Xanax and Alcohol
Mixing Xanax with alcohol is extremely risky. Both substances act like depressants, slowing activity in the brain and causing drowsiness, impaired coordination, difficulty thinking, and other side effects. Both also cause heart rate and breathing to slow. Combining Xanax and alcohol multiplies these dangerous effects and can lead to an overdose more quickly. The combination can be fatal, causing the heart to stop or breathing to cease completely.
The combination of Xanax and alcohol is very dangerous and can lead to overdose and death.
Xanax is a benzodiazepine prescribed to treat anxiety but also often misused by people who are trying to experience relaxation or euphoria. Alcohol is legal but also dangerous and commonly misused for similar reasons. Some people may combine the two with disastrous results.
Taking Xanax with alcohol is so dangerous because the two substances have similar effects on the brain and body. When combined, these effects are additive and can lead someone to accidentally overdose. With prompt medical attention the overdose can be reversed, but without treatment it can easily be fatal, causing breathing and the heart to stop.
How Xanax Use Can be Risky
Xanax is listed as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration. This is because it is susceptible to abuse and may be habit-forming. People may abuse Xanax to feel more relaxed or to get a feeling of pleasure or euphoria. Abuse is risky for several reasons, including the fact that it can lead to addiction. Abusing Xanax also increases the risks of having side effects or experiencing an overdose.
Abuse of Xanax is any misuse of this drug. This includes using Xanax without a prescription, or having a prescription and using the drug in a way other than directed. For instance, someone with a valid prescription may use a higher dose than recommended or may continue to use it after being directed to stop. Any time someone uses Xanax to get high instead of as a medical treatment, it is considered abuse and is risky.
Because of the depressant effects of Xanax and the possible side effects, there are important precautions when using this drug. Driving and operating machinery may not be advisable, for instance. Xanax is also not intended for long-term use because it is habit-forming and can cause serious withdrawal. It is also important to not combine Xanax with other substances that produce similar depressant effects. This includes opioids and alcohol.
A big risk of abusing Xanax is the risk of overdose. An overdose on this type of drug can be fatal. As a depressant, Xanax can lead to slowed respiration, blood pressure, and heart rate. Taking too much Xanax can increase these effects to the point that respiration stops completely, and this can lead to a coma or death. Signs of a Xanax overdose include extreme tiredness or drowsiness, confusion, severe loss of coordination, the inability to move limbs, severely slowed breathing and pulse, and loss of consciousness. An overdose should be treated as a medical emergency to prevent a fatality.
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Why People Mix Alcohol and Xanax
Xanax is most often prescribed to treat anxiety. People who abuse Xanax may turn to it as a way to self-medicate anxious feelings. Alcohol is also a substance that can temporarily relieve anxiety, so someone who uses Xanax for that reason is more likely to also use alcohol. If someone is feeling more anxious than usual or struggles to get relief other ways may combine alcohol with Xanax to increase the sedative and relaxing effect. Abuse of these two substances is not limited to people with anxiety disorders. Anyone feeling stressed may abuse either or both of them to get relief.
The Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol
Anyone prescribed Xanax is warned to avoid alcohol. Mixing these two substances is very risky. They have similar effects on the body, including side effects, and these are additive when the Xanax and alcohol are combined. For instance, someone who uses Xanax may not get drowsy from the drug alone, but does get very sleepy when taking Xanax and drinking.
Both Xanax and alcohol act as depressants, slowing activity in the brain, which in turn can slow down other systems, like breathing and heart rate. Specifically, they act in a similar way by increasing GABA in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, so by increasing it in the brain, both substances slow down activity, along with heart rate and respiration.
Mixing the two substances is most dangerous because of the possibility of an overdose that could be fatal. Either substance can cause respiration and heart rate to slow and stop, so using both increases the risk that this will happen and that it will be deadly. There is no safe amount of Xanax and alcohol to take together, and they should never be combined. Xanax is also riskier in combination with alcohol than other benzodiazepines because it is a faster-acting drug—the effects kick in more quickly.
People who use Xanax often falsely assume that it is always safe, that it is a low-risk substance, and that overdose is not a big risk. This is because overdosing on Xanax does require a very large dose. However, this feeling of safety can make it even more likely someone will use Xanax with alcohol. The assumption that Xanax is safe may lead to the assumption that using it with alcohol is also low risk.
Xanax and Alcohol Effects Vary by Individual
A person may also falsely assume the combination of alcohol and Xanax is low-risk if they see someone else do it without serious consequences. For some people, the impact of this combination is more severe than for others. How it affects someone depends on factors like age, body weight, rate of drinking, amount of food eaten before drinking, and a person’s overall health. It is impossible to know in advance how severe the reaction to Xanax and alcohol will be, so it is best to be safe and always keep these substances separate.
There is never a safe way to combine alcohol and Xanax. Using the two together can quickly lead to a fatal overdose. Many people who use these substances together are struggling from substance abuse or addiction, and Xanax addiction treatment can help. Residential care with detox, therapy, and other types of treatment can help a patient recover and avoid the risks associated with misusing alcohol, Xanax, or both.