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Tapering Off Xanax: How to Quit the Drug Safely

how to taper off xanax

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Xanax is a highly addictive drug of the benzodiazepine class. Whenever it is taken recreationally, for an extended period, or in larger doses than prescribed, both physical and mental dependence upon the drug is highly likely. When this happens, the user needs to know how to wean off Xanax abuse through tapering. Once reliance on the drug occurs, withdrawal symptoms are likely to arise when the user stops taking the medication. Depending on how strong the addiction is, these symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe. In many cases, the user experiences pain and psychological disturbances. In some cases, unsupervised detox without tapering can result in death.
Many wonder how to quit Xanax safely. Ultimately, it is best done under medical supervision using a Xanax taper schedule. To learn more about tapering off Xanax, continue reading.

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Table of Contents

The Basics About Xanax Withdrawal

Young woman suffering from Xanax withdrawal.

Withdrawal is a term that refers to the symptoms a person experiences when they stop taking a drug or taper the dose they take. These symptoms can be both physical and psychological. When compared to other drugs in its class, alprazolam withdrawal symptoms are considered more powerful and more dangerous due to its relatively short half-life.

Xanax is only meant for short-term prescribed use because Xanax addiction potential is significantly higher than that of other benzodiazepines. In fact, there are cases where withdrawal symptoms have been reported despite the user only taking the prescribed Xanax dose and stopping the medication after a month or less.
Due to the short half-life, withdrawal symptoms can begin 12 hours of the last dose taken. The strongest portion of the withdrawal syndrome is usually complete after two weeks if tapering is used; however, the effects can be ongoing for up to a year. The higher the dose and the longer the medication was taken, the more dangerous the withdrawal effects. Common Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sweating
  • Weight loss
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Seizures

In severe cases of withdrawal, especially without tapering the dose, the seizures experienced can lead to death. Additionally, after completing Xanax detox, there is the possibility of experiencing rebound symptoms. This means that the symptoms the drug was originally meant to treat can return, often stronger than they were when treatment began. These may include anxiety, panic attacks, and sleep disturbances. While these symptoms tend to lessen a week after detox starts and are not as strong when tapering is used, they will not go away unless the underlying condition is treated. It is vital that the user be honest as they speak to their treatment provider about their experiences using alprazolam so they know to look for alternatives to benzodiazepines. Although there are dangers associated with quitting alprazolam, ultimately, it is better than suffering the results of continuing its use.

What is Tapering Off Xanax?

Curious how to wean off Xanax? The key is to use a Xanax taper plan. This refers to a specific schedule that is followed to slowly taper the dose of alprazolam being taken until the patient is completely off the medication. When users do not follow a Xanax taper, they are more likely to experience severe and painful detox symptoms, up to and including death.

Tapering off alprazolam alone is not recommended. For one, there is no standard Xanax taper schedule; the taper schedule used in each case is based on the needs of the patient.

Things considered when making a taper schedule are the dose taken, the frequency of the dose, how long the medication was taken, and any underlying medical conditions the patient has.
In general, the taper schedule begins by taking the total daily dose used by the patient and dividing it into three doses each day. Every two weeks, the dose is then decreased, often by about 25%, until it is safe to stop using it. However, as noted, this varies from person to person. As such, tapering should only be done under the supervision of a medical professional.

How to Taper Off Xanax?

Working with a medical provider ensures withdrawal is safe for the user.

Many users wonder how to wean yourself off Xanax. The simple answer is you don’t—at least not alone. Instead, the user needs to work with medical professionals. There are three options for how to quit Xanax that will be considered: inpatient, outpatient, and combination rehabilitation.

Inpatient Withdrawal Therapy

  • Recommended for those using high Xanax doses
  • Involves medical professionals who can treat acute withdrawal symptoms
  • Ensures tapering is supervised and done correctly
  • Allows for the treatment of withdrawal using other medications
  • Permits sedation in cases where it is needed

Outpatient Withdrawal Therapy

  • Ideal for those using lower doses of alprazolam, such as those who are addicted despite using the medication as prescribed
  • Involves light supervision from medical professionals
  • Requires the user to be diligent in their tapering regimen
  • Does not permit the use of other medicines to manage detox
  • Sedation is not used

Combination Withdrawal Therapy

  • Suited to those who are taking any dose and require direct supervision at first but are comfortable monitoring themselves after initial detox is complete
  • Helps the user build the skills needed to be diligent in their recovery
  • May involve the use of other medications to manage withdrawal
  • Sedation is not used

For those who are worried about how to stop taking Xanax for sleep or anxiety, it is essential to turn to professionals for assistance, as this is the answer to how to stop taking Xanax safely. With the right help, there is no need to worry about what happens when you stop taking Xanax.

While Difficult, It Is Better to Wean off Xanax Now

Although withdrawal symptoms can be scary, the process should not be life-threatening as long as Xanax detox is done under the supervision of an experienced medical team. The exact Xanax taper schedule used varies from patient to patient, but in every case, there will be one that works. No matter how intimidating the idea of withdrawal is, it is ultimately less painful than continuing to use Xanax. Using the correct assistance, healthy and happy life can be achieved.

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Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN
Nena Messina

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.


Leave a comment

  • Robert Weisner
    I’m in the same situation. My Dr. recommended going to 1.5mg for 2 weeks, 1mg for weeks 3 & 4, .5mg for weeks 5 & 6 and .25 mg for weeks 7 & 8.
    • Anon
      How did that work out? I take .5mg almost daily to sleep for a few years now and looking to quit. Can’t go cold turkey because I otherwise cannot stay asleep. Starting by breaking the pill in half. Was this schedule you mention successful?
  • JD McAlester
    My grandson has been using Xanax for 4-5 yr. he really wants to get off it. However, he has been in methadone treatment for 3 years for a heroine addiction. At one point he was getting 90 units of nethadone daily. He has been tapering off over the past 6 months and is now getting 40 units daily. He is 27 years of age, has no insurance, and is unemployed. Can you offer any suggestions?
  • Alexis Taylor
    don’t feel bad doll. we all have our own demons ,some are just big enough ppl 2 admit it. your doing whats right and reaching out 4 help even shows me your gonna be the greatest mother! Yeah doll, wean yourself so baby dont get took than u do what u gotta do 4 u when the baby arrives and your not breastfeeding BUT becareful becaz your tolerance level will be way lower by then so dont get your doctor 2 out u on your old dose but tell your be proud of yourself 4 putting baby 1st!!!!! Congrats & may God send u nothing but love n blesssing! -Donna <3