Xanax is a potent benzodiazepine drug used to treat anxiety disorders. It also goes by its brand name, alprazolam. Like alcohol, Xanax is considered a depressant drug, meaning it slows down nervous system activity in your body. When used in moderation and following a doctor’s orders, it can be a great source of anxiety relief. However, it can be dangerous if you exceed the recommended dosage or stop abruptly.
Some of the more severe side effects of the drug include:
Like Xanax, alcohol can provide some nasty side effects, despite its availability and legality. Some of the more severe side effects of drinking too much include:
When used in conjunction with one another to enhance the effects, alcohol and Xanax can have fatal outcomes. If you or someone you know is prescribed Xanax and drinks while using the medication, it’s vital to understand the long-term effects of combining the two.
Using Xanax and alcohol together will intensify the effects of both substances. Researchers haven’t been able to understand why this occurs. However, it’s likely due to chemical interactions between alcohol and Xanax in our bodies.
A study on animals released in 2018 suggested the presence of ethanol, which is the main ingredient in an alcoholic drink, might increase the maximum concentration of Xanax in the bloodstream. This can lead to an “enhanced” high, as well as enhanced side effects. It also pushes the liver to work harder and break down both Xanax and alcohol in the body.
Both alcohol and Xanax produce sedative effects, meaning you’ll experience impairment, drowsiness, or fatigue. The use of each drug individually may also cause sleepiness. Both drugs affect your muscles, making coordination, muscle control, and balance all the more challenging. You could end up stumbling or slurring your speech. These effects will worsen when the drugs are used together.
Xanax may lead to depression, irritability, and confusion. In some cases, an individual may experience suicidal thoughts, but that’s not a common effect. If you experience suicidal thoughts, you should call for help immediately.
Other rare side effects of mixing Xanax and alcohol include:
Alcohol can also potentially affect your mood in various ways. For some, it’ll cause a boost in mood, despite it being a depressant. Others may experience adverse side effects, such as sadness. Alcohol also impairs your judgment and lowers inhibitions, making it easier to do things you might not regularly do. These behavioral effects and mood changes are more severe when using both alcohol and Xanax together.
Both drugs are associated with memory loss, and the effect is more pronounced when the two substances are used in conjunction with one another. Combining both substances increases the chances of a blackout, meaning you may not remember what happened.
In addition to the side effects listed above, these drugs can cause severe physical side effects. The most common physical effects of Xanax include:
Drinking alcohol in excess can also cause blurred vision, headaches, and other gastrointestinal issues as well. Again, using the two together will increase the chances you experience these physical side effects.
Long-term use of both Xanax can lead to the development of physical and psychological dependence, meaning your body will adjust to the substances in your body and require them to function without withdrawals. The symptoms of withdrawal can be deadly and include irritability, anxiety, and seizures.
Over-extended periods of use, alcohol, and Xanax increase your chances of the following:
As was mentioned above, the fact these are both depressants increases the odds of a deadly overdose. If you or someone you know is considering an intentional overdose or experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. If you are at immediate risk, contact 911.
Xanax and alcohol overdose symptoms include:
Death is a real possibility when using high doses of Xanax or alcohol. When these two are combined, the chances of death increase exponentially. Studies show that alcohol levels in Xanax and alcohol-related deaths are lower than alcohol levels in alcohol-only fatalities.
A doctor may prescribe anywhere from one to ten milligrams of Xanax per day. The dose varies on the individual and type of Xanax prescribed. This could be immediate or extended-release. Even if you’ve used the drug for a while without issue, adding alcohol can trigger unexpected side effects.
A lethal dose will depend on the following factors:
A lethal dose for one person may not be the same for someone else. There is no recommended safe dose when using these two drugs. Using both Xanax and alcohol together is inherently dangerous.
Benzos produce strong sedative effects, leading to dependence and, in some cases, addiction. The most common benzodiazepines include:
The risks of mixing alcohol with other benzos are similar to Xanax, and the general risks include the following:
If you believe someone is abusing Xanax and alcohol, there are many resources available to you today. Withdrawals from both drugs alone can be fatal and lead to seizures or delirium tremens (DTs). If you’re considering stopping, you must check yourself into medical detox. You’ll be given medication and 24-hour care until the drug(s) have safely exited your system. Without help, your chances of stopping are slimmer.
By getting help, you’re giving yourself a chance at life. Without it, it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Don’t give another minute of your life to addiction, and consider getting help today. There are programs that treat both addiction and mental health disorders that may contribute to drug use and fill you with the hope you need for tomorrow.
Taylor Francis Online (2018) Influence of Ethanol on the Metabolism of Alprazolam. from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17425255.2018.1483338
MedicalNewsToday (November 2020) Clonazepam, Oral Tablet. from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/clonazepam-oral-tablet
Healthline (September 2018) Valium Vs. Xanax: Is There a Difference? from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/valium-vs-xanax
FDA (N.D.) Xanax. from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/018276s044,021434s006lbl.pdf
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (January 2021) Suicide Prevention. from https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/