The main ingredient in Xanax is alprazolam, a powerful benzodiazepine that suppresses all the functions regulated by the central nervous system, specifically breathing, heart rate and brain activity. Slowing down just one of these processes will negatively affect overall health.
- Heart failure and heart arrest, seizures and coma are some of the most serious medical emergencies caused by taking too much Xanax.
About Taking Xanax and Alcohol
Xanax is the trade name for alprazolam, a powerful, rapid-release prescription medication that’s a member of the benzodiazepine class of drugs.
Alcohol is also a central nervous system depressant that interferes with normal breathing and heart rates. Mixing these two depressants doubles the effect they have on your nervous system. Just like alcohol, Xanax is a central nervous system depressant – it works by boosting the effects of a nerve-calming neurotransmitter called gamma amino butyric acid, or GABA. When GABA is more active in the brain, anxiety is reduced; you’ll feel calmer, more relaxed, and even sedated.
- In fact, mixing just one Xanax tablet with an alcoholic drink may cause extreme drowsiness/unconsciousness, blackouts and uncontrollable muscle tremors as the brain struggles to communicate with the body.
What Happens When Mixed
Since Xanax is a fast-acting drug that usually peaks in the blood within two hours of taking a dose, any calming effect produced by mixing alcohol with Xanax is often followed by an uncomfortable escalation in anxiety, a complete loss of consciousness, or both.
Taking Xanax with alcohol definitely has the potential to produce noticeable symptoms that some users might call ‘being high’, but the experience is very different from the high that is caused by smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine, or taking prescription medications like opioids.
Because both Xanax and alcohol are sedatives (“downers”), mixing the two together might provide a temporary sense of calm for users who suffer from severe anxiety, phobias, or other mental health conditions.
Since both alcohol and Xanax are central nervous system depressants, mixing these two together can have some serious, negative side effects.
When taken on their own, benzodiazepines such as Xanax, a.k.a. “benzos”, can cause a variety of side effects that are similar to alcohol intoxication, including;
- blurred vision
- slurred speech
- extreme tiredness
Mixing alcohol with Xanax causes what’s known as an “agonist-like action“. hat that means is taking Xanax with alcohol magnifies the side effects of the Xanax, and vice versa. This is why it’s common for people who combine wine, beer, or spirits with anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax to experience extreme symptoms of fatigue, weakness, and confusion prior to blacking out.
People suffering severe anxiety and panic disorders are commonly prescribed Xanax or some other benzodiazepine. Because anxiety and recurring panic attacks are so frightening and debilitating to those experiencing them, they may take more Xanax than their doctor prescribes. Unfortunately, tolerance to Xanax builds up very quickly. Tolerance means having to take more and more Xanax to get the same effect, and means you will need higher doses of Xanax to feel its sedative effects. When Xanax users can’t persuade their doctors to give them more than a monthly prescription at one time, they often turn to alcohol to maximize and enhance the drug’s depressant qualities.
When Xanax addicts cannot access a prescription, they will often search the streets for drug dealers selling Xanax tablets. Since they don’t know when they might find their next batch of Xanax pills, abusers will often have a tendency to increase and lengthen the Xanax “high” by taking their pills with alcohol.
Can It Cause an Overdose?
Alcohol and Xanax, or any other benzodiazepine, is well-known to be among the most dangerous of all drug combinations. Even seasoned drug users tend to avoid mixing booze simply because the risk of suffering from a deadly overdose are too high.
Even having one or two drinks while taking Xanax can cause respiratory distress, thanks to the depressant qualities of both alcohol and Xanax. If you OD on alcohol and Xanax, you may stop breathing, or breath so slowly that you won’t get enough oxygen to your brain – this can lead to seizures, permanent brain damage, cardiac arrest, and death.
Forgetting how much Xanax and alcohol someone has ingested is the main reason for accidental overdoses. Nervous system depressants inhibit neuronal signaling in the brain, making it hard for abusers to remember how many pills they have taken or how much alcohol they have consumed. In fact, depressants interfere with memory so acutely that an addict could take two Xanax pills and quickly drink two alcoholic drinks, only to forget what they have ingested 30 minutes later.
Signs of Overdosing
In addition to slurred speech, confusion and drowsiness, signs of an impending Xanax/alcohol overdose include:
- Muscle weakness/inability to stand or even sit up
- Markedly reduced coordination
- Hypotension (decreasing blood pressure can lead to shock)
- Dangerously slow heart beat and respiratory depression
- Muscle twitching/tremors/shaking
- Blueness to the lips and fingertips
Unless emergency medical treatment is provided, a person overdosing on alcohol and Xanax could lapse into a coma or suffer cardiac arrest as the combination of depressant drugs forces cessation of nervous system processes. Pumping the stomach (gastric lavage), administration of saline/IV fluids and ensuring the airway is clear of vomit are the primary treatment measures taken by ER physicians for overdose. The drug flumazenil may also be give to help reverse the effects of a Xanax/alcohol overdose.
A number of recent, high profile celebrity deaths have been linked to a combination of alcohol and Xanax, including singers Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse.
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