Many people mix Xanax with alcohol to amplify the effects of both substances. However, those who combine these drugs are often unaware of how dangerous this practice can be. This article explores the properties of Xanax and alcohol, the short-term and long-term effects of combining these drugs, and where to get help if you believe that you or your loved one has a problem abusing substances.
Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, a Schedule IV drug that’s part of a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which means that they slow brain activity. They are typically prescribed to treat anxiety and panic attacks, although they are also used to manage the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. When prescribed for a short period of time and taken exactly as prescribed, Xanax can be a safe and therapeutic medication. However, it is a federally controlled substance, which means that it has potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction.1
Alcohol, on the other hand, is legal for people over the age of 21 to purchase and consume, but this does not necessarily make it safer than other substances. Moderate drinking, defined as 1 drink a day for women or 2 for men, is relatively safe. However, many people, especially young people, engage in binge drinking, described as consuming 4 drinks in a fairly short period of time for women and 5 for men.2 Nearly 27% of people aged 18 or older had engaged in past-month binge drinking.3 Consuming large amounts of alcohol in any manner can lead to overdose and death.
Since Xanax and alcohol are both CNS depressants, each of them alone can lead to coma, suppressed breathing, and death. Therefore, combining them is extremely risky, mainly due to the risk of extreme respiratory depression.
In the short-term, a person who mixes Xanax and alcohol can experience a range of side effects, which can place people in dangerous situations and increase their risk of injury or death. These effects include:2,4,6
Even if someone mixes Xanax and alcohol and does not experience a serious overdose or die, they are putting themselves in significant danger each time they engage in this practice. Chronic Xanax and alcohol abuse may result in a series of physical and mental long-term effects.
Long-term abuse of these two drugs has not been extensively studies. However, there are known, long-term effects for abusing either substance alone. The long-term effects of alcohol abuse can include:5
The long-term abuse of Xanax can also lead to serious long-term consequences, including:6,7,8
Both substances can lead to tolerance, which means that increased amounts are necessary for users to feel the desired effects. In attempts to overcome this tolerance, people may use more and more Xanax and alcohol, which can hasten the development of physical dependence. When someone is physically dependent on Xanax and alcohol, they have to continue using the substances to avoid the emergence of unpleasant and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms, such as agitation and seizures.6 Physical dependence is the body’s natural adaptation to the presence of the substances, but with continued concurrent abuse, a person who is dependent could develop an addiction, which is characterized by a set of maladaptive, drug-seeking behaviors. Someone who is addicted to alcohol and/or Xanax is likely to experience the following ramifications of chronic use:6
It is not advisable for someone to try to stop using Xanax or alcohol alone. Instead, they should seek professional help to do so. No one sets out to become addicted, and it’s hard to ask for help, but it’s the only way to stay safe while detoxing.
Detox is the process of getting drugs such as Xanax and alcohol out of a person’s body and helping them to withdraw safely after they have become physically dependent. There are a variety of options for this process, including:
After a person completes Xanax and alcohol detox, it is imperative to transition into an addiction treatment program that can rectify negative behaviors and replace unhealthy coping skills with healthy ones. These programs can occur in a number of settings, just as detox can. The important thing is that you get the help you need to change your patterns of drug abuse and lead a healthy and happy life.