Xanax and Alcohol

Table of Contents

  1. What is Xanax?
  2. The Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol
  3. Treating Xanax and Alcohol Use

What is Xanax?

Xanax (which is the brand name for alprazolam), is a substance that belongs to the class of dugs known as benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are used for the treatment of anxiety disorders and are central nervous system depressants.   In the United States, Xanax was the most prescribed psychiatric medication from 2005 to 2013. Approximately 13% of adults in the U.S. are using benzodiazepines and one in five is abusing the medication and using it other ways than prescribed.1

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is a liquid that is created through a process of fermentation and found in beverages such as beer, wine, and spirits. Much like Xanax, alcohol is a central nervous depressant, meaning that it slows down the body's functions including a decreased heart rate, drop in blood pressure, and slowed breathing. Alcohol also causes a slowed down reaction time, confusion, a loss of motor coordination, decreased intellectual abilities and impaired judgement.

What are the Side Effects of Xanax and Alcohol?

Although Xanax and alcohol are both legal substances, they carry with them potentially harmful side effects. When Xanax and alcohol are mixed, the side effects can be enhanced to the point of danger.   The potential side effects of Xanax are:  
  • Constipation
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Impaired coordination
  • Irritability
  • Joint pain
  • Light-headedness
  • Trouble concentrating

The side effects of alcohol include:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired judgement
  • Impaired memory
  • Irritability
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nausea
  • Problems breathing
  • Reduced inhibition
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting
  Mixing Xanax and alcohol can increase the side effects of both substances and particularly increase the likelihood and severity of symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, impaired motor functions, injuries, erratic behavior, trouble breathing, and potentially overdose, coma, and death.   Alcohol overdose occurs when areas of the brain that control life-support functions become overwhelmed and begin to shut down. Taking Xanax with alcohol increases the chances of a Xanax and alcohol overdose happening because Xanax is also a central nervous system depressant and will contribute to the shutting down of major organs.

The Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol?

When mixing Xanax and alcohol, each substance becomes more potent and has more enhanced side effects than if either substance was taken alone. Although it is rare for Xanax alone to cause an overdose or death, Xanax paired together with alcohol can lead to severe and dangerous consequences.   Both alcohol and Xanax are broken down by the same enzymes in the liver so when you mix Xanax and alcohol, the liver has to work extra hard to detoxify your body. Some of the dangerous effects that can occur when mixing Xanax and alcohol are:  
  • Serious short and long-term memory loss
  • Liver issues: because both Xanax and alcohol are processed by the liver, mixing both substances can cause moderate to severe liver problems such as a fatty liver or cirrhosis of the liver
  • Substance use disorder: Xanax and alcohol have high rates of substance abuse, and can be difficult to detox from, making them two easily abused substances. The withdrawal symptoms when trying to detox include anxiety, agitation, insomnia, muscle cramps, sensory distortion, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, tremors and seizures
  • Mental health issues such as depression or anxiety

Treating Xanax and Alcohol Use?

The first step to any substance use treatment is detoxification. Before beginning other treatment methods, it is important to rid the body of the substances. The safest way to detox is at a medical detoxification facility where you can be medically monitored and may receive medication to help with withdrawal symptoms.   The next phase of treatment includes rehabilitation which can occur at an inpatient or outpatient facility. This includes possible medications, counseling, therapy, and support. Many facilities will treat co-occurring mental disorders as well as the substance abuse. 12-step support groups are also useful in finding support with a group of people that are experiencing the same issues.

Resources

  1. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20181227/evidence-shows-abuse-of-xanax-valium-on-the-rise#1
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846112/

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