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Mixing anxiety medications with alcohol

Have you ever thought of mixing anxiety meds with alcohol?

Have you been wondering its effects are? Here we discuss and assess the risks and dangers of mixing anxiety medications with alcohol. We’ll review what happens in your body when you mix these chemicals with alcohol and what can go wrong. We’ll also discuss the potential for overdose and side effects of taking both substance together. We invite you to ask questions or comments about mixing anxiety meds and alcohol in the comments, at the end. We try to answer questions with a personal and prompt reply.

Anxiety medications and alcohol effects

While pills for anxiety aren’t frequently a drug of choice or abused on their own to get high (relative to other narcotic drugs), people seek to use alcohol to intensify the euphoric effect that they can achieve while taking benzodiazepines or sedatives.  And while some people ask, “Is Ativan an additive drug?” or, “How does Xanax affect the brain?” others may not care and avoid the precautions given them by doctors. Ironically, some types of anxiety meds are prescribed to treat anxiety and for people who are trying to detox from alcohol and can mitigate the withdrawal effects of alcohol. It is for this reason that people find combing the two alluring.

However, effects of drinking while taking anxiety medications have included reduced motor skills, memory loss, potential amnesia and enhanced mood changes. And a codependence can develop between the two substances.  Combining alcohol and anxiety meds can also effect memory and behavior, which can increase risk for accidents, overdose and potential death.

While medications for anxiety disorders can treat the side effects of mental health disorders (including alcohol withdrawal), they can also provoke many negative effects that are dangerous when combined with alcohol. That is why doctors warn against drinking while on any of these types of medication. When drinking on lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax) or other benzodiazepines you can decrease the effectiveness and usefulness of these anxiolytics, thereby altering the course of therapy for mental health disorders or anxiety.

Dangers of mixing lorazepam and alcohol

Alcohol enhances the effects of anxiolytic medications in the body. In fact, both alcohol and anti-anxiety meds are central nervous system depressants. A sedative benzodiazepine pill becomes more potent as alcohol relaxes the body and slows it down. This action can lead to a coma or it can increase the level alcohol intoxication in the body, which could poison you.

Ironically, some anti-anxiety meds actually helps take care of withdrawal symptoms of alcohol. Many alcoholics find this sedative alluring so they continue to function without a hangover and continue to drink. What makes this relationship dangerous is that both substance depress body responses to the point your heart can stop beating. Without quick medical attention, this could result in death.

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Anxiety meds and alcohol overdose

If you take lorazepam, alprazolam, or other benzodiazepines AND drink alcohol, you have a lower chance of overdose if you do not mix the two. However, combining benzodiazepines with alcohol only increases your chances of potential overdose. Alcohol is a depressant and benzo anti-anxiety meds are sedatives, so together the chemical reaction in the body causes drowsiness. Plus, anxiety medications can mask the effects of alcohol so as you continue to drink on these pills, you may increase alcohol toxicity, eventually resulting in alcohol poisoning or death.

Anxiety meds and alcohol deaths

Death is possible when you mix anxiety pills and alcohol together. Because of this, doctors advise that you NEVER drinking while on anti-anxiety medications. The two together lead to accidents as cognitive ability decreases. Plus, drinking on anxiety pills can depress heart rates and breathing, resulting in death.

If you are planning to drink while taking your anxiety medications, it is best that you wait until any benzodiazepine is out of the system before drinking. Without the presence of the medication it should be safe to drink.  How long benzodiazepines stay in your system depends on dosing and drug type.  But be aware that the two can develop relationship of dependence. It is advisable you speak to your doctor if you plan to drink as you are taking anxiety medications.

Is it safe to drink on anxiety medications?

No. It just isn’t safe to drink while on anti-anxiety medications. There are too many factors that play into combining the two. Simply, you can experience too many dangerous reactions if you drink while on benzos. If you have any questions about drinking and taking anti-anxiety medication, talk to your doctor before you do.

Mixing anti-anxiety medication alcohol questions

Do you still have questions about mixing anti-anxiety medication with alcohol or other substances? Please leave your questions here. We try our best to answer all questions personally, and promptly. And if we don’t know the answer, we will refer you to someone who can help. Your experiences with mixing anxiety pills and alcohol are also welcome.

