What Happens During Xanax Withdrawl

The side effect that has become the bane of my existence in the past several days is the heart palpitations. Between those and feeling as though I’ve just run a marathon at the rate my heart is racing, I have truly believed on many occasions that I’m dying of a heartache. Yes, dramatic, but as my doctor told me yesterday (I finally relented and called him) abrupt stopping of Xanax consumption can, in some cases, lead to death. The hypochondriac in me did not need to hear that.

The palpitations are so strong and feel as though my heart is residing right behind my larynx, that this has led me to cough unnecessarily. It’s this bizarre way of coping or trying to drown out the feeling that my heart just might explode out of my mouth at any given moment. I fully expect to throw up and see my heart floating in the toilet any day now.

These are not pretty things; these are not glamorous and they’re sure as hell not doing anything for my already wonky social skills. The problem with Xanax withdrawal is that you’re experiencing what the drug was prescribed to alleviate in the first place. You are living an ongoing anxiety attack, but if you want to get it out of your system, you need to be strong, accept that you technically did this to yourself and push through it like a champ. It’s hard to be a champ sometimes.

So here I am on an extremely low dosage of Xanax so I can get through these final days of withdrawal with as little discomfort as possible. It’s still not easy, but at least it softens the intensity of the symptoms so I can get through the day without screaming into pillows and admiring my reflection in the toilet bowl water.

The point is, my dear readers, is just say no to drugs. Seriously. Something that’s prescribed to you, a fact we should all know by now since we live in a pill-popping society, can be intensely harmful when overused, and even deadly should you decide to give it up without regard to just how badly your body needs it. I can’t stress this enough. It might not be heroin, but it’s still a drug that has taken hold of your nervous system and will not let you go without a fight.

While we can all agree that some of us need certain pills to keep our heads in check and from feeling sad or even hurting ourselves, we need to tread lightly. We need to be aware that sometimes a tiny pill is stronger than us. Xanax is the most misused benzodiazepine in the U.S. market of prescription drugs because it does work so effectively and immediately in the beginning, but at what cost?

What it comes down to is that Xanax is a horrible drug. Its intentions are good, but the aftermath is hell. I wouldn’t give Xanax to my worst enemy. No one deserves to feel like they’re mid-anxiety attack 24-hours a day – not even the evilest of evil. Although, you’ll agree with me if you’ve been there, the evilest of evil is Xanax itself.


Photo: Valley of the Dolls/20th Century Fox

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    • jamiepeck

      I am constitutionally ~super chill~ so benzos don’t do that much for me. However, I will take this under advisement. And don’t try to do this shit without your doctor, girl! He/she’s not gonna judge you if he/she is a good shrink.

    • Ms. Pants

      I’m a xanax fan, but I’m also hyper-self-controlling. The moment I start to crave *anything* more than just a “oh, that would be fun/nice,” I cut myself off entirely. And the xanax I take for anxiety attacks are like baby aspirin, they’re so small a dose. Weed does more for me than xanax.

      Neely, next time try the Sleep Cure. (Oh how I wish the Sleep Cure worked.)

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Hayden went through Xanax withdrawal last year in rehab and apparently he smelled rotten meat the entire time. It sounds horrible. :( Apparently, it’s worse than most withdrawals of other drugs, guh, and I hope you feel better ASAP.

    • mjeeeeeloise

      Xanax is NOT a drug you should ever mess with. Four years ago my husband tried to kick it cold turkey and he went through utter hell. He had heart issues to begin with, and unfortunately, the withdrawal symptoms ended up giving him a coronary and he didn’t make it. It was truly the most awful thing anyone should ever have to experience. Amanda is right, JUST SAY NO.

    • Rose D.

      Paxil is the same way, only, possibly, worse (diarrhea, suicide, anger, random vomitting, SO MUCH FUN!). I wouldn’t wish the withdrawl on anyone. But, it will end, and it will get better, even if it doesn’t seem that way right now. You can so this!

      • Amanda Chatel

        Ah, yes… Paxil. I dealt with those withdrawals in college… not pretty.

    • Tania

      I love your articles most of the time (the ones I don’t love make me want to pull a big sister smackdown, but I refrain due to my desire not to be an insufferable bitch on the internet), but I hope your comment about Advil destroying your liver was a silly nod to your self-professed love of liquor. I am assuming it is, but one can never be sure.

      The withdrawals are what have made me avoid medication for my social anxiety, and up until my recent panic attack after a “friend” broke up with me (it’s nice finding out after five years someone you love is an asshole. You, I *know,* understand entirely), I haven’t really needed it.

      In any case, feel better soon! I would share with you my butter tarts (might be an exclusively Canadian treat, I don’t actually know) if I could, because buttery caramel raisin tarts make me feel better.

      • Amanda Chatel

        Well, Tania since you did just mention that you want to “pull a big sister smackdown” sometimes, I encourage you speak up, girl! You just made me love you with that comment, so now it’s going to be hard to hate you after such brutal honesty.

        And yes, on the Advil front… although, a lot of things in mass quantities will destroy livers. Or at least that what I learned in high school health class.

        If you could ship those butter tarts this way, that would be swell. I’ve never heard of them, but you can’t go wrong with anything that has “butter” and “tart” in them. xo.

      • Tania

        If you buy pre-made tart shells, they are incredibly easy! You can use nuts in place of the raisins, if you are a heathen: http://gocanada.about.com/od/wheretoeatanddrink/r/butter_tart.htm

        Another thing that’s easy to make that Americans miss out on: http://www.joyofbaking.com/NanaimoBars.html

        You should have Jennifer make them in her cooking quest. ;)

      • Amanda Chatel

        I’m printing these out and forcing Jennifer to make them for me this week. It is her duty to keep me knee-deep in treats. Thank you!

