Xanax is a benzodiazepine medication that’s commonly prescribed to people who have anxiety disorders. According to a report produced by CBS News, it’s the most prescribed mental health medication in the United States, and that high prescription rate might be due to the fact that the drug can bring profound relief to people who are in pain. But, the medication might also be so prevalent simply because it’s a popular drug of abuse, capable of producing euphoria mere minutes after it hits the user’s bloodstream.
While Xanax can be helpful, and sometimes even amusing, it can also be seriously debilitating, particularly for people who no longer want to take the drug and who have to go through withdrawal to achieve that goal. A Xanax detox program can help the transition from abuse to sobriety to go smoothly, so people can begin to break apart their addictions and gain control once more.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
All benzodiazepine medications, including Xanax, work by slowing electrical activity between the cells of the brain. In time, the brain cells become accustomed to moving at this slower pace, and when Xanax is removed, a sort of electrical wildfire can erupt inside the cells, jumping from area to area with extreme rapidity.
- Trembling hands
- Inability to concentrate
- Gastrointestinal distress
In serious cases, symptoms begin with mild changes that are easy for the user to control, but as the hours drag on, the symptoms might grow more and more severe until the person is having out-and-out hallucinations. Sometimes, people with serious cases of addiction develop seizures in the late stages of the withdrawal process.
Not everyone who abuses Xanax will develop seizures when that medication is removed. In fact, some people never develop problems that are even remotely serious. But, since the withdrawal process does hold the possibility of a life-threatening complication, it’s best for people with a history of addiction to get help during their detox process. This kind of assistance can help sobriety to arrive without intense discomfort, and it might even keep people from losing their lives in their quest for recovery.
Typical Pharmacological Approaches
Many people who enroll in a Xanax detox program want to quit using all drugs as quickly as possible, so they can move on to the therapies that will help them to put their lives back together. Unfortunately, since Xanax is so powerful and the withdrawal process can be so dangerous, few programs provide a cold-turkey approach. Instead, most use some kind of medication management to assist with the transition.
In a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers suggest that a typical withdrawal protocol takes eight weeks, and during that time, people are provided with a different benzodiazepine medication in a tapering dose. In the early days, they may be taking almost the same amount of medication, but as the days pass, they might take smaller and smaller doses.
Each time a dose reduction takes place, medical practitioners are on hand to ensure that no negative symptoms arise. They might ask clients to describe their mood or physical state, and they might also take a few measurements of temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, just to ensure that all is well. Sometimes, if negative symptoms do appear, medical practitioners adjust the rate of the taper. A slower pace might allow the brain to adjust without developing severe withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes, the pace might speed up a little, if the person seems capable of handling a more rapid course of healing.
Medication management like this can certainly help to stave off any serious complications that might arise during withdrawal, but it’s not uncommon for people to move forward with their therapy while they’re still taking medications.
As a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment points out, some people develop symptoms of a protracted withdrawal from Xanax, and those symptoms can last for months. Asking people to spend months in detox seems a little cruel, as these people need to develop real skills that can help them to block their cravings. A detox program can’t provide that kind of learning. This is the kind of help best provided in a formal rehab program. As a result, it’s not unusual for people to begin to work on their therapy, even while they’re still dealing with a few withdrawal symptoms and taking medications for that. Waiting for months for true sobriety just isn’t realistic.
While medications provide the most intense help, in terms of staving off life-threatening complications, some people benefit from therapies that have nothing to do with a pharmacy. For example, people with a Xanax addiction may find that they struggle with sleep during detox, as they’re accustomed to popping a pill before bedtime.
These people might benefit from sleep therapy techniques in which they develop a strict routine before bed that might involve:
- Warm baths
- Quiet music
- Darkened rooms
In time, they might find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, even though they have no Xanax on hand. Similarly, some people may find that participating in yoga or walking while in detox helps them to reduce their feelings of stress and anxiety, even when they don’t have access to drugs. These are the sorts of therapies that will play a prominent role during the rehab process, and there’s no reason for people to rush themselves and participate in things that they’re not quite ready for, but incorporating a few techniques into detox can help people to plan and prepare for the work to come in rehab.
Anyone can develop an addiction to Xanax, but some people do so after obtaining the drug as a therapy for an anxiety disorder. The medication seems to soothe their overactive minds, and allow them to experience rest and release without accompanying feelings of nervousness. During withdrawal, unfortunately, these symptoms of anxiety can rebound, and these feelings can make people feel desperately unhappy.
But, some detox programs might also include in-depth anxiety therapies for people in need. Psychotherapy can help people like this to develop self-soothing skills they can lean upon when they feel keyed-up and upset, breaking the “pop-a-pill” mentality that can keep people trapped in a cycle of addiction.
Sometimes, however, people do need to keep taking medications for their anxiety disorders. There are some mental illnesses that stem from serious chemical imbalances deep within the brain, and leaving those disorders untreated can result in a return to addiction, as people might always be on the lookout for relief. A mental health expert, such as a psychiatrist, is best suited to determine whether or not long-term pharmacological care is warranted.
Since people who have mental illnesses in addition to Xanax addictions have special needs, they do best in programs that are made just for them. These so-called “dual diagnosis” programs are staffed with experts who are adept at treating mental illness, and all of the therapies provided target both the mental illness and the addiction. While these people might get lost in a standard Xanax detox program, they can thrive in a dual diagnosis facility.
Xanax can seem like a terrible foe, able to strike down even the healthiest of people and leave them without any options at all. However, with the right kind of help from a Xanax detox program, people really can gain control of their compulsions and learn to live a life that’s free of the abuse of this powerful medication. For example, in a study in the British Journal of Addiction, researchers found that 48 percent of people who went through a formal benzodiazepine treatment program were deemed “fully recovered,” while 22 percent were deemed “much better.” In fact, only 6 percent of people in this study were no better at all. Studies like this show that people really can overcome an addiction to Xanax, and that detox is a great place to start.
It’s important to reiterate, however, that Xanax detox is only the first part of a comprehensive addiction care program. People will need to build upon their successes by enrolling in a formal rehab program and developing the comprehensive skills that can allow them to preserve the sobriety they’ve just developed. Rehab is just vital, and it should begin as soon as people feel ready to do so.
If you have an addiction to Xanax, or someone you love is struggling with this powerful drug, we hope you’ll use Alta Mira to bolster your recovery process. We can provide you with a supervised withdrawal in a private room, and when you feel ready and able, we’ll help you to transfer to our rehab program. We provide dual diagnosis care, so we can assist you with any underlying mental health condition that might be blocking your recovery, and our lifetime support can assist you with any new problems that crop up after your recovery is complete. Our program is accepting new clients, and we make enrollment easy. Just call, and we’ll tell you more about it.