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  • Mixing opioids and Xanax can increase your chances of a drug overdose. They can combine to cause severe respiratory depression (slowed breathing), which can lead to death.

    If you are taking either Xanax or opioid painkillers, you should inform your doctor immediately. Doctors usually avoid prescribing you medications that can be harmful when mixed together.

    Shared Effects Of Opioids & Xanax

    Xanax and opioids are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants. They have different effects, but act on the same parts of the body. When combined, they create additive CNS effects, which can be harmful to your health.

    Xanax’s main ingredient is alprazolam. It is a benzodiazepine that slows down activity in your brain. Xanax is often prescribed to treat panic disorders, anxiety disorders, and their symptoms.

    Opioids, also known as painkillers, come in many forms. Hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl are some prescription opioids that are used to treat forms of chronic pain or severe pain.

    Increased Risk Of Overdose

    When opioids and Xanax combine, their effects on the body are additive. Fewer amounts are needed to achieve the same effect. What may have been a safe dose can become fatal when these substances are mixed.

    Total benzodiazepine overdose deaths have been going down since 2017. However, the number of these deaths that also involved opioids have been going up. Mixing opioids and benzos like Xanax is a growing issue.

    Xanax’s black box warning (listed on prescription drugs with serious side effects) warns of fatal overdoses caused by mixing opioids and alprazolam. Telling signs of overdose include: 

    • slowed breathing and heart rate
    • unresponsiveness
    • loss of consciousness

    Risk Of Substance Abuse & Addiction

    Mixing opioids and Xanax is not recommended by most medical professionals. Taking them together may be a sign of a substance use disorder. A substance use disorder is an inability to take drugs as directed, even at the cost of your physical and mental health.

    Substance use disorders can come with physical dependence, drug addiction, and long-term drug abuse issues. 

    Benzodiazepines (like Xanax and Valium) and opioids (like OxyContin and Dilaudid) can both be habit-forming. Along with the acute risk of overdose, they may also damage your health long-term when taken together.

    Other Dangers Of Mixing Opioid & Benzos

    Mixing Xanax and opioids can increase your risk of side effects from both substances. Side effects from either opioids or benzodiazepines include:

    • constipation
    • drowsiness
    • nausea and vomiting
    • dry mouth
    • muscle stiffness
    • confusion
    • worsened anxiety symptoms

    Side effects range from mild to serious and may happen at any time when taking these substances.

    Polysubstance Abuse Treatment

    Mixing benzodiazepines and opioids can be dangerous. If you’re struggling with both chronic pain and an anxiety disorder, you may want to talk about other treatment options with your healthcare provider to avoid a potentially harmful drug interaction.

    Benzos and opioids can also be targets for polysubstance abuse. If you’re struggling with this form of substance abuse, you may want to look for a treatment program. Professional treatment programs can help you recover before an overdose happens.

    To learn more about how we treat polysubstance abuse and addiction, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2022 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Sources

    Centers For Disease Control And Prevention - Prevent Opioid Misuse
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Overdose Death Rates
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription Opioids DrugFacts
    United States Food and Drug Administration - Xanax

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on March 17, 2021
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