Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

Medication for Xanax Withdrawal: Manage Symptoms & Promote Recovery

Table of Contents

Xanax, scientifically known as alprazolam, is one of the medications called benzodiazepines. It’s usually prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders, including panic attacks. However, like other benzodiazepines, it can lead to physical dependence when used over an extended period or in higher doses.

When a person with Xanax dependence tries to stop or reduce their intake, they might experience Xanax withdrawal symptoms. This group of physical and mental symptoms is known as Xanax withdrawal syndrome. These symptoms occur because Xanax impacts the central nervous system (CNS), slowing down certain processes in the brain. When the CNS gets used to Xanax and the drug is suddenly removed, it has to work harder, leading to various withdrawal symptoms.

Many factors contribute to the severity of Xanax withdrawal symptoms. The duration and amount of Xanax use, the speed of discontinuation, individual physiology, co-existing mental health conditions, and previous episodes of withdrawal all play a part. For instance, abrupt discontinuation or “cold turkey” from a high-dose, long-term Xanax regimen can lead to more severe withdrawal symptoms.

The withdrawal symptoms from Xanax can be challenging to endure and, in severe cases, life-threatening. Therefore, medication is crucial in managing these symptoms, reducing discomfort, ensuring safety, and increasing the chance of a successful recovery.

Assessment and Diagnosis of Xanax Withdrawal

Assessment and Diagnosis of Xanax Withdrawal

Recognizing Xanax Dependence and Identifying Withdrawal Symptoms

Recognizing Xanax dependence is the first step towards managing it. Dependence is often evident when a person feels they can’t function without Xanax or experiences withdrawal symptoms when the effects of their last dose wear off. These symptoms can be both physical and mental and are grouped into two main categories:

1. Acute Symptoms:

Acute withdrawal symptoms occur shortly after the cessation of Xanax use. These symptoms often increase in severity before peaking on the fourth or fifth day and gradually subsiding. They can include:

  • Rebound Anxiety: This is a worsening of anxiety symptoms originally managed by Xanax and is a common symptom during acute withdrawal.

  • Panic Attacks: As Xanax is often prescribed to manage panic disorder, abrupt discontinuation can result in severe panic attacks.

  • Sleep Disturbance: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or having unrestful sleep are common during acute withdrawal.

  • Increased Heart Rate: This is a physiological response to withdrawal from Xanax.

  • Increased Blood Pressure: This, too, is a physiological response and needs medical supervision during withdrawal.

2. Protracted or Post-Acute Symptoms:

These symptoms may persist for weeks or even months after stopping Xanax. Everyone does not experience protracted withdrawal, but it can be pretty uncomfortable for those who do experience it. Symptoms include:

  • Persistent Anxiety: While most acute symptoms will resolve over time, anxiety can persist for a longer period.

  • Depression: Long-term Xanax use can impact the brain’s chemical balance, leading to depressive symptoms during withdrawal.

  • Ongoing Sleep Problems: While sleep disturbance is also an acute symptom, some people may continue to struggle with sleep long after the acute withdrawal period.

Xanax withdrawal can present an increased risk of severe withdrawal symptoms. Thus, a person should never attempt to stop Xanax without the guidance of a medical professional or addiction medicine specialist.

Medical detox, often provided in an inpatient treatment facility, can provide the necessary medical support to manage symptoms and ensure the safety of the individual during withdrawal. Outpatient programs may also be appropriate for some individuals, depending on their dependence’s severity and overall health status.

Diagnostic Tools and Guidelines for Assessing Xanax Withdrawal Severity

Diagnosis of Xanax withdrawal is primarily clinical, based on the history of drug use and the presence of characteristic withdrawal symptoms. The severity of withdrawal can be determined using tools such as the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Benzodiazepines (CIWA-B). This tool considers the type and intensity of withdrawal symptoms, aiding in managing the withdrawal process effectively.

Identifying Co-occurring Mental Disorders in Xanax Withdrawal

During the assessment phase, it’s essential to recognize co-occurring mental health disorders. These could be conditions that led to the use of Xanax in the first place, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or other mental health conditions. Addressing these underlying health issues is crucial to the success of withdrawal management.

Medications for Treating Xanax Withdrawal

Medications for Treating Xanax Withdrawal

Benzodiazepines: Role, Mechanism, and Effectiveness in Xanax Withdrawal

Medications play a vital role in managing Xanax withdrawal symptoms. The primary medications used for Xanax detox are often longer-acting benzodiazepines such as Diazepam. These substitute medications function similarly to Xanax by slowing down the central nervous system (CNS) and helping to mitigate the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal. These can include:

  • Anxiety and Panic Disorders: Benzodiazepines can help manage the worsening anxiety and panic attacks that can come with withdrawal.

  • Mental Health Symptoms: These can range from restlessness and agitation to severe symptoms like hallucinations and seizures.

  • Physical Symptoms: They can include muscle aches, sweating, and headaches.

  • Protracted Withdrawal: Prolonged symptoms like depression and sleep disturbances can also be managed by these medications.

