The Dangers Of Mixing Xanax With Alcohol

Mixing Xanax with alcohol can result in profound sedation and depressed breathing that may lead to death. Long-term use of these two substances can damage a person’s liver and memory.

The greatest danger of mixing Xanax with alcohol is an increased risk of overdose. Both substances are central nervous system depressants, which means they slow down vital functions like breath and heart rate. Combining Xanax (alprazolam) and alcohol can cause the central nervous system to slow down too much, which may be fatal.

Some of the dangers of mixing Xanax and alcohol are:

  • dizziness and drowsiness
  • slurred speech
  • memory problems
  • extreme sedation
  • depressed breathing
  • loss of consciousness
  • bluish skin and fingernails
  • brain damage from lack of oxygen
  • coma or death

When someone is intoxicated by drugs and alcohol, they are likely to make poor decisions and engage in dangerous behavior. This could include driving under the influence or unprotected sex that poses the risk of sharing diseases like HIV. Since Xanax and alcohol both reduce a person’s coordination, they may fall and injure themselves.

Xanax And Alcohol Abuse

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports that 27 percent of emergency department visits for benzodiazepines in 2010 also involved alcohol. Evidence suggests that the problem is getting worse, as drug overdose deaths have risen dramatically over the last decade.

In 2016, there were more than 63,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States, compared to 40,000 in 2010. Overdose deaths related to benzodiazepines like Xanax rose from around 6,500 to 10,684 during this time.

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Many people drink alcohol with Xanax to increase the effects. They often do not realize how dangerous it is to combine the substances, and how difficult it can be to avoid taking too much.

Long-Term Effects Of Mixing Xanax And Alcohol

Alcohol abuse often leads to liver disease and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). Women and elderly people are particularly vulnerable to liver damage from alcohol. In rare cases, Xanax (alprazolam) has caused liver damage as well. Mixing Xanax and alcohol is hard on the liver, which is responsible for breaking down both substances to rid the body of toxins.

When someone drinks high amounts of alcohol, their liver enzymes become elevated in order to break it down more quickly. This is, in part, why tolerance to alcohol develops. Elevated liver enzymes may also break down Xanax faster. Combining Xanax with alcohol could make it less effective.

Several studies have linked Xanax to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The drug is associated with temporary memory loss and long-term memory problems. Heavy alcohol use can also cause memory loss in old age to occur sooner, especially in men.

Effects Of Xanax And Alcohol On The Brain

Alcohol and Xanax both affect a chemical messenger in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA prevents the brain from over-stimulating, which also keeps the body from reacting harmfully to stress. As central nervous system depressants, alcohol and Xanax enhance the effects of GABA, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation in the body and mind.

This is why many people reach for a glass of wine after a hard day, and why others use Xanax to self-medicate. Though each of these substances may relieve feelings of anxiety, they do not remain effective for long.

With repeated use, the brain starts to depend on alcohol or Xanax to regulate its emotional levels, and becomes less effective at keeping itself calm. This is how addiction develops. Extensive substance abuse can cause brain structure to change so much that it is unable to function without alcohol or Xanax.

Benzodiazepines and alcohol cause physical dependence as well, which is a similar change in the way the body functions. If someone is physically dependent on one or both of these substances, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using them.

Because of the way Xanax and alcohol affect the brain, both substances can cause seizures with prolonged abuse. This may seem strange, since they both produce calming effects, which reduces the likelihood of seizures. However, abusing these substances can cause GABA regulation to become unstable, which may upset the electrical balance in the brain and cause a seizure.

Detoxing From Alcohol And Xanax

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines or alcohol can be fatal. Symptoms like seizures, psychosis, suicidal thoughts, and delirium tremens make it dangerous for people to detox off of either substance without supervision. They also make it difficult to stop drinking alcohol or taking Xanax because withdrawal can be so unpleasant.

Long-acting benzodiazepines such as Valium (diazepam) are sometimes used to ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms, as they have a similar effect on the brain.

Valium may also be used to help someone taper off of Xanax. Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine that wears off quickly. Many people are unable to wean off of it without experiencing rebound anxiety symptoms that drive them to take more of the drug.

Medically supervised detox programs ensure an individual’s safety during withdrawals. They are staffed with medical professionals that monitor a person’s vital signs and give medication to ease symptoms, if needed. Medical detox programs usually create a tapering schedule for Xanax and may offer counseling for emotional support.

Treatment For Polysubstance Abuse Of Xanax And Alcohol

Many drug and alcohol rehab centers offer dual diagnosis treatment, which examines underlying issues that lead to addiction. For many people, anxiety and stress are major contributors to substance use. Changing the way someone deals with stress is vital in preventing relapse.

The best addiction treatment programs use a range of therapies to address aspects of a person’s life that cause anxiety. These may include breathing techniques, stress management, nutrition education, meditation, and fitness.

Some programs use expressive therapies through art and music to help individuals connect with their emotions. Behavioral therapy can also help rearrange thinking patterns and lay the framework for a healthier life. The goal of polysubstance addiction treatment is to resolve …

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Harmful Interactions: mixing alcohol with medicines

National Institutes of Health: LiverTox - Alprazolam

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