Benzodiazepines And Alcohol | Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol And Benzos

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 14, 2020

Benzodiazepines and alcohol have similar effects on the central nervous system, which can make them dangerous when taken together. If someone you know may be abusing benzos alongside alcohol, they may benefit from knowing the side effects, risks, and dangers of mixing these substances.

Mixing Alcohol And Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines (benzos) and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants that can have potentially serious side effects if taken together. Unfortunately, benzos are commonly abused with alcohol and/or prescription opioids.

Some of the most severe potential risks and dangers of mixing alcohol and benzos may include:

  • new or worsening depression
  • increased possibility of accidental injuries
  • loss of consciousness/coma
  • organ failure
  • increased risk of overdose

Because both alcohol and benzos are depressants, they may increase the desired effects of the other substance. Unfortunately, this can also lead to potentially life-threatening possibilities.

Both substances also have a high potential for abuse, which means physical tolerance and dependence can develop. This can cause an individual to take more of either substance, which can lead to an increased risk of overdose in addition to other long-term effects.

The Dangers Of Mixing Alcohol And Benzos

Alcohol and benzodiazepines both work to depress the central nervous system, can both be highly addictive, and can both lead to physical tolerance and dependence.

In addition to these dangers and some of the more severe risks listed above, there are a variety of short-term effects that a person may experience if they’re abusing benzodiazepines, alcohol, or both.

Additional side effects of mixing alcohol and benzos that may range from moderate to severe can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of memory
  • mood swings
  • loss of coordination

Among these potential reactions, memory impairment may be the most alarming. This is a common long-term side effect of benzodiazepine abuse, and it’s only made worse with alcohol.

People who are having problems with both alcohol and benzodiazepine abuse may also notice enhanced effects of one or both substances. Unfortunately, not all of the effects are desired, nor safe.

Side Effects Of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed by health care providers in the United States to treat anxiety disorders. This class of medications includes drugs like alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin).

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While they can be helpful when taken as prescribed, they also have a high potential for abuse and may cause potentially serious side effects.

Common side effects of benzodiazepines may include:

  • drowsiness
  • lightheadedness
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • irritability
  • difficulty concentrating
  • nausea
  • changes in behavior
  • depression
  • hallucinations
  • seizures

These side effects can be made worse if benzos are being abused or mixed with alcohol. The use of benzodiazepines can lead to heightened feelings of intoxication and an increased risk of overdose if a person is also drinking.

Side Effects Of Alcohol

While alcohol is legal and easy to access, it can also be dangerous. This is especially true if it’s being mixed with other substances or heavily abused.

Some of the less desirable short-term effects of alcohol use can include:

  • drowsiness
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • upset stomach
  • headaches
  • difficulty breathing
  • distorted vision and/or hearing
  • impaired judgment
  • loss of consciousness
  • blacking out/loss of memory

Side effects can be worsened when a person is abusing alcohol with other substances, including benzodiazepines.

And these aren’t the only risks associated with alcohol abuse. Because it’s easily accessible with such a high risk for addiction, people often abuse alcohol repeatedly.

After a relatively short period of time, a person who is abusing alcohol regularly may develop a physical dependence. This can lead to alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • anxiety
  • shaking
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • insomnia
  • sweating
  • confusion
  • high blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • fever

Because withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and even life-threatening, it’s always best to contact a treatment specialist to determine the best course of action.

Increased Risk Of Overdose And Other Dangers

In addition to the possibility of worsened side effects from one or both substances, mixing alcohol and benzodiazepines can lead to an increased risk of overdose.

Mixing two central nervous system depressants puts a lot of strain on the body and can cause significant organ damage or brain damage. This is because both substances can suppress breathing and lead to a lack of oxygen. Additionally, it’s easier to overdose on either substance when it’s taken alongside the other.

Common signs of an overdose may include any of the following symptoms:

  • changes in body temperature
  • loss of consciousness/passing out
  • skin color changes
  • rapid or slowed breathing
  • irregular pulse

If you suspect an overdose, contact the emergency department at 911 immediately.

Common Alcohol And Benzo Drug Combinations

The benzodiazepine class of drugs includes several different prescription medications, all of which are dangerous when mixed with alcohol.

Benzodiazepines commonly mixed with alcohol include:

Treatment Options For Polysubstance Abuse

If you or a loved one may be struggling with alcohol abuse, benzodiazepine abuse, or both, reach out to a treatment provider as soon as possible.

While polysubstance abuse may be more difficult to treat, there are effective options available. Treatment options include both inpatient and outpatient programs.

If an inpatient program is possible for you, you’ll likely find the experience to be more immersive, intensive, and effective. In this type of program, a person stays full-time at a detox facility while they receive treatment.

Of course, outpatient programs are also available. In these programs, people visit a treatment center several times weekly in order to receive the support and resources they need.

No matter which treatment option you choose, addiction treatment may include practices like individual or group therapy, behavioral counseling, medication-based treatment, and access to mental health services.

Find An Alcohol Or Benzodiazepine Treatment Program Today

If you, one of your family members, or other loved ones are having problems with abusing alcohol or benzos, don’t put off getting help. Contact an treatment specialist today to learn more about finding a dual diagnosis treatment facility that works for you.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 14, 2020
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