Tapering Regimens and Medication Substitution Approaches

Tapering is a common approach used by addiction treatment facilities and professionals for managing withdrawal syndromes from substances like Xanax. This involves gradually reducing the dosage of Xanax, allowing the CNS to adjust more slowly to the absence of the drug. The tapering process aims to minimize the physical and mental health symptoms that can arise when stopping Xanax abruptly. During tapering:

  • Benzodiazepines Substitution: A long-acting benzodiazepine might be substituted for Xanax to achieve a more stable level of the drug in the body, allowing for a smoother, more controlled withdrawal process.

  • Supervision: Medical supervision is crucial during this process, as the withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be severe.

  • Adjustment: The dose is usually adjusted based on the last dose taken, focusing on minimizing uncomfortable symptoms while ensuring safety.

Individualized Treatment Approaches and Medication Selection

Each person’s experience with Xanax withdrawal is unique, requiring individualized treatment plans. Mental health services administration, such as outpatient treatment, can be customized to meet each person’s unique needs. The approach may involve:

  • Personalized Medication: A medication is carefully chosen based on the individual’s overall health, the severity of their dependence, their response to medication, and their circumstances.

  • Tailor-made Tapering Schedule: This is designed to minimize withdrawal symptoms while also considering the person’s lifestyle, support network, and capacity to manage withdrawal.

  • Therapy Sessions: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other forms of therapy can be included in a comprehensive treatment plan to address any underlying mental health issues and support long-term abstinence.

  • Treatment Options: Depending on the individual’s needs, they might be referred to residential or outpatient programs or other forms of treatment as per the recommendation of their medical director or mental health professional.

The selection of medications and the tapering approach is often based on guidelines from recognized organizations such as the World Health Organization and the American Addiction Centers. With the right treatment, individuals can manage their Xanax withdrawal symptoms and achieve long-term abstinence.

Symptom Management in Xanax Withdrawal

Symptom Management in Xanax Withdrawal

Strategies for Symptom Relief

Managing the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal often involves a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and supportive care. The main goal is to minimize discomfort and promote a successful recovery. Various strategies are employed, including:

  • Medication: Prescription medication is often used to manage common withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, insomnia, or physical discomfort.

  • Physical Activity: Regular physical activity can help reduce stress and promote overall well-being during withdrawal.

  • Supportive Care: This may involve counseling, peer support groups, and other resources provided by organizations like the American Addiction Centers.

  • Nutrition: A balanced diet can help support physical health and well-being during this challenging time.

  • Hydration: Keeping hydrated can help reduce physical withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and dry mouth.

  • Sleep: Good sleep hygiene can help manage insomnia, a common symptom during withdrawal.

Addressing Anxiety and Insomnia in Xanax Withdrawal

Rebound anxiety and insomnia, which are a return of anxiety symptoms and sleep issues previously managed by Xanax, often occur during withdrawal. Managing these symptoms requires an individualized approach:

  • Non-Addictive Medications: These may help manage anxiety and promote sleep. The choice of medication will depend on the person’s overall health and the severity of their symptoms.

  • Lifestyle Changes: Practices such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and using relaxation techniques can also help manage these symptoms.

  • Supervision: These symptoms should be managed under the close supervision of medical professionals to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Managing Psychological and Emotional Symptoms during Withdrawal

Withdrawal from Xanax can lead to psychological and emotional symptoms, such as depression, agitation, and mood swings. The following approaches can be effective in managing these symptoms:

  • Medication: Specific medications may be prescribed to manage mood swings and other psychological symptoms during withdrawal.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This can help individuals understand and manage their emotional responses to withdrawal. Therapy can provide strategies for dealing with cravings, stress, and other challenges.

  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: These can help reduce stress and improve mood during withdrawal. Techniques may include meditation, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and yoga.

Each person’s withdrawal journey is unique, and the strategies used to manage their symptoms will vary based on their individual needs. This management should be guided by a treatment team experienced in benzodiazepine withdrawal and substance use disorders, with the goal of achieving fewer withdrawal symptoms, a smooth detoxification process, and long-term recovery.

Supportive Care and Psychosocial Interventions

Supportive Care and Psychosocial Interventions

Supportive care is a crucial component of managing Xanax withdrawal. This can involve counseling or psychotherapy, which can help people understand their addiction, learn coping strategies, and deal with any underlying mental health issues. Support groups can also be a valuable resource, providing a community of people who understand what it’s like to go through Xanax withdrawal.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help people deal with psychological dependence on Xanax. This therapy helps people identify the thoughts and behaviors that lead to Xanax use and develop healthier ways of dealing with stress and anxiety.

Lifestyle changes are also often a necessary part of managing Xanax withdrawal. This can involve developing healthier habits like regular exercise, a balanced diet, and good sleep hygiene. It can also involve learning new coping skills, such as relaxation techniques or mindfulness, which can help manage anxiety and reduce the risk of relapse.

