How to Recover After a Xanax Binge (& Mistakes to Avoid)
When taken in moderate doses in intervals prescribed by your doctor, Xanax (a benzodiazepine) can be very useful for managing symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax is considered to be a safe medication to take when done so responsibly and under doctor supervision. However, misuse of benzodiazepines is very common.
What Classifies as a Xanax Binge?
When taken in high enough doses, benzodiazepines can cause a relaxing and euphoric high. The high that people experience when they misuse Xanax is a rewarding behavior that reinforces misuse of the drug. This behavioral reward is what creates such a high addictive potential for benzodiazepines like Xanax.
People who become addicted to the high that Xanax produces may find themselves binging on the drug for days or weeks at a time.
Xanax is a fast-acting drug with effects lasting for about six hours at a time. As soon as the effects start to wear off, someone who is bingeing on Xanax will take another dose.
Regular use of Xanax beyond what is medically recommended could constitute a Xanax binge. Standard Xanax dosages:
- For anxiety are 0.35 to 0.5 mg taken orally three times per day, not to exceed 4 mg.
- For panic disorder are 0.5 mg taken orally three times per day, not to exceed 10 mg.
- In extended-release form are 0.5 to 1 mg taken orally once a day.
Any consumption of Xanax that is more frequent or taken in larger doses on a more regular basis than the above recommendations could indicate a Xanax binge, unless it is recommended by your doctor.
After bingeing on Xanax, is important to take special precautions to manage symptoms of what some people refer to as a Xanax hangover.
A Xanax Hangover
A Xanax hangover is what many people experience following a period of bingeing on Xanax. When the effects of Xanax wear off, you are likely to experience the sensation of a hangover, also known as withdrawal symptoms. The severity of your binge will determine how bad your hangover is likely to be, similar to the relationship between drinking alcohol and the subsequent hangover you’re likely to experience the next day.
The symptoms you can expect to experience from a Xanax hangover are actually quite similar to those of a hangover from alcohol.
- Stomach cramps
- Increased pulse, blood pressure, and body temperature
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid breathing
- Blurred vision
- Loss of memory
- Difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly
- Low motivation
- Agitation and irritability
- Anxiety and depression
Just as with alcohol, the only way to truly cure a Xanax hangover is to give it time. There are some at-home remedies, such as getting exercise, eating well, hydrating, and sleeping that can help to ease the symptoms.
No matter what you do, however, symptoms are likely to last for about 24 hours from your last dose of Xanax. If you are coming off a severe Xanax binge, you may experience residual hangover symptoms for a couple of days.
Risks Associated With a Xanax Binge
Xanax is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine in the United States despite its high misuse liability. Xanax is widely misused and known to cause severe withdrawal symptoms in people who have become dependent on it. Even when doctors help patients taper off Xanax, they are likely to experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
In addition to the likelihood of encountering withdrawal symptoms following a Xanax binge, researchers have found that alprazolam (the generic form of Xanax) is the second most common prescription medication, as well as the most common benzodiazepine, that is associated with emergency department visits related to drug misuse.
Bingeing on Xanax is particularly dangerous because it is significantly more toxic than other benzodiazepines. It has a rapid onset and short half-life, which makes it easy to overdose on and likely to cause severe withdrawal symptoms.
People who are at risk for suicide and who are mixing Xanax with other substances, such as alcohol, opioids, and other benzodiazepines, are putting themselves at great risk for an overdose when they binge on Xanax.
What to Do Immediately After a Binge
Due to the dangers associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal, it is important to be mindful about what you do after a Xanax binge. If you have been bingeing for an extended period of time or have already become physically dependent on the drug, you may be at risk for experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms if you stop your Xanax use cold turkey.
Immediately following your binge, make an honest self-assessment about the severity of the binge and the presence of any withdrawal symptoms. If your binge was relatively mild and your symptoms are more reflective of a hangover, then you may be able to manage them on your own. Taking steps to keep yourself hydrated and well-nourished may be enough to help you make a full recovery. Even in this situation, it is still recommended to consult a medical professional.
If you are coming off a severe binge that is associated with a greater substance use disorder, however, you may be at risk for experiencing serious symptoms that are associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal include:
- Blurred vision
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
If you begin to experience any of the above symptoms following a Xanax binge, seek medical care. Symptoms can suddenly worsen and become life-threatening. Seizures associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal can lead to death if left untreated.
Doctor-Recommended Recovery Methods
In general, doctors do not recommend stopping benzodiazepine use cold turkey. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that suddenly stopping benzodiazepine use can lead to seizures and other harmful health consequences. Anyone who is thinking about stopping use of benzodiazepines should speak with their health care provider about the safest way to do so.
Whether you have been using Xanax recreationally or for medical reasons, most doctors will want to set up a tapering schedule to gradually reduce your intake of Xanax. By tapering you off the medication, your body is given time to slowly adjust to the substance leaving your system. It is less likely to go into shock this way and much less likely to result in life-threatening seizures.
Medical professionals recommend decreasing your daily dosage by no more than 0.5 mg every three days. Some people may even require a longer tapering schedule than this, where dosages are reduced only once a week or so. Exact tapering schedules can be determined by your doctor based on your individual situation.
Mistakes to Avoid After a Xanax Binge
Following a Xanax binge, monitor your symptoms closely. If you’re lucky, you may only experience mild symptoms, such as headache and fatigue, which can be soothed through home remedies and by getting some extra sleep. Other symptoms, however, like seizure and thoughts of suicide can be life-threatening and warrant immediate medical attention.
- Don’t ignore the development of serious withdrawal symptoms.
- Don’t hesitate to get medical attention.
- Don’t treat withdrawal symptoms by taking more Xanax.
- Don’t self-medicate with other substances
- Don’t physically exert yourself too much. Your body needs time to recover.
Some people self-medicate withdrawal symptoms from other substances with Xanax and vice versa. It is highly recommended to avoid doing this, as medical complications often arise when people start to self-medicate. In addition to the physical symptoms that you put yourself at risk for experiencing, self-medicating with any substance increases the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder.
If you are recovering from a Xanax binge, avoid substituting Xanax with other substances. Your body needs time to recover from the high levels of the substance that were in your system. Consult with a doctor who can help you establish a tapering plan that will allow you to safely detox.
In more serious cases, the safest environment to help you recover from a Xanax binge may be in a detox program. Detox programs can provide medical and psychological support to safely see you through the withdrawal process.
A Sign That Help Is Needed
Bingeing on Xanax is a clear indicator of substance misuse. If you think you are struggling with a substance use disorder, speak with a health care provider about getting help. There are a wide variety of treatment programs available throughout the country that are specifically designed to help people recover from prescription drug abuse.
A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal. (March 2018). Journal of Addiction Medicine.
Research Report Series: Prescription Drug Abuse. (October 2011). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
What Is Xanax (Alprazolam)? (May 2017). Everyday Health.
Xanax. (September 2018). Drugs.com.
Xanax Hangover: What Does It Feel Like and How Long Does It Last? (April 2018). Healthline.