Alcohol is one of the most abused substances on the planet and Xanax, or alprazolam, is not very far behind. What most people do not know is that combining the two can be fatal – here’s why.

Xanax and Alcohol: A Combination that Could Kill


  • The combination of Xanax and alcohol can be deadly. Learn more about its lethal effects here.
  • The deadly effects of mixing #Xanax and #Alcohol.

As a general rule, alcohol should not be combined with any medication, but is especially true with Xanax. It can be dangerous to combine alcohol and Xanax because they are both central nervous system depressants; this means that they both slow the brain’s activity and thus cause greater effects, and therefore, more serious reactions.

How Xanax Often Becomes an Addiction

Xanax (alprazolam) is a type of benzodiazepine often prescribed for general anxiety disorder (GAD).  Xanax was the number one prescribed psychiatric medication in the US with 48,465,000 prescriptions in 2013, the latest year for which statistics are currently available.

People develop a tolerance to benzodiazepines (‘benzos’) very quickly, which means they must take more and more of the drug to get the same effects. Thus, benzos such as Xanax are highly addictive. With so many prescriptions for the drug written across the country, it is no wonder then, that 60-70% of teens addicted to benzos or other prescription drugs name the family’s medicine cabinet as their source.

Rising Repercussions of Alprazolam Abuse

From 2005 to 2011, emergency room visits involving Xanax more than doubled in the US from 57,415 cases to 123,744. Sadly, that is not too surprising considering the number of prescriptions written for the drug each year.

Xanax is a go-to drug for psychiatrists treating patients suffering from anxiety. And with its highly addictive qualities, the potential for abuse is high. As most people (and governments) have been focused on the opioid epidemic in recent years, Xanax abuse has been rapidly growing under the radar. But Dr Howard Mell, an emergency room physician based in Cleveland, Ohio, says that the most common drug combinations he encounters in ER visits is Xanax and alcohol, or Xanax with prescription opiates. In 81% of ER cases, Xanax was mixed with another drug (including alcohol), according to the SAMHSA report.

The Dangerous Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Xanax

There are some serious side effects that can occur from combining alcohol and Xanax.

‘Minor’ side effects include:

  • Extreme dizziness
  • Abnormal behaviour
  • Tiredness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Memory problems

More critical side effects include:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
  • Severe depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Agitation and hostility
  • Hallucinations
  • Light-headedness
  • Seizures
  • Slowed respiratory and heart rates
  • Slipping in and out of consciousness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death

Another effect of combining alcohol and Xanax, although less common, is suicidal thoughts and unfortunately suicide. In 2011, approximately 11 per cent of drug-related suicides involved Xanax. If you or a loved one are experiencing the above symptoms, medical help should be sought immediately.

Why Combining Booze and Benzos is So Bad

Both alcohol and Xanax are types of depressants. And what leads users to the emergency room is that when two strong sedatives are combined, it creates what is called a synergistic effect, meaning that each drug amplifies the other.

Taking even prescribed of doses of Xanax while drinking alcohol can cause serious problems, but in many cases people will take an extra pill when they are going out, or some just use Xanax recreationally, purposely mixing the drug with alcohol to increase the effects of both drugs. Taking Xanax followed by a few alcoholic drinks will not only amplify the effects, but also bring them on much faster than taking either drug on its own – leading to overdose effects much faster.

And it is not just teenagers, as many would assume, that are choosing to make the lethal combination of Xanax and alcohol. From 2005 to 2011, according to SAMHSA, the most likely age group to show up in the ER as a result of Xanax was 25- to 34-year-olds. In many of these cases, patients were suffering from an addiction to Xanax, alcohol or both – causing them to mix the drugs without much caution.

Co-Occurring Addictions and Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is a term used in treating someone with a co-occurring disorder. In other words, a person who is suffering from two separate addictions, or from addiction and a mental health disorder. In the case of Xanax and alcohol abuse, many patients are suffering from an anxiety disorder as well an addiction to Xanax and possibly alcohol as well.

When seeking treatment for Xanax and/or alcohol addiction it is important to look for a treatment centre that is well equipped to handle co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders need to be treated carefully – ensuring that all aspects of addiction and mental health are handled simultaneously to ensure successful and lasting results.

Treatment for an Alcohol and Benzo Addiction

Whether a person is addicted to alcohol, Xanax, or both, there are effective methods for overcoming the addiction before a potentially life threatening situation arises. It is very important to note that quitting any benzodiazepine cold-turkey can be very dangerous and should be done under the care of medical professionals.

At The Cabin Chiang Mai, we have helped thousands of people break free from their addictions, and are well-educated and experienced in treating benzodiazepine addictions (with medically supervised detox) and co-occurring disorders. If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction to Xanax and/or alcohol, we can help! Contact us today for a free, no-obligation assessment.

Remember: Combining is NOT Worth the Risk!

While the short-term effects of combining alcohol and Xanax (alprazolam) may include a desired euphoric-like state, it is simply not worth the risk. The body simply cannot withstand the chemical infusion that takes place.

If you are concerned about your own use of benzos and alcohol, let one of our experienced counsellors call you today to discuss how you can get back in control.

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