Symptoms: abnormal sensitivity to sensory stimuli* (such as loud noise or bright light), muscle tension/pain**, joint pain*, tinnitus*, headaches*, shaking/tremors*, blurred vision* (and other complications related to the eyes), itchy skin* (including formication, i.e. sensations of insects crawling on skin), gastrointestinal discomfort*, electric shock sensations*, paraesthesiae* (numbness and pins and needles, especially in extremities), fatigue*, weakness in the extremities* (particularly the legs), feelings of inner vibrations* (especially in the torso), sweating, fluctuations in body temperature, difficulty in swallowing, loss of appetite, "flu like" symptoms, fasciculation’s (muscle twitching), metallic taste in mouth, nausea, extreme thirst (including dry mouth and increased frequency of urination), sexual dysfunction (or occasional increase in libido), heart palpitations, dizziness, vertigo, breathlessness.

While not everyone experiences all of these symptoms, it is also possible to experience symptoms that aren't listed. Because of the possibility of seizure, it is important to mention that one should not go off of Xanax or any other sedative "cold-turkey." Withdrawal from Xanax takes time, patience, and of course a strong desire. But it can be done!

I'm pleased to say that I have been completely Xanax free for almost a month now! It certainly wasn't easy, but it was totally worth it. I'm slowly finding ways to deal with anxiety without the help of sedatives. It's really different when you are accustomed to taking a pill if you get anxious, but it's a much healthier solution.

My hat's off to anyone who is going through this. I've attached a very helpful link below. Hang in there!

Comments 43 comments

jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

This is absolutely a well written hub. I can almost feel what you went through as I was reading it.

I am really happy for you that you are now Xanax free. That must have taken a lot of determination and will power. Thank God you have a very supportive family.

All the best!


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado Author

Thank you very much for the kind words. I am very fortunate to have the family that I do. I'm not sure what I would have done, or would do without them. I appreciate you taking the time to read my hub. (-: Keep writing...I've enjoyed your articles.


Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 7 years ago from Delaware

Hi Katie, Thank you for a well-written, informative explanation of Xanax withdrawal. Coincidentally, many of the withdrawal symptoms you describe are daily occurences for MS patients, so I know first hand how uncomfortable it is to endure such feelings. I am glad your withdrawal is complete. I wondered why people take Xanax during the day, as I have been prescribed it as a sleeping aid, to allow me to fall into a deep sleep, instead of waking up every hour on the hour ( a weird MS thing) Now I understand it actually relaxes during daylight hours and releases anxiety.

It was very easy to give this article a thumbs up. I look forward to reading more about your experiences.

~Jen


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado Author

Thank you again, Jen. That's interesting (unfortunate too) that you experience these side effects as symptoms of MS. The way our bodies act and react is so fascinating. Don't you think?


Davinagirl3 profile image

Davinagirl3 7 years ago

Wow. This is an interesting story. I have heard horror stories about Xanax addiction and I am glad you were able to control your habit. This is an extremely well written hub.


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado Author

Thank you. Yes, it's a difficult addiction. But then, I don't think there are any "easy" addictions. (-;


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 7 years ago from California

Thanks for the testimonial. More people are addicted to prescription drugs than ever. Perhaps they should try coke or heroin instead. Ha! Methadone anyone? I'm glad you finally kicked it. Later!


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado Author

You are funny! What you say is true though, more people than ever are addicted to presciption drugs. What's the world coming to?!?!


oscillationatend profile image

oscillationatend 7 years ago from a recovering narcissist.

Perfect.

I feel sorrow for those who grow to become needful of any man-made drug.

Self medication starts with meditation. ;)


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado Author

I would agree! What kind of meditation do you do?


oscillationatend profile image

oscillationatend 7 years ago from a recovering narcissist.

I autowrite, for one. All of my poetry is through a subconscious connection, I cannot even fathom where it comes from.

Otherwise, I lucid dream. I lay at night, and listen to everything around me...and become one. If that makes sense.


