Dangers Of Mixing Ativan And Xanax

Mixing Ativan and Xanax can have dangerous consequences, including overdose. People who abuse one or both of these drugs may need to seek treatment to overcome their substance abuse.

Ativan and Xanax are prescription drugs belonging to the benzodiazepine (‘benzo’) drug class. This means that some of their chemical structure and effects are similar.

Both drugs are short-acting, meaning they can produce their effects quickly. While this can be effective for treating symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders, the drugs also carry a risk for misuse.

Although benzos are most often combined with alcohol or opioids, people may also mix two drugs within the same drug class. Mixing drugs or substances in ways other than prescribed is known as polydrug or polysubstance abuse.

Abusing Ativan or Xanax separately can have negative impacts on health. Mixing the two drugs can be even more dangerous, risking overdose and other health problems. Mixing Ativan and Xanax can also lead to addiction as the body adapt to the presence of both drugs in your system.

If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription drug abuse, you may need inpatient treatment to help you safely stop using these drugs.

What Are Ativan And Xanax?

Ativan (lorazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) are common prescription drugs for treating anxiety and panic disorders. Taking them can cause a feeling of sedation or relaxation in a short amount of time, which can help relieve intense episodes of anxiety or panic. They also be used short-term as sleep aids for insomnia. In some cases, lorazepam has been used to treat symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Experts recommend prescribed benzos for short-term use, as long-term use can make a person tolerant to their effects at moderate dosages. It can also cause dependence, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms with reduced or stopped use of the drug.

Short-Term Side Effects

Both Xanax and Ativan are considered highly-potent, meaning they can produce powerful effects in small doses. They work by slowing down activity in the central nervous system (CNS) which is responsible for controlling functions such as heart and breathing rates, blood pressure, and body temperature.

Taking a depressant sedates a person’s system, resulting in drowsiness or fatigue. They may also affect some cognitive functions and mood.

Short-term side effects can include:

  • troubles with memory
  • decreased concentration
  • mood swings
  • slurred speech
  • vertigo
  • blurry vision
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • dry mouth
  • decreased blood pressure
  • slow breathing

Taking these drugs together may result in more intense side effects. People who abuse Xanax and Ativan have also reported experiencing a rush of euphoria. This can increase a person’s sense of well-being and confidence, which may reinforce a pattern of drug misuse.

How Are Ativan And Xanax Abused?

When taken as directed, these drugs can produce sedating effects that are effective for their intended purposes. Mixing the two drugs, however, is a sign of drug abuse and may lead to problems of dependence and addiction.

Behaviors that can indicate misuse include:

  • taking higher doses than prescribed
  • taking doses more frequently than prescribed
  • taking them for reasons other than prescribed
  • taking pills from other friends or family members with prescriptions

The risk for abuse can be higher among those who have used the drug for an extended period of time. Depending on the dosage, this can mean more than a few weeks or months when taken regularly.

Taking Ativan and Xanax for reasons other than prescribed can be dangerous. In the short-term, the most serious danger that can occur is overdose.

Increased Overdose Risk

Abusing drugs by taking them in higher doses or more frequently than prescribed can increase the risk of a person overdosing. Mixing drugs can be even more dangerous.

Mixing Ativan and Xanax can have intense effects on the CNS. When abused together, they can dangerously lower blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and body temperature. In the most serious cases, this can cause loss of consciousness, and may result in coma or death.

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Overdose occurs when someone has taken excessive amounts of one or more drugs, resulting in adverse reactions. One of the symptoms of benzo overdose is slowed or stopped breathing. This can lead to what’s known as hypoxia. This can have short and long-term effects on the CNS and may cause permanent brain damage.

People who are abusing substances may not always realize how much of a drug is still in their system. In cases where someone has become dependent on a drug, traces of it may last longer in their system. Those who take more of a drug in order to continue a high may make the mistake of taking more than their body can handle at one time, leading to adverse symptoms of overdose.

Can Overdose Be Fatal?

Fatal overdose on benzodiazepines alone is uncommon. Overdose deaths involving Xanax or Ativan most often occur when other substances are involved. The most common substances mixed with benzos are opioids (e.g. fentanyl, tramadol, codeine) and alcohol.

Opioid abuse alone can increase risk for respiratory depression, and other serious symptoms. Abusing opioids in addition to benzos can worsen or increase these risks. As another depressant, alcohol can also increase risk for overdose when mixed with Xanax and Ativan.

Long-Term Risks Of Xanax And Ativan Abuse

Although overdose is a serious concern with mixing drugs, several long-term health risks can also occur. Chronic abuse of Xanax and Ativan can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

Taking Xanax and Ativan together can lead to faster tolerance and dependence. Mixing them may also result in developing a severe dependence faster than taking one alone.

People who become dependent on these drugs will experience withdrawal symptoms with stopped or reduced use. In severe cases, symptoms that arise during withdrawal can be life-threatening.

Additional dangers of long-term benzo abuse can include:

  • long-term memory impairment
  • complications during pregnancy (e.g. babies born dependent on drugs taken by the mother)
  • increased risk for dementia in elderly people
  • increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease
  • depression and thoughts of suicide

Detoxing From Ativan And Xanax

Detoxing from benzodiazepines can be a distressing process, impacting both the body and mind. Inpatient programs for medical detox offer a supervised environment where withdrawal symptoms can be monitored and properly treated.

Symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal may include:

  • shakiness
  • anxiety
  • agitation
  • insomnia
  • increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • increased body temperature
  • strong cravings
  • depression
  • hallucinations
  • seizures

Due to these sometimes severe symptoms, it can be dangerous to attempt to detox from benzodiazepines without professional support. The safest and most effective way to detox from these drugs is medically-supervised detox.

Treatment For Benzodiazepine Abuse

Treating addiction to drugs like Xanax and Ativan can be a long process. People who are coming off of benzos may experience some withdrawal symptoms for weeks or months after their last use. These symptoms are often psychological, including feelings of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Drug cravings may also continue for some time. This can make it difficult for some people to remain abstinent in early recovery on their own.

After detoxing from these drugs, doctors may often recommend entering an inpatient rehab program. These programs can provide a supportive and structured environment for patients to receive help for the mental and psychological sides of their drug abuse.

An effective way to treat these aspects of drug abuse is behavioral therapy. Attending individual therapy with a counselor can help patients learn to effectively manage triggers without returning to self-medication. Dual-diagnosis treatment can also be beneficial for patients with co-occurring issues such as anxiety, depression, or trauma.

For more information on treatment for polydrug abuse, contact one of our specialists today.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription CNS Depressants

The College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists - Benzodiazepine use, misuse, and abuse: a review

U.S. National Library of Medicine: PubMedCentral - Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System—Mediated Effects

British Medical Journal - Benzodiazepine use and risk of Alzheimer’s disease: case-control study

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