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Updated on February 2, 2023
4 min read

Xanax and Alcohol

Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam. It treats patients with anxiety or panic disorders and is one of the most popular drugs to combine with alcohol.

This dangerous combination can lead to long-term health problems or death. In this article, we’ll go over the effects and risks of combining Xanax and alcohol. 

What Happens When You Mix Xanax and Alcohol?

Those who mix Xanax and alcohol can experience a more intense intoxication. Alcohol intensifies the effects of Xanax and vice versa. However, this combination can be harmful and even cause life-threatening interactions.

Xanax and alcohol increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity in the central nervous system (CNS).8 When people mix these depressants, they can cause over-sedation.


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Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Over-sedation can affect essential body function and cause life-threatening problems. Combining Xanax and alcohol can reduce overall brain activity, which can lead to the following:

  • Extreme sedation
  • Reduced motor coordination
  • Drastic changes in mood and behavior
  • Impaired judgment and decision-making

People who mix Xanax and alcohol are also at risk for serious side effects. These effects include:

  • Vertigo (a sensation that your environment is moving or spinning)
  • Fainting
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteady walking
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slow pulse
  • Slow breathing
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Impaired memory consolidation
  • Coma

The use of Xanax and alcohol can contribute to many different medical complications, including:

Cardiovascular and Respiratory Depression

Xanax and alcohol suppress the central nervous system (CNS), which controls your:3

  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Respiration

Combining these substances can cause an individual to stop breathing. Reduced oxygen and blood flow can also contribute to brain and organ damage.

Liver and Kidney Damage

Alcohol can cause liver damage. Long-term Xanax use can also impair liver functions because it can elevate your liver enzymes.

When you mix Xanax and alcohol, you put a strain on your liver and kidneys. This strain can cause severe damage leading to:3

  • Liver inflammation
  • Liver tissue damage
  • Fatty liver
  • Kidney damage or failure

Behavioral and Mental Problems

Combining Xanax and alcohol can cause uncharacteristic behaviors in some people. This combination can increase aggression, hostility, and irritability.4

Other mental risks of mixing Xanax and alcohol include:

  • Increased risk of hallucinations and psychosis
  • Increased risk of Xanax addiction or alcoholism
  • Increased risk of anxiety or depression
  • Worsening symptoms of anxiety or panic disorders

You should avoid alcohol consumption altogether when taking a benzodiazepine like Xanax.

Cognitive Issues

Because Xanax and alcohol affect the central nervous system, they can impair cognitive functioning. If combined, these substances can affect your:11

  • Short and long-term memory
  • Learning
  • Spatial recognition


In 2020, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported 12,290 overdose deaths caused by benzodiazepines.9 The risk of overdose increases when a person combines benzodiazepines, like Xanax, with opioids or alcohol.

Signs and symptoms of a Xanax and alcohol overdose include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Problems with coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Respiratory depression

Why Do People Mix Xanax and Alcohol?

People may mix Xanax and alcohol because they don’t experience the relief they need from the drug alone. Taking Xanax with alcohol will intensify the side effects of both substances.

The people who are at risk of mixing Xanax and alcohol may have the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Generalized anxiety
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorders
  • PTSD

The co-occurrence of substance abuse, particularly alcohol abuse, is common among people with a social anxiety disorder. In the U.S., anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults.6 This increases the risk of people mixing Xanax and alcohol.


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What are the Side Effects of Xanax Use?

Although doctors prescribe Xanax at the lowest effective dosage, side effects can still happen. If you experience any of the following side effects for a prolonged period, contact your doctor immediately:

  • Drowsiness and tiredness
  • Light-headedness and dizziness
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased salivation
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Problems urinating
  • Joint pain
  • Feeling anxious in the early morning

Does Xanax Have Life-Threatening Side Effects?

In rare cases, side effects can be severe and life-threatening. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.

Dangerous symptoms and side effects of Xanax can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe skin rash
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Depression
  • Confusion or memory problems
  • Unusual changes in behavior or mood
  • Problems with speech
  • Problems with balance or coordination
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

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Treatment Options for Xanax and Alcohol Abuse

Combining Xanax and alcohol often lead to drug dependence. Dependence means your body has become reliant on the substances to function correctly. 

Addiction treatment for co-occurring Xanax and alcohol abuse includes:


Xanax and alcohol are a popular combination because it suppresses anxiety. However, this combination can be dangerous and even life-threatening.

Both Xanax and alcohol can affect the central nervous system and cause over-sedation. Over-sedation can cause short and long-term physical and mental damage.

Fortunately, there are treatment options for co-occurring Xanax and alcohol abuse.

Updated on February 2, 2023
11 sources cited
Updated on February 2, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. UC Santa Cruz. “Alcohol and Your Body.”, 2019.
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol's Effects on the Body.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019.
  3. Alprazolam: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2021.
  4. Huang et al. “Influence of ethanol on the metabolism of alprazolam.” Expert opinion on drug metabolism & toxicology, 2018.
  5. CDC. “Drug Overdose Deaths Among Women Aged 30–64 Years - United States, 1999–2017.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019.
  6. Facts & Statistics.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. 
  7. Liang, Di, and Yuyan Shi. “Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs and Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Benzodiazepines and Prescription Opioids.” Drug and Alcohol Review, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2019.
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Benzodiazepines and Opioids.” NIDA, 2018. 
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Overdose Death Rates.” NIDA,  2022. 
  10. The Next U.S. Drug Epidemic As of 2019.” Online Masters in Public Health, 2019.
  11. Johnson, B. and Streltzer, J. “Risks associated with long-term benzodiazepine use.” American Family Physician, 2013.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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