The dangers of mixing xanax and alcohol
Mental Health & Substance Abuse

The Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

About 20% of people between the ages of 18 and 50 in the United States alone take prescription benzodiazepines including Xanax. While benzodiazepines can help with various conditions, they can become a problem for those who become addicted. The danger only increases when alcohol is added to the mix.
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What is Xanax?

Xanax belongs to the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines affect the central nervous system or CNS and create a feeling of calmness throughout the body. It does this by influencing an important neurotransmitter in the brain known as GABA. 

Xanax, as well as other benzodiazepines, treat anxiety disorders such as PTSD. This class of drugs can also treat insomnia, depression, and even seizures. Benzodiazepines were first created in a laboratory in 1955 and once released to the public, they became popular almost at once. 

This is because, before the invention of benzodiazepines, barbiturates treated anxiety, insomnia, and other conditions. However, barbiturates could be quite dangerous and had the risk of becoming addictive for some people. With the advent of benzodiazepines, the public was ecstatic that there was finally a drug that could treat these different conditions safely. 

However, while benzodiazepines can certainly be beneficial in the treatment of certain disorders, they are not entirely free of risks. Much like barbiturates, benzodiazepines can have a risk of addiction development. This was not understood until the 1980s, however. 

Since the 1980s, stricter regulations appeared for benzodiazepines such as Xanax. You might be wondering what would make benzodiazepines so addictive if they mainly function to calm people down. To answer this question, let’s first take a closer look at how benzodiazepines like Xanax affect the brain and body on a microscopic scale. 

Benzodiazepine's Effects on the Brain and Body

As mentioned before, benzodiazepines affect a neurotransmitter known as GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid. GABA is responsible for inhibiting the flow of information to other cells throughout the brain. Because of this, GABA can prevent certain neurons from becoming excited, ultimately bringing about feelings of calmness. 

In people who suffer from anxiety and insomnia, their neurons are overactive. This may be because of a problem with the GABA neurotransmitters in the brain. The problem may be that GABA, in these cases, is unable to bind to certain receptors in the brain. 

Because of this, GABA is not able to bring about its calming effects, leading to conditions like anxiety and insomnia. Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the function of GABA and making it easier for these neurotransmitters to bind to their receptors. With the help of benzodiazepines, feelings of calmness are restored to the body and the neurons are no longer overexcited. 

While this result is ideal, it can turn into dependence and addiction in some people. This is because the use of benzodiazepines is not meant to be for long periods of time. Instead, they should be necessary only to soothe a panic attack or a difficult night of sleep from time to time. 

The reason that benzodiazepines should not be used for long periods of time is that their effects tend to weaken if their consumption is regular. Because their effects will weaken, higher doses of benzodiazepines are necessary in order to experience their original effects. This, of course, can be dangerous for several reasons. 

The Dangers of Benzodiazepines

As more benzodiazepines are taken, the brain will have a hard time producing GABA on its own. Instead, the brain relies on benzodiazepines to enhance GABA’s effects. If these drugs are no longer taken, you will experience withdrawals that consist of extreme anxiety and discomfort. 

This is because, as you go through withdrawals, your brain will produce very low amounts of GABA. Because of this, your neurons will become overexcited and will not be able to calm themselves down for some time. This is what makes it so difficult for people to stop taking benzodiazepines, especially once they become dependent on them. 

More than that, the higher the dose of benzodiazepines taken, the risk of overdosing becomes higher. The signs of drug overdose related to benzodiazepines can differ depending on the dosage. The symptoms can range from slurred speech and dizziness to tremors and coma.

Understanding Alcohol

Now that you know more about benzodiazepines like Xanax, it’s time to take a closer look at alcohol. Can you drink alcohol with Xanax? Since Xanax and alcohol are both sedatives, they should not be taken together. 

Alcohol is much more accessible than prescription medications like Xanax. Most people don’t think twice about having a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. After all, alcohol is very familiar to the human species and has been enjoyed for thousands of years.

For many, alcohol is a drink that can help them relax, but for some, it can be an addictive and dangerous drug. This is especially true if large doses of alcohol are consumed at once. Consuming large amounts of alcohol over a long period of time can also be harmful to your body and brain. 

While alcohol can produce sedative effects similar to Xanax, it affects the brain a bit differently. Intoxication, or drunkenness, occurs when there is too much alcohol in the bloodstream than what can be metabolized by the body in a certain amount of time. It is the result of alcohol inhibiting the signals of neurons in the brain. 

Through this inhibition, symptoms of drunkenness appear. These symptoms can include slurred speech, confusion, and poor memory. In serious cases of alcoholism, however, the consequences can be much worse.

The Dangers of Alcohol

Alcohol affects the parts of the brain that are required for higher functions such as thinking, behavior, and memory. These parts of the brain are mostly composed of gray matter. Alcohol, over time, has the ability to shrink this gray matter. 

In long-term alcoholics, this can lead to permanent defects in memory, thinking, information processing, and other higher functions. Alcohol is addictive because it can produce a sense of euphoria and can bring about feelings of calmness as well. However, when the consumption of alcohol stops, withdrawal symptoms take over. 

These symptoms include headache, nausea, and dizziness, among others. Since these withdrawal symptoms are so unpleasant, many people return to drinking to make themselves feel better. Of course, overdosing on alcohol can easily lead to coma or death from alcohol poisoning.

Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Xanax and alcohol abuse together is a recipe for disaster. This is because, when taken together, the effects of these drugs are enhanced. While scientists are not sure why this happens, one theory is that alcohol can increase the concentration of benzodiazepines in the body. 

If a person takes both of these drugs at once, they may not know the danger they are in at first. This is because the calming and feel-good effects of the drugs are enhanced. Because of this, the risk of addiction is heightened.

However, a Xanax and alcohol overdose can easily occur. Symptoms of Xanax and alcohol consumption include dizziness, drowsiness, memory impairments, and changes in mood and behavior. Symptoms of an overdose on these drugs can include coma and even death.

Addiction Treatment Options

You might be wondering what treatment options are available to avoid the consequences of Xanax and alcohol addiction. The first step is to understand the root of the addiction. For many, they want to relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders. 

Many turn to drugs for relief, but there are better options. For example, New Method Wellness offers Dual Diagnosis Treatment which can help not only overcome addiction but also treat the underlying causes like depression and anxiety. 

While overcoming addiction can be difficult, it is important for living a long and healthy life.

Why New Method Wellness Is One of the Nation’s Best Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers

Handpicked by Dr. Phil, New Method Wellness is a premier dual diagnosis addiction treatment center dually accredited by The Joint Commission and CARF International. It has been singled out as one of the best drug and alcohol rehab centers in America, offering a unique 3:1 staff-to-client ratio that pairs every client with two therapists instead of one.

At New Method Wellness, we add another dimension to dual diagnosis treatment, and that is the integration of holistic therapy, such as massage/acupuncture therapy, equine therapy, and art therapy. As addiction therapists and substance abuse counselors work with clients to treat the substance use disorder and the co-occurring illness associated with it, holistic therapy adds meaning to life after treatment and sustains long-term recovery. Our 3:1 staff-to-client ratio ensures client success after treatment, as evidenced by our Extended Aftercare program.

For more information about New Method Wellness’s treatment programs, call (866) 951-1824

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From all of us at New Method Wellness co-occurring treatment center, we wish you peace and serenity in knowing that you or your loved one will get the necessary help.

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