In this article, we’re going to discuss how to use Xanax for alcohol withdrawal. The process of quitting drinking can be made much easier by taking a benzodiazepine like Xanax for alcohol withdrawal symptoms
As alcohol consumption increases over time, withdrawal symptoms can progress from mild to psychologically exhausting and even dangerous. Many people avoid discussing their true levels of alcohol consumption with their doctors. As a result, they do not find out about the proper use of benzodiazepines for alcohol withdrawal. Binging, abstinence, and relapse can form a vicious cycle that continues for many years.
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.
In a medical detox environment, it’s common to receive benzodiazepines for alcohol withdrawal. A patient may be given an initial injection followed by 1-2 weeks of tapered oral doses that are carefully monitored.
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.
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:
- Panic attacks
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Using Xanax for alcohol withdrawal is a great strategy for the short term, but in the longer term, it’s important to have external support and to renew your sense of purpose in life.
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 in the short-term.
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 than going cold turkey. 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. Check Fit Recovery’s list of supplements that work best for supporting the brain-body system through alcohol recovery.
Another trick is to take glutamine to resolve sudden, intense bouts of alcohol cravings. Try it and you’ll see that it works. Glutamine is an amino acid that can help to repair every cell in your body.
The bottom line is that using Xanax 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!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the use of Xanax for alcohol withdrawal. Subscribe to the Fit Recovery email list to stay posted on more 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.
Dr. Ken Starr is board certified in both Addiction Medicine and Emergency Medicine, and diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine. In addition to his work as the Addiction Medicine Director for Fit Recovery, he operates Ken Starr MD Wellness Group in Arroyo Grande, CA. His clinic offers advanced drug and alcohol detox methods, long term recovery facilitation, and IV nutritional programs including NAD+ therapy.
Was anyone else given gabapentin 300 mg 3x daily and Xanax to detox? Today is my first day but I have a bad headache and can’t eat much. I was diagnosed with hypo magnesium and had to have IV magnesium and a thiamine shot along with regular IV fluids when I came off my 5 day relapse. I have to stop this! They said my liver enzymes are high but reversible if I stop drinking. I’m going to try to go to work tomorrow to keep occupied but I have no energy and this bad headache. Any advice?
My husband was just diagnosed with fatty liver (steotosis) which I’m just now finding out is the 1st stage of ARLD. He has been drinking heavily (15-30 beers per day) for apprx.7 yrs straight through. although he’s well aware of his outcome (fibrosis, hep b/c, cirrhosis, cancer, delirium, psychosis, mortality, ect) from continued drinking. Due to the fact that the psychological (reward system: dopamine, serotonin, etc) changes have already occurred. He is not able to stop drinking. Our fam primary care phy/dr is sending Rx’s which include, xanax, folic acid, & catapress. I do have some medical training & extensive… Read more »
Hi Rochelle! I spend most of my time in my online course, so that’s a great place to get more info. There are also many free blog articles on this website that may help you, depending on what you’re looking for. Good luck to you both!
can you still taper of alchol with xanax and drink as long as you taper off drinking
I would be very careful mixing alcohol with a benzo, even a little of both at the same time can kill you.
Who makes Calm Support and where can you purchase it?
Hi Leslie, please find the CalmSupport link here! And you can read more about it in this article.
I hade to take 4 mg of xanax to get thru the day