Medical Monitoring and Long-Term Recovery

Medical Monitoring and Long-Term Recovery

Throughout the withdrawal process, regular medical monitoring is critical. This typically involves tracking vital signs like blood pressure, heart rate, sleep patterns, and mood changes. This monitoring helps to ensure the safety of the person withdrawing from Xanax and allows for adjustments to their treatment plan as needed.

Ensuring Safety and Preventing Relapse in the Recovery Process

Relapse prevention is an essential part of long-term recovery from Xanax addiction. This often involves ongoing support, either through counseling, therapy, or support groups. People are also encouraged to avoid triggers for Xanax use and develop strategies to deal with cravings or stressful situations.

Collaborative Care and Coordinated Treatment for Sustained Recovery

A coordinated team approach can be beneficial in managing Xanax withdrawal. This typically involves a combination of medical professionals, mental health specialists, and support groups working together to provide a comprehensive treatment plan. This team can provide the medical care, psychological support, and lifestyle guidance needed for a successful recovery.

Resources and Support for Xanax Withdrawal Recovery

There are numerous resources available for people going through Xanax withdrawal. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the American Addiction Centers, for instance, provide a wealth of information and resources on Xanax withdrawal and recovery.

Support groups, both local and online, can be a valuable source of support during the withdrawal process. These groups provide a community of people who understand the challenges of Xanax withdrawal and can share experiences and coping strategies.

Aftercare programs can also be vital to sustaining recovery from Xanax addiction. These programs provide ongoing support, helping people navigate life’s challenges without Xanax, and reduce the risk of relapse. They might involve ongoing therapy or counseling, support group meetings, and continued education about addiction and recovery.

Remember, although Xanax withdrawal can be a challenging process, with the right treatment and support, recovery is achievable. Always seek medical advice when considering stopping Xanax.


Managing Xanax withdrawal is a complex and multifaceted process that requires comprehensive care and a personalized approach. Each person’s journey through withdrawal will be unique, influenced by their overall health, the duration and severity of their Xanax use, and their circumstances. It’s crucial to remember that withdrawal from Xanax while challenging, is an essential step towards recovery and reclaiming a healthier, drug-free life.

Medications, tapering regimens, and individualized treatment approaches all play vital roles in managing withdrawal symptoms. The process often involves a combination of prescription medications, lifestyle changes, therapeutic interventions, and supportive care. Throughout the withdrawal process, addressing anxiety, insomnia, and other psychological symptoms is paramount and can often be achieved with non-addictive medications and psychotherapy.

Xanax withdrawal should not be navigated alone but rather under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional or team. Accessing treatment from professionals trained in addiction medicine, as well as mental health services, increases the likelihood of a successful withdrawal process and long-term recovery.

Start Your Path to Recovery at NuView Treatment Center

Start Your Path to Recovery at NuView Treatment Center

If you or a loved one is struggling with Xanax dependence, you don’t have to face it alone. NuView Treatment Center is here to support you through every step of your journey to recovery. Our compassionate and knowledgeable team specializes in personalized addiction treatment, including managing Xanax withdrawal and providing the tools for long-term recovery.

At NuView, we understand that withdrawal is not just a physical challenge but also a psychological one. Our comprehensive care includes medical supervision, individualized treatment plans, and therapy sessions aimed at addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of Xanax withdrawal.

Recovery is possible. Don’t let Xanax dependence control your life. Start your journey to recovery with NuView Treatment Center today. Contact us at (323) 307-7997 or send us a message from our contact page to learn more about our services, our dedicated staff, and how we can assist you or your loved one on the path towards a healthier, drug-free life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Benzodiazepine withdrawal refers to a series of symptoms that occur when a person taking benzodiazepines, such as Xanax (alprazolam), for a long period and then suddenly stops or reduces the dose. Symptoms can include anxiety, restlessness, and sleep disturbances.

It typically starts within a few hours to days after the last dose and may last several weeks. Medical supervision is important during this period to manage withdrawal symptoms effectively.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a substance use disorder is characterized by a pattern of substance abuse leading to significant impairment or distress. Symptoms may include strong cravings for the substance, unsuccessful efforts to reduce usage, and continued use despite negative consequences.

Yes, they can lead to physiological dependence and addiction if used in high doses or for long periods. It's essential to use these medications as directed by a healthcare professional and report any concerning symptoms promptly.

Yes, there are other treatment options available. While medication is a crucial part of managing withdrawal symptoms, comprehensive treatment often includes psychotherapy, counseling, and support groups. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals understand their addiction and develop strategies to manage cravings and avoid relapse.

Beta blockers are a class of drugs often used in treating cardiovascular conditions, but they can also help manage certain symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, like increased heart rate and blood pressure. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new medication.

Busto, U E et al. “A clinical scale to assess benzodiazepine withdrawal.” Journal of clinical psychopharmacology vol. 9,6 (1989): 412-6.

Ait-Daoud, Nassima et al. “A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal.” Journal of addiction medicine vol. 12,1 (2018): 4-10. doi:10.1097/ADM.0000000000000350

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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