Xanax and Alcohol
Xanax and alcohol are both widely used substances. In the United States, alcohol is legal for anyone over the age of 21. When used responsibly, alcohol is fine for many people. However, the potential for misuse, abuse, and addiction is high. Many people fail to even recognize when it turns into a problem. Anyone 18 or over is able to take Xanax (also known as Alprazolam) with a prescription. It is meant for short-term use and only under medical supervision. Nevertheless, the potential for addiction with Xanax is high even with use under proper guidance.
There are many reasons a person mixes Xanax and alcohol. Of course, there is a possibility that a person is unaware of the risks of doing so. However, if they have a prescription any medical professional should cover the dangers. Possibly they, and anyone using Xanax illegally, combines it with alcohol and does not perceive any significant dangers. In fact in the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the study covers perceived risk. Separate groups of people, based on various factors, perceive the risk of misuse and abuse differently. Whatever the reasons a person misuses either or both substances, there is significant risk in doing so.
Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine (benzo). It is primarily meant for short-term treatment of anxiety disorders. It carries a high risk for abuse and addiction, but the number of prescriptions are increasing. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “...between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults who filled a benzodiazepine prescription increased by 67%, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million.” Not all of those prescriptions are Xanax, but Xanax is one of the most prescribed benzos and one of the most prescribed medications overall. It is possible some people benefit from Xanax and use safely under supervision. However, there are a number of people who experience dependence and addiction. This can happen through intentional misuse and abuse, but even when following a doctor’s guidance. Addiction can set in quickly, and while unlikely to set in immediately, there is a risk. Anyone concerned about dependence should only stop use with a doctor’s help.
In order to help treat anxiety, Xanax works by suppressing an over-excited central nervous system. It provides a sense of calm and for some people who abuse Xanax, it provides what is called a “Xanax High”. For many, the Xanax high is a heightened feeling of happiness and euphoria. Xanax is a short-acting drug, which means it takes effect quickly and wears off quickly. This has the potential to lead to more severe withdrawal symptoms. Anyone misusing and abusing Xanax will feel the need to take more and more to feel the same effects. A person with a prescription should only stop use under a doctor’s supervision. Anyone misusing a prescription or using Xanax illegally will very likely find it impossible to withdraw without professional help.
Symptoms of Xanax withdrawal may include:
- Sleep disturbance
- Increased anxiety
- Panic attacks
In many countries, including the United States, alcohol is a widely used substance. When used responsibly, it should be okay. However, alcohol carries a high risk for misuse, abuse, and addiction. Many people likely do not even realize when it has become a problem. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), binge drinking is defined as typically occurring around 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men, in around 2 hours. Very likely, many people reach this point without realizing it. There is a high possibility that many people will go through a period, or periods, of alcohol misuse and abuse without it escalating to full-blown addiction later on. Still, it carries significant risk. Others might abuse alcohol without realizing and then reach addiction. Either way over-consumption of alcohol is dangerous.
Alcohol overdose is a real danger and alcohol withdrawal is one of the few substance withdrawals that can cause death. According to NIH, “As blood alcohol concentration (BAC) increases, so does the effect of alcohol - as well as the risk of harm.” They further explain that BAC continues to increase even after someone stops drinking or if they are unconcious. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system (CNS). A symptom of that is suppressed breathing, which is incredibly dangerous when too much alcohol is consumed. An additional danger is that someone will vomit while unconscious and choke on their vomit.
NIH lists potential alcohol overdose symptoms as:
- Mental confusion, stupor
- Difficulty remaining conscious, or inability to wake up
- Slow or irregular breathing
- Slow heart rate
Unfortunately, due to the widely accepted use of alcohol, many people fail to recognize when it is a problem short-term or long-term.
Mixing Xanax and Alcohol
Xanax is a sedative, which makes it particularly dangerous to combine with alcohol. It is likely that many people mixing it are unaware of the danger, underestimate the risk, or are attempting to achieve a combined effect from both. Alcohol is a CNS depressant, but it does have some stimulating qualities. At least initially, it often provides a pleasant “buzz” for many users. It elevates mood and decreases inhibitions, which is why many people use it socially. Someone might hope to achieve the Xanax high and the same pleasant qualities from alcohol.
However, mixing the two presents many dangers even at lower levels. According to a publication from NIH, “Many medications can interact with alcohol, thereby altering the metabolism or effects of alcohol and/or the medication. Some of these interactions can occur even at moderate drinking levels and result in adverse health effects of the drinker.” They list side effects of Xanax and alcohol interaction as:
- Decreased motor skills
Given that Xanax and alcohol are both sedatives, the risk of respiratory depression increases significantly. If left untreated, with many people assuming a person is sleeping, it can be fatal. If a person obtains Xanax illegally, there is a chance it is cut with other substances depending on the source. This increases the danger significantly, especially as fentanyl is increasingly found in other substances.
Xanax and alcohol are both difficult to withdraw from on one’s own. Further, it is even potentially very dangerous depending on the severity of abuse or addiction. If you or a loved one is in need of help, please reach out today.