Xanax and Alcohol

by on May 23, 2012

Since Xanax is a widely prescribed medication and millions of people across the United States consume alcohol, it is very important to understand the interactions between the two. Xanax and alcohol should never be used at the same time, and patients who are on a Xanax regimen should monitor their consumption very closely.

What happens when Xanax and Alcohol are combined

Alcohol and Xanax (Alprazolam) are both central nervous system depressants, meaning that they slow activity in the brain and may cause disorientation and slowed reaction times. People who use Xanax regularly or only occasionally may notice that they are extremely sensitive to the effects of alcohol and are simply unable to tolerate it.

When these substances are combined—even in moderation—the likelihood of experiencing severe side effects goes up exponentially. In short, it is best to avoid drinking any alcohol at all while being treated with benzodiazepines such as Xanax; many physicians and psychiatrists recommend that patients suffering from any type of mental illness refrain from consuming alcohol.

Side Effects and Interactions

When Xanax and alcohol are combined, some of the milder side effects and interactions that may occur include

  • drowsiness
  • loss of coordination
  • dizziness
  • memory issues
  • strange behaviors

If these progress or if the consumption is significant, patients may experience slowed heart rate and difficulty breathing; either of these can lead to coma or even death if not immediately treated.

Other interactions commonly experienced include

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • cold chills
  • hot flashes

Patients who think they may be experiencing interactions between their medication and alcohol should be sure to contact a medical professional right away.

Light to Moderate Consumption

Although it is generally recommended that patients who are taking Xanax should avoid consuming alcohol at all, those who use the medication infrequently may be able to consume small quantities of alcohol if the drug has not been ingested for some time.

For instance, a patient who last took Xanax more than 24 hours ago may be able to safely consume small quantities of alcohol without fear of interactions. However, if this is the case, patients should remember that they cannot take any Xanax until the alcohol has completely left their systems. Patients who are on a Xanax regimen or who take the drug daily or near-daily should never consume alcoholic beverages.

Getting Treatment

If a patient or caregiver suspects an interaction between Xanax and alcohol, they should contact a medical professional immediately, whether or not there are any symptoms present. This interaction can become severe or even fatal very quickly, so early detection and treatment is vital.

While it is usually advised to call a physician for adverse reactions to medication, patients who have consumed alcohol during treatment with the medication will need immediate medical care. When addiction or abuse is suspected, patients will be urged to take part in rehabilitation activities in an inpatient or outpatient facility. In any case, family and caregiver support will be incredibly important in the recovery process.

Patients who are taking Xanax for their anxiety or panic disorders will do well to avoid alcoholic beverages during treatment. Though light alcohol use is permissible for those who take the medication very infrequently, for the most part, alcohol and Xanax simply do not mix.