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Mixing Xanax and Alcohol: Dangers, Effects & Interactions

Last Updated: November 1, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Xanax and alcohol both have a calming effect. Using them together can be harmful, leading to over-sedation and even deadly overdoses.

Mixing Xanax with alcohol can be more dangerous than using them separately. They may make you feel light-headed for the time being or lead to a fatal overdose. While separately misusing Xanax or alcohol carries risk, doing so together can greatly enhance this risk. Their chronic use can increase overdose risk, resulting in poor motor skills and kidney damage.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax belongs to a group of drugs called benzodiazepines. It is licensed to treat anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), anxiety with depression and panic disorder with or without agoraphobia. Xanax works by slowing down the brain’s activity. It does this by boosting the effects of a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the brain known as gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA). GABA helps calm the brain’s activity, making a person feel more relaxed.

Xanax Side Effects

Xanax has negative effects even when taken as prescribed for medicinal purposes. Some common side effects include:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Impaired coordination
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Tiredness
  • Irritation
  • Joint discomfort
  • Dry mouth
  • Digestion problems

Xanax Addiction and Abuse

Like other benzodiazepines, Xanax can lead to addiction and misuse. Over time, a person’s brain depends on getting the neurotransmitter GABA from the medicine and stops making it on its own.

In situations of chronic usage, there are more potential long-term effects to consider.

Long-Term Effects of Xanax Abuse

Those who use Xanax regularly face the danger of developing physical dependence. The consistent use of alprazolam can lead to tolerance, which means a greater dose is required to have the same effect. Xanax abuse can prove fatal. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), there were over 34.6 million alprazolam prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. in 2021. 

Some of the most prevalent long-term side effects include:

Physical Effects:

  • Tolerance and dependence
  • Withdrawal
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Gut issues

Mental Effects:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cognitive decline

Social Effects:

  • Isolation
  • Conflict
  • Stigma

Legal and Financial Effects:

  • Legal consequences due to wrong choices
  • High costs
  • Loss of employment

Vocational/Educational Effects:

  • Lower grades
  • Career disruption
  • Unemployment
  • Disciplinary action

Signs of Xanax Addiction

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) describes addiction as a chronic, curable disease characterized by the consistent use of drugs and alcohol that persists despite its harmful effects.

Some common signs of addiction include:

  • Finding it challenging to function at a job, school or home due to usage
  • Suffering from intense Xanax cravings or impulses
  • Giving up or reducing participation in interests, social interactions or significant work activities due to usage
  • Continuous usage in risky situations, such as when driving
  • Developing a tolerance that requires you to take a greater dosage to have the same effect
  • If you quit or reduce use, you experience withdrawal symptoms

Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Xanax and alcohol are a risky combination, as they intensify one another’s effects. You may feel more relaxed and less inhibited after taking them. Some individuals might combine Xanax and alcohol to enhance these calming effects. The problem is that this mixture is inherently dangerous and potentially lethal.

The CDC reports that from 2019–2020, overdoses of benzodiazepines like Xanax rose by 24%. Overdose deaths from alcohol rose by 25% within the same time frame.

Alcohol and Xanax interaction can result in the following risks:

  • Dizziness
  • Aggression 
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Addiction and dependence
  • Poor coordination
  • Impaired memory/cognition
  • Respiratory depression
  • Liver damage

How Long After Taking Xanax Can I Drink?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Xanax has an estimated elimination half-life of around 11.2 hours. Multiple half-lives are required to eliminate medication from the body completely. It takes approximately four to five half-lives, 44–55 hours or two days, to be cleared from the body.

However, the time it takes to fully clear from your body depends on many factors, including age and pre-existing medical problems such as renal insufficiency. Even people in good health can have varying clearance rates, resulting in half-lives ranging from 6–27 hours.

To stay safe, avoid drinking alcohol until Xanax has fully left your body to prevent negative effects from the combination. Because each person’s body is unique and metabolizes chemicals in a slightly different period, it’s difficult to predict when a benzodiazepine like Xanax will be out of your system. Some elements may lengthen the time it takes to leave your body, including:

  • Liver function: Those who suffer from alcoholic liver disease have a 19.7-hour half-life on average for Xanax.
  • Obesity: The average half-life for obese people is 21.8 hours.
  • Age: The secretion period will be prolonged in older persons. This results in an average half-life of 16.3 hours.

How Long After Drinking Can I Take Xanax?

When using Xanax and drinking, there is no defined time frame. Alcohol consumption and Xanax use are typically not recommended. 

After drinking alcohol, it’s best to wait at least 24 hours before taking Xanax. This is due to how long alcohol remains in the body. The time our system needs to eliminate alcohol varies depending on factors such as the person’s weight, overall health and the amount of alcohol consumed. Alcohol will react differently in each person depending on these characteristics.

Disclaimer: Remember — it’s best to consult a physician or pharmacist for personalized recommendations, as the effects can vary from person to person.

Treatment for Xanax and Alcohol Addiction

At The Recovery Village Atlanta, our dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders can support you or your loved one struggling with Xanax and alcohol addiction. We offer therapy for mental health along with addiction treatment. Our trained specialists are here to assist you in regaining control of your life.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Xanax or alcohol addiction, contact us today. We can offer the tools, support and medical treatment you need to begin living a drug-free life.

Sources “Xanax.” Updated August 1, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023.

Jewett, Benjamin E.; Sharma, Sandeep. “Physiology, GABA.” StatPearls, Updated July 24, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023.

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Benzodiazepines.” August 2023. Accessed August 24, 2023.

American Society of Addiction Medicine. “Definition of Addiction.” Updated September 15, 2019. Accessed August 21, 2023.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Benzodiazepine Overdose.” Updated August 20, 2021. Accessed August 21, 2023.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol Deaths on the Rise and Suicide Declines.” Updated March 18, 2022. Accessed August 21, 2023. “Drug Interactions between Alcohol (contained in alcoholic beverages) and Xanax.” Updated August 10, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “XANAX® (alprazolam) Tablets.” Updated September 2016. Accessed August 21, 2023. “How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?” Updated January 28, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023.