Rebecca loves sharing what she knows about alternative medicine, health, frugal living, fun, animals, and how to live a better life!
What Is Xanax?
Xanax, also called Alprazolam, is a commonly prescribed medication to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, panic, OCD, and sleep disorders.
Xanax is in a family of drugs called benzodiazepines, which are central nervous system depressants. Xanax enhances the effect of the neurotransmitter "gamma-aminobutyric acid" (GABA). In the brain, GABA behaves as a natural, tranquilizing neurotransmitter. It slows down brain activity, resulting in a "relaxing" effect.
Xanax is one of the most prescribed—and also one of the most abused—benzodiazepines available. Dependence can quickly set in, even when you take it as prescribed.
My Dance With Xanax
Normally, I don't give too much personal detail about my life when I write, but for this topic, I'm willing to make an exception. If it will keep someone from using a prescription for this medication, then it will be worth it.
I was on benzodiazepines for over 8 years. I've always walked the line with an addictive personality. Didn't really matter what the substance, I could find a way to abuse it. I'm naturally a type A personality: high strung, goal oriented, anal retentive, and OCD.
I was first introduced to benzos through friends in my early 20s. Valium mainly. I enjoyed how they made me feel, and I took them sporadically and for recreation. At no point during that time was I dependent on them.
I've suffered from parasomnias since I was 11 years old, as well as major sleep disorders; apparently, this is hereditary. I still have these issues, decades later. Around the age of 25, my sleep issues, as well as anxiety, became unbearable. I tried everything to sleep like a normal person. White noise, melatonin, 5HTP, yoga, exercise, even alcohol—nothing produced the desired need for normal sleep.
After researching and reading as much as possible on sleepwalking and sleep eating, I stumbled upon a book in which a woman mentioned that Klonopin stopped her sleepwalking. I immediately contacted my doctor about this "wonder drug," at the time not realizing it was another type of benzodiazepine.
I was prescribed a very low dose of Klonopin to take daily, or as needed. At first, it solved my problems. My crippling anxiety became a thing of the past, and so did my sleepwalking. Fast forward about 5 years, and suddenly that Klonopin just wasn't cutting it. I graduated to Xanax. Little did I know then the hellish torment that would ensue on my quest to get off of this drug! I've since been free of Xanax dependence since 2014, and I did not require medical detox.
Xanax is really interesting because it works so quickly. It also leaves the body very quickly, and withdrawal sets in rapidly. I remember the first time I took it—it was like a switch was flipped and I was a very HAPPY person. No stress, no worry, no over-active brain, and I slept like a baby!
Over a few months, this effect also began to dissipate, and my desire for more to achieve the same effect crept in. There is nothing special about addiction. You may think that it varies by the substance (and in some cases it does) but an addict is an addict. What varies is the drug of choice. Xanax was making an addict out of me, and I'm NOT okay with that.
Xanax withdrawal is unique in its own right—symptoms are nasty—and I often wondered what it would be like to be complete without a benzo in my life. But it was something I was determined to accomplish. I do consider myself a special person; by that, I mean that I've always been an empath, my issues with sleep I feel now are spiritual in nature. I've seen auras on and off since I was 12, and have always (although not always admitted it) been connected to my higher power, what I refer to as Spirit.
Substances dulled my senses and took my attention away from what most consider "craziness." I wanted to function like an automaton and be content with the daily grind. Xanax initially gave me the "mindset" to do this. When you ingest a substance to dull down what you feel, you need to be willing to welcome those issues back when the substance is removed. When battling any type of addiction you should consider going through recovery, a treatment program, behavioral modification, or whatever works for you to become a "whole" and "clean" person. Coming off benzo's is no exception, but you get to add in the nasty physical side effects too! Yay!
What prompted my attention to begin my elimination of this drug? Well for starters, I was extremely angry when I missed a dose. I mean over the top full-blown rage. My animals became afraid of me (yes animals are highly aware of altered states of consciousness) it was so bad that my cat would no longer sleep or be anywhere within my proximity, my sex-drive did not exist, and I was having EXTREME muscle pain in my neck. So horrific that I actually saw doctors for muscle pains only to be told I was "completely normal". No one ever suspected benzo side effects. Okay...enough was enough!
Signs of Too Much Xanax
What might make you think you're taking too much Xanax? Here is my short list.
- You find you cannot deal with everyday life without taking a Xanax to take the edge off.
- Sometimes you just want your Xanax in your pocket, even if you're not taking it, you don't want to leave home without it!
- "Doctor shopping" to get your script.
- You start increasing your dose to achieve that initial relaxing effect, like chasing a ghost.
- You start mixing it with booze—a very bad idea.
- Your sex drive is down the toilet or non-existent. Xanax will kill your desire, and for males may physically stop your functioning ability all-together.
- When you miss a dose, you become agitated, anxious, extremely moody, irrational, aggressive and prone to fits of rage. Life seems "off" and surreal. You also become an insomniac, may feel cold symptoms and have excruciating muscle pain, and spasms.
- If your addiction is really bad, you may become psychotic, and begin having seizures.
