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Xanax and Alcohol

Xanax and Alcohol, Dangers, Side Effects, Overdose, & Treatment Options

What is Xanax?

Xanax is a powerful sedative. It depresses the Central Nervous System (CNS) and slows down the brain, creating a calming effect in the person taking it. It is a brand name for alprazolam. It is a prescription drug used for anxiety treatment. Xanax is also sometimes prescribed for panic attack treatment. Xanax use can lead to physical dependence and addiction, which is why it is only recommended for use for up to six weeks. In addition, withdrawal is one of the most common Xanax side effects. It is commonly experienced when someone reduces or stops using this prescription drug, which can lead to complications such as panic attacks, insomnia, and seizures. Withdrawing from Xanax under an inpatient drug rehab specializing in Xanax detox and Xanax addiction treatment reduces the risk of complications and helps the individual experience a safer, more comfortable recovery.

Xanax and Alcohol
Once an individual becomes psychologically or physically addicted to Xanax and alcohol, the safest way to stop using the drug is to enter a medically managed detox program.

Some individuals who are dependent on this prescription drug never abused drugs before. They were suffering from anxiety and looking to the medical field for support and relief. They began using Xanax and felt a vast improvement in anxiety symptoms. Some then assumed more of the drug would produce an even greater effect, so they misused Xanax in larger doses. Others just use Xanax for too long, and often with a doctor’s permission. They don’t realize they’re addicted to it until it’s too late.

Many individuals who take Xanax without a prescription or recreationally describe the feeling as calming or sedating. Unlike some drugs, such as cocaine, that produce a “high” or euphoric feeling, Xanax users describe feeling more relaxed, quiet, and tired. These feelings may lead to falling asleep or passing out for a few hours. Mixing cocaine and Xanax is pretty common which can lead to a coma, potential paralysis, or even overdose death.

Mixing Xanax and Alcohol 

Both Xanax and alcohol act on your central nervous system in the same way; they are both depressants, slowing your system down. In fact, every container of Xanax comes with a warning label that reminds patients not to mix it with alcohol.

This benzodiazepine does not play well with alcohol like wine, beer, or hard liquor. Just as alcohol increases the inhibitory effects of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid or GABA, Xanax does the same thing. In your brain, GABA quiets brain over-excitation, which helps you to feel relaxed or even mildly sedated.

Xanax intensifies the symptoms of alcohol and vice versa. Despite the dangers, many individuals who abuse both substances do so in order to experience a more intense intoxication.

Xanax and Alcohol Interaction

When Xanax and alcohol are combined, they increase each other’s effects. That means the effects of alcohol are more potent when it’s combined with Xanax, and the effects of Xanax are more potent when combined with alcohol. Because the drugs cause similar side effects, even a small dose of Xanax combined with a few drinks can cause life-threatening consequences.

A study on animals released in 2018 suggested the presence of ethanol, which is the main ingredient in an alcoholic drink, might increase the maximum concentration of Xanax in the bloodstream. This can lead to an “enhanced” high, as well as enhanced side effects. It also pushes the liver to work harder and break down both Xanax and alcohol in the body.

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Dangers of mixing alcohol with other benzodiazepines 

Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription drugs frequently used to treat anxiety-related conditions. These drugs work by slowing the activity of neurons in the brain. The effects of mixing benzodiazepine and alcohol are profound and dangerous, and dependency on benzodiazepines is a real possibility when not taken in accordance with a doctor’s instructions. 

There are numerous dangers associated with mixing benzodiazepines and alcohol. Every warning label on the container for a benzodiazepine cautions against this practice, and physicians often explicitly instruct their patients to avoid alcohol when they are prescribed benzodiazepines. The risks for abusing these drugs in combination are significantly more severe than the risks of abusing them singularly.

The major risks of combining alcohol and benzos include:

Enhanced effects

Combining two substances that have the same mechanism of action results in the enhancement of the effects of both drugs. This means that the effects of both drugs are increased significantly compared to the use of either drug alone.

Increased risk of overdose

When a person mixes two central nervous systems (CNS) depressants, they are at extreme risk for overdose on one or both of them. An overdose on either drug can have serious and even fatal ramifications, including significant organ damage or brain damage due to a lack of oxygen as both drugs suppress breathing.

The amount of alcohol that can lead to an overdose is significantly reduced when one drinks alcohol with benzodiazepines, and the dose of benzodiazepine that can result in overdose is significantly reduced as a result of taking the drug with alcohol. 

Decreased physical reactions

Due to the enhanced effects of both drugs, individuals will experience significant reductions in their response times, motor coordination, and ability to perform routine or complex actions. These effects can result in a number of potentially dangerous situations.

Increased side effect potential

Combining two central nervous system depressants also enhances their potential side effects. Individuals may experience numerous negative effects, such as nausea, vomiting, lethargy, allergic reactions, etc., as a result of mixing these drugs.

Increased potential for unpredictable effects

Mixing drugs leads to an increased probability that an individual will experience unusual reactions that may be difficult to diagnose even by experienced clinicians.

Increased potential to develop acute conditions

Combining drugs increases the potential to develop serious acute reactions, such as heart attack, stroke, psychosis, suicidal tendencies, or seizures.

Increased risk of long-term physical conditions

Continuing to use benzodiazepines and alcohol together increases the long-term risks that are associated with these drugs when they are used singularly. These risks include the development of cardiovascular issues, gastrointestinal issues, potential liver damage, potential kidney damage, and potential neurological issues that can include the development of dementia.

