Mixing Anxiety Medications With Alcohol

Mixing anxiety meds with alcohol can increase risk of overdose, alcohol poisoning, or death. More here on the safety issues involving drinking while taking prescription medications.

minute read
Reviewed by: Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

OVERVIEW: Alcohol can make you sleepy, drowsy, or lightheaded. Drinking alcohol while taking anxiety meds intensifies these effects. You may have trouble concentrating or performing your daily tasks. You lose coordination and riving becomes impossible. Even worse, combining alcohol with prescription pills may lead to overdose and even death.


Why Mix The Two?

People drink while taking anti-anxiety meds for two main reasons:

  1. Clinical ignorance. Some people do not read drug labels thoroughly. Others may avoid the precautions given them by doctors.
  2. To get high. 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. Still, drugs like Xanax and Ativan are additive.
  3. To treat alcohol withdrawal. According to a study from The Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, published in 2006, non medical use of prescription drugs was more prevalent among individuals who had alcohol use disorders than those without alcohol use disorders. 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.

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.

Anxiety and Depression

It’s best to avoid drinking when taking your anxiety meds because symptoms of anxiety may worsen. If you’re taking 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. Moreover, mixing anxiety prescriptions and alcohol may make you even more depressed. Drinking can counteract the benefits of your anxiety medication, making your symptoms more difficult to treat. Alcohol may improve your mood to start, but its later effects will increases symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Dangerous or Not?

Q: Is mixing anxiety meds with alcohol bad for you?
A: Yes, the combination of these two substances can lead to life threatening dangers.

The combination of alcohol and anxiety pills is first dangerous due to the possibility of worsening side effects. Adverse effects which can sometimes appear due to the use of anxiety meds may worsen if you drink alcohol while taking these drugs. For example, antidepressants can cause a dangerous spike in your blood pressure. The National Institute On Alcohol Abuse (NIAA) provides a table of other commonly used medicines that interact poorly with alcohol.

Additionally, your thinking and alertness can get impaired when taking anxiety meds together with alcohol. Mixing the two can affect your judgment, coordination, and motor skills. This combination  may make you sleepy, impair your ability to drive, or do other tasks that require focus and attention.

Side Effects

With medications like sedative benzodiazepines, alcohol acts on the same molecules inside or on the surface of the cell as does the medication. These interactions may be synergistic—that is, the effects of the combined medications exceed the sum of the effects of the individual medications. Effects of drinking while taking anxiety medications include:

  • co-dependence between the two substances
  • death
  • dizziness
  • enhanced mood changes
  • extreme drowsiness
  • memory loss
  • overdose
  • potential amnesia
  • reduced motor skills
  • respiratory depression

NOTE: Combining alcohol and anxiety meds can also effect memory and behavior, which can increase risk for accidents, overdose, and potential death.


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.

Older people are at particularly high risk for harmful alcohol– medication interactions. Aging slows the body’s ability to break down alcohol, so alcohol remains in a person’s system longer. Older people also are more likely to take a medication that interacts with alcohol—in fact, they often need to take more than one of these medications.


If you take lorazepam, alprazolam, or other benzodiazepines AND drink alcohol, you increase 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.


Death is possible when you mix anxiety pills and alcohol together. Because of this, doctors advise that you NEVER drink 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.

Safety Guidelines

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.

REMEMBER THIS: Timing is important. Alcohol and medicines can interact harmfully even if they are not taken at the same time. The NIAAA suggests that you protect yourself by avoiding alcohol completely if you are taking a medication and don’t know its effect. To learn more about a medicine and whether it will interact with alcohol, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Signs You Need Help

Sometimes, anxiety medications can illuminate a problem with drinking. Here are some signs that you might need professional help from an addiction treatment center:

  1. You can’t stop thinking about drinking.
  2. You can’t quit drinking for long enough to take your anxiety medicine correctly.
  3. You drink in the mornings.
  4. You experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit drinking.

If you notice any of these, take hope! Medical help is out there. Also, check out the NIAAA’s definition of an alcohol problem for more.

Alcohol addiction is no longer a shameful condition; it is a medical problem that can be treated medically. If you think you have a problem, please reach out for help. You can call our hotline, leave us a message, or even ask a trusted doctor for an assessment. Just know that you are not alone. An estimated 88K people die from alcohol-related problems every year. You don’t need to be one of them.