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado Author

Very interesting. Yes, it makes perfect sense. I used to do some of that as child. It's amazing how some of us close ourselves off as we get older.


oscillationatend profile image

oscillationatend 7 years ago from a recovering narcissist.

We grow to hate that which surrounds us, we grow to become jaded. I have not that ability, and that is perhaps a flaw.


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado Author

Too bad that many more people didn't have that ability. (-;


oscillationatend profile image

oscillationatend 7 years ago from a recovering narcissist.

It's a curse, a fluke of existence. =P


Staci-Barbo7 profile image

Staci-Barbo7 7 years ago from North Carolina

The information you provided in this Hub will make a real grassroots contribution to a growing awareness of the dangers of benzodiazepine addiction. Dittos!


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado Author

I hope so, Staci-Barbo7. They are very addictive drugs, and VERY difficult to get off of, as you've heard in this hub.


lyricsingray 7 years ago

Really great article-wow, can we use it for the 15th-if Im bothering you just tell me but this people/addicts have got to read my hubuddy - bravo girl!

Kimberly

ps-wrote henna hub-mentioned your hub


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado Author

Thanks, Kimberly! Now why in the world would you be bothering me? Absolutely you can use this! And thank you for mentioning my hub. (-:


lyricsingray 7 years ago

your awesome girl

besthubby,

kimberly


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado Author

Thanks, Kimberly! You have accomplished alot lately yourself. (-;


rsmallory profile image

rsmallory 7 years ago from Central Texas

Hi Katie-Thanks for this informative hub. My sister is abusing xanax and other drugs. It is a very hard situation for my family. Her children are living with me now. She has disowned all of us and refuses to listen to reason. I hope she realizes the damage she is doing to herself physicall and relationally before it is to late. Thanks for this encouraging word.


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 7 years ago from Colorado Author

Your sister is lucky that she has someone like you who cares, and is willing to step in for awhile to take care of her children. I hope your sister decides to get the help that she needs very soon.


brightforyou profile image

brightforyou 6 years ago from Florida

Great hub with lots of excellent advice and honesty. I just wrote one today about the ravages of Xanax if you are interested: http://hubpages.com/health/Xanax -

I am now a fan!


Panic 5 years ago

I went to a psychiatrist for a myriad of reasons, one of them being panic disorder. He prescribed me a low dose of a common benzodiazepine for it.

It all seemed simple enough. Whenever I knew I was about to be in a stressful situation, especially driving, I would take one. When I felt fine, I didn't. I used them as I felt needed.

Well, when my psychiatrist wrote me prescription after prescription for the medication, I finally told him I didn't need any refills; I had plenty. He was surprised. He told me that I should take four tablets a day every day, regardless if I felt like I needed them or not. He said it has to build up in my system.

So I followed his instructions - My first big mistake.


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 5 years ago from Colorado Author

Panic: A psychiatrist of all people should know how addictive benzodiazapines are! That's terrible and I'm so sorry. How are you doing now?


beth 5 years ago

thanks i am myself going through xanax withdrawals, except i am only 17 and was abusing the drug for all the wrong reasons. but now i am drug free, week one complete.


6hype9 4 years ago

Is it ok to take ibeprofen for withdrawals from xanax??


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 4 years ago from Colorado Author

Are you doing well these days? I hope so. (-:


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 4 years ago from Colorado Author

Ibuprofen should not be a problem, though it will not really help with the withdrawals (change in chemical balance in your system). Though,if you are having some muscle aches and pains from withdrawls, it might help that.


KFoz 4 years ago

Hi all,

I happened to stumble upon this hub while laying in bed unable to sleep while going through Xanax withdrawals..

I was initially prescribed Xanax and Zoloft approximately 2 years ago when my ex-fiancé and I broke up.. Before I knew it I had 1 mg pills and was taking them every single night to fall asleep...sometimes up to 3 mg at once. I lost my job and hence my health insurance and went "cold turkey" from Xanax 4 days ago. I had no idea how addicted I was, I have never felt so awful in my life. My symptoms are:

Insomnia, weak muscles, sensitivity to light and sound, lethargy, dizziness, overall anxiety, etc.

