Why Xanax and Alcohol are a Bad Mix
If you have a child struggling with substance abuse, then you’re no stranger to the effects of drugs and alcohol. Two particularly dangerous substances are Xanax and alcohol.
It’s estimated that in 2014, over 5,700 teens used prescription pain relievers without a recommendation from a doctor. To make things worse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in 2013 that people between the ages of 12 and 21 accounted for approximately 119,000 emergency room visits due to sickness or injuries related to consuming alcohol. 2019 is proving to be just as problematic for those struggling with substance abuse, which is why parents and teens need to be on high alert about which combinations pose the greatest risk.
Needless to say, any substance is harmful on its own. However, the results can be even more life-threatening when mixed together. To ensure that your teen stays safe at all times, here’s what you need to know about Xanax and alcohol:
What is Xanax?
Xanax or “alprazolam” (generic name) is a controlled substance that many doctors prescribe to patients as a way to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and depression.
Upon consumption, Xanax has a variety of effects that alter chemicals within the brain that focus on balancing behaviors and thought processes to promote stability. In fact, Xanax is a member of a class of medications known as benzodiazepines. Essentially, these drugs are viewed as “tranquilizers” that heavily impact the brain and nervous system to produce muscle relaxation and sedation.
Due to their calming effect—and widespread availability—they are commonly abused, which leads to all kinds of serious problems.
Understanding Xanax Addiction and Overdose
According to doctor Philip R. Muskin, a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center, Xanax addictions and overdoses are “the biggest concern, and it certainly happens.”
Muskin shares that addiction to Xanax can happen within the first week of a patient taking controlled, daily doses. Plus, research from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that the risk for Xanax addiction is even greater for those taking the medication longer than 12 weeks, consuming more than 4mg a day. “It can cause some degree of euphoria, and some people seek that out because they want to get high,” says Muskin.
Sadly, Xanax addiction is especially prevalent for teens. In the U.S. alone, the death rate for Xanax overdose has spiked by 500% since the year 2000. Unfortunately, teens incur a hefty amount of risk.
The Dangers of a Xanax Overdose
For teens, studies from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) show that Xanax is the most popular benzodiazepine used among 12th graders. Not to mention, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that teens were more likely to consume Xanax for recreation rather than for medicinal purposes.
With that in mind, the dangers of a Xanax overdose are a real possibility for teens since their emotional capacity and personal development are still underway. In most cases, teens are struggling with common issues such as anxiety, or stress from school. Many teens also struggle with pressure from friends. Most are simply trying to connect with their identity and others in a world where self-discovery is often lost or blinded by social media. As a result, teens view Xanax as a safe alternative to traditionally dangerous drugs, like heroin or opioids, which leads to reliance on higher dosages as their consumption becomes habitual.
In most cases, it’s not so much that a teen will consume too much Xanax on its own, but that they mix their Xanax dose with other medication or alcohol that heightens the drug’s effects.
Xanax and Alcohol: the Warning Signs and Outcomes
It’s no surprise that underage drinking takes place, so as a parent, you have to consider the warning signs and outcomes that your teen may face when it comes to mixing Xanax and alcohol.
In general, any medication (especially Xanax) that states “Do not use with alcohol” is placed there for a reason. Many people tend to disregard this warning as some kind of myth, but the dangers are all too real. This is certainly the case for teens who might not know how dangerous the combination is. Some take Xanax before going out with friends and then have a drink once they or arrive at a party.
Keeping them safe is your biggest concern, regardless of how the two substances are mixed. It is extremely important to take action immediately if something seems amiss. If you suspect that your teen may be using a combination of substances, here are a few warning signs:
- Sleeping all the time
- Trouble walking
- Frequently nauseous or sick
- Constant headaches or dizziness
- They have a rash or irritated skin
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Stomach pains
Any of these symptoms are a cause for concern. However, suppressed breathing is the most prevalent reaction that comes from mixing Xanax and alcohol. According to David Cutler, a doctor at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, he claims that “the lethal interaction between alcohol and prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs generally involves suppression of breathing. Basically, any medication which can make you sleepy can have a deadly interaction with alcohol.”
Seeking Recovery and Rehab
In 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report claiming that almost 70% of adolescents who try an illicit drug before their 13th birthday will acquire an addiction in the next 7 years. If they’re older than 17 at the time of their first drug interaction, the rate goes down to 27%.
Either way, teens are greatly susceptible to addiction. Xanax and alcohol are major players that parents must be proactive against in order to ensure their teen’s health. At the Northern Arizona Center for Addiction, you can find a variety of programs designed to treat the disease of addiction, while accurately assessing all the causes of your teen’s struggles to determine the best path to sobriety.
No matter what challenges your teen may be facing, seeking recovery and rehab is possible with the right resources.
About the author: Chase Maser is a full-time freelancer with years of experience in the health and wellness space. Overcoming addiction can be a challenge, but anything is possible with the right guidance and inspiration.