When taking prescription medication, it is important to avoid dangerous drug interactions. Often, prescription medication may produce unwanted results when mixed with other drugs, or certain foods or beverages. One such combination that can result in many unfavorable consequences is the mixing of Xanax and alcohol. While you may be tempted to have a drink when taking Xanax, it is important to know the dangers of this combination before doing so.
If you have been prescribed the drug Xanax, it is important to avoid the dangerous and potentially life-threatening interactions that it can cause when combined with alcohol. At Intrepid Detox, we want you to be empowered through information and the availability of critical detoxification services.
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What is Xanax?
Xanax is a prescription medication that is commonly prescribed for anxiety and panic attacks. The name Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, a medication that belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These drugs are generally used as sedatives and anxiolytics due to their immediate onset of action and rapid symptom relief.
First created in 1956 by Dr. Leo Sternbach, Xanax was designed to provide a less addictive alternative to widely used tranquilizer drugs such as alcohol, barbiturates, and meprobamate. It was first introduced into the US market in 1981 where it became a common prescription for patients with anxiety disorders.
The drug works by binding to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. Activating these receptors leads to feelings of relaxation and decreases the feeling of panic. While Xanax possesses this practical use, it also has abuse potential. This is due to how it produces feelings of euphoria when taken in larger doses.
Is it Safe to Drink on Xanax?
In short, no, it is not safe to drink while taking Xanax. These two substances should never be mixed together. This is because the two substances amplify the effects of each other. For example, alcohol can make the side effects of Xanax more intense. These include drowsiness, impaired coordination, and slowed reflexes. Mixing the two substances also increases the risk of developing other serious problems such as respiratory depression.
Unfortunately, Xanax has risen in popularity over the years as a party drug. This is likely because its sedative effects can help people drink for longer periods of time without feeling the effects of alcohol. However, this practice is extremely dangerous and can lead to serious health problems or even death.
How do Xanax and Alcohol Interact?
Xanax and alcohol are both classified as depressants. This means that they slow down the function of the central nervous system. Central nervous system depressants work by increasing the activity of GABA in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate nerve cell activity. It acts as a natural “brake” on the nervous system, slowing down the messages between the brain and body.
On its own, Xanax rarely produces life-threatening symptoms. Combining the drug with alcohol presents deadly consequences as the effects of Xanax are enhanced. Further, interactions between the two substances are more severe in people who struggle with alcohol abuse.
Compared to others, former drug abusers and heavy drinkers experience greater mental impairment from mixing Xanax with alcohol. Concerningly, interactions between alcohol and Xanax also increase the risk of developing an addiction to either substance.
The Effects of Xanax and Alcohol Interactions
If a person is mixing Xanax and alcohol regularly, there are many long-term effects that can impact their health and wellbeing. Alcohol and Xanax interact to magnify the effects of both substances.
For example, alcohol depresses the central nervous system. When combined with Xanax, which also depresses the central nervous system, breathing and heart rate can slow to a dangerous level.
The physical, cognitive, and behavioral effects of mixing Xanax and alcohol are as follows:
Physical Effects of Xanax and Alcohol Interactions
When taken together, even in smaller doses, these substances can magnify each other’s effects, leading to impaired judgment, memory loss, and coordination problems. Other physical effects and consequences include the following:
- Low blood pressure
- Blurred vision
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Decreased libido
- Liver damage
- Increased risk for certain types of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses
Xanax is also associated with the development of gastrointestinal problems. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common side effects of taking this medication, and these symptoms can be magnified when Xanax is taken with alcohol.
Cognitive Effects of Xanax and Alcohol Interactions
Xanax and alcohol both have a sedative effect on the brain, which can lead to feelings of drowsiness, confusion, and impaired judgment. Since both Xanax and alcohol can cause drowsiness, this increases the chances of accidents.
Moreover, memory loss associated with mixing Xanax and alcohol can cause an individual to forget how much Xanax they ingested and lead to overdose. Memory loss can also impede function at school and work, or socially.
Additionally, since both substances can cause drowsiness, it’s also common to fall asleep after using them together. In high enough doses, this can lead to coma or death.
Behavioral Effects of Xanax and Alcohol Interactions
In some cases, Xanax and alcohol cause behavioral effects due to how they impact mood. This combination may lead to a depressed mood, and in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts. Other behavioral side effects include:
- Hostile behavior
Together, these drugs can lower inhibitions. Xanax and alcohol abusers may do things that they normally wouldn’t do. This can lead to social issues or criminal activity.
Xanax and Alcohol Overdose Risks
Xanax, in high doses, can cause an overdose. Alcohol, in high doses, can also cause an overdose. When these two drugs are combined, the risks of an overdose are even higher.
Overdosing on Xanax and alcohol is extremely dangerous and can lead to coma or death. The following symptoms can indicate that someone is overdosing on Xanax:
- Impaired coordination
- Impaired reflexes
- Loss of consciousness
It is important to note that even if you are taking Xanax without any negative side effects, alcohol can trigger dangerous symptoms. There is also no concrete lethal dose for this combination of substances as even small amounts of Xanax mixed with alcohol can be fatal.
When is it Safe to Drink After Taking Xanax?
Xanax has a relatively short half-life. This means that it leaves the body quickly. For most people, it’s safe to drink alcohol four hours after taking Xanax. However, this isn’t always the case. The half-life of a drug depends on several factors, including:
- The person’s metabolism
- Their age
- How much they weigh
- Other medications they’re taking
For some people, alcohol should be avoided entirely if you are taking Xanax regularly. If you are being prescribed Xanax for insomnia or anxiety, it is important to talk to your doctor about any potential drug interactions that may occur during use.
Xanax and Alcohol Abuse Statistics
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, among past-year benzodiazepine misusers, 46.3% reported that the motivation for their most recent misuse was to relax or relieve tension, followed by helping with sleep (22.4%).
- In the same survey, as mentioned above, 5.7% reported “experimentation” as their main motivation for misuse, and 11.8% reported using them to produce feelings of euphoria or because of an addiction.
- 53 million or 19.4% of people 12 and over have used illegal drugs or misused prescription drugs within the last year.
- Drug overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines have steadily increased from 1,135 in 1999 to 11,537 in 2017. Between 2017 and 2020, deaths declined and rose again to 12,290.
- According to data collected by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2019, approximately 14.5 million people aged 12 or older have an alcohol use disorder.
- Studies by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate that only around 20% of people abusing benzodiazepines received them from their doctor.
Treatment for Xanax and Alcohol Addiction
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to Xanax or alcohol, there are many resources available to help. At Intrepid Detox, we offer residential detox services that can help you safely and comfortably detox from these substances.
We also offer a variety of therapies to help address the reasons why you started to mix these substances together in the first place. These therapies include the following:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Overall, detox programs can provide you with the support and care you need to safely and effectively detox from these substances.
Detoxing from Xanax and Alcohol with Intrepid Detox
If you’re ready to take the first step in your recovery, we can help. At Intrepid Detox, we offer residential detox services that can help you safely and comfortably detox from these substances. After detox, we can refer you to an addiction treatment center that will work with you to meet your needs.
To learn about our services, please contact us today. We’re here to help you on your journey to recovery.