Last night I was laying in bed and got so angry/upset I was in tears and I practically wanted to punch a hole in the wall.

Since it's been almost 5 days I'm hoping ive peaked as of today... Any suggestions on how to keep the withdrawal down would be greatly appreciated. I've never felt so in need of something.. I just want this to pass.


Dolly 4 years ago

I just read your wonderful testamonial and am currently seeking help for an over 25 year use and abuse of this wicked evil drug. I am looking at a place in Georgia to de-tox and then a half way house to start a program so that I can find out who the REAL me is....Thank you for the encouragement that it can be done!!! I have tried to get off them several times on my own and other treatment center but was always doing it for my husband...and now I WANT to do it for ME!!!!!! I am 55 yrs. old.


KK 4 years ago

My partner recently quit 10-15mg xanax daily cold turkey on day 7 he had a seizure that looked like he was stuck in his body trying too get out. I brought him to A&E that night and the kept him over night when he woke up in the mornin he couldnt remember the last 7 days took me all day to refresh his mind! Hes on diazepam now 1 10mg and 1 5mg. hes still having dreams witch he thinks are real and hes hallucinating when people talk hes hearing totally different to what every1 else is hearing. His dreams are funny 1s no compared to the night mares he was having but does any1 no when thes will stop.


fed up family member 4 years ago

My moms been popping everything under the sun for 15 plus years. It has destroyed her and has affected me very very badly. I wish she would stop but I'm fairly confident she never will and it is just gonna get uglier (that I cannot even comprehend) until they claim her life.


Steve 4 years ago

I feel like my life is ending i cant focus i am in so much physical and mentall anguish......im am only 42 hrs into quitting not only three years of persistent use of xanax but also Percocet, i never could have imagined this type of feeling inside me......all i can think about is that a handful

Of pills and id be back on top of the world.........ugh


hippydo 4 years ago

OMG... I am going through the same thing now. My rx got the same increase and I was taking 6 mg a day for 5 yrs now my Dr decided to drop to 4mg then 2 then 1 then none. Im freaked and praying. The withdrawals are hell and im only 1 mg down and 6 days in. I've wanted to get off them but I too love the sedative affect. Im feeling like I could climb mount Everest w the amount of anxiety and energy I have. I went to an NA meeting


steven 4 years ago

I see there are a lot of women on here. But Today, I had the most frightening thought ever.....and I've been withdrawing from 3 years of heavy xanax. I'm slowly detoxing. Slowly. Today...I thought of...literally, gettting hacked up and violent bloody images. I actually feel the pain and it's very real. I haven't been diagnosed with anything other than anxiety. I have experienced derealization, etc.


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 4 years ago from Colorado Author

I'm so sorry that I've just now seen all of these comments. I will start checking this site more often. I hope everyone is having better luck with their withdrawals now. It's definitely a slow and painful process, but worth it in the long run! Hang in there everyone!


N8healer 4 years ago

http://xanaxwithdrawalbook.com/

This seems to be the only book on the subject by a doctor.


melody 3 years ago

I have been taking xanax for 15 years., Its not fun needing this medication. Im currently taking my self off of it. Its scary because I have heart issues and im afraid of causing myself a heart attack!!


Derek 3 years ago

Thankyou for sharing. needed reassurance that I may get better, tapering from 2mg however still experiencing some of the above symtoms. I suspect it is now going to be months rather than weeks until I feel what they call normal. Nevertheless the above post gave me strength to keep going. bye for now.


Michael 14 months ago

I ws taking 6mg and i jus quit its been a month and i did aight considering however i cant shake the ringing in ears and the heart palps and stuff any suggestions on how long and what i cant do for these to off?


KatieE39 profile image

KatieE39 14 months ago from Colorado Author

If I remember correctly, it took me months to get over withdrawal symptoms. Have you tried running? I ran a lot while I was going through that - even when I didn't feel like doing so. Try essential oil of lavendar, but make sure it's 100% organic and medicinal quality. Drink lots and lots of water and consider detoxifying soaks.

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