Reference Sources: NIAAA: Alcohol Alert Alcohol-Medication Interactions
NIAA: Alcohol and Medication Interactions
The State of Missouri Drug Use Review: Issues and Options for Benzodiazepine Use

Photo credit: Andrew J Furgeson

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19 Responses to “Mixing anxiety medications with alcohol
david
5:19 am November 19th, 2012

I have a psychiatrist whose has prescribed me the following:
1. Clonazepam
2. Guanfacine
3. Naltrexone
4. Sertraline
plus, i’m taking lisonopril for high blood pressure…
my problem is that, although i had stopped drinking, i started again.
I know that my question/comment must seem the stupidest thing in the world, but the ALCOHOL was easier to manage than the meds…I can’t take it anymore…i really want to stop drinking again, but i would prefer to stop the meds even more so…THEY ARE KILLING ME!…more than the alcohol…
somebody PLEASE tell me what to do (other than the obvious of “Stop Drinking”)…i know this…and am trying again…
but what is helping and what is hurting me…if anything.???
To tell you the truth, i’m not taking the sertraline…I absolutely hate anti-depressants…I thought that the Clonazepam was the one to continue, but i really want to wean myself off of it, along with the alcohol…
Someone please give me some advice before i become like one of those people on Sanjay Gupta’s show tonight that die from mixing meds…
Hoping to hear from someone with some good knowledge. Please.
Thank you

12:08 pm November 19th, 2012

Hi David. Good for you! My suggestion is to consult the specialists at the National Drug Hotline 1-800-662-HELP and ask them where you can go for help detoxing from the anti-anxiety meds. Or for a reference to a psychiatrist who can help you do this. Please let us know if this helps!

michelle
6:03 am March 7th, 2013

I was going through a divorce and in another relationship drinking very heavy every night battling my own demons and couldn’t sleep…went into a very idol state, becoming weak both mentally and physically, having negative and insecure thoughts/feelings. I was becoming very lost, not going to church when I should of been. One night after drinking heavy my boyfriend left me and I went off the deep end and tried to end my life. I took 5-7 ativan and blacked out, but got in my car and somehow wrecked it, but don’t remember how. It felt like a bomb went off inside my head and the next morning I couldn’t go back to work and wouldn’t leave my house. This went on for 3 more weeks, maybe I was possesed/evil… I felt/smelled evilness all around me. I couldn’t handle it… I attempted again with 15-20 sleeping pills. I dozed off and saw my soul leave my body and when I woke up I was horrified for I had gone to hell inside my own body being alive without a soul. I didn’t sleep for at least 4 months, would not eat or drink anything for a month because any kind of food smelled and tasted like poop, lost 40 pounds in a month, etc. It has been 2 yrs since this happened and I am just now starting to feel a tiny bit human. My body is starting to function a little better and today was the 1st time I cooked since this happened. Thank the Lord, I am starting to sleep a little better and food is starting to taste better and I’m having bowel movements more frequently without as much pain, before I would go 2-3 weeks without one and when I did it felt like someone was cutting a knife through me. This has nothing to do with science or psychology and is all spiritual, for I truly hope and believe God is working a miracle and slowly restoring my soul. I have been praying for this the last 2 years and I feel it slowly happening. Any thoughts, suggestions or comments…please e-mail me. Thank you

lisa partridge
1:36 am May 2nd, 2014

My sister just resentley died from alcohol and anxiety medication mix.the death report said accidental,but my sister only said she was taking 1 at night,and she was at times a heavy drinker.but the question is,how many pills would it of taken actually to cause this that night?and would the toxicology report say if she did take alot more?we r always wondering if this was a suicide because she was going through alot of problems for some time and she was a nurse and knows the dangers of mixing these or any med. With alcohol.thank u for your time,your answer could really help some of our thoughts..:)just for your info. Also,she went. Into a seizure at 1 am. In the morning and kept seizuring till 430pm. The same day and passed away at 5pm.,but could not stop her from seizuring to even take scans of her brain.she was 50 yrs old..:(

9:18 am May 2nd, 2014

Hello Lisa. This is a question for a coroner, toxicologist, or medical review officer who specializes in reading toxicology reports. I am so sorry for your loss and totally understand your interest in finding answers. May your search bring you peace.

friend concerned
3:45 am July 30th, 2014

I’m dating a guy that takes lorazopam with another anxiety med and alcohol every night to go to sleep. He is addicted and takes them in hour increments, which inknow is too much. He needs help but doesn’t see a problem. He takes them and comments “wonder how much more I have to take before i pass out”.
I want to help him but not sure how since he doesn’t see he has a problem. He gets meds from two different doctors which I’m sure is not aware of the other prescribing. Do i tell each doctor? I have pictures of meds to prove the two prescriptions.
Can these meds be detected in blood work…should i ask for blood tests?
How do i help him?

