Why Mixing Alcohol and Xanax Is Dangerous
Alcohol and Xanax are two substances that are very dangerous when taken together.1 Xanax, a brand name formulation of alprazolam, is a prescription benzodiazepine (sedative hypnotic) that is used to manage certain anxiety disorders such as panic disorder.2
Alcohol is a legal substance used by some people to relax and socialize. Both alcohol and Xanax have similar properties and therefore when mixed; can be a dangerous combination.3
This article will cover the effects of mixing Xanax and alcohol together and how to get help for Xanax and alcohol misuse.
Xanax Use Versus Misuse
While Xanax has legitimate medical uses, some people may misuse Xanax.4
Normal Xanax use involves taking the medication as prescribed by a medical professional, for a valid medical diagnosis.
By comparison, misuse of Xanax may occur in a number of ways, such as:4
- Taking the medication in any way other than how it is prescribed.
- Taking a higher dose than what is prescribed.
- Taking Xanax without a prescription.
- Taking Xanax with other substances.
Using or misusing Xanax, especially in high doses, can lead to:4,5
- Serious adverse effects.
- An increased risk of accidents and injuries, especially if a person drives under the influence of Xanax.
- An increased risk of overdose.
- Dependence (the body adapts to the presence of a drug or medication).
- Tolerance (a person needs more of the medication to feel the same effects over time).
- Withdrawal symptoms when Xanax use is lowered or stopped abruptly.
- Substance use disorder.
Xanax and Polydrug Use
Benzodiazepines like Xanax are often misused by people mixing them with other substances. This is known as polysubstance misuse, and it is a very dangerous practice.
It is common for people to misuse Xanax by combining the medication with alcohol or opioids, as a way to enhance the drug’s effects.6
Mixing Xanax with opioids increases the risk of:7
- Brain and organ damage.
This is because both Xanax and opioids cause respiratory depression, a slowing down of one’s breathing.2 In 2020, approximately 16% of opioid overdoses also involved a benzodiazepine.8
Mixing Xanax and alcohol is another example of polysubstance misuse. Whether taken together intentionally or unintentionally, Xanax and alcohol interactions can result in life-threatening consequences.7,9
Mixing Xanax and Alcohol
Medical professionals caution against mixing Xanax and alcohol because alcohol and benzodiazepines like Xanax are dangerous in combination with one another.1
Both alcohol and Xanax are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that slow down brain activity and have similar mechanisms of action:1
- Xanax acts on GABA-A receptors.
- Alcohol acts on GABA-A and NMDA receptors.
Taking alcohol with benzodiazepines like Xanax leads to synergistic effects, which means the effects of both substances together are greater than either one alone.10
Xanax and alcohol interactions can also be unpredictable and lead to an increased risk of adverse events.1,7
Adverse Effects and Risks of Mixing Alcohol and Xanax
Combining alcohol and Xanax can cause a range of adverse effects that vary in intensity. The effects depend on factors like:11,12
- The amount of each substance used.
- Biological sex.
The effects of mixing Xanax and alcohol together can include:12
- Slowed or difficulty breathing.
- Loss of motor control.
- Memory impairment.
- Changes in behavior.
Using alcohol and Xanax together is also dangerous because of the potential for misuse and addiction. Both substances can lead to tolerance and withdrawal, which can make it challenging to stop.2,3
Because both drugs suppress activity in parts of the brain involved in breathing, taking them together increases the risk of:2,4,12
- Permanent brain damage.
- Overdose, possibly fatal.
Overdosing on Xanax and Alcohol
More than 18% of benzodiazepine overdoses involve alcohol.1 Xanax and alcohol interactions can lead to increased respiratory depression, or a pattern of slow and shallow breathing that can be very dangerous.10
Alcohol may also increase the toxicity of Xanax by interfering with or slowing the body’s ability to metabolize the medication. This may result in dangerously high concentrations of Xanax over time.13
Signs of a Xanax and alcohol overdose can include:7
- Slow pulse.
- Slow breathing.
- Loss of consciousness.
How Concurrent Alcohol and Xanax Misuse Is Treated
Treatment for concurrent misuse of alcohol and Xanax typically begins with medical detox that addresses both substances.5
Detoxing from multiple substances at the same time is a more complex process than detoxing from one substance alone. This is because it is difficult for professionals to know how interactions between the substances will impact withdrawal symptoms. Because of this, special caution must be taken to ensure safety during polysubstance withdrawal.14
Detoxing from alcohol and benzodiazepines like Xanax cold turkey or without medical supervision is not recommended, because both substances can cause serious withdrawal symptoms like:14
- Changes in heart rate.
- Blood pressure changes.
- Changes in body temperature.
- Delirium tremens.
In severe cases, Xanax and alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening. Medical detox for alcohol and Xanax typically involves gradually tapering a person off Xanax and prescribing medications to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of dangerous reactions.14
During detox, people are also encouraged to rest and begin attending therapy. Once detox is complete, a person will likely be transitioned to another level of care, like inpatient or outpatient rehab.14
During addiction treatment, a person is typically past the acute withdrawal phase and can begin working more intensely on their recovery.
Treatment for polysubstance addiction treatment usually involves a combination of therapy with medications to manage cravings and reduce the risk of relapse.5,9
Effective therapies for polysubstance addiction include:9
- Contingency management: A behavioral treatment that offers rewards for maintaining abstinence and participating in recovery-related activities.
- 12-Step facilitation (TSF) therapy: Structured therapy sessions that are based on Alcoholics Anonymous and encourage participation in 12-Step groups.
Finding Alcohol and Xanax Addiction Treatment
If you or someone you know is struggling with Xanax and alcohol misuse or addiction, help is available. Oxford Treatment Center offers outpatient and inpatient drug and alcohol rehab in Mississippi.
Oxford provides evidence-based therapies for polysubstance addiction as well as treatment for co-occurring disorders. Specialized services are also available for couples, Veterans, and first responders.
At Oxford Treatment Center, several levels of treatment are offered. We can assist you in transitioning between levels of care and prepare you with an aftercare plan when treatment concludes.
Rehab payment options include health insurance, financing, and we also accept credit/debit cards. Oxford Treatment Center is in-network with several health insurance companies, so depending on your drug and alcohol rehab coverage, all or a portion of your treatment may be covered.
Admissions navigators can help you verify your insurance coverage and start the rehab admissions process. You can also quickly and securely .
To learn more, call us at . Admissions navigators are available 24/7 to answer any questions you might have.
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