    • Marissa

      My husband works in the ER at a large hospital, and a ridiculous number of drug seekers come in with fake symptoms for two things: vicodin and xanax. They take extremely large amounts and are constantly asking him for “xanie bars.” It’s ridiculous how much their systems can handle after daily use for years. This is just so they feel normal now. To top it off, they are coming in for an $800 ER visit. This is a serious strain on healthcare resources. Xanax is serious stuff! It needs to be passed out way less easily. With that said, I require 500 mg for all flights.

      • Amanda Chatel

        I have heard of and seen those “xanie bars” on the Internets — holy shit! Those are fucking huge! I don’t even know what one of those would do to me. Oh, I know what it would do: I’d black out and live tweet my emotions while crying into the floor.

    • Jane

      Yikes. I take 1 mg of Xanax but only during a full-blown panic attack or a particularly stressful night, to sleep. (They were prescribed to me when I saw a friend get hit by a car a few feet away – there was no sleep to be had that night.) This is making me seriously reconsider even that.

      I was recently put on Cymbalta for anxiety. The doctor prescribed it to me without checking my chart, which showed prn Imitrex for migraines (from my previous doctor). All was well for about a week, when I took an Imitrex for a migraine I felt coming on and all hell broke loose. I started twitching/convulsing, sweating, running an extremely high fever and became inconsolably angry. Serotonin syndrome. The next week was a nightmare, and as I sit here a month later I’m still having tremors.

      The moral of all these stories is, don’t mess around with prescription meds, even ones that aren’t for anxiety/depression.

      • Ms. Pants

        I had to stop taking Imitrex for my migraines cos it reacts with friggin EVERYTHING. Migraines are miserable, but moot if I go off my anti-ds and off myself. I feel ya, Jane. xo

    • Lucid

      IMaybe I can save you more pain from this advice… Get on klonapin(sp?), it’s easy-peasy to get off of compared to the Xanax. That’s the only thing that worked for me. Transition to klonapin instead and then get off that. Simple.

      • Amanda Chatel

        The one time I had klonapin (I don’t know how to spell it either), I had a severe reaction. However, you’re right — it is far easier on the addiction end of things. In fact, it’s the one I plan to have as my “emergency only” pill. My doctor seems to think that since my reaction was back in college, that maybe things will go smoothly this time. I’d rather have the reaction again of throwing up and hives to know for sure, than this shit.

    • Heather

      I’ve only taken Xanax once. I’m sure it was a lower dose since the Dr. prescribed it for me, at my request, before an uncomfortable/invasive exam and I’d had no previous experience with it. I could hardly walk once it kicked in and passed out as soon as I got home from my appointment. I’ve always wondered how anyone could function on it or take it regularly. I guess drugs can affect people very differently.

    • LC

      Next time you want to do something like this at least go talk to a pharmacist (like me!). They would obviously try to get you to talk to your doctor before attempting something like this but they would also let you know what terrible symptoms you would be getting yourself into by cold-turkeying xanax!

      And FYI, Advil (ibuprofen) is not hard on your liver, that’s Tylenol (acetaminophen) you’re thinking of and using the recommended dose of either is totally safe and fine for a few days (granted you’re not on other meds that might interact or have liver or kidney failure).

    • Jenny

      Ugh, withdrawal is the WORST! When I was weaning off an antidepressant it felt like sporadic little lightning storms in my brain, especially if I moved too fast.

      I’ve got issues with anxiety and, it may not work for you, but I use an app called “Simply Being” when I’m feeling edgy. It’s guided relaxation/meditation. Something about the combination of soothing voice and music always helps me.

    • Pixie

      I’ve always stayed away from Xanax because the withdrawals just sound awful. Also, not good for someone with an addictive personality. I recently came off Avanza/Remeron after 4 years on it. It was BRUTAL. I did it as slowly as possible and still I had 4 weeks of brain zaps, random shaking, severe nausea, headaches and itching. Oh god the itching was possibly the worst. Good luck lady!

    • mm

      In my crazy party days I used to take xanax while drinking, once while on coke, too. One time I passed out face down on my bed like I had been praying – on my knees, face on the bed. The time on coke I couldn’t breathe, my heart was beating in the weirdest way. I called my best friend 300 miles away at 4 in the morning because I thought I was going to die. Then I fell asleep, missed a midterm, and had to drop the class. Xanax is super powerful…both of these times were at least half a bar and I guess I didn’t know how much that is, seeing the comments about bars below. I’ve taken it (without a prescription) a few times with nothing else when I was really depressed or angry about something, and it works like a charm but it always made me doubly upset the next day because life is not, in fact, a xanax dream when you’re not on it. I’m so sorry you’re going through these withdrawals, but you’re so brave for doing it and writing about it so other people know it’s not something to mess around with. I’m here to say ESPECIALLY don’t mess with it as a way to get extra drunk or fucked up. It sounds like the withdrawals can kill you after extended use, and it can definitely kill you when mixed with other drugs/alcohol. It blacks you out and does all sorts of other nasty feeling things.

    • OS

      Hi everyone! My doctor just stated me on Paxil in order to cut back my use of xanax. I have been on 1.5 a day spread over three times. I so want to stop the Paxil asap! Last night woke up with nausea and headache the woke me out of deep sleep. Well had to take .50 mg to finally get through the panic attack that came on. Xanax worked for but made the mistake of telling a doctor I think I want to wean off of it. he scared me by telling me I shouldn’t ever be on Vanness for more than 3 months. I have disability because of my anxiety and panic I don’t know that his decision was the right one. any thoughts?

      • OS

        sorry for typos