Xanax, also known by its generic name alprazolam, is a short-acting tranquilizer in the family of benzodiazepines. It is one of the most commonly prescribed, and therefore easily accessible, medications in the US.
This medication is a Schedule IV drug, so it is controlled by the Drug Enforcement Agency, but it is not as strictly regulated as certain medications, like prescription painkillers. Doctors often prescribe Xanax to treat anxiety, insomnia, chronic stress, PTSD, and withdrawals symptoms from some substances, such as alcohol. While the drug has various legitimate uses, the calming effects of Xanax can make it very addictive for some individuals.
When individuals abuse Xanax, or become addicted to it, they can suffer withdrawal symptoms if they miss a dose. These symptoms include:
- Mild dysphoria
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
Chronic abuse of or addiction to Xanax can mimic symptoms of the disorders the medication was designed to alleviate, including:
- Weight loss
- Tremors or seizures
- Panic attacks
The majority of adults over the age of 21 in the United States have consumed alcohol at some point in their lives. In 2013, 24.6 percent of US adults over the age of 18 reported that they engaged in binge drinking within the past month, and 6.8 percent said they engaged in heavy drinking. When this behavior becomes a regular occurrence, or when people feel they need alcohol to feel normal or happy, it could be a sign of addiction.
Symptoms of alcohol addiction include:
- An inability to stop drinking
- Feeling the need to drink more in order to get the same effects
- Withdrawal symptoms, like sweating, nausea, anxiety, or tremors, when one doesn’t drink
- Continued drinking despite negative health effects or relationship issues
It is common for individuals to abuse alcohol and Xanax together. This combination is incredibly damaging, bringing a variety of negative health effects and risks.
Why Are Xanax and Alcohol Dangerous in Combination?
Alcohol and Xanax are both central nervous system depressants, meaning they both affect the central nervous system and cause the body to relax. Using these two drugs together can increase the amount of alcohol in the individual’s bloodstream, so the effects of drinking are enhanced. Similarly, alcohol can introduce more Xanax into the brain faster, so that drug’s sedative effects are enhanced as well.
Even a couple of drinks can have a strong effect if a person is taking Xanax. Many people do not consider potential interactions between Xanax and alcohol if they are only having a drink or two, but that is often all it takes.
Short-Term Effects of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol
- Stumbling and loss of physical coordination
- Memory loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of inhibitions
- Loss of sphincter control
- Slowed or stopped breathing
- Higher risk of overdose and death
Alcohol and Xanax enhance each other’s effects, and these effects can be incredibly dangerous. Users can fall and harm themselves, choke on their own vomit if they pass out, or cause serious car accidents or other accidents if they drive, bike, or walk while impaired.
If a person continues to abuse both Xanax and alcohol together, the body and brain can suffer substantial damage. Long-term effects of prolonged use can be devastating. These include:
- Long-term memory loss
- Dependence on the combination to feel normal
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Chronic insomnia
- High blood pressure, to the point of causing damage to the blood vessels
- Mood swings
- Brain damage
- Ongoing risk of overdose and death
Get Help for Addiction to Xanax and Alcohol
It is important for individuals abusing alcohol and Xanax, or other benzodiazepines, to get help. These two drugs can be dangerous when abused alone, and even more so when used in combination.