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Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Prescription drugs spilled from fallen bottle near glass of alcohol  

Over the past few years, doctors have reported seeing more teens taking benzodiazepines, or benzos, like Xanax. Further, doctors are seeing Xanax being taken in combination with alcohol. Teens agree with the doctors, saying that Xanax is one of the most common tranquilizers that they take. As of 2018, about 6.6% of 12th graders had taken a tranquilizer like Xanax at least once. Further, more than 12% of 12th graders thought they could easily access a tranquilizer like Xanax.

Teens also report commonly drinking alcohol, with more than 30% of 12th graders admitting to drinking within the past 30 days. Therefore, some teens may have had drugs like Xanax in their system while they were drinking. Because of the dangers of mixing tranquilizers like Xanax with alcohol, teens need to understand the risks.

What Happens When Teens Mix Xanax and Alcohol?

To understand the effect of mixing benzos and alcohol, it is important to understand how each substance works.

Benzos like Xanax, the brand name for alprazolam, are prescribed to treat anxiety and panic. They work by depressing the central nervous system. To do this, benzos increase the level of the brain chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. This brain chemical has a calming effect on the central nervous system, making a person feel relaxed. Like other benzos, Xanax is a drug that has a high risk of causing addiction and abuse. Further, the body can become physically dependent on Xanax. As such, it is usually only prescribed in short courses of two to three weeks at a time.

Like benzos, drinking can cause a mellowing effect and put a person at risk of addiction and dependence. People who struggle with Xanax may combine it with alcohol to get even more of a calming effect. However, this can be very dangerous over both the short and long term. Like Xanax, drinking increases the level of GABA in the brain. This can lead to additive effects between the two substances.

For these reasons, drinking should be avoided in people taking Xanax. Drinking can heighten the effects of Xanax and vice versa. Both benzos and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants that lower important vital signs. When Xanax and alcohol are mixed, these body functions may be harmed, leading to a potentially fatal reduction in:

  • Heart rate
  • Body temperature
  • Blood pressure
  • Breathing rate

Further, both Xanax and alcohol impact the mental state, causing drowsiness. Both substances can worsen motor skills and coordination. In turn, the chance of an accident is increased. People who take Xanax and then drink may become drunk much more quickly because of the additive effects on brain chemicals like GABA. Impaired driving, blackouts, and memory loss can occur when Xanax is mixed with alcohol.

Because Xanax and alcohol work on the brain in similar ways, they have many side effects in common. These side effects can worsen when you take the substances together. Side effects that Xanax and alcohol have in common include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Impaired judgment
  • Problems walking

Can You Die from Taking Xanax and Alcohol?

Combining Xanax and alcohol can greatly increase the risk of overdose and death. In 2010, more than 70% of people who died from a benzo overdose also had alcohol in their system.

Since Xanax and alcohol work on similar brain chemicals, they have an additive effect on the brain. For this reason, it takes a smaller amount of each substance in order to accidentally overdose. Some of the common signs of Xanax and alcohol overdose are:

  • Loss of control over body movements
  • Very slurred speech
  • Unconsciousness

If you suspect someone has overdosed on Xanax, with or without alcohol, you should seek emergency medical attention right away. Delay can lead to death.

It is important to know that Xanax is not the only benzo to avoid when drinking. All benzos interact with alcohol in a similar way to Xanax. As a result, all benzos share the same dangerous side effects as alcohol. Further, other central nervous system depressants like narcotics, sleep drugs and muscle relaxants may have similar reactions with both Xanax and alcohol, increasing the risk of overdose and death.

If you are a teen or the parent of a teen who struggles with Xanax or drinking, help is here. Contact our trained professionals at Next Generation Village to learn how we can help on the road to recovery.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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