You might think taking your prescribed dose of Xanax and enjoying a few glasses of wine is perfectly safe. After all, both substances are legal. Yet Xanax, which is prescribed for anxiety and muscle spasms, is a sedative and so is booze. This means if you combine the two you multiply their effects to such an extent it can be fatal.
Here we explain the dangers behind mixing alcohol and Xanax, whether you’re taking it on doctor’s orders or you’ve bought it illegally for recreational users. We explain how to recognise when you have a problem how to deal with withdrawal symptoms safely and be rid of your addiction for good.
Xanax and Alcohol Summary
- Xanax – also known as alprazolam – is a tranquiliser which slows down the central nervous system and its functions, including heart rate and brain activity.
- As alcohol is also a sedative, drinking alongside Xanax can intensify the side effects of both, which can result in excessive sleepiness, slurring words and poor coordination.
- Even if you take Xanax as prescribed and drink responsibly, you can still be causing your brain and body damage.
- The tipping point from safe use to having a Xanax addiction can come quickly and you might not realise you have a problem until you are at the point where addiction treatment is the only option.
- If you abuse Xanax and drink with it, you are at risk of causing long-term damage to your health and even overdosing and dying.
- The withdrawal symptoms from stopping taking Xanax and alcohol are unpleasant, prolonged and can be severe to the point of life-threatening. With the right help, these can be minimised and managed safely.
- Dealing with multiple addictions is difficult and it is essential that you receive professional addiction treatment help, ideally in a residential rehab centre.
Mixing Xanax and Alcohol – the Side Effects and Risks
You may have been prescribed Xanax by your doctor and have never had a problem with substance abuse in your life. So it can be difficult to recognise that taking your regular medication and then enjoying a few glasses of wine at night is risky. But it is.
Xanax is from the family of strong tranquilisers called benzodiazepines and is prescribed for anxiety or muscle spasm and insomnia. It slows down your central nervous system and its functions, including brain activity, so it calms you down and alleviates your stress. It also affects your memory, coordination and your ability to think clearly.
Alcohol acts in the same way. How many times have you had a drink to ‘wind down’ or relax and then found yourself staggering about or slurring your words if you’ve gone a bit too far? That’s because drinking also targets the central nervous system.
If Xanax and alcohol are taken together, the effects of each are doubled. But that’s not all.
A study has found that ethanol, the main ingredient in alcohol can also boost the toxicity of Xanax, which means increasing its effects even more. So even if you are taking your benzodiazepine prescription as ordered and you feel that you are a responsible drinker, mixing the two can be a cocktail to avoid.
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The Effects and Dangers of Combining Xanax and Alcohol
Xanax is addictive and you can find you have a dependency in just three or four weeks. Before you know it you might find yourself needing more pills to reach the same effect and this is a Xanax addiction.
Both Xanax and alcohol work by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter in the brain which causes vital functions to slow down. The brain can slow down to the point it forgets to tell your body to breathe, which can be fatal. Other psychological symptoms include:
- Feeling excessively drowsy
- Being unable to move properly
- Being unable to speak properly
- Being unable to think clearly
This makes you dangerous in your everyday life. Driving a car, operating machinery or being in charge of small children are all at risk if you are half asleep, your brain is foggy and your reflexes are slow. Don’t let an accident that hurts yourself or someone else is the wake-up call you need to reach out for Xanax addiction treatment.
As well as slowing you down, combining Xanax and alcohol also makes you more aggressive and hostile, which can mean you are a danger to yourself or someone else. Maybe you are here because you’re worried a loved one is abusing both substances and it has altered their behaviour and personality.
Maybe you or they are acting out of character? Long-term abuse of Xanax and alcohol can result in personality changes and any unusual or erratic behaviour can be a sign that someone has an alprazolam addiction, an alcohol addiction or both.
Many people don’t realise the dangers of mixing a benzodiazepine prescription with alcohol, especially if you’re not drinking to the point of getting drunk. However, if you have a Xanax addiction – maybe you are buying it illegally – and you’re also drinking regularly, you are in great danger of overdosing and dying.
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How Do Xanax and Alcohol Affect the Body?
Taking Xanax at the same time as you drink can affect the body. The physical symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Slower breathing
- Stomach upset
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of coordination
- Poor motor control
- Loss of libido (sex drive)
- Loss of consciousness
Long-term abuse of Xanax and alcohol can result in these severe and sometimes irreversible physical symptoms:
- Liver damage or failure
- Heart disease and stroke
Don’t believe that you need to have a severe alcohol addiction to die from drinking while taking Xanax. When deaths do occur, the level of alcohol in the blood is usually lower than with Xanax-only related deaths or alcohol-only related deaths.
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Xanax and Alcohol: a Slippery Slope
Addiction to any substance isn’t an exact science, and it can come as a shock. Everyone develops addiction in a different way depending on factors such as gender, family history, biology, personality and environment. An alprazolam addiction is no different.
You may have been prescribed Xanax by your doctor and are upset to find that within a month you are craving more and can’t envisage getting through the day without your trusty pill. This is a Xanax addiction. Equally, you might have left your binge-drinking partying days behind you but found that you’re drinking a bottle of wine every night with dinner and can’t recall the last time you had an alcohol-free day. This is also addiction.
