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Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Last Updated: November 6, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Xanax and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants that can have dangerous interactions when used together. 

Mixing Xanax with alcohol can have additive effects, enhancing the “high” from using either substance alone. However, with that comes the risk of dangerous side effects. 

What Is Xanax? 

Xanax (alprazolam) is a central nervous system depressant belonging to a class of medications known as benzodiazepines, or “benzos.” Benzodiazepines, including Xanax, work by increasing the activity of a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which produces calming effects. While Xanax is commonly prescribed for anxiety, it is also a Schedule IV controlled substance due to its misuse potential. 

Xanax Side Effects

Xanax can have many side effects, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness 
  • Changes in mood (either elevated mood or worsening mood) 
  • Feeling detached 
  • Worsening memory 
  • Liver damage 
  • Potential for addiction and dependence 
  • Respiratory depression and overdose 

One of the most severe side effects of Xanax is respiratory depression, or slowed breathing, which can be deadly. The risk of respiratory depression increases as the dose of Xanax is increased or if Xanax is mixed with other substances that can also slow breathing. 

Xanax Addiction and Abuse

Xanax misuse impacts your life and health, both short and long-term. 

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Long-Term Effects of Xanax Abuse

Xanax misuse can have multiple long-term effects, including:

  • Memory impairment 
  • Poor job and/or school performance 
  • Impaired relationships 
  • Worsening depression 
  • Legal troubles 
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia) 
  • Withdrawal if Xanax is abruptly stopped 

Signs of Xanax Addiction

Xanax, along with other benzodiazepines, can be habit-forming, leading to a substance use disorder. Some signs of risky Xanax use include

  • Using Xanax during high-risk activities (e.g., while driving) 
  • Using more Xanax than intended or spending more time using it than intended
  • Neglecting important work or personal duties to use Xanax 
  • Trouble decreasing Xanax use even though you want to 
  • Continuing to use Xanax despite relationship issues due to substance use 
  • Cravings or urges to use Xanax 
  • Giving up important social activities or hobbies to use Xanax 
  • Continuing to use Xanax even though you have a physical or mental health issue from using it 
  • Needing to use more Xanax to get the same effect or “high” 
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using Xanax 

Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Drinking while taking Xanax is dangerous. Because alcohol and Xanax are central nervous system depressants, their effects add up when combined. Dangers include: 

  • Impaired judgment
  • Memory issues 
  • Physical dependence and addiction 
  • Liver damage 
  • Respiratory depression
  • Overdose and death 

How Long After Taking Xanax Can I Drink? 

The half-life — or time it takes your body to clear half of the substance from your body — of Xanax is approximately 11 hours in healthy adults. Generally, drugs are considered “cleared” after four to five half-lives, meaning it is best to wait about two days after taking Xanax to drink alcohol. Of course, everyone’s situation can be different, so it’s best to check with your doctor or pharmacist for specific advice. 

How Long After Drinking Can I Take Xanax?

How quickly each person clears alcohol from their body depends on many factors, such as their weight, body fat and how much and how quickly they drank. On average, individuals eliminate approximately one drink per hour. Still, given personal differences, it is safest to avoid drinking while taking medications such as Xanax and check with your doctor or pharmacist. 

Get Help for Benzodiazepine and Alcohol Abuse 

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance or alcohol use disorder, we can help. The Recovery Village Kansas City offers several physician-led addiction treatment programs, including medical detox, residential rehabilitation, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs. Contact our Recovery Advocates today so we can help guide you further in your recovery journey.

Sources “Xanax: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Warnings.” Updated December 1, 2021. Accessed August 29, 2023. “Xanax: Package Insert / Prescribing Information.” Updated January 1, 2023. Accessed August 29, 2023. 

Lader, Malcolm. “Benzodiazepine harm: how can it be reduced?” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, February 2014. Accessed August 29, 2023. 

Ait-Daoud, Nassima; Hamby, Allan; Sharma, Sana, et al. “A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal.” Journal of Addiction Medicine, January 2018. Accessed August 29, 2023. 

Hasin, Deborah; O’Brien, Charles; Auriacombe, Marc; et al. “DSM-5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorders: Recommendations and Rationale.” The American Journal of Psychiatry, August 2013. Accessed August 29, 2023. “Alcohol.” Updated August 23, 2023. Accessed August 29, 2023. 

Cederbaum, Arthur. “Alcohol Metabolism.” Clinics in Liver Disease, November 2012. Accessed August 29, 2023. 

Halleare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. (2023). “Half Life.” StatPearls Publishing, June 2023. Accessed August 31, 2023.