Does Xanax Help with Alcohol Withdrawal?

xanax dosage for alcohol withdrawal

In this article, I’m going to discuss how to use Xanax for alcohol withdrawal. People who cross the line from heavy drinking to alcoholism are often shocked at how difficult it can be to quit drinking. Quitting cold turkey is painful and dangerous, and the process can be made much easier by taking a benzodiazepine like Xanax for alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

I remember vividly how over the span of about a year, quitting drinking after a binge went from merely annoying to psychologically exhausting and painful. Because I hated going to the doctor, I had no idea that I could have used a drug like Xanax for alcohol withdrawal. Usually I endured prolonged periods of nervous exhaustion on my couch. Of course, it was only a matter of time before I drank and the process started all over again.

It’s important to understand that alcohol withdrawal is not all in your head. Symptoms like rapid heart beat, panic attacks, or a profound sense of impending doom can get worse and lead to fatal seizures. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms become more severe with repeated episodes because of a phenomenon known as kindling.

When I finally quit drinking, I was prescribed a benzodiazepine called Ativan for alcohol withdrawal. I was first given a shot of Ativan in the arm and then doctors tapered my oral doses slowly over the course of about 10 days.

xanax dosage for alcohol withdrawal

Overview of Xanax

Xanax is in a family of anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines. Xanax is a brand and its generic name is alprazolam. Other benzodiazepine brands include Librium, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin.

xanax dosage for alcohol withdrawal

All of these drugs can be effective for alcohol withdrawal symptoms because they reduce anxiety, prevent convulsions, and help with sleep. Because they vary in terms of strength and their length of effects, doctors choose between them depending on the patient’s symptoms.

Xanax is effective at alleviating or preventing the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Panic attacks
  • Tremors
  • High blood pressure
  • Delirium Tremens

Benzodiazepines work by activating GABA receptors in the brain, which are also stimulated by alcohol. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter associated with feelings of calm. Alcohol intoxication causes a spike in GABA and withdrawal involves a plunge in GABA. Many alcohol withdrawal symptoms (including panic and even seizures) are caused by insufficient levels of GABA in the brain.

xanax for alcohol withdrawal

Using Xanax for alcohol withdrawal can provide temporary peace of mind and prevent severe symptoms from manifesting. Because of the effectiveness of Xanax for alcohol withdrawal symptoms, hospitals often prescribe this drug to alcoholics and then gradually reduce the dose to taper them off of it.

Here are some things to consider before obtaining a prescription of Xanax for alcohol withdrawal symptoms:

  • Because everyone is biochemically different, another benzodiazepine may work better for you than Xanax. Many doctors recommend Ativan or Librium instead of Xanax for alcohol withdrawal.
  • Depending on the severity of your alcoholism, your doctor may recommend inpatient detox or prescribe you with Xanax that you can taper off of while you quit drinking at home. If you quit drinking at home, make sure you have support and that you repair your body proactively!
  • All benzodiazepines including Xanax can be addictive, which is why they should only be used for a short period of time and in the lowest effective dose. When I quit drinking years ago, I tapered off of Ativan in less than two weeks.
  • All benzodiazepines including Xanax can cause overdose if too much is taken at once. Mixing these drugs with alcohol can be very dangerous and lead to blackouts.
  • Even if you take Xanax for alcohol withdrawal, you will still need to repair nutrient deficiencies caused by excessive drinking. You may also have other symptoms such as low motivation and depression that benzodiazepines cannot resolve.

xanax for alcohol withdrawal

How To Take Xanax & Xanax Dosage For Alcohol Withdrawal

Here are some things to consider as you take Xanax for alcohol withdrawal symptoms:

  • Only take Xanax with a prescription and under the supervision of a doctor.
  • Xanax tablets are typically 0.25 or 0.5 mg.
  • Doses of Xanax are often divided throughout the day.
  • There is no standard dosage of Xanax for alcohol withdrawal; a doctor can determine this depending on your situation.
  • Most people do not need to take Xanax for alcohol withdrawal for more than a few days or a week.
  • To avoid dependence, do not use Xanax for longer than you need it.
  • Xanax may be harder to get off of than other benzodiazepines, but it can work just as well to relieve your symptoms.

