Mixing Methadone And Xanax: Dangers And Side Effects

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 26, 2020

Methadone is a prescribed medication used as a replacement opioid for individuals addicted to opioids like heroin or morphine, or a pain management medication. Xanax is a benzodiazepine to treat anxiety. Taking these medications together is dangerous and can cause a number of serious health effects.

Dangers Of Mixing Methadone And Xanax

Methadone and Xanax are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants. When they are combined, they can result in respiratory failure. There have been many cases of people taking this combination of medication and simply stop breathing in their sleep.

In spite of the risk of dying in their sleep, some 80 percent of polysubstance abuse involving benzodiazepines are abusing opioids, like methadone, at the same time, according to the American Family Physician.

What Is Methadone?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist. Methadone activates the opioid receptors in your brain, similar to other opioids. However, methadone works a little differently than other opioids.

Methadone also blocks the effects of other opioids, and when taken as prescribed, blocks the euphoric effect opioids usually have on the body and prevents the withdrawal and cravings that typically occur when a person stops abusing heroin, hydrocodone, or other opioids.

When taken as prescribed, methadone gradually produces a steady level of the drug instead of a quick rush like other opioids.

However, methadone can be abused and can result in a less intense euphoric effect, as well as the following:

  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • lightheadedness
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stumbling
  • forgetful
  • coordination issues

Even though methadone is intended to help a person get off opioids, methadone still has a risk of overdose.

Signs of a methadone overdose are similar to other opioids overdose symptoms, such as:

  • nodding off
  • nausea
  • clammy skin
  • respiratory depression
  • bluish lips and fingertips
  • convulsions
  • vomiting
  • tremors
  • coma
  • death

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is a benzodiazepine, also known by the generic name, alprazolam. Xanax is typically prescribed to treat generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorders, insomnia, and also used as a sedative.

Xanax works by increasing a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows down activity in the brain, resulting in a calm and relaxed feeling. Xanax is a CNS depressant.

Xanax is fast-acting, and when abused, Xanax has an intense high. These factors mean Xanax has a high potential for abuse, and should only be taken as prescribed.

Benzodiazepines are often abused with other substances of abuse, like alcohol and opioids.
Because of these fast and intense effects benzodiazepines are one of the most abused drugs along with other drugs (polydrug use) rather than on its own.

Some common side effects of Xanax are:

  • slurred speech
  • blurred vision
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • memory issues
  • insomnia
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • weight fluctuation
  • swelling of extremities
  • poor coordination
  • muscle weakness
  • concentration issues
  • dry mouth
  • irritability
  • stuffy nose
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • sweating
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • decreased sex drive

Withdrawal From Xanax

Xanax is absorbed quickly in the body. A person taking Xanax for even just a few weeks may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the benzodiazepine.

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Working with a doctor, decreasing the amount of Xanax they take over a period of time, a process known as tapering, will greatly reduce the severity of these symptoms.

Some Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:

  • dissatisfaction
  • insomnia
  • cramps (muscle and abdominal)
  • sweating
  • panic attacks
  • convulsions
  • tremors
  • vomiting
  • paranoia
  • delusions
  • heart palpitations
  • hallucinations
  • delirium
  • seizures

Some people experience suicidal or homicidal ideations, violent behaviors, psychosis, or mania. These symptoms can be dangerous to the person and others around them.

Benzo withdrawal can be especially dangerous for elderly individuals, individuals with mental instability, or those with a history of seizures. These individuals are at a higher risk for heart attacks or falls as a result of benzodiazepine withdrawal.

Abusing Methadone And Xanax Together: The Dangers

Abusing methadone and Xanax together significantly depresses the CNS and increases the impact that each drug has on the body. The brain and spinal column make up the CNS, and controls all functions of the body.

Combining these drugs can cause problems with breathing, blood pressure, temperature regulation, and heart rate.

When methadone and Xanax are abused at the same time, it exponentially increases the likelihood of developing an addiction, and the risk of overdose is increased as well.

When a person overdoses from a combination of Xanax and methadone, the following can occur:

  • blue-tinted lips or fingertips
  • drowsiness
  • decreased blood flow
  • irregular heartbeat
  • respiratory depression
  • unconsciousness
  • coma

Overdosing on a combination of methadone and Xanax is often fatal.

Treatment For Methadone And Xanax Abuse

Medical professionals strongly discourage stopping Xanax or methadone ‘cold-turkey’, especially if someone is abusing them. Instead, a tapering down method is suggested, under the supervision of a medical professional, or addiction treatment specialist.

A substance abuse treatment program that provides medically-supervised detox is ideal for polysubstance addiction, especially when a person is struggling with methadone and Xanax addiction.

Once detox is complete, substance abuse treatment can begin in an inpatient setting, exploring the nature of addiction using individualized treatment plans and a variety of evidence-based intervention methods.

We are currently available to discuss treatment options with you and find a facility that meets the needs of you or your loved one. Please contact us today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 26, 2020
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