If you are taking Xanax®, Reclam®, Xanor®, or Niravam® without a prescription, a drug called Alprazolam may be a problem for you. Alprazolam is in the benzodiazepine family of drugs, and is used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

Most people (77%) feel drowsy when they take Xanax®. Other common side effects include constipation, changes in appetite, and light-headedness. However, the major risk of Xanax® and other products containing Alprazolam is chemical and psychological dependency. In fact, some experts think that Alprazolam should only be prescribed for two to six weeks, as is done in Great Britain, because of the potential for dependency and difficult withdrawal.

According to several studies, those who take more than 4 mg/day of Alprazolam have more problems tapering off to a zero dose than those who have been taking less than that amount. In these same studies, after many people stopped taking Xanax®, their panic attacks or anxiety came back at higher levels than before drug treatment. This is called “rebounding.” Thus, if you have been self-medicating with Alprazolam, you may experience similar symptoms of anxiety when you withdraw.

It is best to withdraw from Xanax® or any other benzodiazepine under medical supervision. You can experience seizures and other severe problems if you withdraw too quickly. Some people have actually died after they suddenly stopped taking benzodiazepines. 

Your symptoms will depend upon how long you have been using Alprazolam and at what levels. They will also depend on your current health, age, weight, sex, medical history, other drug use, and so forth. Your symptoms may only include minor depression and sleeplessness. However, some people go into a major withdrawal syndrome that includes flu symptoms like vomiting, sweating, convulsions, tremors, and abdominal and muscle cramps, and dangerous problems such as delirium, visual and auditory hallucinations, and lowered blood pressure. These symptoms begin 12 to 24 hours after your last dosage of Xanax and are the worst between hours 24 and 72.  In one case, a woman remained in a complete psychosis after 12 days of withdrawing from Xanax.  Some clinics help you through this period by using medications or by gradually decreasing your levels of Alprazolam.

Once all traces of Alprazolam have been removed from your body, you may “rebound,” or experience deep anxiety and panic at higher levels than before you took the drug. Depending on the level of your involvement with Alprazolam, you may want to remain in a residential center for a few months or weeks to get help with any anxiety and depression that may surface.

Residential treatment is where you live with others undergoing treatment, along with full-time counselors. You participate in group and individual counseling, and may attend classes in nutrition and relaxation techniques. Usually, your family members will become involved in counseling, too, often by telephone. Most centers offer both indoor and outdoor sports, yoga, art, music, drama, and other activities that teach you how to relieve stress and anxiety in healthy ways. You also learn to deal with situations and people that may “trigger” a relapse into using drugs.

Once you return home, you usually will attend support meetings in your community, such as Narc-Anon. You will likely continue with individual and family counseling on an outpatient basis.

The National Institute of Health has conducted research that indicates people who spend at least a year in active treatment have better outcomes and are more likely to become permanently drug-free. Give yourself time.

If you are the custodial parent of a child who is abusing benzodiazepines, you have the right to place your child in a drug treatment center. Even teenagers who go through drug rehabilitation unwillingly can achieve excellent outcomes.