With Xanax (a brand name for Alprazolam) one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., it’s understandable that it’s mixed with other substances. Some people do so without knowing how substances interact, while others are hoping to intensify effects or offset certain side effects. For example, Alcohol depresses the Central Nervous System (CNS), and while it can provide an initial buzz it also eventually causes drowsiness. Subsequently, people will mix it with stimulants, like cocaine to offset feeling sleepy. Polysubstance abuse is the abuse of 3 or more substances, often involving alcohol. It’s common for people to mix Xanax, alcohol and a third substance if not more. Neither substance is necessarily a bad thing, but they are both frequently misused and together can cause negative effects.
Alcohol is a popular drink around the world. The general acceptance of alcohol use, and heavy alcohol consumption, makes it difficult for a lot of people to recognize when use has turned to abuse, dependence, and addiction. As not everyone fully understands the negative effects of alcohol, they might not realize how dangerous it can be to mix Xanax and alcohol.
What is Alcohol?
The type of alcohol that humans drink is ethyl alcohol.The history of human’s interactions with alcohol is long and complicated. While the way it’s made and how it affects people has changed, it’s something that’s been around for thousands of years. Over time, as people learned more about the dangers of alcohol, there have been periods where it was banned, like Prohibition in the U.S. Some countries ban the use of it entirely or specific groups within countries ban the use. In a lot of countries today alcohol use is widespread and socially acceptable. Many recognize the dangers, but few realize how little it takes to experience dangerous effects or for it to turn to abuse.
A lot of people know that it’s possible to have an addiction to alcohol. Still, they tend to have the image of the stereotypical drunk in mind: someone unable to do simple tasks, falling over in public, and generally incoherent. Furthermore, a lot of young people tend to engage in binge drinking with the assumption that they’re just young and doing what young people do. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines men’s binge drinking as five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days. For women, it’s considered four or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days. Taking those numbers into consideration, the study also found, “In 2017, about 1 in 4 people aged 12 or older were current binge alcohol users.”
Effects of Alcohol Use
Many people know that alcohol is a depressant, which they understand to mean it causes depression. That is a possible side effect, but it is also a central nervous system depressant.
This can include:
- Impaired cognitive function and coordination
- Lowered inhibition
- Respiratory Depression
Given the pervasiveness of alcohol consumption, and risky drinking in particular, it’s unfortunate that a lot of people don’t fully understand how it can negatively affect them. The National Cancer Institute cites strong scientific consensus showing clear evidence between alcohol consumption and various types of cancer. Furthermore, it’s possible for drinking excessively to lead to a weakened immune system leaving someone vulnerable to diseases. In addition to impairing cognitive function, the ability to think clearly and use coordination, it also causes issues with the heart, liver, and pancreas.
In moderation, alcohol is not going to cause these symptoms and some believe there are benefits to occasional consumption. However, a lot of people, particularly starting in their youth, consume more than they should. Alcohol impairs decision making, which likely contributes to people’s decisions to mix substances. Others possibly consciously choose to mix substances in an attempt to enhance the experience of each substance.
Xanax Recreational Use
Xanax is a legal prescription drug for short-term use under medical supervision. It often treats anxiety and insomnia. Many providers consider it to have a high risk of misuse, due largely in part to dependence and addiction setting in quickly for a number of people. Xanax works by calming down an over-excited CNS and increasing dopamine in the brain. This provides a “Xanax High”, or a euphoric feeling that people desire when misusing Xanax. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) found that Xanax is one of the top three prescription drugs diverted to the illegal/illicit market. Most people using Xanax recreationally likely do not realize the serious long term effects of Xanax use.
With Xanax, the brain adjusts and finds it difficult to adjust without it. Someone misusing Xanax is more likely to end up taking increased doses. They do so to continue to feel the same effects and to feel the euphoria or Xanax High they are chasing. Suddenly stopping often results in severe withdrawal symptoms, making it difficult to quit without professional help. It’s possible for withdrawal symptoms to last for months after ceasing use, making relapse more likely. Xanax depresses the CNS, often causing drowsiness, impairing motor and cognitive function, and slowed breathing. This is incredibly dangerous if mixed with other depressants.
Mixing Xanax and Alcohol
Mixing Xanax and alcohol isn’t going to result in overdose or death every time. Still, it’s a risk that isn’t worth it. Both can cause serious side effects apart from overdose or death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), analyzed data from 2010 showing alcohol was involved in 27.2% of emergency department visits related to benzodiazepine (benzo) abuse. Further, of 1,512 benzo-related deaths that year, 324 also involved alcohol. Any death is clearly one too many.
Both Xanax and alcohol are CNS depressants, which makes them dangerous when mixed. Some use Xanax and alcohol for sleep separately, but also try using them together. They both cause respiratory depression, or slowed breathing, which significantly increases the risk of overdose and death. Many people use alcohol as a means to help calm anxiety. It also can provide a euphoric high, or even simply an overall feeling of peace and happiness. A number of people will likely want to enhance the effects of Xanax and alcohol. They’re looking to feel something of a “Xanax and alcohol high”. Increasing consumption of both substances increases the risk of permanent damage, or of overdose or death. Adding any other substances further increases this risk. It’s unfortunately common for people to take opioids with benzos. This is a dangerous mix on its own and made even more dangerous with alcohol.
For anyone using Xanax and alcohol, they likely need professional help. Xanax withdrawal is potentially severe and too difficult to do without proper help. Depending on severity of abuse and addiction, alcohol withdrawal is one of the few types of substances where withdrawal can result in severe complications or death. Anyone with a dependence or addiction to either substance, or especially both, should seek professional help. Reach out today for resources, support, and any help you might need.