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What Are the Side Effects of Drinking With Xanax?
Xanax is a prescription anti-anxiety medication marketed by Pfizer Inc. also sold in generic form under its chemical name, alprazolam. Classified as a benzodiazepine central nervous system depressant, Xanax comes with a warning label against drinking alcohol while taking it. This is because alcohol, another depressant, combined with Xanax can produce a host of unsafe, even life-threatening side effects.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Mental and Physical Side Effects
Consuming alcoholic beverages while taking Xanax impairs brain activity, according to Alprazolam.org, and also interferes with the brain's ability to communicate with the body. As a result, the combination can substantially hinder mental alertness and physical coordination, leading to side effects including pronounced drowsiness, unconsciousness, severe dizziness and problems with balance, such as stumbling or staggering.
Memory Loss and Behavior
Side Effects of Combining Ephedra & Alcohol
Consuming too much alcohol by itself may cause a person to "black out," or experience a period he does not recall after sobering up. When Xanax is introduced into the mix, the risk for this dangerous occurrence is greatly enhanced. Alcohol also enhances Xanax's ability to cause confusion, greatly impair judgment and produce unusual behavior, making drinking with the drug a recipe for a potentially disastrous experience.
The Department of Health and Human Services states that Xanax has even replaced fellow benzodiazepine Rohypnol--flunitrazepam, otherwise known as "Ruffies," as a date rape drug in some parts of the U.S. due to Xanax's amnesiac properties when mixed with alcohol.
- Consuming too much alcohol by itself may cause a person to "black out," or experience a period he does not recall after sobering up.
- Alcohol also enhances Xanax's ability to cause confusion, greatly impair judgment and produce unusual behavior, making drinking with the drug a recipe for a potentially disastrous experience.
Cardiovascular and Respiratory Effects
The combination of two potent central nervous system depressants can produce serious side effects on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, reports NIDA. Alcohol and Xanax, when combined, slow heart rate as well as reduce the rate of breathing. This side effect is especially dangerous for someone knocked unconscious by the sedative cocktail, as it can lead to respiratory failure.
Dependence and Withdrawal
Both alcohol and Xanax can produce physical and psychological dependence, and both can create withdrawal symptoms when use is abruptly discontinued. Chronic use of the two drugs concurrently can exacerbate the withdrawal symptoms of each, which include intense cravings for alcohol or Xanax, irritability, insomnia, hallucinations and seizure.
Drinking with Xanax should be avoided mainly due to the risk of the combination's deadly side effect: overdose. Consuming alcohol while taking Xanax greatly raises the risk of overdose associated with alprazolam alone.
Overdose can be identified by certain side effects that produce key signs, according to MedlinePlus. These include confusion, drowsiness, seriously impaired motor coordination and coma. Should any of these side effects emerge with someone who has consumed alcohol while taking Xanax, it is vital that emergency services be contacted immediately.
- Drinking with Xanax should be avoided mainly due to the risk of the combination's deadly side effect: overdose.
- Should any of these side effects emerge with someone who has consumed alcohol while taking Xanax, it is vital that emergency services be contacted immediately.
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- Alprazolam.org: Alprazolam and Alcohol
- MedlinePlus: Alprazolam
- National Institute on Drug Abuse InfoFacts: Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications
- Department of Health and Human Services: Date Rape Drugs
- Shukla L, Bokka S, Shukla T, et al. Benzodiazepine and "Z-drug" dependence: Data from a tertiary care center. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2017;19(1):10.4088/PCC.16br02025. doi:10.4088/PCC.16br02025
- Griffin CE 3rd, Kaye AM, Bueno FR, Kaye AD. Benzodiazepine pharmacology and central nervous system-mediated effects. Ochsner J. 2013;13(2):214-223.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Overcoming insomnia. February 2011.
- PennState Hershey. Premenstrual syndrome.
- Ait-Daoud N, Hamby AS, Sharma S, Blevins D. A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal. J Addict Med. 2018;12(1):4-10. doi:10.1097/ADM.0000000000000350
- French JA, Wechsler R, Gelfand MA, et al. Inhaled alprazolam rapidly suppresses epileptic activity in photosensitive participants. Epilepsia. 2019;60(8):1602-1609. doi:10.1111/epi.16279
- Ferreira JJ, Mestre TA, Lyons KE, et al. MDS evidence-based review of treatments for essential tremor. Mov Disord. 2019;34(7):950-958. doi:10.1002/mds.27700
- Food and Drug Administration. Xanax label. Updated March 2011.
- Food and Drug Administration. Xanax XR label. Updated September 2016.
A speech-language pathologist, Charlie Osborne has published articles related to his field. He was an associate editor and then editor for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Division 4 Perspectives in Fluency and Fluency Disorders. Osborne has a Master of Arts degree in communicative disorders from the University of Central Florida.