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The Dangers Of Abusing Xanax With Alcohol

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

Medically reviewed by

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

February 28, 2019

People mostly abuse Xanax and alcohol for the intense calm, relaxed state, or euphoric effects it offers. Abusing these drugs together heighten the effects and can lead to increased side effects. Individuals who are addicted to these drugs may need professional treatment to overcome them.

What Is Alcohol?

Alcohol abuse is the most widely accepted form of drug abuse in this country. From high school graduations to business lunches, alcohol is abused within many walks of our lives. Despite this prevalence and cultural acceptance, alcohol use is not without risks. Alcohol use can lead to abuse, addiction, and a host of other adverse health effects. These include brain damage, major organ failure, and other organ complications, stroke, an increased risk of cancer, and a compromised immune system.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax, the brand name of alprazolam, is a sedative-hypnotic. It produces a calming effect by slowing the level of nervous excitement within your brain. It is prescribed in one of two ways, either as an immediate release tablet or as an extended-release version called Xanax XR. Xanax is most commonly abused orally, but some people may choose to snort or inject it.

This drug is a controlled substance, which means it holds the potential for abuse and addiction. For this reason, Xanax is usually prescribed for short-term use as needed. The longer you use this drug, the higher your chance of dependence. This type of dependence does not mean you are addicted. It’s when a person begins to compulsively abuse Xanax that dependence occurs within addiction.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Combined Xanax And Alcohol Abuse

The individual side effects and symptoms of alcohol and Xanax abuse are very similar. Using these drugs together will intensify these symptoms, making them even more disabling to the user. A person may use Xanax as prescribed and abuse alcohol. Others may abuse both drugs recreationally. In either case, the following physical and mental signs and symptoms may arise:

  • Decreased pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Intense depression
  • Impaired coordination
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Memory loss
  • Mental confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed pulse
  • Slurred speech
  • Stupor
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Unsteadiness or trouble walking
  • Vertigo

Certain behaviors can also hint to comorbid drug abuse, including:

  • Doctor shopping to obtain more Xanax
  • Hiding or hoarding either of the drugs
  • Lying about Xanax or alcohol abuse
  • Stealing other people’s pills
  • Losing interest in things that previously made them happy
  • Pushing loved ones away
  • Struggling to uphold a relationship, job, or education commitment
  • Increase in tolerance (needing more to feel effects)
  • Withdrawal

Many of these behaviors may appear to be only a state of extreme drunkenness. Mistaking a person’s actions for only this could prevent them from getting the help they need. One good tip to keep in mind: if your loved one becomes excessively sedated after only one drink or pill, they could be abusing Xanax or drinking more than you know.

For the loved one of Xanax and alcohol abusers, being aware of these signs is one way you can protect your family member or friend. Should you notice any unusual behaviors along with any of these symptoms, seek help immediately. Abusing these drugs together is very dangerous and can even jeopardize your loved one’s life.

Is It Dangerous To Mix Xanax With Alcohol?

Yes. As we’ve explained, both Xanax and alcohol are CNS depressants. The FDA warns that “Alcohol should generally not be used during treatment with benzodiazepines.” Used together, this important life support system becomes highly compromised. There is a fine balance between impairment and critical danger.

Accidental Injury

Both of these drugs can reduce your inhibition and judgment, while also significantly impairing your coordination. Overcome by these things, an individual may be more apt to take part in risky behaviors, such as handling weapons. A person could also stumble and fall and be knocked unconscious.

Driving Risks

It’s dangerous to operate a vehicle after abusing either of these drugs. Used together, this risk skyrockets. Driving under the influence could cause great bodily harm or death to the driver, other occupants, the driver and passengers of other vehicles, and pedestrians.

Depression And Suicide Risk

These drugs may cause intense depression and thoughts of suicide. For some, this may lead to self-harm or attempted suicide.

Intensifies Withdrawal

These drugs produce similar symptoms of withdrawal, many of which are heightened if a person abruptly abstains from both drugs at once. One of the biggest risks is a seizure, including incidents of multiple seizures and status epilepticus (SE). The latter can be life-threatening.


Overdose risk is high for two reasons. First, a person’s judgment and cognitive functions are impaired, so they may take higher doses without contemplating the risks. Secondly, CNS depression is compounded when both drugs are used together. Signs of overdose include:

  • Becoming lightheaded
  • Loss of coordination
  • Extreme confusion
  • Fainting
  • Intense drowsiness
  • Muscles become weak
  • Pulse and heart rate slow down even more
  • Trouble breathing
  • Vision becomes blurred

Respiratory and cardiac functions can become so suppressed that they begin shutting down, which may lead to unconsciousness. In extreme cases, coma could occur and in the most severe instances, death. If there’s the slightest thought that overdose may be happening, it’s crucial that you contact emergency medical support. Prompt medical attention could save a life.

Is There Treatment For Polydrug Xanax And Alcohol Addiction?

Drug and alcohol rehab doesn’t just treat singular addictions. Whether you’re addicted to both, or addicted to alcohol and abuse Xanax on the side, or vice versa, help exists. Polydrug addiction requires greater support and more intense treatment. For this reason, outpatient treatment may not be sufficient. An inpatient drug rehab program can better support the medical, physical, mental, and emotional needs that arise in these circumstances.

On their own, benzodiazepine and alcohol addiction typically requires a medically supervised detox. This is even more important with polydrug addiction. Without it, your health and life could be in danger. Choosing a rehab which offers this service will support you during this critical time and allow you to move seamlessly into the treatment phase. Good treatment should entail access to behavioral therapies, counseling, relapse prevention, family therapy and support, and aftercare support.

Your Life Doesn’t Have To Continue This Way

Contact today to get yourself or a loved one into treatment today. Recovery is possible and it begins by making a phone call to one of our compassionate treatment specialists.

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