Chances are you have been prescribed a medication in your life and you were told by either your doctor or the pharmacist that it shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol. Even certain over-the-counter medications come with a warning not to mix them with alcohol. That’s because certain drugs and medications, when mixed with alcohol, can lead to severe medical complications or can even cause the medication to not work properly. This is particularly true when it comes to benzodiazepines and alcohol. In fact, mixing benzos with alcohol is fairly common amongst those who take benzos either via prescription or recreationally.
In this blog, we will take a look at what benzos are and how they are used, what happens when you mix alcohol and benzos, how the body reacts to benzos, and how you or someone you know can get help if they are dealing with a substance abuse problem.
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What Are Benzos?
Before we talk about how your body reacts to benzos or what happens when you mix them with alcohol, it’s important to understand what a benzo is. A benzo, or benzodiazepine, is a sedative. Benzos are typically prescribed to treat ailments such as anxiety, insomnia, stress, and can even be given to patients who are in the early stages of alcohol detox to help alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms. Given the wide range of conditions that it is effective in treating it is one of the most commonly prescribed types of medications in the United States. Some of the most common and popular examples of benzos include:
How Do Benzos Work?
Believe it or not, benzos are actually considered to be a minor tranquilizer. In fact, the main purpose of a benzo is to actually delay the communication between the brain and the body and slow everything down. When a benzo enters the system, it attaches itself to the gamma-aminobutyric acid neurotransmitter, also known as GABA. This particular neurotransmitter helps send calming messages to the body. It also prevents the neurons in the brain and spinal cord from responding. By boosting the effects of the GABA, benzos help to slow down the physiological nerve impulses. For those suffering from ailments such as anxiety or insomnia, their brain tends to be often overstimulated. Benzos will send a message to the brain to slow it down and counter the overstimulation, thus relieving some of the negative effects and allowing the person to calm down.
What Are Some of the Side Effects of Benzos
As we discussed earlier, benzos are one of the more common drugs prescribed by doctors in the U.S. due in large part to the conditions and ailments that they help treat. As with all prescription medications, benzos have side effects that users can experience to differing degrees. Some of the more common side effects associated with the use of benzos include:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Vision problems
- Slow or shallowed breathing
In some rare cases, people taking benzos experience the exact opposite of their intended effect. Their anxiety or insomnia might get even worse instead of better and they also might experience vivid hallucinations, agitation, and extreme bizarre behavior.
As always, if you are experiencing severe forms of any of the side effects listed above, contact your doctor or a medical professional immediately.
What Happens When You Mix Benzos and Alcohol?
Despite what you might think after reading the list of possible side effects above, benzos are typically a safe drug to take when taken as medically directed. That being said, when combined with alcohol they can be very dangerous.
When alcohol is mixed with benzos a variety of things can happen. For starters, mixing the two can increase the chances that you will experience one or multiple side effects and in some cases, the side effects can become more extreme when mixed with alcohol. This can lead to an increased risk of bodily harm or significant medical issues developing. Additionally, mixing the two together can increase the risk that you develop an addiction to either one or both of the substances.
This will ultimately lead to your body developing a dependency on the substances meaning you need more of each to reach the desired effect. In some cases, this can lead to an overdose and even death. Even if you don’t experience adverse side effects or develop a substance abuse issue, at the very least, combining the two can result in your inhibitions being reduced which, in itself, can be dangerous and lead to financial, family, and health issues.
What Are Some of the Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol with Benzos
As we mentioned above, mixing alcohol and benzos can lead to an increased chance that you will experience one or more of the side effects associated with benzos. It can also result in a more extreme case of side effects too. However, the combination of benzos and alcohol can come with its own separate set of side effects that you might experience in addition to the ones that are just from the benzos. Some of the most common side effects associated with the combination of alcohol and benzos include:
- Loss of coordination
- Intense nausea
- Organ failure
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
Can You Overdose on the Combination of Alcohol and Benzos?
Due in large part to the fact that both benzos and alcohol are depressants and both slow down the central nervous system, it is possible that the combination of the two can lead to an overdose. In fact, when combined, the chances of an overdose actually increase due to the combination of side effects. Overdosing on the combination of alcohol and benzos can do irreversible damage to a person’s cognitive function, their organs, and even result in death. Some potential indicators that you or someone you know might be experiencing an overdose as a result of the combination of benzos and alcohol include:
- Organ failure
- Falling into a coma
- Slow and shallow breathing
- Impaired movement
- Extreme drowsiness
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms above, seek immediate medical attention before it is too late.
Are There Treatment Options Available For Alcohol and Benzos Abuse?
For those who may be suffering from addiction or abuse as it pertains to benzos and alcohol, the good news is that there are options available to get help. Before any treatment can begin though, the first thing that has to happen is that the body needs to rid itself of all harmful substances including alcohol and benzos. This process is called detoxing. Detoxing should be done under the care and supervision of a trained medical professional and can be completed at either a local medical facility, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment facility that also provides detox services such as Intrepid Detox and Residential. Attempting to self-detox can be incredibly dangerous and even life-threatening. In addition, due to the withdrawal symptoms associated with benzos and alcohol, many people who try and self-detox also find themselves suffering to the point where they turn back to the benzos and alcohol for relief. Some common withdrawal symptoms associated with benzos and alcohol include:
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep problems
- Muscle cramps
- Headaches and muscle pain
Once detox has been completed, your treatment professional will likely recommend either inpatient or outpatient treatment depending on your situation and your needs. Regardless of whether it’s inpatient or outpatient, treatment will focus primarily on therapy, both individual and group. These therapy sessions will focus on getting to the bottom of what led to your addiction in the first place as well as teach you ways to prevent yourself from needing these substances in the future by essentially reprogramming the brain and teaching it that it does not need alcohol and benzos to function.
Want To Know More About the Dangers of Mixing Benzodiazepines and Alcohol?
Both benzos and alcohol are depressants, meaning when combined the results can be incredibly dangerous and even catastrophic. If you or someone you know is suffering from either an addiction to benzos, alcohol, or both, it’s important to get the help you or they need before it’s too late. At Intrepid Detox and Residential, we know what it’s like to deal with addiction. That’s why we offer a variety of detox and addiction treatment services to fit each person and their needs. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and could benefit from our services, contact us today. We want everyone that comes to see us to go on to live a happy, healthy, and sober life.