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Xanax and Alcohol

Mixing Xanax and alcohol is a potentially lethal combination that can result in accidental overdose and death. Recognizing the signs of overdose is essential and may save your life or that of someone you love.

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The Risks of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

The brand name Xanax®, also known as alprazolam, is a common prescription medication used for anxiety disorders and panic attacks due to its sedating effect.

It is safe to take as directed but not when mixed with alcohol, another substance with sedative effects.

What Are The Effects of Alcohol and Xanax?

Alcohol and Xanax are both central nervous system depressants, meaning both substances slow down processes in your nervous system. Slowing down the central nervous system (CNS) isn’t inherently bad. However, mixing depressants like alcohol and Xanax can enhance their effects past safe levels.

Not only can alcohol and Xanax both suppress the central nervous system, but can also lead to respiratory depression. The mixing of these two substances can also lead to increased aggression, poor judgment, a higher risk of accidents, and other life-threatening health complications.

Physical Side Effects

Xanax and alcohol both increase activity in the brain’s inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA increases feelings of pleasure through the release of dopamine and causes an extremely sedative effect.

The effects of Xanax and alcohol together can lead to serious physical side effects. In some cases, these effects can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Common physical side effects of mixing alcohol and Xanax include:

  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Trouble with muscle control, balance, and coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate
  • High risk of overdose or alcohol poisoning
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Mental Side Effects

As the sedating effects of alcohol and Xanax compound each other, abrupt changes in behavior and mood are not uncommon. Many people who engage in polysubstance use with alcohol and Xanax experience higher levels of irritability and confusion.

For some individuals, the mixture can increase aggressive behavior and hostile behavior. As their level of impairment increases, users may lose the ability to see situations clearly and engage in dangerous or even violent behavior.

Common mental side effects of mixing alcohol and Xanax include:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Aggression
  • Rage
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Worsened mental health conditions
  • Hallucinations

Depressants 101

Alcohol and Xanax are both depressants, a class of substances that reduces stimulation and arousal in the central nervous system. Depressants slow down the messages sent between the brain and body.

Xanax, also called Alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine designed to slow down these messages and treat anxiety. Alcohol, on the other hand, has no medical application.

Although depressants can be helpful for people with panic disorders, anxiety disorders, or seizure disorders, they can be dangerous in large doses or while mixing depressants.

Other common depressants include:

  • Other benzodiazepines or “benzos” like Klonopin®, Valium®, Ativan®, diazepam, and lorzepam
  • Barbiturates
  • Kava
  • GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyrate)
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The Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

The mixing of alcohol and Xanax is very dangerous, no matter the dose or amount taken. Regardless of whether the user has a Xanax prescription they regularly take or obtain Xanax illegally, mixing it with alcohol can easily lead to accidental overdose and/or death.

It also does not matter what type or amount of alcohol is consumed with Xanax. The two substances only double or triple the sedating effects, causing lower heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory depression, and loss of consciousness.

Short-term effects of mixing Xanax and alcohol:

  • Impairment of speech, balance, and coordination
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Extreme drowsiness and fatigue
  • Accidental overdose
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Coma or death

Long-term effects of mixing Xanax and alcohol:

  • Difficulty learning new things
  • Long-term memory loss
  • Blood pressure issues
  • Heartbeat irregularities
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Brain damage
  • Increased change of heart attack and stroke

Xanax and Alcohol Overdose

Overdose with Xanax and alcohol separately is very common. When mixing the two, the chance of accidental overdose only grows more likely. Alcohol and Xanax overdose can be fatal if not treated immediately.

How to Recognize a Xanax and Alcohol Overdose

Recognizing an alcohol and Xanax overdose can be the difference between life and death. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or someone else, call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.

Common signs of an alcohol and Xanax overdose include:

  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Loss of coordination or balance
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting
  • Coma

What to Do for a Xanax and Alcohol Overdose

If you believe someone near you is overdosing on Xanax and alcohol, call 911 immediately. Knowing the dose they took, their age, weight, and height can be helpful information to tell the dispatcher and EMTs.

While waiting for help to arrive, you can do the following steps:

  • Stay with the person and monitor their breathing
  • Carefully remove any necklaces, ties, or anything around their neck
  • Ensure their airway is clear and check to make sure they are inhaling and exhaling
  • If breathing stops, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until medical help arrives
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Get Treatment for Mixing Alcohol and Xanax

Substance abuse with more than one substance can be life-threatening. If you suspect you or a loved one has an alcohol addiction, Xanax addiction, or both, now is the time to seek treatment.

While inpatient treatment is not always necessary, medical detox is sometimes required for both alcohol use treatment and Xanax abuse treatment due to potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Speak with your doctor or an addiction specialist about what option is best for your unique situation.

If you’re unsure what treatment centers are in your area, try SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or call 1-800-662-4357 (HELP).

They can help you determine what treatment programs are available in your area and what treatment options meet your needs.

FAQs About Xanax and Alcohol

Why do people mix Xanax and alcohol?

People usually mix alcohol and Xanax for their sedating and euphoric effects. The mixture floods the brain with pleasurable chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.

Although many often view the mixture as something done at clubs or bars, alcohol, and Xanax use often happens at home or as a method of self-medicating. Whether it’s mixed at a party or bar, or Xanax is taken with wine before bed, the mixture can have very dangerous effects.

How long should I wait to drink alcohol after taking Xanax?

Xanax has a half-life of 11.2 hours, with most drugs requiring four to five half-lives to be eliminated from the body. Most research indicates that Xanax takes 31 hours to 5.6 days to leave your bloodstream.

For individuals who take Xanax only as prescribed and have no interest in mixing it with alcohol, experts recommend waiting a minimum of 48 hours after taking their last dose of Xanax before drinking. To be extra safe, some medical professionals recommend waiting five days after your last dose of Xanax.

What are the symptoms of someone who has taken too much Xanax?

Symptoms of Xanax overdose include:

  • Drowsiness and dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Paranoia
  • Delirium
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness and fainting
  • Coma

Can you take Xanax after drinking alcohol?

No. Depending on factors like amount, weight, and food consumption, Alcohol can stay in your system between 6-72 hours in most cases. It is not safe to take Xanax at any dose until the alcohol has fully exited your bloodstream.

What happens if you mix alcohol and Xanax?

Mixing alcohol and Xanax causes both substance’s sedative effects to double or triple in strength. Both alcohol and Xanax can slow breathing and heart rates, as well as lower blood pressure. These effects can cause extreme drowsiness, confusion, aggression, loss of coordination, and loss of consciousness.

Other symptoms of mixing alcohol and Xanax include:

  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Impairment with balance, muscle control, and coordination
  • Memory loss
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Blackouts
  • Coma
  • Death

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