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  • Alcohol is among the most popular drugs in the world. Some people mix it with other drugs, including benzodiazepines. 

    Benzodiazepines (or “benzos”) are prescription drugs that treat anxiety disorders, seizures, and insomnia. Mixing them with alcohol poses serious health risks, including overdose and addiction.

    Types Of Benzodiazepines

    There are many different benzodiazepines. The most common include:

    • Ativan (lorazepam)
    • Halcion (triazolam) 
    • Klonopin (clonazepam)
    • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
    • Serax (oxazepam) 
    • Valium (diazepam)
    • Xanax (alprazolam)

    What Happens When You Mix Alcohol & Benzodiazepines?

    Alcohol and benzodiazepines enhance each other’s effects. That’s because they both belong to a class of drugs called central nervous system (CNS) depressants. 

    These drugs increase the activity of a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This slows down your brain activity, breathing, and heart rate. 

    CNS depressants can also cause relaxation and euphoria (intense joy). Mixing benzodiazepines with alcohol use may intensify these pleasant effects. However, it may also intensify the drugs’ unpleasant side effects, which include:

    • drowsiness
    • irritability
    • depression
    • trouble concentrating
    • memory impairment
    • poor judgment
    • dizziness
    • loss of coordination
    • slurred speech
    • muscle or joint pain
    • nausea and vomiting

    Some people mix alcohol and benzodiazepines without realizing it’s a form of drug abuse. 

    For example, they might take Xanax as prescribed and have a glass of wine with dinner. While this behavior may seem normal, the drugs can still interact negatively. That’s why medical professionals recommend that people who take benzodiazepines avoid all forms of alcohol.

    Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol & Benzodiazepines

    People who mix alcohol and benzodiazepines face severe health risks.

    First, as mentioned above, both alcohol and the use of benzodiazepines slow your breathing and heart rate. When you mix the drugs, your breathing and heart may slow to the point of coma, brain damage, or death.

    Accidents & Social Problems

    In addition, because both drugs impair your coordination, they increase your risk of falls, drownings, and other injuries. Similarly, when the drugs affect your judgment and mood, they can cause problems such as:

    • damaged relationships
    • job loss
    • violence, including intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and homicide
    • risky sexual behaviors (such as unprotected sex with multiple partners), which can lead to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy

    Health Issues

    Also, whether you use benzodiazepines or not, alcohol abuse (drinking more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men) can cause the following health issues:

    • liver disease
    • high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke
    • digestive issues
    • weakened immune system
    • depression and anxiety
    • certain cancers
    • miscarriage, stillbirth, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)

    Finally, mixing alcohol and benzodiazepines can lead to overdose and addiction.

    Overdose

    Both alcohol and benzodiazepines pose a high risk of overdose. This risk increases when you use the drugs together. 

    Common symptoms of an alcohol and benzodiazepine overdose include:

    • blurry vision
    • severe dizziness
    • confusion
    • weakness
    • pale or bluish skin
    • bluish lips and/or fingernails
    • slow or irregular breathing
    • sudden drop in body temperature
    • nausea and vomiting
    • seizures
    • loss of consciousness 

    If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical help right away. When left untreated, an overdose can be life-threatening. 

    The most common treatments for an alcohol and benzodiazepine overdose include:

    • oxygen therapy to restore normal breathing
    • intravenous fluids to treat dehydration 
    • vitamins and glucose to treat alcohol-induced low blood sugar

    Substance Use Disorder

    Addiction is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to control your drug use. Both alcohol and benzodiazepines are highly addictive and can lead to physical dependence. 

    Physical dependence means your body can’t function normally without a drug. When you don’t use it, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. The most common withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine addiction and alcohol use disorder include:

    • anxiety
    • irritability
    • depression
    • headache
    • shaking
    • sweating
    • trouble sleeping
    • nightmares

    You face a higher risk of withdrawal symptoms if you quit the drugs too suddenly. To avoid or decrease withdrawal symptoms, seek help at a medical detox program. There, health care providers will help you stop using drugs slowly and safely. 

    Can Benzodiazepines Treat Alcohol Withdrawal?

    Since alcohol and benzodiazepines have similar effects, benzodiazepines are sometimes used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, due to the risks described above, it’s important to only use benzodiazepines as prescribed by a licensed medical professional. 

    If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol and benzodiazepine abuse, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our substance abuse and addiction treatment options include mental health counseling, medical detox, support groups, and more.

    Related Topics

    Is It Dangerous To Drink Alcohol On Halcion?

    The benzodiazepine Halcion should not be taken with alcohol, as the two depressant substances will likely enhance the effects of the other. This can potentially lead to serious breathing problems and severe long-term effects.

    Learn more about Mixing Halcion & Alcohol

    What Happens When You Mix Librium & Alcohol?

    When you mix Librium, a benzodiazepine prescription medication, with alcohol, you may experience severe sedation as well as other health problems. Combining Librium and alcohol can lead to a substance use disorder.

    Learn more about Mixing Librium & Alcohol

    Can You Mix Serax & Alcohol?

    It’s never recommended to mix Serax and alcohol. Together, they can bring on serious side effects like high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and coma.

    Learn more about Mixing Serax & Alcohol

    What Happens When You Drink On Lorazepam? 

    Drinking alcohol on lorazepam can lead to drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, respiratory depression, and other severe side effects. Health experts warn against mixing these substances.

    Learn more about Mixing Lorazepam & Alcohol

    What Happens When You Mix Klonopin & Alcohol?

    Mixing Klonopin and alcohol is dangerous and can result in life-threatening consequences. 

    Klonopin and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants and slow brain activity. This includes important functions like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. 

    When you take too much Klonopin, drink too much alcohol, or take both substances together, it can cause serious side effects. An overdose can occur that may cause slowed breathing, coma, or death. 

    Learn more about Mixing Alcohol With Klonopin

    Can You Drink Alcohol On Xanax? 

    Health experts recommend you do not drink alcohol while on Xanax. Drinking alcohol while taking Xanax can cause a dangerous interaction and lead to a life-threatening overdose.

    Learn more about Mixing Xanax & Alcohol

    What Happens When You Mix Rohypnol & Alcohol?

    Unfortunately, Rohypnol has been used as a form of date rape drug. This is due to the fact that Rohypnol causes one to experience heavy sedation and memory loss. 

    Mixing Rohypnol and alcohol creates a severe sedative effect that can lead to unconsciousness, respiratory depression, and death.

    Learn more about Mixing Rohypnol & Alcohol

    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 - Drinking too much alcohol can harm your health
    Drug Enforcement Administration - Benzodiazepines
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose
    United States National Library of Medicine - Alcohol withdrawal

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on April 30, 2022
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