The Risks of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

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Generally, mixing alcohol with most prescription drugs is strongly discouraged. This is because doing so can cause adverse results that can sometimes be fatal. These effects are heightened when you mix Xanax (alprazolam) and alcohol.

Xanax is a drug prescribed for the treatment of symptoms of depression, anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. It belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepine (benzos). It was initially developed as an alternative to Valium because of Valium’s likelihood of being abused. However, Xanax has also proven to have a high potential for misuse. Recently, the FDA called for a stronger warning label to be put on both drugs alerting people of their high potential for addiction and abuse.

This article examines the side effects and dangers of mixing Xanax with alcohol. 

How Xanax Works

When taken exactly as your doctor prescribes, Xanax is a safe and effective treatment option for anxiety and panic disorder. However, taking alcohol in higher doses than prescribed or mixing it with other unauthorized drugs can produce unpleasant results because of how Xanax works.

It’s a little unclear what the exact mechanism of action for Xanax is. It’s thought to slow down your central nervous system (CNS) by attaching to gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABA) receptors in your brain. When this happens, it produces a calming effect. However, when taken in large doses, it creates a euphoric effect that can be addictive.

Mixing Xanax With Alcohol 

Xanax is a central nervous system depressant that works by increasing the activity of a chemical messenger called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine. Your brain naturally releases GABA when you are feeling anxious. Both chemical messengers provide a calming and soothing effect while decreasing anxiety. Drinking alcohol also triggers increased activity with this chemical messenger.

The liver metabolizes both Xanax and alcohol. However, the liver metabolizes alcohol more quickly than Xanax. Drinking large amounts of alcohol while taking Xanax can then result in a buildup of Xanax in your system as your liver prioritizes metabolizing the alcohol in your system.

Combining alcohol with Xanax can also cause over-sedation, which may lead to medical complications and even death. Xanax also amplifies the effects of alcohol and vice versa. Up until 2008, mixing benzos with alcohol resulted in about 20,000 cases of emergency room visits per year. Post-2008, that number rose to about 27,000 cases.

Some complications that can arise from mixing Xanax with alcohol include the following.


Both substances slow down your central nervous system, resulting in lightheadedness and fatigue combined. While this might seem like no cause for alarm, it can significantly affect your daily functioning. Other physical side effects that could occur include nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and headaches.

Cardiovascular Complications 

Any drug classified as a central nervous system depressant can inhibit brain activity. Benzos specifically can also increase your blood pressure and slow down your heart rate; Xanax and alcohol are both CNS depressants. Combining both can cause respiratory and cardiac issues.

Liver and Kidney Damage 

Mixing Xanax and alcohol can put you at a higher risk of developing liver and kidney damage. Both organs are taxed to rid unwanted substances from your system. A combination of Xanax and alcohol will overwork them and lead to long-term damage.


Both alcohol and Xanax have a high risk of addiction and abuse. Combining both substances increases this risk, as alcohol heightens the effects of Xanax and vice versa.

Altered Mood and Behavior 

A shared side effect of overuse of either substance is altered mood and behavior. A person who misuses Xanax or alcohol may exhibit behavioral symptoms such as sadness, confusion, irritability, and aggression. These symptoms are more likely to occur and in increased severity when mixing both substances.

Neurological Symptoms 

Neurological effects such as psychosis, hallucinations, and delusions can occur when mixing both substances. In some cases, seizures may even happen. Mixing both substances can also significantly impair your judgment and memory, mainly when you use large quantities of each substance.


It’s possible to overdose on either alcohol or Xanax. Mixing both substances can potentially increase your risk of having an overdose. This is because it’s easy to lose track of just how much of either drug you are consuming when combing the two. Your body also takes a longer time to metabolize Xanax than alcohol when the two are in your system, causing a buildup of Xanax, which you’ll be unable to measure.

At the first sign of an overdose, call 911 or head straight to an emergency room. Symptoms of an overdose include confusion, slurred speech, lack of coordination, tremors, difficulty breathing, and seizures.

Treatment for Xanax and Alcohol Addiction 

Taking a lethal dose of Xanax and alcohol can be fatal. Both Xanax and alcohol create a high risk of potential addiction and abuse. If you or someone you love has grown increasingly dependent on the combination of Xanax and alcohol or either of these drugs on their own, it’s crucial to seek help. Contact your doctor or the nearest addiction treatment center. Getting treatment helps prevent long-term complications and fatalities.

A Word From Verywell

Mixing Xanax with alcohol produces incredibly severe and sometimes fatal side effects. While mixing alcohol with prescription drugs is generally frowned upon, mixing alcohol with Xanax can be especially deadly and should never be done.

In many cases combining both can result in an unintended overdose, as both drugs exaggerate the effects of each other. While you might think mixing even a little alcohol with Xanax is safe, there’s no amount of alcohol that has been proven safe to mix with Xanax. If you’ve been combining both drugs, getting help as soon as possible is vital, even if you exhibit no adverse effects.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. FDA. FDA requiring labeling changes for benzodiazepines. September 23, 2020

  2. Davies M. The role of GABAA receptors in mediating the effects of alcohol in the central nervous system. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2003;28(4):263-274.

  3. American Addiction Centers. Dangers of mixing Xanax and alcohol.

  4. SAMSHA. Prescription Drug Use and Misuse in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

  5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Alprazolam. In: LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury. 2012.

  6. Oxford Treatment Center. Dangers of mixing Xanax and alcohol.

By Toketemu Ohwovoriole
Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics.