As a standalone substance, benzodiazepines pose many adverse health effects. Taking a benzodiazepine boosts dopamine levels in the brain, which induces a pleasant state of relaxation. Although this highly addictive prescription medication is meant for short-term treatment, many people take it for months and even years. Originally designed to treat anxiety, pills like Xanax and Valium are in constant demand. When used in combination with other substances, it can be lethal. Alcohol and benzos are often used together to help curb extreme symptoms of anxiety. But this, doctors say, is extremely dangerous.
The results of combining alcohol and benzos can be deadly. Benzodiazepines are minor tranquilizers. Alcohol, on the other hand, produces both stimulant and sedating effects. When used together, the outcome is toxic.
America’s Most Popular Substances
What happens when you combine two of America’s most popular substances? The answer, unsurprisingly, is nothing good.
Alcohol is one of the most addictive substances globally, with almost 140 million drinkers in the U.S. (2018) alone. The social acceptance of drinking makes alcohol addiction hard to spot. Despite its legal status, alcohol’s potential for abuse opens users up to many health risks. In addition to death from liver disease and alcohol overdose, drunk driving claims thousands of lives every year. So why do people use alcohol?
Numerous motivations suggest why many American’s seek alcohol. Some use it to enhance sociability, to get drunk, or more commonly, to self-medicate. Alcohol is known to temporarily reduce symptoms of anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) notes that 20% of people dealing with social anxiety disorder suffer from some form of alcohol abuse or dependence. However, temporary relief leads to increased symptoms of anxiety, irritability, or depression within a few hours.
Similar to alcohol, benzodiazepines (benzos) are among the most commonly used substances in the country. Benzos like Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin are usually prescribed as mood-regulating drugs to help manage conditions like anxiety and stress. They are extremely dangerous due to their potency and the powerful impact on the brain’s chemical makeup. Withdrawals can be deadly without medical assistance during detox.
Benzos are commonly abused. Due to their toxicity and availability, they are in demand, particularly because they produce sedation and muscle relaxation, and lower anxiety levels.
The combination of alcohol and benzos can be fatal.
Mixing Alcohol and Anxiety Meds
Part of the reason alcohol and benzos are hazardous to use together is that they are both sedatives. Individually, they can relax muscles, help with sleep difficulties, and reduce feelings of anxiety. Taking both alcohol and benzos simultaneously can amplify the potential for side effects like respiratory depression, also known as hypoventilation.
Using alcohol and benzos can increase the risk of over-sedation, resulting in problematic breathing, cardiac arrest, and loss of consciousness. Benzos intensify the symptoms of alcohol and vice versa. Despite these dangers, many individuals that abuse both substances do so to experience a more intense intoxication.
Common effects of benzos include:
- Increased relaxation
- Decreased feelings of panic and anxiety
- Feelings of detachment
As a person continues to use alcohol and benzos simultaneously, the brain becomes dependent on receiving the substances. Tolerance occurs when the body no longer responds to the drug in the same way it initially responded, requiring more of the drug to obtain the desired effect.
Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and benzos can appear similarly. It can include:
- Aches and pains
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Mental instability
- Life-threatening seizures
Deadly Impacts of Alcohol and Benzos
Both alcohol and benzos have individual sets of side effects that impact an individual’s behavior and mental state. Because of this, the two should never be used together as it can cause life-threatening consequences. When used with alcohol, the intake of benzos can cause one’s heart to stop beating, hamper neural activity, or slow breathing to the point of respiratory failure, permanent brain injury, coma, or death. It also increases the likelihood of benzo overdose, which can lead to seizures or fatal overdose.
In 2015, more than 50% of the 176,000 benzodiazepine-related emergency room visits also involved other drugs and alcohol. A 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 57% of full-time college students had consumed alcohol in the past month. Of those, about 38% partook in binge drinking.
Treatment for Alcohol and Benzos Addiction
The first step in treatment is identifying individual needs and reaching out to a treatment center that can help provide a tailored approach for long-term recovery. Contact a treatment center like AspenRidge Recovery to provide an assessment or substance abuse evaluation to determine the severity of alcohol and benzos addiction.
Complete recovery is based on long-term care and continued support through individualized and group therapy sessions. Addressing co-occurring disorders is imperative for effectively overcoming substance dependency on alcohol and benzos.
AspenRidge Recovery Care
Living with anxiety is bad but living with addiction is worse. AspenRidge Recovery offers programs that can assist with both. Our proven treatment methodology deals with the onset of substance abuse and addiction, and our licensed clinicians are experienced in identifying and treating underlying complex trauma and mental health disorders.
Both alcohol and benzos are among the most difficult drug addiction to treat. Both often require medical attention for safe detox. In addition, treatment options should incorporate a comprehensive, custom approach. Our wide range of services includes group and individual counseling, addiction therapy, trauma therapy, psychiatric services, as well as life skills development and aid.
If you’re ready to get help, call AspenRidge Recovery to talk to an addiction specialist for free 24/7 at (855) 306-3110. We can help you verify your insurance and provide additional information on the next steps in achieving sobriety. There is hope within, and we can help you discover life beyond Xanax.