Addiction Coping and Recovery Overcoming Addiction How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Last? By Corinne O’Keefe Osborn Corinne O’Keefe Osborn LinkedIn Corinne Osborn is an award-winning health and wellness journalist with a background in substance abuse, sexual health, and psychology. Learn about our editorial process Updated on January 02, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by David Susman, PhD Medically reviewed by David Susman, PhD David Susman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with experience providing treatment to individuals with mental illness and substance use concerns. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Overview Signs and Symptoms Duration Factors Coping and Relief Warnings Long-Term Treatment Xanax (alprazolam) is a common anti-anxiety medication. Doctors prescribe it for patients struggling with insomnia and mental health issues such as excessive worry, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Xanax can help people who are in acute distress, but it is not intended for long-term use. The long-term use of benzodiazepines like Xanax can potentially create problems with dependence and withdrawal. Verywell / JR Bee Overview of Xanax Withdrawal Even if you only take Xanax for a period of several days, you may develop a physical dependence on the drug. This means that you will likely experience Xanax withdrawal, or the uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms of discontinuing the drug. The intensity of your symptoms depends on your dosage, or how much Xanax you've been taking and for how long. Xanax withdrawal can also be medically serious. If you have been taking Xanax several times a day, then quitting is going to take time, patience, and determination. The only safe way to quit is to slowly taper down your dose under the direction of a doctor. Quitting cold turkey can increase your risk of extreme and dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including delirium and grand mal seizures. Delirium is a state that involves temporary, abrupt changes in cognition and behavior characterized by agitation and disorientation. A grand mal seizure (also known as a tonic-clonic seizure) involves violent muscle contractions and a loss of consciousness. In 2017, doctors wrote nearly 45 million prescriptions for alprazolam (Xanax). Reckless prescribing practices have contributed to thousands of cases of dependence and misuse. Research shows that in 2018, an estimated 5.4 million people over the age of 12 misused prescription benzodiazepines like Xanax. Xanax Withdrawal Signs & Symptoms The signs and symptoms of Xanax withdrawal vary from person to person. Research indicates that roughly 40% of people taking benzodiazepines for more than six months will experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms. The remaining 60% can expect milder symptoms. Physical Headaches Insomnia Hyperventilation Muscle spasms Racing pulse Seizures Sweating Tremors Psychological Anxiety Delirium Depression Difficulty concentrating Feelings of unreality Hallucinations Panic attacks Restlessness Xanax is a high-potency drug, which makes its withdrawal symptoms more intense than symptoms of withdrawal from other types of benzodiazepines such as Valium (diazepam). Xanax's potency is linked with increased rebound effects. A rebound effect is the reoccurrence of a symptom after a person stops taking the medication that was treating it. For instance, someone taking Xanax for anxiety is likely to have a reoccurrence of their anxiety symptoms during withdrawal. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, the level of anxiety you experience during Xanax withdrawal may be more intense than what you experienced before taking Xanax. It is common to feel nervous, jumpy, and on-edge during your taper. Many people experience irritability and agitation, which can cause problems at home, work, or school. You might be easily annoyed or short-tempered with family or friends. Insomnia, another symptom, can also contribute to these feelings of anxiety and agitation. How Long Does Xanax Withdrawal Last? The symptoms of Xanax withdrawal typically appear within 8 to 12 hours of your last dose. If you fail to taper your dose, your withdrawal symptoms will grow increasingly intense. Withdrawal is generally at its worst on the second day, and improves by the fourth or fifth day; however, acute symptoms can last significantly longer. Estimates suggest that about 10% to 25% of people who use benzodiazepines long term experience what’s known as protracted withdrawal. Protracted withdrawal is a prolonged withdrawal experience marked by waves of mild psychological symptoms that come and go over the course of several months. Protracted Xanax withdrawal can last up to one year. Factors That Affect Xanax Withdrawal People with certain mental health conditions may be more likely to experience intense rebound effects during Xanax withdrawal. One small study found that 15 out of 17 patients with panic disorder who were treated with alprazolam experienced panic attacks again (some at higher levels than pre-treatment) after discontinuing Xanax. These patients were tapered off of Xanax after four weeks, yet this rebound effect still occurred. In another small study, all eight patients with PTSD who tapered off of Xanax after eight weeks experienced worsened anxiety, sleep disturbance, nightmares, irritability, rage, and homicidal ideation. If you are pregnant, you are at an increased risk of Xanax withdrawal symptoms, including seizures. Coping & Relief for Xanax Withdrawal The best way to avoid a difficult withdrawal is to slowly taper down your dose of Xanax. Tapering means taking progressively smaller doses over the course of several weeks. It is not recommended to taper without the assistance and recommendations from your prescribing doctor. Xanax is a short-acting drug, which means your body metabolizes it very quickly. Tapering Xanax is challenging because the amount of the drug in your system quickly goes up and down with each dose. To help you avoid these peaks and valleys, doctors often switch you from Xanax to a long-acting benzodiazepine such as Valium (diazepam). Switching from short-acting Xanax to its longer-acting cousin Valium will make it easier for you to quit. Once you are stabilized on a dose of diazepam, your prescribing doctor will help you slowly taper down a little bit at a time. This gives your body and mind the time to adjust to life without Xanax. Alleviating Symptoms of Breakthrough Withdrawal If you have breakthrough withdrawal