Find out how we can help you on your road to recovery.
xanax and alcohol

Xanax and Alcohol: The Risks and Dangers

Xanax and alcohol are two substances that are often abused together. While both can be dangerous when used separately, the risks and dangers increase when they are mixed. Learn about the risks and dangers of combining Xanax and alcohol and how to get help if you’re struggling with substance abuse.

Why Do People Mix Xanax and Alcohol?

People mix Xanax and alcohol for different reasons. Some want to increase the effects of both drugs. Others may want to offset the side effects of one drug or the other. Some people say combining alcohol and Xanax makes them feel relaxed and happy. They may feel like they are in a dream-like state or that time has slowed down. Some people even report feeling like they are floating.

While the effects of combining Xanax and alcohol may initially seem pleasant, this mix can be dangerous. Both substances depress the central nervous system (CNS). This can lead to slowed breathing, unconsciousness, and even death. In addition, mixing Xanax and alcohol puts you at a higher risk of developing an addiction to one or both substances.

The Dangers of Combining Xanax and Alcohol

People may mistakenly believe Xanax and alcohol are safe to mix because they are both legal substances. In reality, combining the two can be extremely dangerous. Xanax and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants. When they are combined, they can have a potent effect on the brain and body.

When the effects of CNS depressants are amplified, it can lead to life-threatening consequences. Both substances work to slow down body functions. When too much of either substance is consumed, it can relax and slow body functions to the point that your heart stops beating or you stop breathing, resulting in a coma or death.

Some of the dangers of combining Xanax and alcohol include:

  • Impaired cognition
  • Slowed breathing
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Coma
  • Overdose
  • Death

Short-Term Effects of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Some of the short-term effects of mixing alcohol and Xanax can be dangerous. Because both substances depress the central nervous system, taking them together can lead to a host of problems including:

Slowed breathing: When Xanax and alcohol are mixed, it can lead to slowed breathing. When the CNS is depressed, it can even stop your breathing altogether. This can cause a lack of oxygen in the blood and overdose, coma, or death.

Drowsiness: As the body’s nervous system slows down, you may feel excessively drowsy or tired. This can make it difficult to stay awake and alert, which increases the risk of falls and other accidents.

Slurred speech: Slurred speech can make it difficult to communicate your needs clearly.

Loss of coordination: Alcohol and Xanax both cause loss of coordination and dizziness. This can make it hard to walk or drive, increasing the risk of accidents.

Impaired judgment: Impaired judgment can lead to poor decisions, such as driving while intoxicated or engaging in risky behaviors.

Cognitive problems: Combining alcohol and Xanax can lead to issues like confusion and memory impairment.

Blackouts: A blackout occurs when someone drinks so much alcohol that they cannot remember what happened while they were drinking. Blackouts are dangerous because they can lead to risky behaviors like unprotected or unwanted sex or drunk driving.

Stomach issues: Because Xanax and alcohol are both depressants, when they are combined, they can work together to slow down the digestive system. This can lead to feelings of nausea and vomiting. Additionally, alcohol can irritate the stomach lining, which can make stomach problems worse.

Long-Term Effects of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Xanax and alcohol abuse can put you at risk for several long-term consequences,

The long-term psychological and physical side effects of mixing Xanax and alcohol can include:

Liver damage: The liver is responsible for processing toxins, including alcohol and Xanax. When these substances are mixed, the liver is overworked and can become damaged. This can lead to scarring, inflammation, and cirrhosis.

Physical and psychological dependence: Mixing alcohol and Xanax can lead to physical and psychological dependence. When you mix these addictive substances, you increase the chances of developing a dependency on both. Psychological dependence occurs when you begin thinking you need substances to feel good or to cope with stress. Physical dependence can develop when your body becomes used to the presence of drugs and alcohol and begins to depend on them to function normally. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drugs.

Cognitive impairments: Mixing alcohol and Xanax can lead to cognitive impairments because they are both central nervous system depressants. When these substances are combined, they can work together to slow down the brain’s activity. This may lead to problems with thinking, reasoning, and judgment. Additionally, alcohol can increase the effects of Xanax, which can be dangerous since Xanax is a sedative-hypnotic drug that can cause respiratory depression and even death when taken in high doses.

Cancer: Drinking alcohol increases your risk for a number of cancers, including:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Liver cancer

Recent studies suggest that regular, heavy doses of benzodiazepines can also increase your risk of some cancers.

Heart issues: Mixing alcohol and Xanax can lead to heart issues because both substances are depressants. When they are combined, they can have a synergistic effect that leads to a deeper depression of the central nervous system. This can cause the heart rate to slow dangerously and increase the risk of a heart attack.

Is it Ever Safe to Drink Alcohol with Xanax?

Combining alcohol and Xanax is dangerous because it can speed up the time it takes for your body to metabolize Xanax. One study found that after 120 minutes, Xanax concentrations increased by 642%. It is never safe to mix alcohol and Xanax. Doing so can lead to serious side effects. When taken together, these two substances can amplify each other’s effects, leading to drowsiness, impaired motor skills, and slurred speech. In severe cases, the combination of alcohol and Xanax can be fatal.

It is always best to avoid mixing these two substances. If you are taking Xanax, avoid drinking alcohol altogether.

Overdose Risks of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

When you mix alcohol and Xanax, you are at a higher risk of overdosing. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, while Xanax increases the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect. As a result, combining the two can slow down your breathing and heart rate to the point where you could potentially overdose.

Signs of a Xanax and alcohol overdose may include:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Stupor
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If someone is showing these symptoms, and you suspect they’re having an alcohol or Xanax overdose, call 911 immediately.

Withdrawal from Xanax and Alcohol

If you’ve been abusing both Xanax and alcohol, you’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms from both substances. These symptoms can be more severe because there is more than one substance.

People withdrawing from Xanax and alcohol may experience:

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Paresthesia (tingling or numbness of the skin)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Mood and behavior changes
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Depression
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

Alcohol and benzodiazepine detox can be dangerous and deadly without medical help. You should never try to quit these substances cold turkey on your own. Drug detox is safest when it takes place in a treatment center where a team monitors you around the clock, keeps you as comfortable as possible, and attends to any medical emergencies.

How Do You Treat Alcohol and Xanax Addiction

For people with polysubstance abuse issues, time in drug or alcohol rehab is often the best choice. This type of treatment environment removes you from triggers so you can focus on yourself and getting better.

Detox is often the first step in substance abuse treatment. It is a process of removing toxins from the body. This can be done in an inpatient rehab or outpatient setting, depending on the severity of your addiction and your health.

Inpatient treatment is when you live at a treatment center for a certain amount of time. This type of treatment is usually recommended for people with severe alcohol or drug addiction.

Partial hospitalization is like inpatient treatment, but you only stay at the treatment center during the day. This type of outpatient rehab is usually recommended for people with moderate addiction.

In an intensive outpatient program, you attend programming at the treatment center for a few hours each day. This type of treatment is usually recommended for people with mild addiction or who are transitioning out of higher levels of care.

An outpatient program meets one to three hours a week. This type of treatment is usually recommended for people who have completed an intensive outpatient program or other higher level of care.

Addiction Treatment Approaches

Approaches often used in addiction treatment include:

Get Help for Dependence on Xanax and Alcohol

If you are struggling with alcohol and Xanax abuse, reach out to Vogue Recovery Center for help. Our team of experts can provide you with the resources you need to overcome your addiction and get your life back on track. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the road to recovery.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5731963/
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17425255.2018.1483338?journalCode=iemt20
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557381/

Medically Reviewed by Vaun Williams, Psy.D., LPC