Give us a call.

Leave Your Questions Here

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
NCBI: The relationship between past-year drinking behaviors and nonmedical use of prescription drugs
NIH: Harmful Interactions


About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the Texas Healt...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.


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  1. Does consuming alcohol when I am regularly taking antidepressant like Prozac cause temporary Psychosis? My behavior and actions have gone lot worse ever since I started taking Prozac few years back and now my doctor switched me to quitepine. I have black outs and my actions are getting violent when I get drunk. Is the combination of antidepressants and alcohol could be the reason for it?

    1. Hi KK. Mixing antidepressants with alcohol can cause serious damage to your health. So, please use your medications only as prescribed by a doctor.

  2. I had 3 about 3 vodka and diet dr.peppers in the time span of 4pm till 9:15 pm and I have been drinking a bottle of water in between would it be ok to take my Klonopin?

  3. What if you are on an anxiety medication such as a generic lexapro and take that once a day, if you know you’re going to be drinking that night and skip taking a lexapro that day. I’m just really struggling because I NEED to be on anti anxiety medication but I do drink occasionally, although not often.

  4. Hi,
    I had two glasses of wine (the party plastic glasses) over 12 hours ago. I do however take lorazepam as needed for anxiety and have not taken it in about a week and half. My question is,
    If I’m feeling a lil
    Anxious, restless with mild racing thoughts. If need be say, I have to absolutely take a pill 1mg or half a pill is it safe to do so? Or how long should I wait to take it? I don’t want the alcohol in my system to interact with the pill. When is it safe to take lorazepam? Thanks!!

    Ps I am not a drinker and I don’t take lorazepam daily. It’s on a pen basis.

  5. I am on Wellbutrin and clonazepam for anxiety and it worked wonders for me~it made me want to live again and be able to go out without anxiety~I was also put on a mood stabilizer and that made me feel even better after hip surgery~ anyway my Psychiatrist said a glass of wine would not hurt and I guess I was so happy to get his okay I did not ask just how much was okay~my son is in a bad marriage and likes to drink red wine when visiting me and when we go out and he pours me some too~ in other words he likes to drink with me~I was out alone last week and ordered a bottle of wine so I could take some home and did not realize I guess how much I drank~but certainly not the whole bottle~I have not felt well ever since and decided not to drink again~would I eventually get back to my normal well self if I leave alcohol alone all together~Martha~I hope that I did not do harm to myself

  6. i am on prescription drugs as well as alcohol. I am on 200mg quetiapin, 4mg diazepam, 45mg mirtazepam and 400mg of pregablin. I also drink three quarters of a litre bottle of vodka a day. Can this be dangerous.

    1. Hi Debra. Please use medications only as prescribed by a doctor. Mixing them with alcohol may cause serious damage to your health.

  7. My friend has been on anxiety medications for years now, lately sometimes when she drinks and gets overly drunk she acts very odd. She can talk ok (not slurred or anything) but the words she says either doesn’t form proper sentences or is really off topic and random, when you speak to her she responds, but with something again completely off topic, almost like her brain did process what was said to her. She also just gets incredably drunk (even though we make her stop drinking and give her water) And the effects take a long time to wear off. I’m really worried and I know you are not suppose to drink when on these medications. Are there strange behaviours caused by mixing alcohol and her anxiety meds?

    1. Hi Laura. It’s dangerous to mix alcohol with anxiety medication. This can lead to OD and death. Your friend needs help ASAP.

  8. I’ve abused medication drugs and alcohol for half my life. Being zanax and other antidepressants. I’M alcohol free 8 years. I’m still on meds. but this year my memory so bad short term. Can I have caused damage. Thank you

  9. I am a heavy daily drinker. I’ve barely skipped a day for years. Im fairly young (22) but I realize that this is still a very dangerous habit for me to continue. I would like to know what type of anti-depressant/anxiety medication that I could take. My goal would be to go from 7 to 1 beers each evening while the medicine starts to take effect, then stopping completely once the medicine has taken hold.
    This is a desperate attempt, as I feel like I’ve tried literally everything else (Detox, rehab, AA meetings, etc). If anyone has any information, I need it.

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

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

  13. 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 .

  14. 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?

  15. 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

  16. 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.”

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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?

  20. 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.

  21. 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..:(

  22. 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

  23. 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!

  24. 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

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