How to Taper Off Xanax: Weaning Safely and on Schedule
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For people who have become dependent on Xanax and want to stop using it, Xanax detox is the first step toward recovery. Detox is the process of flushing the drug out of the body. Many times, people who decide they want to give up Xanax will want to stop using it right away. However, the best method for stopping Xanax use is tapering off Xanax, which is when a person takes increasingly smaller doses over many weeks.
Tapering off Xanax safely and effectively is best achieved with the help of a medical professional. When people try to stop cold turkey or when they try to taper too fast, they are much more likely to have harmful Xanax withdrawal symptoms, which can cause severe damage and lead to a setback in sobriety.
How to Get Off Xanax
People should never try to taper off Xanax on their own. There are many factors that are calculated into a tapering schedule — whether to switch to a long-acting benzodiazepine, the starting dose of the long-acting drug, the dosing schedule, how much time to wait before reducing the dose throughout each phase of the schedule and symptom management. People who have medical training and experience treating people with substance use disorders are best equipped to handle each of these decisions.
If a person who is Xanax-dependent attempts to taper off Xanax their own, their risk of serious health consequences and setbacks in sobriety drastically rises.
Xanax withdrawal symptoms like delirium, depression, high blood pressure and seizures can be dangerous. Those who attempt withdrawal on their own are also much more likely to use Xanax again. People who started taking Xanax for mental health issues are particularly at risk. Xanax withdrawal often causes severe anxiety and panic.
People ready to detox from Xanax should speak to a healthcare provider who knows how to taper off Xanax. People going through withdrawal can also make the detox process easier by drinking plenty of water, eating nutritious meals and avoiding other substances, including alcohol.
A direct taper is when the dose of the drug is gradually reduced over time. For people tapering off Xanax, side effects are a big concern. Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine, meaning that its effects wear off quickly. If people decrease their dose of Xanax directly, they may have rebound symptoms, where the brain’s activity will suddenly speed up once the drug is gone. This effect can lead to symptoms like seizures. A direct taper may also be challenging to manage because Xanax pills come in specific tablet strengths. Decreasing a dose by 5%, for example, may lead to difficulties in accurately splitting pills into smaller doses.
Instead of directly reducing a person’s Xanax dose, many doctors will recommend a substitution taper, in which people first switch to a longer-acting benzodiazepine and then gradually reduce the dose of this drug. Longer-acting medications last longer in the body, leading to fewer withdrawal symptoms in between doses. People using this method usually have fewer cravings, reducing the chance of a setback. Additionally, if they are less distracted by symptoms, they can have a more productive time in therapy.
One common technique is to use Valium for Xanax withdrawal. This drug, also known as diazepam, creates many of the same changes in the brain that Xanax does. Other physicians may prefer to have a person taper off Xanax using Klonopin. People interested in tapering should talk to a medical expert to learn more about which type of long-acting drug might be able to help them through Xanax withdrawal.
Preparing to Taper Off Xanax
If you’re considering tapering off Xanax, you’ll want to ensure you prepare well and understand the process. You should get a doctor’s advice before you attempt to decrease your dosage.
Consult Your Healthcare Provider
Benzodiazepines, including Xanax, can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, including hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, seizures and more. It is imperative to seek medical advice for your specific situation. A medical professional can help you understand your unique risks and work with you to develop a tapering schedule that’s most suitable for you.
You may also want to consider a medical detox program to ensure you have the help you need. With a professional detox program at Ridgefield Recovery, our medical team provides 24/7 supervision and treatment to make withdrawal as safe and comfortable as possible.
Understand the Importance of Gradual Tapering
Suddenly stopping Xanax can be dangerous. Gradual tapering is critical for a safe and comfortable withdrawal. Your body will adjust to incremental reductions in Xanax much better than if you attempt to cut your dosage in a short period of time.
Assess Your Current Dosage
Before you begin a taper, your doctor needs to have an accurate understanding of your Xanax usage. Without assessing your Xanax usage, neither you nor your healthcare provider will have the necessary information to develop a tapering schedule. You’ll want to answer the following questions as precisely as possible:
- How much Xanax have I been taking?
- What dosage are my pills, and how many have I been taking?
- How long have I been taking Xanax?
Once you can give your doctor information to assess your usage, they will be able to develop a tapering schedule that works best for you.
Develop a Tapering Schedule with Your Doctor
It’s best to work closely with your healthcare provider to establish a tapering schedule that’s most suited to your needs, including your overall health. A tailored tapering plan will help you avoid severe withdrawal symptoms. The right tapering schedule will also help you avoid relapse.
Monitor Your Progress
A tapering plan should never be set in stone. You and your healthcare provider should closely monitor your progress. It may be useful to keep a log of your overall physical and emotional well-being as you taper. As you progress through the tapering schedule, you and your healthcare provider may need to adjust your plan to deliver better results.
Xanax Tapering Schedule
Physicians will usually start a taper by giving patients an amount of Valium based on the person’s typical Xanax dose and then slowly decrease the dose and frequency over the course of several weeks.
