Alcohol and Xanax (also known as Alprazolam) are both substances that are legal. They are also both substances that are widely available and commonly abused. This can make it difficult to recognize any issues. In regard to alcohol and Xanax, mixing the two can be incredibly risky even without a severe addiction to either. In moderation, alcohol does not cause severe damage every time it is consumed. Xanax is a controlled substance, that medical professionals issue to often help with anxiety disorders or panic attacks.
However, it is possible for them to both easily become an abused substance. Alcohol and Xanax can both have negative side effects. Mixing them can magnify what each substance does and cause greater harm. Combined alcohol and Xanax use increases risk for overdose, something many people may not realize.* To understand this better, it can help to know how each substance affects people and what happens they are mixed.
What is Xanax and what does Xanax do?
Xanax is the brand name for Alprazolam, which is a short-acting benzodiazepine often used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, or even nausea from chemotherapy. It is the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drug in the United States and often frequently abused. Like other legal drugs, there are counterfeit pills that can be found on the black market. While they may be similar, they are often cut with other substances and can cause significant harm. From McGill University, “GABA is a chemical messenger that is widely distributed in the brain. GABA’s natural function is to reduce the activity of the neurons to which it binds.”* Neurons can become overexcited, which can lead to anxiety. Benzodiazepines, like Xanax, work to enhance the actions of GABA, which depresses the over-excited central nervous system, and provide a sense of calm.
Clearly, when done legally and under medical supervision, Xanax is meant to be helpful and it has helped people. However, like any medication, it can have adverse side effects. Symptoms will vary for different people and will range in severity. Some common side effects can include: memory or concentration problems, depression, fatigue, suicidal ideation, or trouble breathing. Withdrawal from Xanax can be severe, and should be done under the supervision of a medical professional. Xanax is a short-acting drug that processes quickly and leaves the body quickly. This leaves you at a higher risk for withdrawal, since your body has less time to adapt to working without the drug.* Listing these symptoms is not a scare-tactic, but rather a way to convey issues that can arise. Further, it is helpful to understand the side effects to then understand how mixing alcohol will interact with Xanax.
What is alcohol and how does it affect us?
Simply put, alcohol is an organic compound; it is alcohol ethanol found in alcoholic beverages, which occurs by fermenting sugar with yeast. The alcohol humans drink acts as a suppressant to the central nervous system, similar to Xanax. It can boost one’s mood and increase their inclination to be social, while calming any over-excited nerves that usually make a person anxious. Many people drink for just these reasons. The negative aspects for alcohol, which become worse the more one drinks, are numerous, but the severity will affect individuals differently. Short-term effects might include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, anxiety, and fatigue. Alcohol can be addictive, which can lead to dependence and withdrawal. Long-term effects include liver damage, neurological damage, and various forms of cancer. Furthermore, the abuse of and addiction to alcohol can also lead to significant problems in one’s social and professional life.
Despite many of the negative aspects listed above, alcohol is one of the most common recreational substances. It has been around for thousands of years and it’s prevalence makes it widely accepted. In an article from National Geographic, archaeologist Patrick McGovern said, “Alcohol is central to human culture and biology because we were probably drinking fermented beverages from the beginning.” What is more, in modern times alcohol is marketed as a way to more fun and a better life. Even some of the adverse effects of alcohol, primarily concerning behavior during drinking and hangovers, are seen as humorous. This attitude combined with the popularity of alcohol makes it hard to recognize when it becomes a problem. Or that it can even become a problem at all. With that in mind, it is understandable how many people can then miss the dangers of drinking combined with something like Xanax.
Alcohol and Xanax Mixed
Alcohol and Xanax both suppress the central nervous system and mixing the two can intensify the actions of both substances. From an article published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alcohol enhances the effects of Xanax which includes drowsiness, sedation, and impaired motor skills.* As both substances are sedatives, they significantly impair breathing when combined. As more alcohol is consumed, the areas of the brain that regulate “basic life-support functions—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down.”* Consumption of alcohol and Xanax at any amount can be dangerous, but the risk of overdose becomes even more dangerous the more alcohol is consumed. Alcohol impairs one’s ability to think clearly, which makes recognizing symptoms of overdose even more difficult.
When taking Xanax, there is a warning not to consume alcohol. However, many people may either disregard this or not realize the severity of mixing the two substances. When dealing with addiction, someone might not be in a place to consider or assess the risks at all. What is more, with addiction, it is likely that someone could turn to using unregulated Xanax. This increases the risks with unknown substances added.
It is possible, and often likely, that someone dealing with addiction will be facing issues with more than one substance. With alcohol and Xanax, it is tough to recognize that you or a loved one might have a problem.
At Reflections Recovery Center, we offer a detox center with a 5-day program. Withdrawal from alcohol and Xanax can both be dangerous to do alone. Our highly qualified team of medical professionals will work with clients to ensure a safe detox process. We also offer inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, with many resources available to create a unique and thorough treatment plan. Reflections can also treat co-occurring disorders, providing essential treatment for mental disorders and substance abuse disorders. Our goal is to help each client through every step of the process and to provide tools to maintain sobriety long after treatment. Alcohol and Xanax can be an incredibly dangerous combination. If you or a loved may be struggling with this, contact us today for help.
Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose – NIH
Side Effects of Benziodiazepines – Mind.org
Were Humans Built to Drink Alcohol? – National Geographic
Alcohol and Medication Interactions – NIH