david
12:43 am February 2nd, 2015

I want to go to a dentist and make more work then 1 crown. So, i would want to be sedated but with the least strong of all. What is that called so i can tell the dentist i want that? And how long after that or before that can i have alcohol? And how long before can i not eat or drink? Thank you so much, David

Jake
9:36 pm March 10th, 2015

So last night at around 3 am I had a pretty bad oanic attack and I took 1mg of Clonazepam then I waited an hour or so and took 1 more mg I know thats a bit high but it was a real bad panic attack and I couldnt sleep so my last dose was at 4 am or so. Now I know Clonazepam has a half life of about 30 to 40 hours depending on you and what you do so assuming the worse it would take roughly 120 hours or about 5 days for around a quarter of a milligram to be in my system… Now I really dont want to wait 5 days to drink and Im sure you will advise strongly agaisnt this but do you think it would be ok and safe for me to drink roughly 14 hours after taking the meds? Surely there cant be a huge risk in it besides maybe blacking out but I typically only drink about 8 ounces of vodka… I just dont see it beeing a huge risk but I dont want to get hurt either

Ajaiwant
11:55 am May 20th, 2015

People start taking prescription drugs just to get high, perhaps in part because they have the (false) notion that prescription drugs are safer to experiment with than are illicit drugs. They take them for recreational purposes, and then a portion of them find “Wow, I can’t stop using this.”

christy
10:44 pm October 12th, 2015

How fast would you feel the effect if you mixed alcohol with anxiety meds?

Taylor
5:25 am December 24th, 2015

i was recently put on anxiety medication and i was wondering if it is okay to go and have a couple drinks on the weekend with my friends or if i should just avoid alcohol at all costs

Rose
4:19 am January 29th, 2016

I have depression and terrible anxiety. If I can’t go out to drink with my friends I will just be more depressed. What is the best drug for me?

gina
4:05 pm March 8th, 2016

I have a friend who takes medication for anxiety. Sometimes he will verbally abuse and swear at me very loudly even in public …if I question him on things and try to explain to him why I am telling him something.he says he doesnt need the pressure .This happened recently and at the time he had been drinking.when talking about it nxt day he is sorry but doesnt remeber everthing .

Sanfy
1:08 pm March 21st, 2016

If I drink 2 beers…took 2 clo opin 3 hours ago and 60mg. of adderal what will happen?

Thxs

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:42 pm March 21st, 2016

Hi Sanfy. Please consider that it is illegal to consume medications other than prescribed. Also, you put yourself at risk.

Ashley
3:08 am March 24th, 2016

I’m on 10mg Fluoxetine and I enjoy going out on the weekends and having a few drinks and maybe a drink or two during the week. Is this safe?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:57 pm March 25th, 2016

Hi Ashley. Mixing Fluoxetine with alcohol is dangerous, and you put yourself at risk.

Patricia
4:23 pm May 10th, 2016

My son takes an anxiety medication for almost 20 years. He us also a heavy drinker. He told me when he drinks he can feel it makes him feel free. He’s usually a very nice man. But when he’s out drinking heavily he is a completely different person. It’s crazy wild behavior and it’s all about him and self gratification. He blacks out often having no recollection if what he had done. He us now using marijuana as a substitute. He can always come up with some sort of justification as to why he behaves and does the things he does. He has a fantastic job and makes a great salary. He’s had relationships with the nicest women and one marriage which ended in divorce. All relationships have ended because he can’t stand being yelled at. The arguments are happening because if his self Centered behavior. He blames everyone else for his drinking he says he happier now being alone but he still drinks and gets drunk. He said the marijuana doesn’t make him feel bad the next day. Seems to me it’s just another substance and he’s an addict. I have tried to talk to him and help him. I want him to get help. Teo years ago he did go to one As meeting but said it’s not fir him. He wasn’t like them. He said most were homeless. He thinks because he doesn’t drink during the week and had a job he has no problem. He has hurt all the women in his life that have loved him. As his parents we are heart broken and clueless on how to help. We don’t want to nag him that would only give him more excuses to binge. Any advise on how to help.

Lucas
1:57 am June 12th, 2016

I take 2mg Valium 2x daily as needed for Anxiety & I’m a social drinker. I never take my medication with Alcohol. If I know I am going to be doing any drinking on a certain day I refrain from taking any Valium that day. Does that make any difference?

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