The World Health Organization provides a Xanax taper chart as an example for people who are using the equivalent of less than 40mg of Valium per day:
- 1st Phase: 5 mg of Valium, taken in the morning, noon and night before bed
- 2nd Phase: 5 mg of Valium in the morning, 2.5 mg at noon and 5 mg at night
- 3rd Phase: 5 mg of Valium in the morning and at night
- 4th Phase: 5 mg of Valium at night
- 5th Phase: 2.5 mg of Valium at night
- 6th Phase: no Valium
Each phase lasts at least one week, although the total amount of time people stay in one phase before moving to the next depends upon how bad their withdrawal symptoms are. Experienced healthcare providers can judge when it is safe to further reduce a person’s dose.
Doctors don’t follow this exact schedule for each person but will instead adjust a schedule to meet an individual’s needs. They may also use a different schedule altogether — some experts recommend decreasing the dose by 5% to 10% every one to two weeks. Physicians will likely design a Xanax taper schedule based on how severe a person’s dependence is, or whether they also need to detox from other substances. Based on a person’s typical Xanax dose, physicians will likely recommend higher or lower doses of Valium.
Regardless of your dose, it is imperative that you work with a medical professional on your tapering plan. Everyone’s body responds differently to reducing Xanax, and you may put yourself in serious danger if you attempt to wean off of Xanax on your own.
Tapering Schedule for 0.25 mg of Xanax
If you have been taking 0.25 mg of Xanax three times daily, you might end up with a substitution taper that looks like this:
- Your doctor may switch you to a longer-acting benzodiazepine like diazepam on an equivalent or slightly reduced dose.
- You might reduce your overall dose by 25% in the first 1–3 weeks.
- Depending on how your body responds, you may reduce by another 25% in weeks 2–5.
- You may hold on to that 50% reduction from your original dose for about a month.
- After you have held at the 50 percent dose, your doctor may recommend you continue to taper by 25% or so every two weeks until you can discontinue your Xanax use.
Tapering Schedule for 1 mg of Xanax
If you have been taking multiple 1mg doses of Xanax daily for an extended period of time, your dosage may be considered “supratherapeutic,” which is beyond the recommended maximum dose for safe medical use.
High doses like these may see a greater initial reduction at first, up to 30%. The dosing may then be reduced by an additional 5–10% per week until you reach a stabilizing dose that is safe to maintain for a few weeks or perhaps even months. Your medical provider may also decide to supplement with other medications like an anticonvulsant to help ensure your safety.
Coping with Withdrawal Symptoms from Tapering
As your body adjusts to the new dosing of Xanax, you will inevitably feel some measure of withdrawal. You may find that your taper results in only minor discomfort, but it is difficult to predict how your body will respond.
Possible Withdrawal Symptoms
Xanax withdrawal symptoms may include any of the following:
- Rapid pulse
- Psychosis, including hallucinations, delusions, and delirium (a type of severe confusion)
- The sensation of being detached from your body
- Panic attacks
- Hypersensitivity to light, sound, or touch
- Muscle spasms
- Sleep problems
- Loss of appetite
- General discomfort
- Abnormal sensations
Tips for Managing Xanax Withdrawal
Difficult withdrawal symptoms may indicate that the taper is too aggressive. Your doctor may decide to stabilize you at your current dose to avoid worsening symptoms. Once your body has sufficient time to adjust to the reduced dosage, you might then proceed with further tapering.
In addition to making tapering changes, other medications may be used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. In certain cases, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and beta blockers may be used to treat withdrawal. Your healthcare provider will be able to assess with you which options best fit your situation.
Staying Off Xanax after Weaning
Relapse is always a risk. It’s best to start thinking about the support and resources you need to stay sober before you even begin your taper. A rehab facility that offers a full continuum of care can provide support at every stage of recovery.
Develop a Relapse Prevention Plan
A relapse prevention plan will involve identifying triggers, learning coping strategies and developing a support system to help you maintain sobriety. Having these resources in place as you begin your Xanax tapering journey will greatly improve the success of your recovery.
At The Recovery Village Ridgefield, we start planning for your long-term recovery the moment you begin treatment with us. Our team will work closely with you to connect you with the resources, tools and support you need to lead a Xanax-free life.
Maintain Follow-up with Your Healthcare Provider
Wherever you seek help, your healthcare provider will play a crucial role in your ongoing recovery. Regular appointments will ensure that you stay healthy and poised for long-term success. It is always possible for protracted withdrawal symptoms to flare up unexpectedly. Ongoing medical monitoring from your care team will help you manage whatever you might face after tapering.
Getting Professional Help for Detox and Tapering
Going through withdrawal can be very challenging, but medical detox centers provide a way to withdraw safely and successfully. Medical detox programs usually offer 24/7 medical attention and are staffed by substance abuse experts who can help monitor participants and intervene when symptoms become severe. People who go through medical detox can have a tapering plan that is designed to meet their individual needs and is adjusted, as needed, based on withdrawal side effects.
A good medical detox center should be staffed by a team of experts who know how to address a person’s physical and mental health needs. These facilities can guide a person through the detox phase safely and start providing addiction treatment as a person tapers off Xanax. Detox centers should also be able to evaluate and treat co-occurring disorders, which are other mental health disorders that a person may be dealing with. This treatment may be important for people who initially started using Xanax to help with anxiety. As they reduce their Xanax dose, symptoms of restlessness, agitation or panic may return. A detox center can help address these issues with other forms of treatment, including counseling.
The Recovery Village Ridgefield Detox Center
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Vancouver, WA 98662
Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can address Xanax use concerns. Take the first step toward long-term sobriety, call today.
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