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Can Xanax cause insomnia if discontinued?

I took xanax for 3.5...

I took xanax for 3.5 weeks, .5 -1mg a day before bed. Last sat ( 11 days ago) was the last night. I have been going through withdrawal since. I stopped cold. it is now 11 days. the insomnia is insane. when will this stop? I assumed it would be wearing off by now. I don't take meds at all for anything, i don't even take tylenol. In those three weeks there were a few days I took nothing at all. Please give me good news I am going crazy without sleep. 2 nights ago I slept almost 9 hours total, three hour intervals. but last night it was back to the usual, got 1.5 hour sleep. the interesting thing is I decided at 5:45 a.m. this morning that maybe I should try an ambien (my wife had a prescription). even with that I woke up an hour and a half later. Is this still withdrawal? It has been 11 days and I only took it for 3 .5 weeks, should this end soon?

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Answered in 21 minutes by:
8/11/2010
Susan Ivy
Susan Ivy, Nurse (RN)
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 4,059
Experience: BSN, MSN, CNS
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Hello and thank you for using JustAnswer Health for your question.

Always with Benzodiazipines, you must take the dosage, rather than stopping 'cold turkey'. You are even at risk for seizures when you stop it suddenly.
I would recommend that you discuss this with your doctor, start back on a low dose and taper it down.
Of course, you have not mentioned why you took this in the first place. If that problem has not resolved, then you likely need some form of treatment for that, whether it is anxiety, insomnia, etc.
Feel free to ask questions or ask for clarification if needed.

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

I have already been off this medication for 11 days. I was prescribed Xanax for sleep issues that I had. The insomnia began about 6 weeks ago.

My question is - since I only took .5 - 1 milligrams for 3 weeks, shouldn't the insomnia end soon? I have no other symptoms except for the insomnia.

First of all, excuse me, I just reread and noted my error - I meant you must 'taper' the dose (this is recommended - I worked with many times with patients withdrawing from Xanax in the hospital) Typically coming in 2 weeks to 1 month after stopping the Xanax and sometimes after having had a seizure - granted you were on the Xanax for less of a length of time than most patients that ended up with a seizure - but the principle applies.

There is something called a 'half life' with benzodiazipines - Some of the drug remains in your system for a long time. So when you stopped taking the medication, it remained in your system for a certain length of time, and because you stopped suddenly, then a few weeks later, suddenly your body is without the medication. If you had tapered it, then you body would have adjusted easier. Now your body has to build back up it's GABA (neurotransmitter that Xanax mimics - but many times stronger). Your central nervous system is irritable in the meantime, as it suddenly is without this calming neurotransmitter.

You can try other methods to help you sleep, exercising early in the day, warm bath at night, sunlight early in the day, dimming lights in the evening, no stimulating activities in the evening for several hours before bed - but chemically your body is irritable until the GABA builds back up. You can try over the counter sleep aids, but remember, Xanax is a prescription medication, and was much stronger. Although I agree with you that it is better not to take medications if you don't have to, the fact is that you did, and taking a small dose perhaps a day a part, then tapering it down to half a dose, every other day, then taking that dose 3 or 4 days apart for a few times, before stopping completely, would help you system adjust much easier, and be much safer.

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

When I took Ambien I noticed I had a sensitive feeling in my skin the next day. Can Ambien mess up the withdrawal recovery process?

Does this have anything to do with the other?

Why do I feel the sensitive skin feeling when I touch my skin?

I have noticed this feeling comes back after I take the Ambien.

I'm not exactly sure what you are talking about with the sensitive feeling in your skin. Are you saying that after you stopped the Xanax, you got a sensitive feeling in your skin, and then it went away, and you took Ambien, and then the sensitive feeling came back? Or was the sensitive skin feeling occurring when you took the Xanax?

Ambien, actually is very similar to Xanax. It is shorter acting, but it has similar physically addictive qualities as Xanax. It is very popular, but the pharmaceutical company (as well as the Psychiatrists that I have worked with) recommend it to be given only for short periods, such as 5 to 7 days to help initiate a normal sleep pattern - not for daily long term use (although I am aware that many doctors prescribe it long term to patients)

In the hospital if a person is trying to get off of Xanax, we do not give them Ambien. Again, we actually give them Xanax, but we taper it down.

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

Yes, after taking Xanax I was getting a sensitive feeling in my skin if I touched it. It was more like a sensation. A doctor has recommended that I take this for 5 days; but I don't like taking medications so I only took it twice, but each time, the next day I had this feeling. I had it for the first 4 days, then it went away after stopping Xanax.

Can this mess up the recovery process? Aside from the sensitive feeling and insomnia I have no other symptoms. Should this issues end soon?

It is hard to explain the pharmokinetics easily , but I'll try - because of the way the medication works and the physical dependence develops, you would actually get over it quicker if you tapered the dose down.

It is a strong drug and one becomes physically addicted to it quickly, and that is what happened to you (at one time it was only thought that opiates were physically addictive, but that is not true, benzodiazipines are actually more physically addictive and dangerous than Heroin (an opiate) - and there is not a risk of seizure in withdrawal of opiates as there is with Benzodiazipine withdrawal!

