With the increase of mental disorder diagnoses such as depression and anxiety, the obvious rise in prescription drugs is inevitable. Prescription drugs, such as benzodiazepines, are becoming more readily available on a daily basis. However, there is a difference between prescription medication use and drug abuse.
These drugs—Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium—are dangerous. And due to its fast acting nature, the most lethal of them all is Xanax. Xanax’s effects are palpable within minutes of its consumption. Therefore, it has a high likelihood of dependence and can lead to death via overdose if taken improperly.
How Xanax Works
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem present in the United States. These drugs are extremely dangerous on their own, but interactions with other drugs can cause them to be potentially lethal.
Xanax gives users a “relaxed” feeling, but it has other side effects, such as dizziness, confusion and impaired motor skills. It works by decreasing the activity of the central nervous system in the brain and promoting the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical responsible for the slowing of the central nervous system. Some patients say the effect is highly similar to the drunken sensation of alcohol.
Mixing Xanax and Alcohol
The most common cases of Xanax overdose occur when taken with alcohol, as it readily dissolves in alcohol. As such, it strengthens the effects of alcohol which works by also impeding the central nervous system. Xanax only releases the GABA chemical into the brain, whereas alcohol releases several. The resulting interaction between the two can increase the effects of Xanax by almost 1000 times. This is why overdosing with Xanax is so easy.
“Your usual three drinks is actually six,” said Dr. Karen Miotto, professor of clinical psychiatry and director of the Alcoholism and Addiction Medicine Service at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. This, however, is not the only effect this interaction can induce. According to Dr. Miotto, “The most tragic aspect of this combination is that you can get amnesia...You can get people who die accidentally in the truest sense of the word. They don’t remember how many drinks they had, or how many pills they took.” If you or someone you know has a prescription for Xanax, it is imperative that you ensure they do not consume alcohol with this pill.
The drug has profound effects in the midst of an anxiety attack, as it literally calms the brain in a relatively short amount of time. However, this is precisely why it is also highly addictive as well. Though it is clearly labeled and advised to only take the prescribed amount, people take twice or more of the recommended dosage in order to feel its effect more quickly and profoundly. Xanax overdose is characterized by confusion and dizziness, however it is more extreme than its usual, prescribed effect. If you're taking Xanax for a medical condition, only take the prescribed dosage. People who overdose can often do so without completely realizing it. Check with a licensed healthcare provider before increasing your dosage.