What is Xanax Withdrawal Like?

Xanax withdrawal and detox can both be major events for somebody who has become dependent on their use. To put it in perspective, people who are prescribed benzodiazepines such as Xanax are typically those who suffer from mild to severe anxiety disorder and panic attacks. These are two very life-impacting disorders and treatment for them can be helpful in order to enable them to live productive and healthy lives.

While it is essential that we treat these disorders, doctors are often hesitant to prescribe Xanax and other similar medication long-term to their patients because of the dangerous effects that come with getting off of them. People who are more inclined toward chemical dependence who are prescribed these drugs tend to feel phantom symptoms of their illness as their body begins to crave their medication’s effects. For example, an individual who is prescribed Xanax to treat their sporadic panic attacks would start to feel the oncoming of an attack happening more and more often after prolonged use of taking the benzodiazepine. The reason people experience these phantom symptoms is more complicated than it may seem at first glance, though.

Although we have cited inclination toward addictive tendencies as one possible reason for some people to experience this, there is also a pharmacological explanation as well which affects different people at different rates. A panic attack that is caused by general anxiety disorder occurs when the brain is unable to create enough Gamma-Amino-Butyric-Acid (GABA) which attaches to very specialized receptors. The GABA system in the brain is part of our “sedation” or calming down system. The GABA system helps us to feel calm and relaxed when we are under stress or feeling upset. In a typical situation, whenever we feel anxiety or stress, we all produce extra GABA molecules and this extra GABA attaches to our GABA receptors. This helps us feel calm and relaxed. It can also help us to sleep, which fits with the whole concept of this system managing our relaxation. What many people are prescribed these medications for is their body’s inability to produce an appropriate amount of this GABA naturally, which is what is responsible for their inadequate response to stress.

Long-Term Effects of Benzos

Prolonged use of these medications that are designed specifically to pump up the production of these GABA molecules leads to our brains not producing as much as they ever had before. It is a simple matter of classical conditioning. You could relate it to working out a muscle. If you do not work out your legs and decide to climb a steep mountain, you run a pretty good risk of not being able to walk comfortably for the next couple of days. This is because your muscles are not conditioned to withstand that kind of exertion, whereas if you are somebody who runs five miles a day, and decides to climb that same mountain, you will experience less harmful effects. When our brain no longer feels the need to produce any of these GABA molecules because these benzodiazepines are producing enough already, that is what it means to be dependent upon a substance. This is the medical explanation put in a nutshell of what defines chemical dependency.

Our brains and our bodies as a whole are designed to live in balance. With that said, substance abuse, mental, and behavioral disorders are merely our coping mechanisms for dealing with naturally occurring, although abhorrent imbalances. If we are to look at detoxing from a substance of abuse through this medical understanding, what I hope we can all see is that it is not so much a dilemma of moral or character, but regular people who have an unfortunate set of circumstances that is delicate and requires an understanding basis for treatment. Remember, these are medications prescribed for those who suffer from panic attacks or have general anxiety disorders. This is prescribed or often found on the street by people who have an irregular uptake of the same chemicals that anyone else’s brain produces naturally to reduce feelings of stress, worry anxiety, and panic. Panic attacks are often referenced to as a sense of impending doom, with overwhelming feelings of worry, even a very real sense that walls are closing in which can leave some people in a fetal position on the floor, hyperventilating. With these types of symptoms being associated with low uptake of GABA molecules to bond to our receptors, it is important to remember that withdrawal from benzodiazepines will bring back those feelings of worry with even less natural production to find balance than before these substances were introduced.

We have people with a natural inability to regulate stress. We have substances which help us produce what is needed to do so. As a result of regular use of these substances, we begin to rely on them to regulate stress for us. When the substance begins to interrupt our daily functions, and negatively impacts our quality of life for reasons other than general anxiety or panic attacks, we attempt to remove them. When one finds that removing the drug casually is no simple task, we seek help for detoxing our bodies of that drug. This is where benzo detox becomes a very difficult matter.

How Long it Takes to Detox From Benzos

When getting off of benzos completely, these feelings of high stress, worry, and panic will return very quickly. There are different types of benzos to understand when facing a detox situation. Some are short-lasting, like Xanax, while others are long-lasting, like Valium. The difference to see between these when concerned with detox is what is known as a half-life. Xanax has a shorter half-life than Valium, but all benzos have a relatively long half-life compared to other narcotics. This means that it takes on average 4-7 days for these to completely be out of our systems when detoxing, and at that point, our GABA production can begin to fight to return to balance. The stress of having these feelings of anxiety come back with very little natural regulation for them causes many people who are detoxing to experience panic attacks, high blood pressure, insomnia, and can even work someone up to the point of having a grand mal seizure. This is why taking benzo withdrawal and detoxification, and the ensuing recovery from substance dependence is a serious issue, and one that will only become more effective with understanding, compassion, and care.

Last Updated on May 24, 2022


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