Xanax and Alcohol - Serious Side Effects You Should Know

Published: 03/17/20

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Overdoses from benzodiazepines like Xanax have been increasing. In fact, from 1999-2017, 11,537 people died from benzodiazepine overdoses.

Part of the problem is that many people like to mix Xanax with alcohol. Mixing Xanax and alcohol has dangerous side effects that may be worse than using either drug alone. Along with possibly lethal effects like overdose, alcohol and Xanax side effects include long-term problems like substance abuse.

Learn the dangers of Xanax and alcohol and stay in control of your health.

What happens when you mix alcohol and Xanax?

Alcohol and Xanax are both depressants. That means they slow down your body and dull your nerves. As a result, taking them together is like a double dose.

It’s more than that, though. Alcohol actually increases the amount of Xanax in your blood when you take them together. Scientists aren’t totally sure why, but it may be because alcohol keeps your body from breaking down the Xanax. With more Xanax in your body, you’ll have more side effects.

Both drugs are also hard on your liver. The liver acts as a filter to remove drugs from your body. Just alcohol or Xanax alone is work for it. Mixing them together, especially repeatedly, might be more than your body can handle.

Alcohol and Xanax side effects

Both alcohol and Xanax affect your mind and body in different ways. Using them at the same time can cause the side effects of both as well as unique ones.

Sedation

A common side effect of both alcohol and Xanax is sedation. In other words, both can make you sleepy. On top of sleepiness, they relax your body and make the muscles sluggish. Just like when you’re tired, these drugs can make it difficult to stay awake and alert. Together, this side effect is even worse.

Mental side effects

One of the biggest side effects alcohol and Xanax cause together is aggression. Both drugs keep you from controlling your emotions, so you can become irritable and quick to anger. Taking them together makes this worse than taking either alone. Impulsive or irritable people are more likely to feel this effect.

Xanax and alcohol can also affect how well you think. They slow down your mental abilities and make everything seem “fuzzy.” The more Xanax and alcohol you take, the more you’ll feel this effect.

Physical side effects

Both alcohol and Xanax depress your nervous system. Along with sedation and cognitive impairment, that means physical side effects.

For example, using Xanax and alcohol together puts you at risk of passing out. You may lose consciousness or even go into a “comatose state”. This could ultimately be life threatening. 

Plus, a depressed nervous system is bad for the rest of your body, too. Your brain controls your heart and breathing, even though you don’t have to think about it. When you mix Xanax with alcohol, the drugs slow this process down. This means irregular breathing or heartbeats. 

Overdose

As you can guess, slowing down your heart and breathing is extremely dangerous. If they slow down too much, they can stop completely. This is basically what happens in an overdose. 

The more Xanax and alcohol you take, the more likely you are to overdose. Using them together increases your chances even further. For one thing, you may think you’ve taken a small amount of each, but the combined dose is too much. Also, the inhibition caused by each drug may encourage you to continue taking more than you would normally. 

Long-term side effects of Xanax and alcohol

Aside from the immediate effects, mixing Xanax and alcohol repeatedly can permanently hurt your body.

Organ damage

One of the most common long-term side effects is organ damage. Both alcohol and Xanax alone are really hard on your liver and kidneys. Together, these organs can’t handle the load, which could result in long-term damage. Repeated depression of your heart could also cause permanent cardiovascular problems, and slowed breathing could lead to brain damage from a lack of oxygen. This can mean learning difficulties and memory loss.

Mood disorders

Using Xanax and alcohol together for long periods of times can also increase your chances for mood disorders. These include things like depression and anxiety that might encourage even more drug use and therefore more side effects.

Physical dependence and substance abuse

Of course, dependence and addiction are also potential long-term side effects. Taking alcohol or benzodiazepines like Xanax over and over can make your body physically dependent on these drugs. If you stop taking them, you may suffer withdrawal symptoms. 

With or without physical independence, you might also develop substance abuse disorder. This could be for alcohol, Xanax or both. Substance abuse disorder can negatively affect your life in a number of ways, from legal trouble to relationship problems.

Get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse

You shouldn’t have to worry about alcohol and Xanax side effects. Take action before they develop into long-term effects that could threaten your life and happiness. If you or a loved one is suffering from drug or alcohol abuse, call Recovering Champions today to learn about your addiction treatment options.

Sources

  1. Bond AJ and Silveira JC. (n.d.). The combination of alprazolam and alcohol on behavioral aggression. – PubMed – NCBI.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 29). Overdose Death Rates.
  3. Zhibin Huang, Zhiru Xu, Hao Wang, ZQ Zhao & Yulan Rao (2018) Influence of ethanol on the metabolism of alprazolam., Expert Opinion on Drug Metabolism & Toxicology,