Actually .5 mg is not the smallest dose of Xanax. It also comes in 0.25 mg - so you were not on such a small dose as you think. And you are saying that some days you were taking 1 mg per day. So again,if now you even took 0.25 mg tab every other day for few days apart, then 1/2 of a tab, then a few days apart, etc (which .is the standard procedure) this would allow your body to build back it's own endogenous Xanax (GABA). That you are not doing that, but instead stopped it suddenly, you will remain uncomfortable for longer than you would if you followed standard tapering recommendations (this is my field by the way, what my graduate degree is in - advanced psychiatric nurse practice, - this is a class of medication that we study extensively, plus have had much experience with)

But to answer your question of when it will stop, say if you do not taper ( and I don't think the Ambien will be of help in the tapering, it is different in that it has a very short half life) once you have a couple of days were you feel better than the worse day of all, I would say that, that will likely be your half way mark, and that you will have an equal amount of days gradually feeling a little bit better each day. But people do vary chemically from one another, so it is possible that you will get better sooner, or possible that it could take a little longer than that.

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

I have had that already and felt better for a few days. I do physically feel better than the first few days. My only issue is the insomnia. The only reason I took the Ambien was to get some sleep, but it didn't help. I took this for 5 days, but I noticed the next day I had a sensitive feeling in my skin. I rub my arm and it feels better. This occurred for the first 3 days after stopping the Xanax, and then it went away. I took the Ambien and it came back for a day. Now, I took the Ambien for the second time and it came back. I just want to be sure this wont mess up my recovery from the Xanax with taking Ambien.

I just want to know if there is anything in Ambien that can affect my recovery and make it take longer?

To answer your question:

I did not have this feeling when I was taking Xanax, I felt it after 48 hours after being off of it. Then it went away for a few days, then the doctor prescribed Ambien for 5 days. The first day I took it, I felt this feeling come back. Last night I tried taking Ambien again, I have no idea why it doesn't help me sleep. But the feeling is back again today.

The Ambien is not helping you sleep because it is a short acting medication that is not near as strong as the Xanax was. Insomnia is a common withdrawal symptom from Xanax unless you are saying that you had this same type of insomnia before you started the Xanax. Even if you feel better at other times but have only started having insomnia after stopping the Xanax, then this is still part of the withdrawal symptomology. Ambien is a drug that is not as strong as the Xanax. So it did not stop your recovery process, it just stopped a tiny portion of the withdrawal symptoms while you took it (the sensitive skin). It may just be a coincidence that you didn't have that symptom for a few days, took the Ambien, then it came back. But ten again because Ambien is a different drug from the Xanax, and typically it is not the drug that is recommended to help with Xanax withdrawal - in other words I don't think it will prolong your withdrawal - but because we do not give this for withdrawal - it may be possible that this is one reason why we do not give it for withdrawal (even though you doctor gave it to you to help with the insomnia - this is not protocol for Xanax withdrawal - he probably gave you this hoping it would help, and not really understanding that your Insomnia was because of the Xanax withdrawal - there are physicians that have no idea that Xanax is so addictive - that is because they are often not the physicians that are working with patients trying to get off of this drug) but experienced Addictionologist - a Psychiatrist that is certified and has special education in Addiction, the type of physician that is specifically educated in withdrawal treatment- would not have given you the Ambien to help with the insomnia that is a result of Xanax withdrawal, they would have gave you a tapering dose of Xanax or possibly Tranxene (which is a similar benzodiazipine as Xanax, yet it comes in a wider range of tapering doses, and is used particularly for those withdrawing off of alcohol and benzodiazipines).

So, I would recommend that you see a Psychiatrist/Addictionologist so that you can be correctly assisted with withdrawal from the Xanax.

Susan Ivy
Susan Ivy, Nurse (RN)
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Customer reply replied 7 years ago

The other night I was having trouble sleeping and I took Lunesta. Is Lunesta the same as Ambien? I had a lot of trouble sleeping and I know its probably in my head but, I just wanted to make sure that they are the same. (Lunesta and Ambien) Last time I took Ambien (even though it was a few times) it didn't mess up my recovery, and I just wanted to make sure Lunesta is the same kind of medication and wont cause issues.

Hello, I'm sorry to hear of your sleeping difficulties.

I think you are sensitive to the effects of medications that affect the GABA neurotransmitter system of the brain. Brain chemistry can vary from one person to the other. Some people would have no problem noticed taking a sleeping pill one or two times, but for others there can be a rebound insomnia. Even though this fact, it is impossible to say that taking a Lunesta (and Xanax, Lunesta both do work on the GABA neurotransmitter) will 'ruin' your recovery. But you have to trust your own particular neurochemistry and experience, and if you are finding that these types of medications seem to be making things worse rather than better, you should probably stay away from them.

I recommend that you read this link and try to initiate these sleep hygiene tips into your daily routine:

http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_tips.htm

Good luck, hope you are better soon, feel free to update!

Susan Ivy
Susan Ivy, Nurse (RN)
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 4,059
Experience: BSN, MSN, CNS
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Susan Ivy and 87 other Health Specialists are ready to help you
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Customer reply replied 7 years ago

Thank you very much! Is Lunesta and Ambian the same type of drug? The Ambian didn't effect me. The day after I wrote to you last I started sleeping better. I just want to make sure that Ambian and Lunesta are the same type of drug, as opposed to Xanax.

The affect the same neurotransmitters and are more similar to each other (Ambien and Lunesta) than they are to Xanax. Both Ambien and Lunesta are a type of sedative called hypnotics.

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