Is it Xanax or is it stress?
July 10, 2008 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Can this possibly be Xanax withdrawal after just a week and a half or so of intermittent use or is it just the fog of stress?

I am going through an extremely stressful period in my life and hadn't slept for about three days when one of my coworkers gave me 1 mg tablets of Xanax. I know...but I have taken Xanax ocassionally in the past with no problems. I would usually take half a tablet and sleep OK.

This time though, I seem to be having a bad reaction. I took one full tablet of the 1mg and slept fine about...two weeks ago. I didn't take anymore for several days but when I had a second panic attack, I took half a tablet. I was too groggy the next day so the next time I took a tablet (on Sunday), I cut the tablet in fourths so I was literally taking a crumb of Xanax. Still I woke up feeling like crap so I haven't taken anymore.

All week, I've been feeling really disconnected and foggy which is really, really not good for me right now because I need to be mentally sharp.

Could I possibly be experiencing withdrawal symptoms after just a few tablets (My coworker gave me 10 tablets. I counted the remaining in the pill bottle and there are like 6 1/2 left). Or is this simply the brain fog that can result from chronic stress? And how can I get it to stop?!!

I don't have health insurance until the end of the month and I've already spent far too much seeing a doctor as it is ... and yes, I know ....YANMD ... but if you've experienced something similar, I'd like to know.

For the record, I have no history of addiction of any kind but have previously taken SSRIs for about two years. I am also female, in relatively good health, but obviously prone to bad reactions to stress.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
Benzo withdrawal doesn't feel like "disconnected and foggy". It feels like anxiety with a side dose of dizziness. Oh, with fun nervous symptoms freakouts that feel like whole body spasms. Although the last one might be only if you taper off too quickly.

I'm not sure two tablets spaced out over two weeks is enough to cause dependence in any case.

Are you sure it's not a reaction to the stress you're dealing with?
posted by Justinian at 4:02 PM on July 10, 2008

"fun nervous system freakouts"
posted by Justinian at 4:03 PM on July 10, 2008

I know people who have had very bad reactions to being on Xanax even for fairly short periods of time, as you describe. The overwhelming consensus is that benzodiazopenes (xanax, ativan, klonopin, valium..) are really only of reliable benefit to most people with most conditions for about ten days to two weeks. (After that, tolerance kicks in and side effects increase, especially if your dosage goes up.) But if you've only taken 3.5 regular doses over a two week period, I think the chance that you are experiencing genuine withdrawal is virtually nil.

You may be intolerant of benzos and be having a reaction to them after the fact, but even that should dissipate after a few days. My advice, having helped people through much worse situations than the one you describe, is do not take any more of the xanax. It's clearly not of any help to you at present and if you're feeling foggy, it will only exacerbate that if it has any effect at all. It is much, much more likely that you are feeling the effects of too much stress. If it were me in your shoes, I'd duck out of anything not absolutely necessary for a couple weeks to lower your stress a bit and see your doctor when your benefits kick in again.
posted by el_lupino at 4:07 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

From the reading I've done, serious addiction (to the point of really causing serious withdrawal) takes daily dosage for 6-9 months.

3 pills isn't enough to cause withdrawal afterwards.
posted by Class Goat at 5:19 PM on July 10, 2008

You're not in withdrawal, those symptoms are different. Xanax has a short half-life so the grogginess you describe the next day doesn't fit.

Frankly, your symptoms sound like you're sleep deprived. See a doctor, you'll be glad you did.
posted by Kalden at 6:45 PM on July 10, 2008

"disconnected and foggy" are the symptoms that led me to take Xanax. I only ever had one anxiety episode, connected with a temporarily stressful situation. I couldn't concentrate, and fell asleep too easily, at inopportune moments. Xanax fixed that. I was able to quit it after a month.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:43 PM on July 10, 2008

Oh, and I am, indeed, a doctor, but not in any way medical. The stressful situation was my PhD exams. I failed the first time, hence the stress. Xanax is good and effective, but, yeah, you should see an MD, as I did.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:46 PM on July 10, 2008

-This doesn't sound like Xanax withdrawal.
-Are you taking any other meds? Sleeping pills, maybe?
-From the reading I've done, serious addiction (to the point of really causing serious withdrawal) takes daily dosage for 6-9 months. -- This is very, very incorrect. People become addicted to Xanax much, much quicker than that, and you can have a serious withdrawal even after taking benzos for a much shorter time. For example, this study demonstrated significant dependence and withdrawal after 6 weeks of use, and many people don't even take that long. Benzo withdrawal is a life-threatening event; please don't minimize its likelihood or its severity.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:47 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I take Xanax intermittently for anxiety, and when I take it at night I tend to sleep badly (but at least I sleep!) and feel like groggy, fuzzy crap the next day.

Still, sometimes that's better than not sleeping and being up worrying and anxious all night.

I think it's just the nature of the beast.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:20 AM on July 11, 2008

My guess? It does not sound like you are getting enough sleep. And you're totally stressed. If the Xanax is worrying you, don't take any more - don't give yourself any extra reasons to stress.

I have been totally stressed and had similar symptoms - it was kind of like I had too much to deal with so my mind and body were half-assing every single thing. I have felt that way both with and without Xanax, and my experience was that my own symptoms did not correlate with the Xanax but they correlated a lot with how much stress I had.

I'm not a doctor at all.
posted by KAS at 7:24 AM on July 11, 2008

Sounds like stress-induced brain fog. Also, benzos aren't really good as sleep aids, the duration is too short. For over-the-counter sleep aids, have you tried melatonin? I've found it pretty effective as a sleep aid when going through a stressful period.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 10:10 AM on July 11, 2008

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