Further Considerations

By preventing complications caused by low levels of GABA in the brain, using Xanax for alcohol withdrawal can help you have a much safer and more pleasant detox. Even if your symptoms aren’t severe, envisioning life without alcohol is hard enough. Nervous exhaustion and insomnia can make the task of quitting drinking seem nearly impossible.

But while Xanax can help with getting off of alcohol, it is not a cure-all for the physical damage caused by alcoholism. Many people who use benzodiazepines like Xanax end up relapsing because they feel tortured by depression or alcohol cravings after their taper ends. These other symptoms are often caused by the following problems that are NOT resolved by benzodiazepines:

  • Low dopamine
  • Low serotonin
  • Magnesium deficiency (my life changed when I began taking magnesium!)
  • B-vitamin deficiencies
  • Other vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Poor liver health

Fortunately, there is a way to address all of these problems at once. Calm Support (read my review here) is an organic nutritional supplement designed specifically for rebalancing your mood. I wish it had been available when I quit drinking, because in my opinion it is by far the best supplement for repairing your body and brain after you quit drinking.

If I had to quit drinking all over again, I would take Calm Support as soon as I tapered off of Valium (or another benzodiazepine) for alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol addiction is a complex brain disorder and GABA is not the only neurotransmitter that needs to be addressed when you quit drinking.

The bottom line is that using Valium for alcohol withdrawal can be very effective, but it’s just the first part of a long process. Give your body what it needs during this time, and your mind will be sure to follow!

xanax for alcohol withdrawal

Conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the use of Xanax for alcohol withdrawal. If you’re in the position that I was once in before I quit drinking, I feel your pain. Subscribe to my email list to stay posted on future articles that can help you down the road.

If you have any questions about how to use Xanax for alcohol withdrawal, please leave them in the comment box below.

Hierarchy of Alcohol Recovery

Please review this post!

WANT TO DOMINATE ALCOHOL AND LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE?

CHRIS SCOTT

Chris Scott founded Fit Recovery in 2014 to help people from around the world dominate alcohol dependence and rebuild their lives from scratch. A former investment banker, he recovered from alcohol dependence using cutting-edge methods that integrate nutrition, physiology, and behavioral change. Today, Chris is an Alcohol Recovery Coach and the creator of an online course called Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0.

DR. REBECA ERIKSEN

Dr. Rebeca Eriksen is the Nutritional Consultant for Fit Recovery. She has a PhD in Nutritional Genetics from Imperial College London, and over ten years of clinical experience designing custom nutritional repair regimens for patients recovering from alcohol addiction. In addition to her work at the exclusive Executive Health clinic in Marbella, Spain, she helps to keep Fit Recovery up to date with emerging research.

COMMENT DISCLAIMER

The information we provide while responding to comments is not intended to provide and does not constitute medical, legal, or other professional advice. The responses to comments on fitrecovery.com are designed to support, not replace, medical or psychiatric treatment. Please seek professional care if you believe you may have a condition.

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bill
bill
3 years ago

Great article,
I am going through the same thing. kindling… Day 4 and still not better. # binges in the last 7 months. Time to look forward and not back. I Just started taking some xanax and i look forward to taking alcohol support when it arrives.

Chris Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  bill

Awesome attitude Bill! Glad you enjoyed this article. If you have alcohol cravings, also try some L-glutamine powder (1-5 grams) below your tongue. The Alcohol Support will definitely aid with long-term repair to your system. Keep it up!

Pepe
Pepe
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Scott

I just quit drinking , I have a uncontrollable anxiety , insomnia, and panic attacks.
I was binging for 3 months straight .