symptoms when your dose is reduced, your prescribing doctor can pause or stretch out your taper. It’s up to you and the doctor to figure out the best tapering schedule for your individual needs. The doctor may also recommend one or more of the following treatment types: Cognitive behavioral therapy (though research is mixed on the effectiveness of CBT after three months) Exercise Herbal sleep aids such as valerian root and chamomile Meditation Melatonin Mindfulness practice The Best Online Therapy Programs We've tried, tested and written unbiased reviews of the best online therapy programs including Talkspace, Betterhelp, and Regain. Warnings About Xanax Withdrawal Seizures may occur in some people undergoing unsupervised and untreated withdrawal from Xanax. Unlike many other withdrawal syndromes, benzodiazepine withdrawal can be complicated and, occasionally, life-threatening. If you have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness in the past, such as a panic disorder, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder (BPD), then great care should be taken when coming off of Xanax. In such cases, a doctor’s help will be invaluable. It can be difficult to predict which dormant symptoms, if any, may return when Xanax is removed from the equation. People with a history of complicated withdrawal syndromes and people with underlying health issues should also work closely with a doctor. Xanax withdrawal does carry a risk of seizures. Older adults and people with cognitive decline should also work closely with a doctor as there are unique risks for these groups. If you plan to or have become pregnant, you will need to discuss your options with a doctor. Part of that conversation should include reviewing the risks and benefits of continuing versus tapering benzodiazepines during your pregnancy. Some people continue taking benzodiazepines throughout their pregnancy while others follow a dose tapering schedule. If you are using Xanax without a prescription, you can still work with a doctor to taper down your dose. Start by visiting a primary care doctor or urgent care center and tell them that you are in or are planning to be in benzodiazepine withdrawal. If you don’t have insurance, visit a community health center. If you are concerned about the risks involved in Xanax tapering for any reason, discuss these concerns with a doctor. You may be better suited for inpatient detoxification. While inpatient treatment is typically more expensive, it is covered by many insurance plans. Long-Term Treatment for Xanax Withdrawal When it comes to the long-term management of getting off benzodiazepines, there are two directions you can go. Research shows that most stable, healthy adults will achieve long-term abstinence after completing a taper. The key to achieving this goal is to follow the tapering schedule to the very end. By the end of your taper, you might be cutting pills into halves or quarters. Some people may be better suited for a harm reduction approach, in which the taper leads to a maintenance dose rather than abstinence. Resources for Xanax Withdrawal If you are ready to quit Xanax, you will need to meet with your prescribing doctor. If you don’t have a regular doctor, start by making an appointment with a primary care doctor, psychiatrist, or local health clinic. You can find a doctor by searching your insurance company’s list of covered providers. Alternatively, you can find a free community health clinic with this searchable database from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. A Word From Verywell Quitting Xanax takes time, patience, and determination. If you’ve been using it for longer than a few months, quitting can be hard. There will be days where you want to give up and give in. But with medical supervision and support, you can be successful. In the long-term, the health benefits to you will be considerable. 10 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Brett J, Murnion B. Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence. Aust Prescr. 2015;38(5):152–155. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2015.055 U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Drug & Chemical Evaluation Section. Benzodiazepines. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Hood SD, Norman A, Hince DA, Melichar JK, Hulse GK. Benzodiazepine dependence and its treatment with low dose flumazenil. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2014;77(2):285–294. doi:10.1111/bcp.12023 Ait-Daoud N, Hamby AS, Sharma S, Blevins D. A review of alprazolam use, misuse, and withdrawal. J Addict Med. 2018;12(1):4-10. doi:10.1097/ADM.0000000000000350 Brett J, Murnion B. Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence. Aust Prescr. 2015;38(5):152–155. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2015.055 Darker CD, Sweeney BP, Barry JM, Farrell MF, Donnelly-Swift E. Psychosocial interventions for benzodiazepine harmful use, abuse or dependence. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;(5):CD009652. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009652.pub2 Cardinali DP, Golombek DA, Rosenstein RE, Brusco LI, Vigo DE. Assessing the efficacy of melatonin to curtail benzodiazepine/Z drug abuse. Pharmacol Res. 2016;109:12–23. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2015.08.016 Chakradhar T, Mondal S. Review on drug interactions of alprazolam on pharmacodynamic and pharmcokinetic actions. European J Biomed Pharm Sci. 2019;6(1):657-662. Shyken JM, Babbar S, Babbar S, Forinash A. Benzodiazepines in pregnancy. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2019;62(1):156-167. doi:10.1097/GRF.0000000000000417 Additional Reading Ait-Daoud N, Hamby AS, Sharma S, Blevins D. A review of alprazolam use, misuse, and withdrawal. J Addict Med. 2018;12(1):4–10. doi:10.1097/ADM.0000000000000350 American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. American Psychiatric Publishing. Bachhuber MA, Hennessy S, Cunningham CO, Starrels JL. Increasing benzodiazepine prescriptions and overdose mortality in the United States, 1996-2013. Am J Public Health. 2016;106(4):686-688. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2016.303061 Guina J, Merrill B. Benzodiazepines II: waking up on sedatives: providing optimal care when inheriting benzodiazepine prescriptions in transfer patients. J Clin Med. 2018;7(2):20. doi:10.3390/jcm7020020 By Corinne O’Keefe Osborn Corinne Osborn is an award-winning health and wellness journalist with a background in substance abuse, sexual health, and psychology. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.