Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Cocaine

Xanax and cocaine are considered relative opposites, with one being a depressant and the other a stimulant.1 Individuals may take both substances in an attempt to counteract some of the negative effects of one of the drugs. For example, cocaine use can make it difficult to sleep and can cause an intense crash that Xanax may seem to help smooth out. Cocaine may also increase energy and focus in someone taking Xanax.

Here you’ll learn about cocaine, Xanax, and the adverse effects that can occur when you take the two substances together.

Addiction and Polydrug Misuse

Both cocaine and Xanax are addictive substances, and chronic use of either drug can lead to physical drug dependence and the psychological inability to control drug use.1,2 With physical dependence come withdrawal symptoms, which occur when the drug stops being active in the body. Individuals may turn to other drugs to try and manage these difficult withdrawal side effects. Xanax may seem to ease cocaine withdrawal, for instance.

Polydrug misuse, or the misuse of more than one drug at a time, can be extremely risky, however. Polydrug misuse can increase the risk for the following:3

  • Potentially life-threatening overdose
  • Increased side effects of both substances
  • Heightened odds for the formation of a dependency and/or addiction
  • Worsened symptoms of any co-occurring medical or mental health disorders
  • Treatment complications

Cocaine Specifics

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug that increases:1

  • Energy.
  • Focus.
  • Happiness.
  • Excitement.
  • Wakefulness.
  • Body temperature.
  • Heart rate.
  • Breathing.
  • Blood pressure.

Cocaine increases dopamine levels in the brain, which is one of the brain’s chemical messengers responsible for feelings of pleasure. Powdered cocaine is typically used by snorting or injecting the drug, and crack cocaine is generally smoked for a quick and short-lived “high” or rush.

Considered an “upper,” cocaine may often be used in a binge pattern since it takes effect so fast and wears off quickly as well.4 Bingeing on cocaine means that an individual will take back-to-back doses to prolong the drug’s positive effects. Once cocaine wears off, a “crash” may ensue, leaving individuals fatigued, hungry, depressed, and with low energy levels.

Research done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that over 5 million people in the U.S. reported using cocaine in the last year.5

Particulars of Xanax

Xanax is the name-brand formulation of the benzodiazepine drug alprazolam, which is prescription medication approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the temporary relief of anxiety and panic disorders, and also to relieve muscle tension and tremors.6 Xanax is formulated as a standard tablet, liquid, and extended-release (Xanax XR) tablet.

Benzodiazepines, often called benzos for short, may be regularly misused for their stress-reducing and mellowing “high.” Xanax, and other benzos, are central nervous system depressants, or “downers.” These drugs slow down or lower a person’s:1

  • Heart rate.
  • Respiration levels.
  • Blood pressure.
  • Body temperature.

Xanax can calm an otherwise over-excited nervous system, relieving anxiety and toning down the “fight-or-flight” stress reaction.

Xanax may be misused orally by swallowing the drug in doses that are too high, or the tablets may be crushed and then snorted, smoked, or injected. More than 5% of the American population (over age 12) reported misusing a psychotherapeutic prescription drug, including Xanax, over the last 12 months, according to a 2020 survey published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).7

Overdose and Amplified Side Effects of Concurrent Xanax and Cocaine Use

Xanax and cocaine can interact with each other, creating negative and adverse reactions and even possibly a toxic buildup of drugs in the body that can lead to a fatal overdose.

Xanax overdose is typically recognizable by:6

  • Mental confusion.
  • Diminished reflexes.
  • Lack of motor coordination.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Extreme drowsiness.

Cocaine overdose can cause stroke, heart, or respiratory failure. It is indicated by:2

  • Irregular heart rate.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heightened body temperature.
  • Anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Possible seizures.

Any underlying medical or mental health conditions or disorders can be negatively impacted by polydrug misuse. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports over 9 million American adults (ages 18 and older) battle co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.8 Co-occurring disorders require specialized treatment methods.

Complications in Treatment Due to Polydrug Misuse

Treatment for polydrug misuse may be more complicated that what is required for single drug misuse and dependence, as the introduction of multiple substances may interfere with treatment methods.9 Medications are often useful during medical detox and addiction treatment, for example, and when more than one drug is present, these medications may have negative interactions with the drugs involved. Certain medications may need to be avoided altogether.

It is important therefore for individuals to report any and all drugs used when receiving substance use treatment. A drug screen may be performed upon admission to a substance use treatment program in order to determine what drugs are in the body and to ensure the individual’s safety during detox and beyond. Comprehensive treatment models that address both co-occurring disorders as well as any potential polydrug misuse, and use a combination of pharmaceutical and therapeutic methods, are generally considered ideal for long-term recovery.

At River Oaks Treatment Center, we specialize in creating treatment plans tailored to each individual and their needs. If you or someone you love is struggling with the use of one or more substances, our admissions navigators are available 24/7 to help you start the admissions process. Call us at today to learn more about inpatient rehab in Tampa at River Oaks.

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