Prescription drugs often come with many possible side effects but when you combine them with other substances, the chances of side effects occurring increases. Two drugs that are commonly mixed for a high but don’t interact well are benzodiazepines and alcohol. Benzodiazepines may be fine on their own, but when mixed with alcohol, it can be a recipe for disaster.
What Is a Benzodiazepine?
A benzodiazepine is a common prescription psychoactive sedative that is intended for the treatment of certain mental health disorders, such as anxiety, in addition to some physical problems, like cerebral palsy and seizures. They have also been used to help people who struggle with sleeping issues. Benzos are sedatives and can induce sleep, produce sedation, relax muscle spasms and/or encourage relaxed mood. Benzodiazepines are classified as controlled substances, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Benzodiazepines come in several forms, including prescription pills, syrups and injections. The most common benzodiazepine brands include Ativan, Valium, Restoril, Xanax and Klonopin.
Benzodiazepines can be addictive, leading to substance use disorder in a short time. Abuse of this drug is most common among young adults as well as cocaine and heroin users. According to SAMHSA, 1.3 million people aged 18 to 25 misused prescription benzodiazepines in 2019. When benzodiazepines are abused, they are usually taken orally or crushed up and snorted to get high. Benzodiazepine should only be taken as prescribed by a doctor and only for legitimate medical disorders.
Benzos are commonly prescribed with other substances. Next to prescription pain medications (primarily opiates), alcohol is commonly abused with benzodiazepines. According to data collected by SAMHSA, many hospital emergency department visits were associated with benzodiazepine and alcohol misuse in 2011.
Why You Shouldn’t Mix Benzodiazepines and Alcohol
There are several risks associated with mixing benzos and alcohol, which is why every warning label on benzodiazepine-containing medications caution against the use of alcohol. Benzodiazepines and alcohol are both depressants and can suppress the central nervous system to dangerous levels. By abusing these two drugs together puts a person at extreme risk of serious bodily injury that may be permanent or even death.
When benzodiazepines and alcohol are mixed, the user experiences the effects of each drug at a higher capacity and a more threatening level, leading to an increased risk of overdose. Both substances act significantly on the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA and each substance can amplify the impact of the other, potentially leading to significant brain or organ damage as a result of suppressed breathing and thus lack of oxygen. Some of the other most common side effects of benzodiazepines and alcohol include:
- Severe depression
- Memory loss
- Poor coordination
- Mood swings
- Intense nausea
- Risky behavior and increased probability of accidents
- Organ failure
Benzodiazepines are risky drugs, but when you factor alcohol use in, which also depresses the central nervous system, the risks rise significantly. As a matter of fact, those who struggle with unhealthy alcohol use are 15% more likely to use benzodiazepines than drinkers who are moderate or those who do not drink alcohol at all.
What to Do if You Think You Have a Drug or Alcohol Problem
If you or someone you care about is addicted to benzodiazepines, alcohol, or both, help is available. My Recovery Source is here to help you. We are available with welcoming arms to source the addiction help you deserve, regardless of your situation. We offer a personalized matching service to connect you with programs to meet your needs. Speak to a caring recovery guide today by calling our 24/7 helpline at 855-858-8387 to get started on the path to recovery.