How to Stop: Weaning or Tapering Off Xanax
What’s a Safe Way to Wean Myself from Xanax?
Long-time users of benzodiazepines like Xanax can become physically dependent on the drug. When these users try to stop, they can experience psychosis, anxiety, and even seizures. As a result, people with a Xanax habit are encouraged to work with a doctor on a safe tapering plan. The proper rate of the taper, and the length of the tapering process, is deeply dependent on how long the person has used Xanax and how much damage the drug has caused.
When a person abuses a prescription benzodiazepine like Xanax, the body and mind both become dependent on the substance to fuel it. Without it, the person might experience uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal, like convulsions and high blood pressure, that may be relentless if not treated properly. Withdrawal can even send the individual into fits of paranoia, rage, and depression.Fox News reported on potential threats during withdrawal that include:
- Anxious moods
Not staying in rehab long enough or thinking it’s fine to return to socializing with other substance abusers once treatment is completed are common mistakes many people make. Those who lack a support network as they adjust back into a sober lifestyle are also at an increased risk of returning to a life of substance abuse.
Failure to seek the appropriate type of treatment might also increase the risk for relapse. Medical detox is always necessary when it comes to benzodiazepine withdrawal, and withdrawal that is too abrupt or intense for someone to handle may also predispose that person to relapse. Around 40-60 percent of people who struggle with substance abuse end up relapsing within the first year following treatment, according to NIDA
The Importance of Medical DetoxUnfortunately, some individuals don’t choose medical detox. They may start to decrease their dose on their own and then fail to complete the process. Those who experience the most difficulty are usually battling mental health disorders that the Xanax was originally intended to medicate. For example, someone with panic disorder may have been prescribed the drug as a form of treatment. After a period of long-term use or misuse, the person become hooked on the drug. Tapering off it not only brings with it the discomfort of withdrawal, but also a strong resurgence of panic disorder symptoms.
Tapering in a controlled manner, under medical supervision, is the best way to avoid negative outcomes of withdrawal like psychosis and seizures. When undergoing medical detox, the treatment team will ensure the patient remains safe and supported.
Hydration is important, as dehydration can seriously exacerbate withdrawal symptoms. Mild stimulants like caffeine should be avoided as they can boost withdrawal activity. Alcohol should, of course, be avoided. Oftentimes, a diet of small, bland meals is easier on a nauseated stomach during detox. High protein foods can help to keep strength up.
The Next Step
The first step in tapering is deciding what dose to start with. This requires the supervising physician to take into account the dose the user was taking and for how long.
There are no quick-fix solutions when it comes to benzo withdrawal.
Herbal remedies and beverages promoted as detox aids do not live up to scientific scrutiny and should not be combined with any drug detox treatment protocol due to the limited knowledge on ingredients and the potential for dangerous interactions. In a study reported by Syracuse Local News, 79 percent of supplement labels were missing some or all ingredients found to be in the products.
Typically, a minimum of eight weeks is required to effectively wean off Xanax. With this timeline in mind, physicians will often decrease the dose by 25 percent for every quarter of the withdrawal period. For example, if a person has been using 6 mg per day, the dose would drop to 4.5 mg for two weeks, then 3 mg for another two weeks, and so on.
Supportive CareMedical detox is exactly what is needed to detox from Xanax safely. Other interventions can aid in supporting the detox experience, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI). PsychCentral published a study in which individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse problems were counseled with MI techniques in an effort to get them into treatment, and it worked for 62 percent of them, compared to just 26 percent of the control group.
Sometimes medication is used to make detox more comfortable. The discomfort caused by withdrawal can be medicated with prescription-strength doses of safer alternatives like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Switching to another benzodiazepine to treat serious co-occurring mental health disorders — an issue National Institute on Mental Illness notes 53 percent of drug abusers face — should be discussed in depth with a medical professional.
With proper care, individuals can safely and effectively wean off Xanax. Followed with supportive therapy and aftercare, these people can go on to lead healthy, balanced lives.
Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a healthcare professional or prescribing physician. You should never attempt to detox from Xanax on your own. Medical detox is required for all benzodiazepine addictions.
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