Increased risk of a mental health disorder

Long-term abuse or misuse of alcohol and benzodiazepines in combination is associated with an increased probability to be diagnosed with a serious psychological condition. Conditions like depression, trauma, stressor-related disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder, etc., are more prevalent in people who suffer from polydrug abuse.

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Side Effects of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol 

Sedation

Both Xanax and alcohol produce sedative effects, meaning you’ll experience impairment, drowsiness, or fatigue. The use of each drug individually may also cause sleepiness. Both drugs affect your muscles, making coordination, muscle control, and balance all the more challenging. You could end up stumbling or slurring your speech. These effects will worsen when the drugs are used together.

Mood and Behavioral Effects

Xanax may lead to depression, irritability, and confusion. In some cases, an individual may experience suicidal thoughts, but that’s not a common effect. If you experience suicidal thoughts, you should call for help immediately.

Other rare side effects of mixing Xanax and alcohol include:

  • Aggression
  • Hostile behavior
  • Rage

Alcohol can also potentially affect your mood in various ways. For some, it’ll cause a boost in mood, despite it being a depressant. Others may experience adverse side effects, such as sadness. Alcohol also impairs your judgment and lowers inhibitions, making it easier to do things you might not regularly do. These behavioral effects and mood changes are more severe when using both Xanax and alcohol together.

Memory Impairments

Both drugs are associated with memory loss, and the effect is more pronounced when the two substances are used in conjunction with one another. Combining both substances increases the chances of a blackout, meaning you may not remember what happened.

Xanax and Alcohol
Xanax and alcohol are some of the most popular drug combinations. Abuse of either substance is harmful, but if taken together the consequences can be fatal.

Physical Side Effects

In addition to the side effects listed above, these drugs can cause severe physical side effects. The most common physical effects of Xanax include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Drinking alcohol in excess can also cause blurred vision, headaches, and other gastrointestinal issues as well. Again, using the two together will increase the chances you experience these physical side effects.

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Lethal Dose of Xanax and Alcohol 

There is no known and confirmed fatal or lethal dose of Xanax for humans. The FDA found that the lethal dosage in rats is 331-2171 mg/kg. Other experiments in animals concluded death in instances of 195 mg/kg, which is 975 times higher than the recommended maximum human dosage of 10 mg per day.

If an individual takes a few drinks and has blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels between 0.05% and 0.15%, this will likely result in memory loss, slurred speech, and poor driving skills. If a person reaches BAC levels closer to the 0.31% to 0.45% range, they may lose consciousness, suffer from vital organ failures, or overdose.

The prescribed dose of Xanax ranges between 1-10mg per day for anxiety and panic disorders treatment. If you are taking Xanax without any side effects, adding alcohol will lead to undesirable side effects. This will also increase dependence and chances of taking lethal doses. However, the lethal dose depends on many factors like:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Weight
  • Tolerance of the body
  • Ability to metabolize Xanax and alcohol
  • Other health issues
  • Other medications you are taking

In short, the lethal dose varies from person to person. The lethal dose for one cannot be lethal for the other person. But mixing Xanax and alcohol is always dangerous and life-threatening.

Xanax and Alcohol Overdose 

When combining Xanax and alcohol, some side effects can be very dangerous. In severe cases, an alcohol and Xanax overdose can happen. Alcohol abuse overdoses arise when parts of the brain controlling essential life-support functions become overwhelmed with the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. These functions then start to shut down. These life-support functions include breathing, heart rate, and temperature control.

Xanax and Alcohol Overdose Symptoms

When another central nervous system depressant like Xanax is consumed with alcohol, the risk of overdose increases.

If someone is overdosing from Xanax and alcohol use, they made show the following symptoms:

  • Significant confusion
  • Severe coordination issues or loss of balance
  • Significant drowsiness and an inability to stay awake
  • Significantly slowed breathing
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

A Xanax and alcohol overdose can lead to severe short and long-term effects, including:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Death

If you see someone experiencing symptoms of a Xanax and alcohol overdose, seek immediate medical help.

Xanax and Alcohol Addiction Treatment 

There is a strong link between mental health and substance abuse. Individuals who struggle with mood disorders like depression and anxiety are more susceptible to developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, often to self-medicate symptoms of their underlying mental health condition. These co-occurring disorders can make each other worse without proper treatment.

To determine the most effective ways to treat Xanax and alcohol addiction, it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When the symptoms have been evaluated by a mental health professional, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular type of treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes are effective for coping with functional.

Medically-Assisted Detox

Detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug abuse. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.

Psychotherapy for Depression and Anxiety

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of depression including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Substance abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

Someone with a Xanax addiction may take up to 20 or 30 pills per day. If the user decides to stop the Xanax dosages, they may experience withdrawal effects such as anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and tremors. The development of tolerance and withdrawal are indications of addiction. If you or a loved one are struggling with long-term Xanax and alcohol addiction and a co-occurring mental health condition such as anxiety and depression, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. We Level Up can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.

Xanax and Alcohol
Recovering from Xanax and alcohol addiction may be challenging but we’re here to help and want to see you get back to living a happier and healthier life of sobriety.

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Sources:

[1] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846112/

[2] CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr137-508.pdf