Sarah
Sarah
3 years ago
Reply to  Pepe

I too have just quit and I feeling anxious and “jangly” all of the time. I have Xanax but I fear it will make me sleepy. I also don’t know how much to take.
Sarah

Chris Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Hi Sarah, this is normal – Benzodiazepines can help, but a doctor is more likely to prescribe a longer-acting one like Ativan for alcohol withdrawal. Some people have been able to use Xanax as a last resort if for some reason they do not have access to medical care. If you are not having severe withdrawal, check out some of the supplements for alcohol recovery – these can really help you feel better with far fewer side effects! Best of luck to you.

Guanacaste Doug
Guanacaste Doug
2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Xanax won’t make you sleepy unless you stop what your doing a and lay down.Docs say .25 three times a day to start and call after if it’s not doing you right. I would up at 1.50 3X and 2.0 before bed but I’m a big dude and was downing fifths with ease. If you have a gP that actually knows you call he/she up. Even a gynecologist that knows you could call for support. Pharmacist, IMO, are smarter than the doctors. They distribute thousands of scrips per day and hear the stories of how it worked, why they changes,… Read more »

Tito
Tito
1 year ago
Reply to  Sarah

What mg Xanax and how much do u drink sounds like microdosing every 30 min till u find the right dose don’t rush it

Tito
Tito
1 year ago
Reply to  Tito

Definitely all b- vitamins and folic acid try to eat small portions to much can bring on nausea bananas stuff high in potassium

Tito da mosquito
Tito da mosquito
1 year ago
Reply to  Pepe

Go to the hospital I know it’s embarrassing but it could save your life I’ve had 2 seizures it’s no fun basically I almost died twice and the benzodiazepines will give you a smooth landing dude that anxiety is the worst trust me dude this will be the best choice you’ve ever made unless u know someone with Valium or pins or librium oh yeah Xanax but don’t overdo them look up online for proper dosage. I’m going through it now I have .5 Xanax but u can’t pop them like candy ur not getting high just enough to keep… Read more »

Becky
Becky
3 years ago

I had been sober for 4 yrs. lost my daughter to alcoholism when she was only 24.. my Dr prescribed Xanax & a anti depressant. Wellbutrin. My husband just passed away in November so been drinking about everyday. Years ago when I got sober I had siezures. Never had before. I am mentally ready & already have a perspiration for Xanax. 1mg. Do you think this will help me. I’m not in a situation to go anywhere. Thank you

Chris Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Becky

Hi Becky, I’m sorry to hear about this but kudos to you for making a plan to get off of alcohol!

There is no universal dosage for Xanax; only a doctor can determine this with you. Usually doctors will prescribe the minimum effective dosage and plan the taper over the course of a few days, since staying on Xanax longer can cause dependence. Best of luck to you!

Pepe
Pepe
3 years ago

If I sober up completely, will the symptoms go away ?

Chris Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Pepe

Hey Pepe, I’ve been in your shoes before. Congrats on quitting – You can use the information on this site to help make yourself more comfortable. This article will show you how supplementation can help you feel much better, much sooner. And this article will show you what to expect in terms of symptoms, and how to recover. No dogma here, just past experience and extensive research. Good luck buddy.

Jim Bob
Jim Bob
3 years ago

Taking Xanax to help with stopping alcohol is like giving heroin to someone who wants to give up Vicodin.

Jess
Jess
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Bob

No, you are clearly very ignorant about alcohol abuse and dependence. Alcohol withdrawal can be deadly in some cases. Further, those who take benzos for genuine alcohol withdrawal are not taking them to get high, they are taking them because they are sick. I am an addiction counselor at a residential detox and recovery center and can safely say that reasoning is nonsense.

Chris Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Jess

Thanks for sharing this Jess.

Tito
Tito
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Bob

Jim Bob educate yourself with a name Jim Bob no wonder your slow tard. Obviously you haven’t lost family to this disease.

Brian
Brian
3 years ago

will Xanax show up on a random drug test? Also is it a narcotic?

Chris Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Hi Brian, yes it could. Xanax is a medication that is only legal to take when prescribed by a doctor.

Tito
Tito
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian

Yes depending how much u did 5 to 6mg can stay as long as 3 weeks. Get a prescription then you will have no worries.

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