What to Do When Suffering from a Xanax Hangover
As published by Medical News Today, Xanax (alprazolam in its generic form) is the most prescribed psychiatric medication in America. Primarily dispensed to treat anxiety and panic disorders, Xanax is a benzodiazepine medication that acts as a central nervous system depressant.
When someone struggles with anxiety or a panic disorder, nerve firings can be hyperactive and the stress response is more “turned on” than in someone who doesn’t suffer from one of these mental health disorders. When a person feels stressed, the body ramps up its “fight-or-flight” reaction, which speeds up heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure while increasing body temperature. A person will feel hyper-focused, alert, awake, tense, and full of energy. Xanax works to reduce this response by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid,) which works to suppress the central nervous system. As a sedative-hypnotic medication, Xanax calms down overactive nerve firings and lowers tension, helping to promote sleep and reduce stress and anxiety. Individuals taking Xanax may suffer from a Xanax “hangover” the day after taking the medication, however.
Xanax Hangover Explained
It may be difficult to get up the next morning after taking Xanax. Side effects of a Xanax hangover may be similar to those associated with an alcohol-related hangover, such as:
- Lack of motivation
- Trouble falling asleep
People who take Xanax for a longer period of time will be more likely to struggle with the hangover side effects, and they are likely to be more significant in those who take it every day for an extended length of time. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes within the Xanax prescribing information that long-term use of Xanax can lead to drug dependence. This happens when the brain starts to get used to the chemical changes that Xanax makes when it is active in the bloodstream and stops regulating its chemical makeup on its own, instead relying on the medication to do it. When Xanax then wears off, individuals can experience a kind of “rebound” effect as the brain tries to regain natural balance. Levels of some of the chemical messengers that had been suppressed by Xanax may spike while others drop and the central nervous system can go into overdrive.
The higher the dosage and the longer a person takes Xanax, the more significant drug dependence and withdrawal side effects will be.
The FDA warns that people taking more than 4 mg of the drug per day for at least three months are more apt to struggle with Xanax dependence and withdrawal than those taking less of it for shorter periods of time.
Xanax withdrawal symptoms can include additional symptoms, outside of those associated with a typical hangover, such as:
- Racing heart rate
- Increased pulse and blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Increased anxiety and/or panic disorder symptoms
- Possible suicidal ideations
- Heightened senses
- Muscle tension and tremors
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Stomach cramps and nausea
- Difficulties concentrating and thinking clearly
- Memory impairment
- Trouble feeling happy or pleasure from normal things
Managing the Side Effects of a Xanax Hangover
Not everyone who takes Xanax will experience a hangover the next day, and some cases will be worse than others. Making sure to get enough sleep while taking Xanax is a great way to minimize the next-day hangover effect. Try and go to bed earlier than normal and plan to sleep for longer than is typical to reduce the hangover when taking Xanax. Sleeping for longer can help the drug to work its way out of the body while you are unaware of it doing so; therefore, the effects of the hangover the next day will be less intense. It takes about 11 hours for the body to get rid of about half the dose of Xanax, so nearly a full day for it to be completely out of the body. Also, more sleep results in a clearer mind and more emotional stability. Getting enough sleep can help a person to be more balanced mentally and therefore more able to handle potentially stressful situations and feelings as they may arise throughout daily life.
Exercise can help to naturally boost a person’s energy levels, which may be lower while taking Xanax. Going for a walk or participating in other types of healthy physical fitness can aid in stress reduction and the release of endorphins, which help promote sleep and relaxation, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports. Again, the better the body works physically, the better a person feels, the clearer the mind is, and the more stable a person is emotionally.
Eating a balanced and healthy diet can help as well. Xanax is a tablet that is metabolized through the gastrointestinal system. Giving the body proper fuel, high in protein, vitamins, and minerals and low in saturated fats, processed foods, and refined sugars, can help bodily systems to function better.
Other holistic methods, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, and chiropractic care, can be beneficial as well. Stress reduction techniques, counseling, and therapies may be tools for keeping doses of Xanax lower, working as adjunctive measures for anxiety and panic disorders. Lower doses of Xanax less frequently can mean less of a hangover.
Be sure to only take the prescribed dose of Xanax, as directed by a medical professional, and to take it exactly as prescribed. Don’t drink alcohol while taking Xanax as it can enhance the drug’s effects and make the hangover worse. Other drugs may also interact with Xanax and should be cleared with a doctor before mixing them with Xanax.
Getting Help for Xanax Abuse and Addiction
Benzodiazepines, including Xanax, are commonly abused. Anytime the drug is taken without a necessary and legitimate prescription, if the dosage is altered without a doctor’s direction, or if the drug is taken in a way it wasn’t intended to be taken, it is considered medication misuse and abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publishes that over 50 million people in the United States have abused a prescription drug at some point in their lives, and benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly abused drug types. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warns that alprazolam is one of the primary drugs diverted onto the illegal drug market from pharmaceutical channels. Alprazolam is considered a controlled substance by the DEA because of its high rate of diversion and abuse.
Xanax is also highly addictive. Even if a person takes it under a doctor’s direction for a valid medical reason, a drug dependence can form that may lead to out-of-control and compulsive drug use and abuse.
It can become more difficult to stop taking Xanax the longer a person takes it, and if the drug is abused, it can be even harder. Withdrawal symptoms from Xanax are physically and emotionally intense. In fact, it may seem easier to just keep taking the drug.
Xanax may be abused by chewing up the tablet, or by crushing it and then snorting, injecting, or smoking the powder. This puts the drug into the bloodstream in a different way than intended, which can raise the risk for overdose and other potentially dangerous side effects, including increasing the rate and onset of drug dependence and possible addiction. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than a half-million Americans battled addiction involving a drug like Xanax (or other prescription sedative/tranquilizers) in 2016.
Xanax is one of those drugs that shouldn’t be stopped “cold turkey,” especially without medical supervision and management. The Xanax hangover can be significant and withdrawal symptoms need to be managed through a medical detox program. These programs often use medications to manage the symptoms.
Xanax may need to be weaned off slowly through a tapering schedule during detox. Other medications may be used to manage specific withdrawal symptoms. Xanax may also be replaced with a longer-acting benzodiazepine that stays in the body longer and therefore requires fewer doses less often during the taper.
Depending on the severity of drug dependence and the withdrawal side effects, detox may be done on an outpatient basis or in a residential specialty facility. After detox, specialized substance abuse treatment programs can offer support, encouragement, and medical management of both mental distress and drug abuse and addiction. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) publishes that close to 8 million Americans battled co-occurring disorders in 2014. Behavioral therapies, counseling, medication, relapse prevention, and stress reduction tools are all components of a specialized co-occurring disorders treatment program that can facilitate and enhance a long and healthy recovery.
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