Substance abuse can creep up on you. Here are the five stages that lead to addiction:
It’s quite likely you took Xanax in good faith and on medical advice. Alternatively, you may have started buying it on the street or via the dark web as a way of giving you what you thought was a fairly safe buzz at parties (Xanax is a class C drug and therefore considered ‘soft’). Then you had a drink and realised it heightened the effect of the Xanax.
Again, not an exact science. With Xanax, regular use can simply be following your regular prescription, but with alcohol, you might say “I’m just a social drinker” but if you’re socialising every night and twice on Sunday, it’s regular use.
This is the stage at which many people stop. By doing so they avoid the spiral into addiction.
This can be difficult to identify as everyone’s idea of risk is slightly different. Maybe you’ve taken a second benzodiazepine dose before your prescription dictates because you’re starting to feel ropey as withdrawal symptoms kick in.
Maybe you’re getting ready for a weekend bender and have more Xanax and more alcohol than normal because you want the feelings to last. If you need more Xanax or booze to achieve the same result, it is substance abuse. This is a dangerous stage and you need to reach out for help.
At this point you are reliant on Xanax and/or alcohol and your next dose or drink is always at the forefront of your mind. You might not recognise this, or accept it, but your behaviour will have undoubtedly changed. Maybe someone has pointed it out or maybe you’ve noticed it in another person.
You can be a danger to yourself and others and the impact on your health can be life-threatening. Benzodiazepine abuse is taking over your life and you need addiction treatment now.
Xanax and alcohol have control over your life – they are masters and you are their servant. Their dominance on you affects your lifestyle, relationships, finances, mood, and behaviour and governs your thoughts.
Again, it’s not clear-cut. You may not realise your addiction is having an impact on your partner or family until they leave you. You might not think you’re putting your health at risk until you’re rushed to the hospital after blacking out. This might be the kickstart you need to stop but every time you try you experience severe withdrawal symptoms and you relapse. You need urgent help.
If you reach this fifth stage the only next safe step is addiction treatment. It is very difficult to stop taking Xanax and alcohol on your own without dedicated professional help away from your usual environment. Relapse rates for any addiction are around 70% in the first year and if you don’t have the treatment you’ll be caught in a cycle of addiction, withdrawal and relapse for months and years, possibly forever.
What Should You Do if You Take Xanax and Alcohol Together?
Firstly, let’s put things into perspective. A glass of wine with your Xanax prescription is not going to send you into a coma. However, it will exacerbate the properties of both substances and this can be dangerous. Even if you were drinking within the drink driving limit, the Xanax in your system might mean that your reflexes would be slowed so you could be a danger on the road.
You might be shocked to realise combining the two could be a problem. However, reliance on any drug, no matter if it’s prescribed, can lead to addiction, and drinking alcohol while taking Xanax should be avoided.
Misusing Xanax and alcohol abuse can be an ever-decreasing circle. People who take Xanax are more likely to escalate their dose if they already have an existing alcohol addiction. Equally, people with an alcohol addiction are more likely to become dependent on Xanax.
If you have a Xanax addiction and you also drink regularly, you are in danger of overdosing and dying. It is recommended that you receive immediate addiction treatment.
What is the Safest Way to Treat Alcohol and Xanax Dependence?
The safest and most successful way of dealing with more than one addiction is to move into a rehab centre, which is like a hotel with all home comforts on tap as well as expert help. Here you will have an addiction treatment programme tailormade to your needs which can include group therapy, individual counselling, support groups and medication. Just like addiction affects everyone differently not everyone responds to the same treatment.
Addiction treatment centres monitor you 24/7 and manage and treat your withdrawal symptoms as you undergo Xanax detox and kick the alcohol too. Symptoms of the withdrawal process can be severe to the point of life-threatening and can include seizures, loss of consciousness and severe depression.
If you receive outpatient treatment, you will be exposed to triggers in your everyday life, and with dual addictions of Xanax and alcohol these can be doubly hard to resist and avoid. Moving into addiction treatment centres has been shown to reduce the risk of relapse as you develop strategies to help you deal with cravings and stay clean.
Help doesn’t end when you complete the withdrawal process and leave rehab. You will need ongoing support as in some cases protracted psychological post-withdrawal symptoms can occur, which can stay for months and years. You may need addiction treatment for the rest of your life but with the right help you can kick your substance abuse and put your addictions behind you.
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We know that admitting you need help is the biggest step, but reaching out for help is also the first step you can take on the road to recovery. Our dedicated admissions staff are waiting to help you or your loved one find their way into recovery from addiction. We handle all enquiries with the strictest confidentiality.
Our staff are waiting at the end of the phone to help discuss your alcohol and drug problems and answer any questions you have about residential rehab or our addiction treatment programme. You may also download our digital brochure here.
Xanax and Alcohol FAQ’s
How much alcohol can I drink with Xanax?
It is recommended that you avoid all alcohol until you stop taking Xanax.
Can I have just one drink with Xanax?
No. Even a small amount of alcohol can be dangerous while you are taking Xanax.
I forgot I’d taken Xanax earlier and now I’ve had a drink. What should I do?
Don’t panic but don’t think you are safe to drive a car or operate machinery. If you feel unwell, call for help.
How long does Xanax stay in your system?
It can take up to two days to leave your body completely, so if you take Xanax in the morning it is not safe to have a drink that night.
How long after taking Xanax can I drink?
If you are taking Xanax on a regular basis you should avoid alcohol completely.
Will taking Xanax and drinking alcohol kill me?
There is always a risk of overdosing with any substance. If you are mixing the two, you need to seek urgent addiction treatment.
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