Is It Safe To Take Xanax After Drinking?

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Xanax is one of the leading benzodiazepines prescribed for the temporary relief of anxiety or symptoms associated with PTSD. It is also highly addictive, and taking it after you have been drinking is dangerous.

Mixing Xanax With Alcohol

Polysubstance use is always dangerous. There may be a variety of reasons why someone would take Xanax (alprazolam) after drinking alcohol, but doing so comes with considerable health risks.

Combining two substances can either create side effects that are different from those that are known or intensify the known side effects that the two substances share.

In the case of mixing Xanax and alcohol, both are central nervous system depressants, making them a dangerous combination.

What Is Polysubstance Use?

Just as the word implies, polysubstance use is a form of substance abuse that involves taking more than one substance at a time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts polysubstance use into two categories: intentional and unintentional.

Intentional polysubstance use is when someone uses a substance to intensify or counteract the side effects of another substance. However, people can unintentionally use multiple substances without their knowledge.

This can happen if they use a substance like heroin or methamphetamine that has been cut, for example, with fentanyl.

Dangers Of Polysubstance Use

Whether taken intentionally or not, polysubstance use can be life-threatening. Depending on what you use, mixing substances can lead to:

  • organ damage, including brain injury
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • slowed breathing
  • passing out

Polysubstance use can also result in a fatal drug overdose. In 2019, almost 50% of drug overdose deaths in the United States were the result of more than one drug.

What Is Xanax?

Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine that offers temporary, symptomatic relief from mental health disorders such as PTSD and anxiety disorders, including panic disorder.

It does this by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter receptors in the brain, producing feelings of relaxation. But its sedative effects can also cause:

  • dizziness
  • tiredness
  • drowsiness

Slurred speech, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and other adverse effects are also possible when taking Xanax.

Dangers Of Mixing Xanax And Alcohol

While overdose deaths from the unintentional use of fentanyl combined with other substances command national attention, polysubstance use can involve many other substances.

Mixing alcohol and alprazolam is a risk because both substances depress or slow down the central nervous system (CNS).

The sedative effects of alcohol combined even with one dose of Xanax could cause severe side effects.

The side effects of mixing Xanax with a night of drinking could include:

  • respiratory depression
  • confusion
  • problems with coordination
  • loss of consciousness
  • risk of overdose

Alcohol hinders communication pathways in the brain, including neurotransmitters like GABA, making it difficult for the brain to perform tasks.

Alcohol has a broader effect on the brain than alprazolam, but where the two overlap, they intensify their effects, creating a danger of respiratory depression. Ultimately, a fatal overdose can occur when mixing Xanax and alcohol.

Other Side Effects Of Mixing Alcohol And Alprazolam

Xanax and alcohol together can create other unwanted side effects.

These side effects may include increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Long-term effects can also include liver damage.

Who Is At Risk For Xanax And Alcohol Abuse?

Anyone can become addicted to the effects of Xanax, but abuse of the drug is seeing a surge among teenagers and college students.

Some are prescribed the drug to help them deal with anxiety but, given the addictive nature of Xanax, end up misusing the drug, intentionally or not. As teens go on to college and experience new pressures and higher levels of stress, this can result in a higher potential for Xanax abuse.

College is also a time when young people commonly experiment with alcohol use and drug use, increasing the risk for polysubstance abuse.

Treatment For Xanax And Alcohol Addiction

Because polysubstance abuse is becoming more common, treatment programs are increasingly geared toward this kind of substance use disorder.

A treatment facility will typically address both addictions at the same time. In the case of alcohol abuse and Xanax addiction, this may start with medical detox to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Detox programs are usually short-term and done at the inpatient level. Once the substances have safely left a client’s system, addiction treatment in the form of inpatient or outpatient programs can begin.

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