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Mixing Alcohol and Xanax

When taken in therapeutic dosage range, Xanax is generally considered to be safe. However, when individuals take high doses of Xanax or mix the drug with another substance such as alcohol, dangerous and potentially deadly interactions can occur. Alcohol and Xanax both increase activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. This chemical causes a sedative effect. When depressants are mixed together, over-sedation occurs, which can then result in respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, and loss of consciousness. Xanax intensifies the symptoms of alcohol and vice versa. Despite the dangers, many individuals that abuse both substances do so in order to experience a more intense intoxication.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is the brand name for a drug called Alprazolam, a benzodiazepine used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), insomnia, other panic and sleeping disorders, and even seizures. Xanax can only be legally obtained with a prescription. Benzodiazepines are considered tranquilizers or sedatives and are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. The drug’s calming effects and addictive qualities have lead Xanax to be abused by those both with a prescription and those without. It is often misused in combination with another substance, particularly alcohol. While addiction or abuse of either substance can be harmful, when used together the combination is dangerous and potentially fatal.

Xanax itself is a pill shaped like a bar, typically white in color. There are also generic versions that come in green and yellow. When taken in larger doses, Xanax can produce a euphoric effect. These characteristics along with the misconception that prescription drugs aren’t harmful makes Xanax an attractive substance for both experienced and novice drug users. Xanax is not typically misused on its own, but rather in addition to another substance. One of the most common pairings is to take Xanax or another benzodiazepine with alcohol – a dangerous and potentially lethal combination.

The Effects of Xanax

Xanax is a central nervous system depressant that works by regulating the release of the brain’s GABA neurotransmitters. This chemical, found in 80% of the brain’s nerve connections, is released when one is feeling anxious or nervous. Xanax decreases the amount of GABA and induces dopamine – increasing feelings of pleasure and decreasing feelings of panic, anxiety and other negative mental states. For someone with an anxiety-related mental illness, the effects of Xanax can make it possible to function normally and avoid debilitating panic attacks. However, due to the pleasurable effects of the medication, many individuals will abuse the drug for recreational purposes rather than medical purposes.

Common effects of Xanax include:

  • Increased relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • Decreased feelings of panic and anxiety
  • Lightheartedness
  • Sedation
  • Feelings of detachment

As a person continues to take an excess of Xanax over time, the brain produces less and less of the GABA chemical on its own, and more of the drug is needed to produce the same effects and prevent symptoms of withdrawal. Xanax withdrawal can impact the user with varying levels of severity, but if a heavy Xanax user tries to quit cold turkey, the results can be dangerous and even deadly. Even going a short amount time without using can cause those with an addiction to face symptoms ranging from stomach and muscle aches to vomiting. This makes it difficult to quit and causes the addiction to grow more and more severe until withdrawal symptoms come to include intense aches and pains, insomnia, vomiting, uncontrollable shaking, mental instability and anxiety, and even life-threatening seizures.

The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Xanax

Both alcohol and Xanax have individual sets of side effects that impact an individual’s behavior and mental state. Because of this, the two should never be used together as it can cause life-threatening consequences. When used with alcohol, the introduction of Xanax to one’s body can cause one’s heart to stop beating, hamper neural activity, or slow your breathing to the point of permanent brain injury, coma, or death. It also increases the likelihood of a Xanax overdose, which can lead to respiratory depression, seizures, and potentially even death. An abundance of Xanax and alcohol can relax and slow body functions to the point that the user’s heart stops beating or they stop breathing, again resulting in a coma or death.

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At-Risk College Students

College is seen by many as a time for experimentation and self-discovery; however, this has led many students to carelessly and recklessly engage in unhealthy habits such as binge drinking, prescription drug abuse, and illicit drug use that can easily lead to the development of an addiction. It has been found that those who are enrolled in a full-time college program are twice as likely to abuse alcohol and drugs like Xanax than those who don’t attend college.

College Students Are Twice As Likely To Abuse Alcohol And Drugs Like XanaxMany students with pre-existing anxiety are likely to abuse Xanax or other benzos to relieve the newfound stress and pressures of college life. Some see drug use as a means to fit in and make friends. The perception that partying and substance use is practically synonymous with having any social life has created a self-fulfilling cycle of addiction amongst college students. Those with a Xanax prescription are eager to use and even give out this drug in a social setting with the hopes of gaining popularity. Meanwhile, those without a prescription are inclined to accept the offer as a desperate attempt to fit in. In 2015, more than 50% of the 176,000 benzodiazepine-related emergency room visits also involved other drugs or alcohol.

Additionally, in 2016, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 57.2% of full-time college students (aged 18-22) had consumed alcohol in the past month. Of those that drank, 38% partook in binge drinking in the past month. Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women on a single occasion. Over 10% of students engaged in heavy or problem drinking, defined as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month. Those of the same age group who do not attend college were significantly less likely to drink and exhibited less problematic drinking behaviors.

Treatment for Alcohol and Xanax Addiction

The first step to treating a Xanax or alcohol addiction is identifying the severity of the addiction and working towards a medical detox. No matter what, when dealing with a benzodiazepine addiction, the care and supervision of a medical professional is necessary. It is important to be patient throughout treatment to ensure a long-term, complete recovery from a Xanax or alcohol addiction. In addition to a detox, therapy is an imperative aspect of the treatment process. This helps former users address their reasons for addiction and learn healthy coping mechanisms to use moving forward.

Get Help Today

If you suspect that someone you know is struggling with an alcohol and Xanax addiction, it is important to learn how to identify symptoms of abuse and other red flags. There are many sources both online and locally that can help you learn about resources in your area to help someone with a substance abuse disorder. To find out more, talk to a dedicated treatment expert today.

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