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Mixing Benzodiazepines & Alcohol | Dangers & Effects

Published on March 30, 2021
Mixing Benzos and Alcohol | Dangers & Effects

Mixing benzodiazepines and alcohol can cause severe respiratory depression, or slowed breathing. This can lead to death in some cases.

Benzos and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants. When combined, they can have additive effects on the body. What would normally be low doses can become dangerous when these substances are combined.

Effects Of Mixing Alcohol & Benzodiazepines

Alcohol use is likely to make the effects of benzodiazepines stronger. This may include intended effects, such as reduced brain activity that will help reduce symptoms of anxiety. It may also include unintended and possibly harmful side effects.

Other side effects of benzo and alcohol consumption include:

  • drowsiness
  • sedation
  • light-headedness
  • physical and mental impairment
  • mental health effects (depressive symptoms, nervousness)
  • dry mouth

The risks of mixing these substances means that doctors will usually warn against taking them together.

Benzos For Alcohol Withdrawal

One use of benzodiazepines is to treat the effects of alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include seizures, hallucinations, insomnia, and delirium. Benzodiazepines like alprazolam, lorazepam, and diazepam can help reduce these symptoms. 

While benzos are mostly known for treating anxiety disorders and panic disorders, they can also help with alcohol withdrawal in the short-term. This can present problems, due to how these substances interact.

A person struggling with alcohol withdrawal may have a history of alcohol abuse. Drinking alcohol while taking benzodiazepines can be dangerous, even deadly. Your doctor should know about your history of alcohol and drug use before prescribing your benzodiazepines.

Signs Of A Benzo/Alcohol Overdose

The most telling sign of a CNS depressant overdose is severely slowed breathing. Other signs of overdose include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • unconsciousness or coma
  • confusion
  • clammy skin
  • vomiting
  • low body temperature
  • bluish or pale skin color

If left untreated, an alcohol or benzodiazepine overdose can be life-threatening. Data from 2010 reported alcohol was involved in over 72% of benzodiazepine-related deaths.

Immediate medical attention is needed to maximize the chances of a successful recovery. Call for help right away if you see these signs in yourself or a loved one.

The Risks Are Real

Benzodiazepines are a commonly prescribed prescription drug, despite their known risks. Medications like Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin are powerful substances that can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol.

Recent data shows that alcohol and benzodiazepines were often combined reasons for emergency room visits and overdose deaths. 

Treating Polysubstance Abuse

Mixing benzodiazepines and alcohol may be a sign of a substance use disorder. Substance use disorders often require proper treatment from medical professionals. They may lead to long-term dependence, addiction, and drug overdose if not treated.

To learn more about substance abuse treatment programs that can help stop an overdose before it happens, talk to your healthcare professional or contact us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Alcohol Involvement in Opioid Pain Reliever and Benzodiazepine Drug Abuse–Related Emergency Department Visits and Drug-Related Deaths
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Commonly Used Drugs Charts
PubMed Central - Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Benzodiazepines and Beyond
U.S. Food and Drug Administration - KLONOPIN TABLETS (clonazepam)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Xanax
U.S. National Library of Medicine - VALIUM - diazepam tablet

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