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Xanax is a widely prescribed benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, as well as depression and insomnia. This tranquilizer drug depresses the central nervous system, easing the symptoms of many anxiety and mood disorders.

As a Schedule IV controlled substance, benzodiazepines have the potential for abuse, which can lead to physical dependence. Since Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed benzos, it is not uncommon for it to be abused by those that do not have a prescription.

On its own, Xanax can cause unpleasant side effects. But one of the most common drug cocktails is Xanax and alcohol. This common combination can lead to many ill effects, including blackouts, coma, and even death. The good news is that if you are addicted to Xanax and alcohol, you don’t have to face detox and recovery alone. Instead, you can have a successful, long-term recovery with the help and support of an inpatient/intensive outpatient rehab facility.

Xanax and Alcohol Side-Effects

Xanax, or alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and sometimes insomnia and depression. One of the most important things to keep in mind when taking Xanax is that there are many potential side effects. Most of them are harmless, but a handful are uncomfortable at best.

Some of the most common side effects of taking Xanax are:

  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • headaches
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Memory problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Poor balance or coordination
  • Sleep problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Stuffy nose
  • Swelling of hands or feet
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting

While Xanax is a depressant and relaxes the individual taking it no matter what, alcohol is a bit different. The amount of alcohol you consume can determine whether it will affect you like a depressant or a stimulant. People tend to feel more energized and social in smaller amounts, while larger amounts can lead to a loss of coordination and a more sad or depressed mood.

Some of the common side effects of drinking alcohol include:

  • Anemia
  • Blackouts
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coma
  • Decreased perception and coordination
  • Diarrhea
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Impaired judgment
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
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Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Xanax and alcohol should never be combined, as countless people have done just that and overdosed. One of the biggest concerns with mixing the two is that they exaggerate the effects of each other. This is especially dangerous because normal amounts of Xanax suppress your central nervous system. When this is amped up by alcohol, the extreme depression of your central nervous system can easily lead to an overdose. Even worse, you could fall into a coma or even die.

Just because Xanax and alcohol are both legal does not mean they are completely safe. Most things are safe in small enough amounts. However, things can get more dangerous when you take more than you should or combine your Xanax with other drugs, especially alcohol.

Some common side effects when combining Xanax and alcohol are:

  • Blacking out
  • Coma
  • Fainting spells
  • Impaired memory
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slowed pulse
  • Vertigo

Xanax and alcohol both require the same liver enzymes to break them down. When you take Xanax and alcohol simultaneously, your liver must work much harder to break down both. This means it will take longer for your body to detoxify itself and remove the drugs from your system naturally. Being in your body longer means they can have much worse effects on the body.

This combination is especially dangerous because there is no way to tell exactly how much will be safe and how much will cause a reaction. Some people can drink 6 beers, take a Xanax bar, and be somewhat functional (although this is uncommon, more often than not, the user will experience intense side effects that significantly impact them). In contrast, others can take Xanax, do one shot, and be on their way to the hospital. The safest way to approach Xanax and alcohol is taking them separately and never mix them together.

Xanax and Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Because Xanax and alcohol can create feelings of relaxation and euphoria, it’s not surprising that so many people get hooked on this combination. The popularity of alcohol and Xanax together is very popular, especially with younger folks. Unfortunately, Xanax and alcohol are a serious combination that can lead to dangerous, potentially deadly, withdrawal symptoms.

Detoxing from drugs and alcohol is never a fun or easy journey. For those addicted after being prescribed Xanax for an anxiety disorder, withdrawals will be even more difficult as your body and brain get used to no longer having the benzodiazepine to help with your anxiety or panic attacks. Many people who detox after getting in too deep with their anxiety medications end up with anxiety symptoms worse than before being medicated. This new anxiety often eases after time, but some individuals choose to use medication to get through the tough times.

When detoxing from Xanax and alcohol, it’s important to seek medical attention so medical professionals can monitor your body’s vital signs while you detox.

Some of the most commonly reported withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Coma
  • Delirium tremens
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Impaired breathing
  • Nausea
  • Sweating and fever
  • Tingling in arms and legs

Detoxing without medical supervision is risky and could potentially be dangerous. Therefore, it is highly recommended that someone detoxing from drugs never do it alone.

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What To Do if Addicted to Xanax and Alcohol

Whether you or a loved one are addicted, you are not alone. Addiction impacts hundreds of thousands of people each year. If you are ready to get help, one of the best things you can do is contact treatment professionals for help. They can guide you through detox and help you with a plan to stay clean. 

Sources:

Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration. Controlled Substance Schedules. Accessed June 29, 2022. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/
  2. Cunha JP. Side Effects of Xanax (Alprazolam), Warnings, Uses. RxList. Published March 11, 2021. Accessed June 29, 2022. https://www.rxlist.com/xanax-side-effects-drug-center.htm
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drinking too much alcohol can harm your health. Learn the facts | CDC. Published April 14, 2022. Accessed June 29, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
Amanda Stevens, BS

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Ascendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed June 29, 2022

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