Xanax withdrawal can definitely be dangerous, and you should not attempt to go through it unless you are under medical supervision. This would include being at an inpatient treatment center that has a full medical detox unit.
If you can, call up a rehab center and ask them if they have a medical detox unit as part of their rehab. That is where you ultimately want to be when you are attempting to quit taking drugs and alcohol.
Xanax is in the same class of drugs as Valium, Klonipin, Ativan, Librium, and so on. These medications are all sedative in effect and they can all be potentially dangerous. When combined with alcohol, also a sedative in many ways, the two can be absolutely deadly.
Let’s find out why.
Your body is regulated at all times by a nervous system. Normally your brain is directing a small amount of adrenaline into your system, just enough to give you a baseline of normal, everyday energy.
Here is what happens when you abuse Xanax, alcohol, or other medications in the same class as Xanax:
Your body notices that you have taken a sedative, and it attempts to compensate for this. All your body really does is to attempt to reach a state of equilibrium. It does this no matter what substances or chemicals you throw at it.
What happens over time is that your body gets used to the constant abuse of sedatives. As you continuously take more and more sedatives, the body continues to amp up the adrenaline that your body is using. Remember, the body is just trying to maintain the status quo and keep you functional. So when you abuse sedatives the body naturally tries to stimulate itself with adrenaline in order to keep you going.
In the short term this is not generally a huge problem, because the body is very good at adapting. The real problem comes in the long term, when the addict will inevitably go through a period when they suddenly stop putting sedatives into their system.
Eventually this happens to every addict. You cannot stay permanently high forever. Eventually you get sick, or you land in the hospital, or you land in jail, or you run out of money, or you run out of prescriptions. At some point, every drinker will hit a dry spell, even if it is just for a few days. Eventually, every Xanax addict will run completely out of pills, even if it is just for a short while.
When this happens the body goes into withdrawal, because the addict has trained their body to produce lots of extra stimulus, all the time. Their adrenaline is always pumping double time in order to compensate for the sedatives. But of course when the person finally quits all the sedatives cold turkey, their body is thrown a huge curve ball because there is suddenly no sedative to balance out all of the nervous system stimulation. When this happens, seizures are the likely result because the body does not know what to do with all of the extra energy.
This is the number one reason why Xanax withdrawal is so dangerous. If you happen to be abusing Xanax along with alcohol, even if it is in “modest quantities,” the effects of the two can be multiplied together in a very dangerous way.
A typical scenario is this: The person discovers that alcohol basically fixes their social anxiety and gives them “liquid courage.” So they become addicted to alcohol and they use it in order to medicate their anxiety.
Eventually they are due to see a doctor, maybe for an annual physical. So in order to prepare for this doctor visit, the person feels a bit guilty about their drinking, so they cut way back or they quit entirely in the days leading up to their doctor visit.
So they go in to see their doctor and they have seriously reduced their alcohol consumption. Remember that this person was essentially medicating their anxiety with booze.
The doctor asks them many questions. One of those questions is “Are you feeling nervous or anxious today?” And of course the person says yes, they are quite nervous. And they often do not explain how drinking great quantities of alcohol helps them to regulate their anxiety.
So the doctor, being a good doctor, gives the person a prescription for Xanax, or something similar. So the person goes home and they start taking Xanax to control their anxiety. Great.
But eventually, even if they do not intend for this to happen, the person ends up drinking while they are on Xanax. And of course this works even better for their anxiety, combining it with alcohol.
And eventually this becomes the new normal. Now, instead of drinking a six pack, the person drinks a six pack on top of their Xanax medication.
Now if they go without one or the other in the future, they are going to notice it immediately in the form of extra anxiety. And so this new baseline is established, with both the Xanax and the alcohol being required in order to fully medicate the anxiety.
This is how you set someone up for a medical disaster. Not only is it dangerous to be combining alcohol with Xanax, but the withdrawal from both of them simultaneously can be even more deadly than actually taking them together every day. In other words, while it is a dangerous combination, it is an even more dangerous withdrawal.
So if you are quitting alcohol, or Xanax, or both of them together–you really should consider medical supervision for this. Going to an inpatient rehab center is the best choice, and going to a medical emergency room may be required as well in certain situations. Anyone who is trembling or shaking while going through withdrawal is certainly a prime candidate for life threatening seizure, that can strike without much warning and result in all sorts of dangerous complications. For example, I have witnessed a person going through Xanax withdrawal fall over backwards due to a sudden seizure, injuring their head in the process.
So this is nothing to take lightly. If you are going through withdrawal from Xanax, alcohol, or similar medications then I strongly urge you to seek medical attention.