Mixing Xanax and Alcohol: Effects, Dangers, and Getting Help
Xanax (alprazolam) is a prescription medication in a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines and is commonly used to treat specific anxiety disorders such as panic disorder as well as sleep disorders.1 This prescription medication is generally safe when taken short-term, as prescribed by a doctor; however, mixing Xanax with alcohol can be dangerous as both substances are central nervous system (CNS) depressants and the combined effects can include extreme drowsiness, respiratory depression, coma, and death.1, 2
What Is Xanax?
Xanax is a benzodiazepine medication commonly prescribed to treat specific anxiety disorders, as well as the sleep disorder, insomnia.1, 2
The most common side effects associated with Xanax are drowsiness, lightheadedness, impaired coordination, and a decreased ability to concentrate, although more serious side effects can occur including mania, seizures, misuse and dependence, and withdrawal.1, 2
What Happens When You Mix Alcohol and Xanax?
When Xanax and alcohol are combined, the CNS depressant effects of both substances are increased.2 CNS depressants work by increasing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical in the brain that inhibits activity in the brain.3, 4 This leads to feelings of drowsiness and relaxation.3, 4
Because alcohol and Xanax affect the same areas of the brain, combining them can enhance the effects of both substances.5, 6 In addition to drowsiness and relaxation, these effects can include:2, 3, 4, 6
- Lowered blood pressure.
- Lack of coordination.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Problems with movement and memory.
- Slurred speech.
- Dry mouth.
- Excessive sleepiness.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Memory impairment.
- Slowed heart rate.
- Slowed, labored, or stopped breathing.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, you should generally not use alcohol while taking benzodiazepines such as Xanax.2 It’s important to talk honestly with your doctor about any alcohol that you consume so that they can adjust your treatment plan accordingly.2
Avoiding Alcohol and Xanax
Xanax is a fast-acting benzodiazepine with a relatively short half-life for most adults (around 11 hours).2 However, various factors can influence this, including age, weight, and health issues, especially kidney or liver problems.2 Since benzodiazepines remain in your system even after the effects wear off, it can still be dangerous to drink alcohol if you are taking benzodiazepines.
If you are taking a medication and aren’t fully aware of the effects, avoiding alcohol is the best way to protect yourself. If you plan to drink alcohol, speaking openly and honestly with your healthcare provider or your pharmacist first can help you avoid dangerous consequences.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol or substance misuse, treatment is available. Addiction can be treated effectively, and there are alcohol addiction treatment facilities that also offer Xanax addiction treatment. If you struggle with both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder, some facilities can provide co-occurring disorder treatment that can help address your needs simultaneously.
Studies have shown that people with mental health disorders are more likely to use substances to self-medicate their symptoms, which may provide temporary relief, but can ultimately worsen symptoms over time.10 Mental health disorders can also change the way the brain looks and works, making substance use more rewarding and increasing the risk that you will continue to use and develop a substance use disorder.10, 11
You can use our directory to find a rehab near you or out of state. You can learn more about treatment options by contacting your primary care physician (PHP) or a mental health practitioner.
You can also contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) when you call . AAC has treatment facilities across the U.S. and is a leading provider of evidence-based addiction treatment. Our admissions navigators can answer questions you may have about treatment options, verify your insurance, and help you with the admissions process once you’re ready.