- Xanax withdrawal, much like withdrawal from heroin, can be life-threatening
Consult Your Doctor
Depending on how long you've used, how much, and if you've also been using other substances, the best recovery strategy will vary. All of these variables will greatly affect your recovery, detox, and withdrawal.
If you notice any of the first 3, please contact a medical professional.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Aggression, nervousness, anxiety
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle cramps, pain, aches
- Sensory irritations (to light, sound, etc.)
How to Get Off Xanax
Please consult your doctor or medical professional before taking my advice. Depending on how long you've used, how much, and if you've also been using other substances, the best recovery strategy will vary. All of these variables will greatly affect your recovery, detox, and withdrawal.
This is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. Any course of action and attempt to reduce medication should be done with the supervision of your overseeing health professional.
How to Get Off Xanax
DO NOT quit cold turkey, Xanax withdrawal will set in rapidly. This is NOT the kind of drug you want to suddenly stop, especially if you have used for an extended time period (6 months or more).
- Start tapering off your dose. It seems you can safely reduce weekly by .25 daily. If you find that you can only reduce say .25 a week, or month then do that. Monitored detox under medical supervision can take months. If you find you're developing withdrawal symptoms to fast, then maintain your regular dose and stretch out the reduction time. Again, be patient. It took me 3 months to get off of this garbage, it may take you longer.
- Drink tons of water daily, this is important to do even when you're not using any type of prescription medications. You need to keep toxins flowing out of your body.
- Stop putting other toxins in, don't drink, try not to smoke if you are a smoker.
- Use Melatonin for sleep. 3-5mg will keep you sleeping pretty well, melatonin is safe, natural and cheap. L-Theanine will also help to relax and is perfectly safe.
- As long as you are not drinking, you can take 500mg of vitamin B3 during the day to manage anxiety. An added bonus with B3 it also helps with depression and clears the skin.
This is not an exact science. You are going to notice that some days are harder than others. If you notice extreme withdrawal symptoms, contact your doctor asap. Give yourself plenty of time to relax while going through this process. You will notice symptoms through the duration of tapering off; this is normal. By the time you successfully reach 21 days Xanax-free, most of your symptoms should be gone. Reach out to support groups if needed, and be patient. You can get off this medication, you just need to allow yourself time to do so.
Best of luck to you on your Xanax-free life!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2017 Rebecca
Nikita on May 13, 2017:
You are very wrong about xanex and klonipin. If u truly suffer from extreme anxiety disorder, stress, depression and are thr type of person who cannot relax or cannot calm down to sleep because your mind will not stop you have a real sickness a real disease or disorder you would think differently about a drug that absolutely helps you. I am 60 years old and have been to many doctors including psychiatrists,etc and have taken maby different prescribed medications that never helped me. Xanex however does and i am prescribed a low dose, have never abused it and have never craved a higher dose or wanted more than i needed to calm down. I have haf anxiety attacks where i visibly shake, cannot breathe right where i start breathing much rapidly than normal and make a really strange noise. I have broken out in hives from nerves, i lose weight constantly no matter how much i eat because doctors tell me my anxiety causes my adrenaline levels to go so high my body burns the food right up. Sometimes when i sleep i actually feel like my whole body is shaking inside n it wakes me up shaking and sweating. Xanex does not help u sleep, it does cause muscle spasms in your neck or any other part of your body if anything it relaxes them. That is the only thing it should be prescribed for to calm and relax. Ive tried melatonin with L-Theanine to promote sleep and relaxation and it does not work at all for me. Ive tried teas made specifically for sleep for taming tension, valerian root, etc. etc. And they do not work for me. And for someone like myself not having them is hell. Even on a low dose n no abusing of them i cannot sleep, hold any food or liquids down and it does not last a few days. The longest i went was 3 weeks and i suffered so badly it was horrible. So if you are like myself you really need these type if drugs. The young people who are abusing them or taking them with heroin and other drugs to get high are ruining it for those of us who really medically need them. So please don't believe everything you hear and put those of us who truly suffer from anxiety and need these medications to try to function and be as normal as we can because of those that have given it a bad name because they want to get higher on their opiate addiction or be able to sleep after they've done crack, cocaine or meth amphetamines all night abd can't go to sleep when they've run out. Please no that some of us really suffer from this condition and truly need benzodiazapines to live as normal if a life as we possibly can. God bless.
FlourishAnyway on January 20, 2017:
You are brave for sharing your story. I'm sure it will I'll help many people.
Philip Cooper from Olney on January 18, 2017:
My partner was on Xanax and then she came off and she had brutal withdrawal symptoms that went on for three months. We nearly broke up and our sex life was negatively affected. She decided to go back to medication but a different drug. She is now back on even keel. She was never warned about the withdrawal symptoms. Nice article.
simplehappylife on January 18, 2017:
Great piece! You're right, more people should be talking about it; because it is not so uncommon. A long time ago, I knew a young woman that was so addicted to them that she took them throughout her pregnancy! I was horrified. I don't know her anymore (that was over 16 years ago), but I can't imagine what kind of effects it has caused not only her but her child :(